Tag Archives: Gifts

The Five Best Bottles of Liquor to Give as a Gift

Last Fall when we wrote about How to Stock a Home Bar we mentioned that you should save space for a couple of ‘special occasion bottles.’ You need a couple of bottles of the good stuff; a private stock, if you will. This is the stuff that you’ll break out for special occasions, and that is good enough that it will make any occasion special if you do break it out.

We suggested that these bottles might even be given to you to mark some special occasion. It works both ways though… eventually a friend of yours is going to have a birthday, a housewarming, a Christmas party, or some other milestone worth marking with a bottle. It’s times like these when the usual good stuff isn’t quite good enough. Any drinker can treat himself to a bottle of Makers’ 46 or Tanqueray 10 on payday, but the idea behind a gifted bottle is that it should not only be a liquor of superior quality, but should be something a friend might not think to try on his own.

In any decent spirits shop there’s going to be no shortage of bottles worth giving as a gift. Especially now, in the age of artisanal booze made in small batch copper pot stills there is plenty of variety for a special occasion. These five though are tried and true, and represent the very best spirit of generosity.

The Dalmore 15

The Dalmore 15 year old. Representing the third tier in the Dalmore Range (which includes whiskys up to 50 years old), the 15 is about the best there is in the world before you start spending into the triple digits. The Dalmore’s 12 point stag stands guard on the bottle, ensuring it’s not opened lightly. Aged entirely in sherry casks, this is the stuff that your Grandfather would drink. At his mistress’ funeral. (around $80.)

Barbancourt Estate Reserve

Barbancourt Estate Reserve. Unlike some other liquors, there are plenty of good rums available in the $20 range. Spend twice that and you’re into the realm of world-class rums. What makes Barbancourt’s Estate Reserve so special isn’t just the fact that it’s still being produced in post-quake Haiti from pure sugar cane or the 15 years it spends in oak, it’s the fact that not only do you not need Coke to drink it… you don’t even need ice. (around $45.)

Noah's Mill

Noah’s Mill. We had the good fortune to receive a bottle of Noah’s Mill as a gift once, and can speak directly to its quality. The Chop is first and foremost a bourbon drinker, and Noah’s Mill has supplanted Russell’s Reserve as our top pick. You know this isn’t for everyday drinking, as it’s bottled at a ridiculous 114.3 proof. You wouldn’t ever know it though, because it smooths out nicely after 15 years of aging in charred oak. This is as good as it gets. (around $45.)

Delamain pale and dry XO

Delamain pale and dry XO.Without getting into a whole big lesson on Cognac, let us just say this is the good shit. In this year’s Ultimate Spirits Challenge it placed second with a score of 95, a tie with Delamain’s much pricier “Extra” expression. Whereas an XO represents the top of some brands’ lines, at Delamain this 25 year old Cognac is actually the bottom of the line. Compare it to Courvoisier’s XO, which is the fifth step up their ladder, retails about $50 more, and is not 100% Grand Champagne derived. It is a bit expensive, but it’s also a special occasion. (around $100.)

Chartreuse

Chartreuse. Why are we including Chartreuse in this short list? Is it because we love it? Because we would like to receive a bottle as a gift? Because we wanted to include a liqueur for variety’s sake? These are all good reasons, but we include Chartreuse here because it’s the perfect gift for the vodka or gin drinker in your life. Premium vodka is more or less a scam, and any serious gin drinker has probably already reached the top of the gin pyramid on his own (It’s not nearly as high as the Cognac pyramid or the Scotch pyramid). Chartreuse is best served neat, but if that certain someone still insists of drinking vodka, feel free to pass along our Chartreuse gimlet recipe.

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Best Bets: Best Christmas Gifts Over $10

Yesterday we gave you our picks for the best gifts under $10. Today we’re going to spend a little more. Or, to be fair, we’re going to ask for a little more.

It would be a mighty merry Christmas at the Chophouse if Santa brought us a few of these items from our list:


A Bottle of Barbancourt

The Barbancourt distillery might truly be the only entity inside of Haiti that actually has its shit together. If you think of rum solely as a Summer drink, try the estate reserve. $22-$42.

Ca. 1900 British Steamer Trunk.

