How To Pick A Gift For Your Bourbon-Obsessed Bud When You Know Nothing About Whiskey
Welcome to Whiskey 101.
If you're not someone who drinks a lot of brown liquor, you might think they look all the same. So what do you do when your bourbon-loving friend has a special occasion coming up?
With so many options available — whiskey, bourbon, scotch, rye — it's easy to feel unsure of where to begin.
Before you reach for a bottle at the liquor store, it's time to brush up on your whiskey knowledge. Here's what you need to know about bourbon, whiskey and everything in between to make your choice easier.
What you need to know before buying whiskey
Starting with the basics, the spelling of "whiskey" matters — typically, "whiskey" refers to grain spirits distilled in Ireland and the United States while "whisky" refers to Scottish, Canadian or Japanese grain spirits.
You can further categorize it by its region and grain, like scotch whisky (made in Scotland), rye (made mostly in North America from rye grain) and bourbon (made in the U.S. from corn).
A tray bearing cocktail ingredients. Courtesy of Angel's Envy
All bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon
What sets bourbon apart is where and how it's made.
For a whiskey to be classified as bourbon, it must be distilled from a special mix of grains, or "mash," with at least 51% corn in it. That corn infusion is what gives bourbon its sweet and distinctive flavour.
In short, bourbon is a unique kind of whiskey with its own set of rules and layers of complexities.
So if your pal says they love bourbon specifically, make sure that's what you grab. And if you really want to impress them, opt for a "straight" bourbon. These spirits have spent at least two years aging in charred oak barrels, giving them a distinct character and next-level quality appreciated by dedicated bourbon enthusiasts.
Friends share a cocktail on a balcony. Courtesy of Angel's Envy
The best bottle of bourbon to gift your pal (or yourself)
Now that you know what bourbon is and how to classify it, it's time to find the perfect bottle — one that you can also sip alongside your bourbon-loving friend.
Angel's Envy is a good place to start. They're recognized as a pioneer in bringing secondary finishing to American whiskey — a technique inspired by scotch production where the already-aged bourbon goes into port wine casks for a secondary maturation period to create a nuanced whiskey that is exceptional enjoyed neat or mixed into cocktails.
The character and complexity that Angel's Envy takes on after this stage is what sets it apart from other bourbons on the shelf. The result is a nuanced but approachable flavour that works just as well in cocktails as sipped neat.
A person with a cocktail in a courtyard. Courtesy of Angel's Envy
Bending the rules to find the next groundbreaking idea, after all, is a huge part of the Angel's Envy story — right back to the founder and Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame inductee, Lincoln Henderson, coming out of retirement to pioneer secondary finishing in the U.S.
If you're looking for a premium choice that any bourbon-loving friend would appreciate, go for Angel's Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon Finished in Port Wine Barrels, which recently received a gold medal from the 2023 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, among other five-star accolades.
To truly impress your giftee, you can hand over a bottle of Angel's Envy along with the story of how it got its name. In the whiskey industry, the 5% of the spirit lost every year is referred to as the "angel's share." When Angel's Envy was created, Lincoln Henderson joked that they'd finally gotten a better deal than the angels.
Friends cheers their cocktails. Courtesy of Angel's Envy
Choosing a gift for a bourbon aficionado doesn't have to be a challenge, even if you're not well-versed in whiskey yourself. By understanding the basics of whiskey and what sets bourbon apart, you can narrow down your options and pick the perfect gift.
Whether it's served straight or crafted into a cocktail, you can be sure your bourbon-loving buddy will raise their glass of Angel's Envy to you in thanks.
Narcity does not condone the overconsumption of alcohol. If you're going to drink alcohol, please do so responsibly and only if you're of legal age.