THANKS GIFTING

One-stop shopping ideas for liquor and spirits-lovers

For Weekly SurgeNovember 20, 2012 

The season of garishly displaying and devouring everyone’s favorite farm-raised fowl is upon us. That means the season of giving is right around the corner. The biggest shopping day of the year is upon us: Black Friday. There will be deals a plenty, early risers waiting for hours to snag a flat panel TV on the cheap, and the ever-looming possibility of being trampled by crowds of overzealous shoppers.

Doesn’t that sound great? Maybe not?

Why not pass by that holiday muss and fuss and get something different for that person in your life that has everything? What would that be? You get them booze!

But not just any booze, mind you. Many major adult beverage companies have taken to quirky pack-ins and interesting methods of packaging their libations to entice buyers. From shot glasses to bottles shaped like shotguns, there is a plethora of options when looking for the perfect proof this year; or you could risk it, go out on Black Friday, and get run over by a herd of desperate parents stampeding the toy aisle for the newest interactive Elmo toy. Your call.

Major liquor companies pack in the goodies with their holiday cheer to encourage you to spend your hard-earned dollars on their brand of libations. They are enticing customers with shot glasses, mixers and even some bottles on the shelf ornate or distinctive enough to be considered a gift in and of themselves.

It’s a tradition that’s been around for awhile picking up steam and the trend continues this year as the holiday gift-purchasing season is upon us.

“Through the years, the spirit industry has used commemorative packaging and ‘gift boxed’ versions to turn heads and get noticed, and many brands include added value promotional items that have also helped boost sales and build brand allegiance,” reads an excerpt from www.beverageunderground.com. “Those annual gift sets always made shopping for spirits at liquor stores around the holidays extra fun, seeing what point of sale items the marketers have selected to push our buttons to buy. The most popular add on and throw-in item is logo glassware, from shot glasses to snifters and martini glasses to highball the hope is that the consumer must have ‘his’ brand in ‘his glass’ and may buy again to complete a set.”

The No.1 thing distributors pack in is glassware. Shot glasses, rocks glasses, and tumblers rule the roost on what you’re going to see. With tall glasses, short glasses, and glasses shaped like stuff, there’s no lack of variety in libation containers. However, there are a few neat variations and some rare goodies outside of the typical glassware as well.

Consider them Pepperidge Farm for liquor lovers.

Local libations and greater expectations

Green’s Beverages, located at 2850 North Kings Highway in Myrtle Beach is stocking its shelves with plenty of gifts.

If you’re looking for something different, Evan Williams really stands out with a 750-mL shot glass package with a bit of a twist. It comes with ice shot glass molds. Never worry about breaking your shot glass again. Of course, having to freeze the water in the mold means you may have to plan ahead a little. Appleton Estate Rum is also jumping on the ice train with a pack in of two custom ice trays.

A non-glassware gift that is available at Green’s this year is a 1.75 liter bottle of Johnnie Walker Black with a cradle. Not only does this allow you to lovingly display the bottle on the counter, it gives you quick and easy access to grab a swig so you can deal with having to wear that hideous sweater Aunt Angora knitted for you when the whole family comes over for Christmas dinner.

Green’s Jay Vayda was kind enough to answer a few questions about his take on the holiday gift sets and what he’s seen come across the counter in his time at the adult beverage retailer. Two of the strangest things he says he has seen are an Evan Williams bottle with a cue ball with the Playboy and Evan Williams logo on it and an olive dish from Bombay Sapphire.

When asked about his personal favorite gifts, he said, “It would have to be the old Vincent Van Gogh vodka sets, 750-mL bottle with 8 free 50 milliliters of all of their flavors attached. Now they have gone to four bottles.”

If you’re really looking to show that special someone how much of a baller you are, two high-dollar gifts Vayda has seen are a Grand Marnier 150 gift set with hand-painted glasses that ran right around $200 or the Remy Martin Louis the 13th, which had crystal flutes and ran $2,000.

When asked about the perfect gift this year, Vayda responded, “ [It] all depends on which type of spirit you like or the person with whom you are purchasing it for. As far as value, the extra 50-mL bottles that can run from $.99 each up to $5.” Top suggestions from Vayda include the Van Gogh vodka with four 50-mLs of flavored vodkas or the Gelmorangie 10-year with three 50-mLs of other expressions Lasanta, Quinta, and Nectar d’ Or single malts. “If glassware is your thing there are tons of them with rocks glasses and shot glasses, even that Evan Williams Honey liqueur with a mold for 2 shot glasses made from ice,” says Vayda.

