In Holiday Guide

1792's flagship bourbon is plenty good, but its special expressions are even better.

Holiday wine and spirits suggestions simplified

The holidays are upon us and you want not only to enjoy a good bottle of wine or a nice warming spirit, but also to make a good impression on your guests or hosts at holiday dinners and parties, right?

Here are a few suggestions to help make it all happen and make everyone happy.

Spirits

It's no secret I'm a fan of Barton's 1792 bourbon and this year, there are a couple extra options for you to dig a little deeper.

First, there's the limited edition Aged Twelve Years expression that uses the same high-rye mash bill as the standard 1792 Small Batch Bourbon, but adding an even deeper complexity of flavors. Clocking in at 96.6 proof, this whiskey has gained a nice creaminess during its years in the barrel, creating a nice balance between the oak, smoke and rye spice.

Next, Barton won top honors in "Jim Murray's Whiskey Bible 2020" Bourbon of the Year category with its bone-rattling 125 proof Full Proof expression, which scored 97.5 out of 100.

Let it breathe off some of its alcohol and – if you prefer, add a drop or two of water – and you'll awaken gorgeous aromas of vanilla, cinnamon and raisins. Take a sip and you'll get a sweet balance of corn and black cherries, with, of course, a tight Kentucky hug when it first goes down.

While sipping, why not read Brian Haara's engaging "Bourbon Justice: How Whiskey Law Shaped America" (Potomac Books) which uses legal cases to tell this history of America's whiskey? If that sounds, ahem, dry, don't believe it. Haara, a Louisville legal writer, infuses his book with spirited (sorry) prose, making it one of the most unique and most readable books about bourbon.

If rum is more your game, don't miss out on Kirk & Sweeney 12-year Dominican rum, which is sweet and laced with vanilla and honey, but with nice oak and caramel from the barrel and some nice dried fruit on the long finish.

Aged in French oak wine barrels, this 80 proof rum is so good on its own that it oughta be a crime to pour it into a class of Coke.

Red wine

Speaking of bourbon, The Federalist, noted for its 100 percent zinfandel from Mendocino County in California, has released a bourbon barrel-aged version of its 2016 vintage. After fermenting different batches of grapes separately to help maintain the unique characteristics of each, the wine is aged six months in American oak before finishing for another six months in charred bourbon barrels. Smoky and spicy, this is a delicious addition to a holiday table that features red meat or roasted poultry. A version of the same wine that was not finished in bourbon barrels is also available.

Primitivo di Manduria's "Il Matané" DOC is 100 percent primitivo and boasts a rich nose with dark red fruit and chocolate. It's silky on the tongue, with a nice long finish and hints of vanilla. Pop this one before dinner to serve with a cheese tray.

Want something a little lighter? Consider the 2017 Firesteed Willamette Valley Pinot Noir with its bright acidity that just jumps off your tongue, leaving lightly tangy cranberry and sweet red berries. Serve it with dessert.

Heading south of the equator, there's 9 Lives Reserve 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile, with its complex flavors of tobacco and leather, vanilla and sweet red fruit. This is a bold but smooth wine that will perfectly complement rich flavors of any kind.

White & sparkling wines

When it's your 150th birthday, you celebrate with a bottle of bubbly, right? Especially if it's Moët & Chandon doing the celebrating! The legendary Champagne house has issued its Impérial Brut in a limited-edition bottle and gift box for $40 in honor of the 150th birthday of this flagship wine.

Launched in 1869 and named in honor of Napoleon, the Imperial Brut is fruity and floral, with bright citrus and apple, and an alluring straw color ... a true celebration in a bottle.

In the world of pink bubbly, Mumm Napa's Brut Rose – 80 percent Pinot Noir and 20 percent Chardonnay – is aged in oak, which adds a touch of wood and vanilla to the soft flavors of cherries and berries. Perfect for a cheese tray appetizer or post-prandial dessert quaff.

Brindisi, Italy's Masseria Altemura offers up a nicely fruity, but complex, white made from 100 percent Fiano grapes. Apricots and peaches balance with almond and honey for a satisfying white that'll pair nicely with chicken, turkey, goose or even seafood pasta dishes.

Lastly, for now, check out 1865's single vineyard 2015 Chardonnay from Chile's Elqui Valley, with its lovely yellow hue, honeyed mouth feel and bright papaya and citrus. Drink it while you're cooking, because the chef always deserves a treat.

OK, so it's sparkling fermented grain, not sparkling fermented grape juice, but Miller High Life is the Champagne of Beers and it is again available in Champagne-style bottles for a limited time during the holiday season. Details here.

Accessory

OK, so you're a beer person and you want to bring a special brew to holiday dinner or you want to serve a unique local holiday brew that's only available on tap. A TrailKeg pressurized growler is just what the brewmaster ordered.

This is a double-wall, vacuum insulated growler with a stainless steel chrome tap with a dual stage CO2 regulator on it, so that you can take your tap beer anywhere and keep it fresh. And that insulation will keep it cold for up to 24 hours, too. Also works great for nitro brew, kombucha, batch cocktails and for making your own soda or selzter.

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