Victoria Moore's pick of the best gin gifts, whisky tasting kits and wine events for Christmas gifts

whisky in the window
The possibilities are endless when it comes to choosing gifts for sririt lovers Credit: Zoe Barker

The choice for those hunting Christmas presents for spirits (and wine) lovers has never been more interesting. I can remember when the main role of spirits (usually a big-brand, blended Scotch) was to provide an alternative “I’ve given up” option to a pair of socks for tricky men.

Now, there is a panoply of possibilities to suit every drinker. These include artisan gins from every corner of the country; vermouths that work the brain as much as they work the palate; guides for cocktail fiends; fine rums to be drunk as digestifs; and those presents that go beyond the bottle to offer an entire experience – the tastings, the dinners, the tours, and so on.

The only difficult question is where to begin, so I’ll start with gin, a spirit that has been joyfully resurgent for a while now. One of the star releases of the past couple of years is Salcombe Start Point London Dry (masterofmalt.com, £36.95; amazon.co.uk, £36.40), which has beautiful power and intensity, and a riff of pink grapefruit. It is made in Devon by two former sailing instructors, who now run half-day gin schools.

The sessions run in Salcombe on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 2-5pm “or later depending on how long you’d like to sit in the bar afterwards and enjoy a Salcombe and tonic or two”. As well as learning about gin, each student gets to blend a bottle and take it home. A voucher would be the perfect present for a local gin lover – they cost £100 per person or £150 for a shared experience with two people making a bottle between them and are available at salcombegin.com.

Isle of Harris gin wins the award for most beautiful bottle, with its swirled glass that is reminiscent of the waving ribbons of sugar kelp seaweed used to flavour the spirit

If you are dealing with a serious gin fiend then consider membership to the Craft Gin Club. This subscription organisation has been tantalising me on Instagram for a while now. Specialising in small batch gins, and often first to offer members a taste of new releases, The Craft Gin Club (craftginclub.co.uk) prepares a monthly gin tuck box, each of which contains a bottle of gin from an independent distillery, a 28-page gin magazine and a selection of edible treats designed to go with the gin. There are three membership plans: quarterly (£155 for four boxes a year); bi-monthly (£230 for six) and monthly (£455 for 12).

If you’re simply after a special bottle, then there are two currently finding favour in my kitchen. Both are from Scottish islands. The Botanist, made at the Bruichladdich distillery on Islay, is a first-class gin that won a lot of fans at the gin class I gave at the Abergavenny Festival this autumn. Available from M&S, £35; Oddbins, £40; and waitrosecellar.com, £36.99.

Isle of Harris gin wins the award for most beautiful bottle, with its swirled glass that is reminiscent of the waving ribbons of sugar kelp seaweed used to flavour the spirit. As you can only buy it direct from the distillery (through harrisdistillery.com) it also has the requisite air of the “ungetholdable-of” (or at least “ungetholdable-of in a desperate moment at 3pm on Christmas Eve”). It’s also available as a boxed set with two matching hand-crafted glass tumblers (£62).

Miniature tasting sets make excellent presents too. Master of Malt (masterofmalt.com) does these extremely well, but I’d avoid the gin versions (who makes a G&T with a 30ml measure?). Whisky is where it’s at: I like the look of The Japanese Whisky Tasting Set by Drinks by the Dram (masterofmalt.com, £32.95) which contains five 3cl samples including Hibiki Japanese Harmony and Nikka Coffee Grain Whisky; and The World Whiskies Awards 2017 Overall Winners Tasting Set (£34.95, available from December 8), which does what it says on the tin, with five 3cl samples. This excellent website is also the place to come for full-sized bottles of fine rums, and old, rare whiskies.

If there is a negroni fan in your life, give them a specialist red vermouth (see bottles of the week for an example). Martini lovers might like a bottle of white vermouth (see below). Cocktail drinkers and list-makers might also enjoy Straight Up: the insiders’ guide to the world’s most interesting bars and drinking experiences by Joel Harrison and Neil Ridley (Mitchell Beazley, £16.99) which is packed with tips on where and what to drink.

And how about a wine tasting? One of my favourite professional tastings is Matthew Jukes’ Australian Top 100, which takes place in Australia House in May. This year he has taken 51 of those glorious wines on a national roadshow – keep checking matthewjukes.com for 2018 dates, and be prepared to be impressed by the quality of the whites in particular.

For those in or around London, Berry Bros & Rudd has an enviable calendar of lunches, dinners and tastings (bbr.com).

And finally, in wine one of the hottest tickets of the year looks set to be a tour and tasting of the inaugural vintage of sparkling wine at Rathfinny Estate on the South Downs. I can’t wait to try this wine, which will be released in June.

The tours will run from June until October, last 1hr 45min and include a taste of the rosé and the blanc de blancs. Available from rathfinnyestate.com, at £20 each – and if you’re looking for a bigger present, then consider a voucher for an overnight stay in Rathfinny’s Flint Barns.

Victoria Moore's bottles of the week

Vermut Blanco Bodegas Emilio Lustau NV Spain (Berry Bros & Rudd, £18.95)

Sherry producer Lustau has turned its hand to vermouth and come up with this superb white example, with botanical flavourings including rosemary, marjoram, orange peel and camomile. Wonderful.

Cocchi Storico Vermouth di Torino NV Italy (masterofmalt.comamazon.co.uk; Woodwinters; thewhiskyexchange.com; around £22)

For negroni drinkers, a rich and bitter red vermouth from north-west Italy that is flavoured with sandalwood, myrrh and nutmeg as well as bitter orange, star anise, coriander and others.

Bowmore 12 Year Old Islay Single Malt (40%, Waitrose, £29 down from £35 until 26 Dec)

If you are going to play a classic card with Scotch, make it one with serious pedigree. Bowmore melds mellow and smoky notes to give a languorous expression of Islay’s peaty notes.