Ray Doane of Bogeys Spirits & Wines, located in Forest Crossing Plaza in Carolina Forest, also had a few suggestions for gifts. Doane says that while extravagant gift sets may be in decline there are still great gifts to be found. His favored gift sets are those that come with additional mini bottles, as that adds significant value for the customer. Doane meticulously tracks his sales of gift sets to try and insure that he offers his customers exactly what they want and nothing they don’t. He also lamented the unfortunate discontinuation of ornate decanters from companies such as Jim Beam and Jack Daniels, which would come in such shapes as trucks, trains, or stage coaches.

When asked if he favors strange sets over functional, Doane answered, “Product related sets sell better. The customer sees the value.” He cited a Grey Goose and shaker gift set that his store will be carrying as an example. When asked about gift sets in a retail environment, he says, “It helps close the sale with the customer” in situations where the customer may be unsure of what they are looking for. One gift set that stood out in particular is from Lucid Absinthe. It was packed with a perforated spoon. The generally accepted way to imbibe absinth is to pour it over a sugar cube in a spoon. “It was a perfect match,” says Doane of the set.

Odd gifts he has seen through the years include a Disaronno set that came with nut dishes, Pama (a very high-end liqueur) packed with plastic martini glasses, and most recently Three Olives Vodka packed with a bottle of hot sauce.

The scouting report

Now that you’ve heard some favorites, here are some other items hanging out at or coming soon to your local package stores.

Crown Royal, Ketel One, Drambui malt whiskey liqueur, and Canadian Club Whiskey are all sporting a set of rocks glasses with various engravings and etchings. Kamora Coffee Liqueur and Corolan’s Irish Whiskey are both packing mugs. Dooley’s Toffee Liqueur is bringing the class with martini glasses. You can also catch a gift pack of Cointreau that comes with a mini shaker-for mixing a few signature cocktails. Jim Beam offers a 750-mL bottle and etched shot glass set for approximately $15 retail or a rox glass set for roughly $24. Chivas Regal has bottle-and-rocks glass set for roughly $25.

If you’re looking for something for a lady in your life, Rose Tequila comes with a glass set that matches the bottle’s pink-and-red motif.

Cranial favorite Crystal Head Vodka, founded by comedic legend Dan Aykroyd, has a gift pack that comes with the signature skull-shaped bottle and two skull-shaped shot glasses. Not only does this make a great holiday gift, but it does double duty as being awesome come Halloween time. While incredibly cool, this gift set could set you back up to a hundred bucks. But can you really put a price on watching your friends and loved ones take a shot out of a skull?

Grand Marnier has two things going for it this year. First off, it has a gift pack available that comes with a bottle of Grandma and two red ornamental-looking drinking globes. Second, the brand has revived its Cherry flavor for the first time in years. Get it while it’s available. There’s a good chance this one will go into the vault like a Disney flick after the holiday season is over.

One quite different gift set, both in libation and accommodation, is the Veev Acai Spirit gift set. A liqueur made from a super-fruit you say? That sounds interesting. Add in that it’s packed with a pitcher that has so many drink recipes on it that it looks like some kind of crazy mechanical drawing and you may have found a winner for that healthy drinker in your life.

Also in the department of gift sets with glassware, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur has a limited edition gift set entitled, yes it has its own name, “Le Rendez-vous.” This gift set comes with a fancy pants art deco style carafe with fill lines to help ensure your cocktails are mixed to perfection every time. Another very cool and classy gift set comes from Glenfiddich. The package includes an attractive bottle of 12-year single malt scotch whiskey packed with a dram glass and a small bound notebook.

Kahlua offers a 750-mL gift set which also comes with a bag of kahlua coffee. Kahlua is a coffee-flavored liqueur that originates from Veracruz, Mexico. It’s used in such drinks as the black Russian, Espresso Martini, and mudslide. This is definitely a practical gift, retailing at about $18, but the low proof may leave something to be desired if you’re shopping for someone into the harder stuff. Kahlua is also doing a limited release tin gift container for the holidays. There’s no pack-in, but the tin enhances the presentation beyond just giving a bottle. The tin gift package retails at approximately $23.

Another liqueur gift set comes from Rum Chata. This is another one on the lighter side. It’s a rum cream made with real dairy cream and Caribbean rum. It can be made into several cocktails such as various creamy martinis and coffee drinks. There are also several delicious-sounding food recipes on the RumChata homepage, meaning this gift may be great for more than someone looking for a nip. The Rum Chata gift set comes with a white shaker that matches the bottle in appearance. The whole package will only set you back about $18 at Sam’s Club (of course you have to be a member).

