SB gift guide: award-winning spirits for every budget
This time of year is for spreading festive cheer, and what better way to do that than with some award-winning spirits?
Struggling for gift ideas for the drinkers in your life? We’ve looked back over 2022 at our Global Spirits Masters Competitions and picked out 10 high-scoring bottles that we think anyone will be thrilled to be gifted this festive season.
Whether you’re watching the pennies or making it rain, we’ve covered all budgets from stocking fillers to grand gesture-worthy bottlings.
Stocking fillers (under £10)
Whitebox Negroni — £5.50 (US$6.70)
Dreaming of a Whitebox Christmas? Us too, and this Pocket Negroni happens to be the perfect size to fit in your stocking.
This Master-medal winning pre-mixed serve was praised for its “bitter, sweet classic nose” in our Pre-Mixed & RTD Masters 2022, with our judges noting it both looks and smells like a Negroni. It was also admired for being “nicely balanced, not too sweet at all, medium-long finish with a good bitter note.”
Enjoy this alongside your Terry’s Chocolate Orange while watching The Great Escape and you, my friend, will have a very merry Christmas indeed.
Double Dutch Ginger Beer — from £1.50 (US$1.83)
Master award-winner Double Dutch Ginger Beer wowed our experts in The Tonic & Mixer Masters 2022 with its “powerful ginger aroma”, “great carbonation and brilliant spice”. In fact, it was enjoyed so much by our judges that it was named the best in class and labelled “an excellent industry standard”.
As ginger is a great stomach settler, we bet this is a great mixer to have on hand after a bit of Christmas overindulgence.
Cotswolds Dry Gin Essence — £17.95 (US$21.85)
Cotswolds Dry Gin Essence is made using 10 times the botanical concentration of the brand’s eponymous Dry Gin, which equates to an enormous amount of flavour per unit of alcohol, meaning you can make lower-ABV drinks without compromising on flavour. We’re talking G&Ts with 90% less alcohol than you’d get with a serve using 50ml of a 40% ABV counterpart.
The judges in The Low & No Masters 2022 were definitely impressed, presenting it with a Master medal for being “aromatic” with “good texture”, with a great ability to create a “delightful, uplifted and refreshing” G&T. What’s more, each bottle can deliver 20 full-flavoured perfect serves giving you as much value as taste.
Hawksbill Pineapple Spiced Rum – £23 (US$28)
A great gift for a fruity friend, this blend of Caribbean rums from Guyana and Trinidad is charged with a distinctive combination of spices, crafted using pineapples that would have otherwise gone to waste. All of that helped the brand win itself a coveted Gold medal in The Rum & Cachaça Masters 2022.
This 38.8% ABV rum shines in a Piña Colada, or you can keep it simple and just add a splash of ginger ale with a squeeze of lime for the perfect accompaniment to a Christmas Day game of Monopoly. Just make sure you’re holding your glass when the sore loser in your family flips the table.
Something a bit special (£25-£40)
Stranger & Sons Gin – £32.45 (US$39.50)
Distilled in Goa, India, this double Gold medal-winning gin boasts some homegrown botanicals, including pepper, lemon and coriander, as well as some Indian citrus peels, which makes for a really special base for your cocktails.
The gin was hailed for its “vibrant juniper nose, lots of citrus”, with a “juniper-led palate, sweet liquorice and a little herbal spice” in The Asian Spirits Masters 2022, and for its “wonderful biscuity aroma and dry palate” in the first of two tastings in The Gin Masters 2022.
Takamaka Rum Overproof — £35.95 (US$43.78)
Got something to prove this Christmas? Say it with rum. This punchy 69% ABV overproof bottling from Seychelles-based Takamaka Distillery was praised for its “vibrant nose” in our Rum & Cachaça Masters 2022. It offers notes of overripe bananas and creamy vanilla on the palate, with a spice that lingers like the ringing of sleigh bells.
This white spirit is the perfect base for a Christmas day Punch, just make sure you don’t go too hard or you’ll sleep through the King’s speech.
Say it with booze (£40-£60)
Stauning Rye – £58 (US$70.60)
If you like the flavours of gingerbread, spiced biscuits and a load of green leaves, this is the bottle to buy for your generous friend that is happy to share their gifts.
Denmark’s Stauning Rye Whiskey came out with a Gold medal at our World Whisky Masters this year, praised by our judges for its “rye-forward palate with layers of chocolate, mint and grass”.
This bottle contains whisky made from 100% floor-malted rye and barley. The Danish team describe it as “a liquid interpretation of freshly baked Danish rye bread, with a long fruity aftertaste”, which sounds like it would make a great breakfast whisky, if you ask us…
Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Aged Whiskey – £59.95 (US$73)
If you’re looking for a luxury taste of ‘Murica, this Gold-medal winning whiskey from Tennessee is a fine example of the magic they’re creating in the southern states. This particular golden liquid is made from a combination of corn and rye, and is put through the Lincoln County Process before being aged in new American oak barrels
The judges in The American Whiskey Masters found it to be “nicely complex and balanced for the higher ABV”, which sits at 50%. On the palate, you might detect a blend of caramelised nuts, oat cookies, and brown sugar, while on the nose it’s a continued symphony of autumnal pudding notes, with plenty of buttery vanilla, sultanas and cinnamon.
Splash the cash (£60+)
Mezcal Artesanal Noble Coyote — Coyote de Amatlán — £70 (US$85.25)
If you’ve got a friend who’s at the top of Santa’s Nice List this Christmas, they’re definitely deserving of this Master medal-winning mezcal from Mezcal Artesanal Noble Coyote. This Coyote de Amatlán expression boasts flavours of white pepper, marzipan and vanilla, with a peppery-mineral finish.
One of our judges in The Tequila & Mezcal Masters 2022 found this to be “quite salty on the nose, with sea aromas”, leading to “lots of character and funky notes” on the palate. A great artisanal mezcal for the agave lover in your life.
Glenmorangie Signet — £170 (US$207)
When that last Quality Street has been devoured, it’s time to get your chocolate hit from elsewhere, and we can’t think of a better place than from a bottle of this Master medal-winning whisky from Glenmorangie.
Judged in The Luxury Masters blind tasting this year, this chocolate malt-based spirit was deemed worthy of all £170 it retails for. It impressed with its notes of “cocoa and mocha coffee” on the nose, while the palate brought “a hint of dried fruit and wood spice” to give a “rounded and silky” whisky.
All of that flavour comes from the carefully curated combination of casks that are chosen for its rest. The sweetness comes from Sherry casks and the creaminess comes from time spent in Bourbon barrels, while the lingering spice is attributed to virgin charred oak casks.