Millennials are already hard enough to shop for, since they are apparently ruining everything and buy a lot of their own gifts. A safe gift for many millennials is a gift card at a liquor store, but why not pick something out instead?
Most liquor stores, especially Total Wine and More and locally-owned Craft Wine + Beer, overwhelm customers with choices. But don't do what I did by buying your Irish friend Jameson Irish Whiskey when it turns out he prefers Scotch.
If none of that made sense, don't worry, I've got your back.
Here are eight great liquor choices, from low-cost, entry level spirits to higher price, top-of-the-line booze, to give to your favorite millennial this holiday season. I drank each one of these straight — research is important, no? — at Chapel Tavern before sharing them with you.
1. Suntory Whisky Toki
An introductory-level Japanese whisky good for someone learning the ways of darker spirits. It's not even that dark, really, more of a goldenrod hue.
Unlike Scotch whisky, this Japanese whisky offers no smoke flavor or smell at all, making it a good choice for a beginner. Instead, there are notes of fruity green apple, herbs, sweetness and oaky spice. More advanced drinkers will recognize slight sea brine — a good preparation for Campbeltown-region Scotches down the road.
For less than $40, Suntory Whisky Toki is a solid beginner's choice for a friend or an inexpensive choice for someone who you only kind of like.
2. Nikka Coffey Grain whisky
Despite the apparently misspelled, "coffey," there is no coffee in this drink. Nikka Coffey Grain is a Japanese whisky distilled on an old Coffey still built in Scotland. Feel free to use that factoid in a greeting card.
This whisky offers a light, honey flavor with a little wood spice and no smoke. The flavor is more complex than Suntory but still not overpowering for the casual palate. Nikka is also more well-rounded than Suntory and feels good going down.
A solid sharing choice in the $60 range.
3. Exposición Panamá-Pacific 23-year rum
Rum has been ruined by Kraken and Captain Morgan. It's time to take it back. This rum made from molasses is also distilled in a Coffey still, so you will notice similar rounded flavors and a robust mouthfeel.
The rum is sweet with the smells of brown sugar, caramel, butterscotch and tastes just as nice, with a spicy warm finish. Rum's versatility gives it more options for drinking straight or in simple rum cocktails. Do not mix with Coke. If you do, I will find you.
At less than $60, adding a pack of ginger beer or bottle of simple syrup with a bag of limes will go a long way to sending the right message: "Your real gift is a trip to Panama."
Bonus: Plantation Stiggins Fancy Overproof Pineapple Rum
For a flavored rum, pick real pineapple rum, not that gross stuff in the white bottle.
"Anything from Plantation is worth your time," bartender Sean Stitt said. "Rum is good because it's cheap. If you're spending more than $60 on rum, it better be good."
This $30 bottle of rum is spicy and hot but also soft. It's a rum contradiction and is good in a daiquiri made using simple syrup and limes.
4. Westland Peated American Single Malt Whiskey
Take note, we've switched from whisky to American whiskey. From Seattle, this new entrant attempts to match Scottish styling with American flair.
The smoke in this drink is less like burning mud and more like campfire and roasted nuts. The barley flavor offers a hot, sweet cereal flavor with light touches of fruit. It smells like sweet honey, orange peel and roasted nuts.
It is neither bourbon nor Scotch and therefore warrants recommendation on this list for someone who desperately wants to like whiskey but is not ready to memorize regions of the U.S. or Scotland.
At $65, it is not for novice boozers but is suited to someone interested in innovative approaches to traditional favorites.
5. Tamdhu 10 year Scotch whisky
Tamdhu is for someone who wants to enter the Scotch world but doesn't know where to start. It is a light, floral, sweet, fruity and spicy Scotch. Very low smoke flavor, but just enough to notice.
Tamdhu is from Speyside, Scotland, the region most known for sweet complexity. Most of the well-known commercial brands hail from here: Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, Macallan, Johnnie Walker and Chivas Regal.
Tamdhu, though, is arguably better than all of those because it is more approachable and soft.
At almost $70, this is a great starter whisky to share with friends who complain that Scotch burns too much.
6. ArteNOM Seleccion 1146 Añejo tequila
Tequila. Aaaaah, tequila, the only spirit worth drinking. Unless you ruined it for yourself in college, then move on to No. 7. This tequila combines topography, distillers, agave cultivation techniques and unique aging. The number 1146 is the Mexican taxation code for the area where this particular añejo was made (compared to 1579 for blanco and 1414 for the reposado).
The añejo is the smoothest, made in Jalisco by a fifth-generation agave cultivator and master distiller, then aged in French and American oak to add complexity. It smells strongly of sweet agave but tastes acrid, mellow, hints of wooded and vanilla, and not smoky.
This $75 bottle should be rationed one sip at a time. If someone opens it at a large party to take shots, you should slap that person then subsequently unfriend them on Facebook.
7. Kilchoman Scotch whisky
My tasting notes read, "That's intense!" A bottle of Kilchoman should be reserved for experienced scotch drinkers who want to go on an adventure.
This is the first new Scottish distillery in about 100 years, and it is trying to make different Scotches from different ingredients in different casks. That variation changes the price from about $68 to $100 and dramatically influences the color and flavor.
From the Islay region of Scotland, these scotches will taste like iodine, smoke, briny sea water and malt sweetness, while also reflecting those same things in the aroma. The different casks lend alternating types of wood spice, fruit, herbs and vegetal aromas and flavors.
Some of the bottles are limited edition, too. This present is best for spouses, partners and hetero life mates.
8. Falcon Spirits Amaro Aplomado
Bitters are all the rage, just like in the 19th century. Bitters speed up digestion because our bodies think they may or may not be poisonous. Instead of purging it, the body speeds it through your system. This is great after eating a large meal or when preparing to eat a large meal.
Amaros — Italian bitters — can be taken as a shot, added to another drink or made into their own cocktails. They can also be added to coffee to make a bitter coffee tonic, which is all the rage in San Francisco right now.
This easy $30 bottle is great for the cocktail enthusiast who already has everything listed above, every cocktail tool and late-17th century recipe books. The only thing they need now is a creative challenge. This is that challenge.