Shapes of things

Pack-ins are all well and good, but what do you get for the person who has all the shot glasses, shakers, knick-knacks, and brick-a-bracks they’ll ever need? In a situation like that, you can always opt for an unusually packaged spirit. Several companies are getting creative with their bottles to catch the eye of shoppers and set them apart from the competition. A shotgun full of tequila may be hard to fit on a shelf, but it is pretty awesome.

Two controversial gift containers come in the form of firearms, or rather containers that look like firearms. Hijos De Villa tequila comes in a handgun shaped bottle along with two shot glasses. It retails at around $35. Are you worried that a handgun isn’t enough firepower for the oncoming drunkocalypse? Old Carbine Tequila comes in a glass shotgun with a mount that allows it to stand barrel up and proudly display the pair of shot glasses included with the set. Hitting a friend or family member with both barrels will cost you around $40.

Now, if you’re more into low-tech weapons, Machete tequila comes in, you guessed it, a machete-shaped bottle. At a mere $26 in retail, it is well worth the price to see your gift recipient stumbling around slashing through the invisible canopy of their living room with a tequila machete. As fun as these gifts sound, you may have a hard time getting your mitts on them. Recent controversy over the packaging has made them incredibly popular but has caused larger retailers to be reluctant to sell them. If you can find these, definitely get them while they last. Many of the companies making the gun bottles have since ceased production. The Internet-savvy shopper can still find them on such Web sites as www.napacabs.com and www.bestinwine.com. A quick Google search should have you locked and loaded in no time if you can’t find them locally.

Another company that has ornamental bottles that make exceptional gifts is Casino Azul Tequila. Each of these bottles of agave goodness has a beautiful glass figure inside the bottle. Casino Silver’s has an agave plant within and runs about $30. Anejo contains a glass rose and retails for $38. Reposado is $33 and has an eagle inside.

Want to really class up your gift of booze? Try a bottle of Kah Tequila. From Kah’s web site, the distributor calls Kah, “a truly unique experience, offering not only smooth sipping tequila, but an individually numbered, hand-painted skull-shaped bottle inspired by the Mexican Day of the Dead.” Each bottle is like its own work of art. Running at roughly $45 at select liquor stores around the Grand Strand, these little guys make a unique gift for those a little on the macabre side. If the price tag is a little too high for you, mini-skull bottles can be purchased for a mere $9 and they’re just as cool looking.

Finally, for the football lover/tequila drinker in your family, there is Pig Skin Tequila. This liter of tequila comes ready for game day - looking like it’s ready to be kicked through the field goal in a football-shaped bottle. Weekly Surge neither recommends nor condemns the playing of the gentleman’s game of football with a glass, tequila-filled pigskin. However, if you do it, put it on YouTube.

Now, what’s better than giving the gift of booze? Giving the gift of booze that comes with more booze. Glenlivet is offering a gift set that comes with a 750-mL bottle of Glenlivet 12 and two mini-bottles of Glenlivet 18 in the ballpark of $33. Party with the big boy and when it’s gone, bust out the emergency rations.

Mixing it up

Mixers are also a popular gift pairing. Absolut Vodka has a 1.75 liter paired with either regular or pink lemonade in the neighborhood of $30. Another mixer found among local stores in is a 1.75-mL Malibu Rum and Dole Pineapple Juice pairing for roughly $27. Jose Cuervo is offering a mixer set that includes a 1.75-liter bottle of Jose Cuervo Silver and a paired 1.75-liter of margarita mix. At less than 40 bucks, it’s an easy choice to get the party started. Warning: Tequila in excessive amounts has been known to cause some members of the population to have an allergic reaction and break out in handcuffs. Gosling’s is offering the “Dark N’ Stormy” Gift Set which comes with a bottle of signature black rum and ginger beer, both 750-mL.

A few companies are also packaging flasks with their product. Drambui and Jagermeister are both offering a metal flask. Wild Turkey Whiskey has a camo flask gift pack. Never worry about those pesky deer drinking your hooch while you’re out hunting again.

With the mass of liquor kits and gift sets available, and retailers across the Grand Strand, those looking to skip some migraine-inducing retail lines should be able to find something for just about anyone on their list that is of legal drinking age. “It doesn’t go bad and it’s not a tie,” says Doane.

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