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4 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Buying Bourbon As A Gift

Look, here's the thing. We can't all be experts in everything. No one has the time or the talent for that. But with the gift-giving season rapidly clawing its way into the forefront of our brains, we all start to wish we knew just a little bit more about those things we'll be buying for our loved ones.

And while I probably can't help you pick out a new TV for Grandma or a video game for the kids, I can certainly point you in the right direction when it comes to giving the gift of Bourbon.

As with most things in life, the first step is to know your audience. Whiskey is a personal gift and if you don't know at least a little about the recipient, you might be better off buying them something else. Here are a few questions to help you narrow down your search so you can find the perfect Bourbon to give.

Question #1
Is My Recipient a Bourbon Collector or a Bourbon Drinker?
Bourbon is sexy right now, and though long-time Bourbon drinkers shake their heads at the thought of Bourbon being a status symbol, the fact remains that there are many people out there who just want “the best”. And to many of those people, "best" actually means "most expensive" or "hardest to find."

To that end, the first thing to determine when buying Bourbon for someone else is if the recipient is a Bourbon Drinker or Bourbon Collector.

A Bourbon Drinker will buy bottles of Bourbon and enjoy them for what they are.

PHOTO: FLICKR/ djLicious

But, if your recipient is the person who loves to brag up how much they paid for a Whiskey or how old or how rare it is, they are probably the latter. I know what you’re thinking right now: a gift for the Bourbon Collector is likely to be the hardest gift to find.

But in reality, this may be the easiest gift to buy. You might not get the one that "everyone is talking about," but it's easy to get one that checks all the same boxes.

Bourbons marketed to the Bourbon Collector are easy to spot. They often have extra packaging in the forms of a box or tube canister. There may be an age statement. If so, it'll probably be in the teens or twenties.

There will certainly be a good story to go along with the Bourbon. It will probably call out a particular method of aging or blending. Look for a year of release. Release dates give you a clue that it is a limited edition release and possibly one the Collector hasn’t had yet.

Question #2
I’m Pretty Sure My Recipient Is a Bourbon Drinker. Now, How Much Experience Do They Have?
Buying a Bourbon for someone shouldn't be a job, and you don't need to get a resume or CV from the recipient. But you will need to know how much Bourbon experience they have. Have they been drinking Bourbon for longer than you've been alive? Or are they an enthusiastic newcomer to the Bourbon world?

If the gift you're buying is for the experienced Bourbon drinker, they probably already know what they like. Grandma and Grandpa have likely tried it all and long ago settled into their favorites. Knowing what your recipient likes will go a long way toward knowing what to buy. My advice is to take a look at their liquor shelf and see what's on it.

MAKER'S 46 - PHOTO: FLICKR/ Patrick TrubyMost Bourbon brands have an expression or two that is a little more impressive than their flagship. Wild Turkey has Rare Breed and Russell's Reserve. Maker's Mark has Maker's 46 and Maker's Mark Cask Strength. Jim Beam has Baker's, Booker's and Knob Creek. Even Jack Daniel's has the Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Cask Strength and Single Barrel Rye.

If you are buying for the enthusiastic newcomer, then you are on gift-buying easy street. In my experience, people who are newly enthusiastic about something love to talk about that thing, no matter what it is. Bourbon is no different. In this case, all you have to do is ask them a little about Bourbon.

With just the tiniest prodding they will fill the next half hour or so with all the things they've tasted, the things they wish they could try, and the things that are on their list for their next buying spree. If you have the time and play your cards right, you should know everything you need to know—and probably a lot that you didn't need to know—to buy them the perfect gift.

Question #3
What Is My Budget and How Much Of It do I Want To Spend?
Sure, we'd all love to spend unlimited amounts on each of our friends and loved ones. But for most of us, our gift-buying budget is going to be the deciding factor in what we end up buying as a gift. Budget is highly personal and Bourbon prices fluctuate from market to market.

As such, I can’t give you a succinct “here’s how much you should spend” statement. Instead, I’d suggest picking the amount you want to spend and using the information above to narrow down your choices.

I received this mysterious and expensive bottle of bourbon in the mail around my birthday. No note. Thanks! - PHOTO: FLICKR/ Joe HallYou can, of course, pay a lot for Bourbon:
- As you get to more limited edition Bourbons, there are fewer bottles released and so they tend to be priced at a premium.
- Cask-strength Bourbons are not diluted before bottling and so the same number of barrels produces fewer bottles. This also raises the price.
- When you are talking about older Bourbon, years of evaporation means there is physically less Bourbon in each barrel they are bottling. And you guessed it, the price goes up even more.

When all of this comes together you can see prices of $150-$300 per bottle or more.

But, don’t feel like you need to spend that much. In my gift giving I try to find Bourbons in the $25 to $100 range depending on the factors in questions one and two above. Due to my budget constraints, most of my Bourbon gift shopping happens in the $30-$50 range and only goes above that for very close family or friends. In this range, you find good, solid Bourbon that comes in attractive and gift-worthy packaging.

You have choices that play off the recipient’s likes and experience so they end up with a bottle that they’ll be proud to have on the shelf and that they will enjoy drinking.

Question #4
How Can I Fine-Tune My Selection To Make It Even More Personal?
Of course, the above is just the tip of the iceberg for things to think about when buying Bourbon as a gift for someone. There are plenty of other questions you could consider as you make your decision.

Angel's Envy Cask Strength - PHOTO: FLICKR/ Cory DoctorowIs the recipient a localvore? Consider a Bourbon from a local "grain-to-glass" small distiller. Do they value style over everything? Consider one in an attractive bottle. Is the recipient nostalgic or homesick? Maybe try to find one produced where they grew up. Or at least one that is popular there.

Finally, don't stress this. At the end of the day, if it is a person worth buying a gift for, they will love whatever you got them because it came from you. 

By Eric

Eric

About the author: Even though he hates everything about winter, Eric Burke chose to live in Minnesota. He hides from the cold by drinking Bourbon and other American Whiskey. He writes about all of it at BourbonGuy.com.

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