Slip these quality sips in your loved ones' stockings
CRAFT DISTILLERS' LOW GAP WHISKEY ($45) AND LOS NAHUALES MEZCALERO ($65)
You won't go wrong giving any Craft spirits (www.craftdistillers.com) to an aficionado. If she isn't already a fan of this incredible Ukiah distillery, she'll fall in love with Craft's brilliant brandies and grappas or exquisite bottlings like Crispin's Rose Liqueur. Consider newer releases such as Low Gap Craft-Method Whiskey made with malted Bavarian hard wheat. Where many white whiskeys are harsh and bracing, at 90 proof, it's intense yet balanced. Or try the recently acquired Los Nahuales Mezcalero (mezcal fans will know it as the former Los Danzantes). As with all Craft products, small production and artisanal techniques are behind this smoky-but-clean, Oaxacan-grown mezcal.
LAPHROAIG 18-YEAR SINGLE MALT ($99)
For the peat monsters among you ... or rather, for those who don't fancy the standard Laphroaig 10-year, which, like many in the line, hits hard with that peat. Extra aging has mellowed this Islay single malt to a robust but roundly balanced pour. Alongside peat smoke, enter honey, vanilla, hay, anise, and toffee nuttiness, minus the medicinal properties some tell me they get on the nose in other Laphroaig expressions. This one changes the game, and, in my opinion, best exemplifies Laphroaig's possibilities.
TASTING ROOM SAMPLER KITS ($19.99–$29.99)
New to the market is a sampling experience a California wine fan can enjoy from home: Tasting Room (www.tastingroom.com). Discover new favorites or taste a winery line side by side (all samples are also available as full-sized bottles). Choose from six-pack sets of 50 ml bottles in groupings by winery, region, or type (for example, California cabs). Nicely packaged in a slim black box with winemaker's tasting notes, consider it a home wine tasting for the cost of tasting at the winery itself.