Louis Vuitton may talk a lot about heritage, but this kind of heritage is unfuckwithable… no matter how many fake African bush landing photo-ops you get Bono to do. $175.

Norse Projects Merino Breton Stripe Sweater

Melville never had it so good. You won’t need a White-Jacket, just accent it with one of these… $180.

Ca. 1950’s Ulysse Nardin Wristwatch

The movement’s been as dependable as the sun for 60 years or so. The case and hands are solid gold and still manage not to look gaudy. This is the kind of flash you don’t need to flash. $1500.

The HMS Bounty

The one from the movies. Captain Bligh may not have been on the quarterdeck, but Marlon Brando and Johnny Depp were. If all of you loyal Choppers pitch in, you can totally get us this for Christmas. We’ll even use it to give you a ride to work (provided you work near the Inner Harbor). $4,600,000.

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Best Bets: Best Christmas Gifts under $10

Maybe your workplace is doing a secret Santa this year. Maybe you got an invite to a holiday party and want to bring a gift for your hosts (which is proper and good form). Maybe you need something for the mailman or your kid’s teacher or someone else you don’t really care about at all. Maybe you’re just cheap.

Whatever the case may be, we all sometimes need to find gifts that cost as little as possible. Just because you’re not spending much though doesn’t mean you’ve got to give up on good taste. They say it’s the thought that counts, and if you put a little thought into your smallest gifts, you can make them count, too.

Magazine Subscriptions

You’ve probably heard by now that print media is dying, and that iPads and Kindles are the wave of the future. All that aside, light reading is as enjoyable as it ever was. Magazine subscriptions are ridiculously cheap right now, with most running just over the cover price of one issue, and in most cases you can get two full years for around $10. The Chop recommends Esquire, Baltimore Magazine, Interview, W Magazine, The Atlantic, and Juxtapoz. It’s a breeze to order gift subscriptions online, although shipping of the first issue typically does take some time.

Alarm Clock

Ikea is well known for three things: good design, low prices, and shoddy materials. Their DEKAD alarm clock is two of those three things. Made of nothing but glass and steel, it’s as solid as it is stylish. Clean, classic design and a $6 price tag put it right at home in any room. Alternately, their lower level has a ton of housewares, textiles and decor items at budget friendly prices.

Handkerchiefs

A tie may be the default last-minute generic gift idea for men, but a set of handkerchiefs is a fraction of the price, and he’ll probably get more mileage out of them than any tie. This set of Dockers handkerchiefs from Kohls is on sale for $10, and presents well in that cylidrical package which might double to hold pens, change, or whatever.

Christmas Ornaments

A Christmas ornament is another pretty standard go-to gift, but the ones available at Ten Thousand Villages in Fell’s Point are anything but ordinary. This set of three is handmade in China and marked down to the ridiculously low price of $5.00. There are also options from India and Nepal as well as other handmade gifts from all over the world.

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Whether you’re stuffing a stocking, sticking to a budget or treating yourself, any of these gifts will be money well spent. Have you received something inexpensive that made you smile? Come up with the perfect solution for secret Santa, maybe? Post your own economical gift ideas in the comments.

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Best Bets: Deck The Walls

The Chop likes looking at art. Be it in a gallery, museum, private home, or on the street, we’re always interested in the way that art can make a space speak. Perhaps our favorite setting for seeing art though is not a chic opening or an austere museum, but in the marketplace.

MICA is currently halfway through their third annual Art Market, and if you haven’t been yet, we recommend you get yourself over to Mount Royal Avenue posthaste. Events like these represent one of your best opportunities to discover quality works for exceptional values. With space for 250 vendors ranging from undergrads to established alumni, and from crafters to painters and beyond.

MICA's 3rd annual Art Market continues today and tomorrow, 10-6.

Sprawling across 3 galleries and 4 days, the 2010 Art Market is open from 10am until 6pm, ending tomorrow.

We say head down there late, and on the off chance you don’t find anything that suits your tastes, or can’t quite put your finger on that perfect piece for a friend, you can head straight up the JFX another couple exits to Atomic Books and pick up a copy of their 2011 pinup calendar which will debut tonight. Photographer Mike Lee will be on hand to give a behind-the-scenes talk on pinup style and photography, as well as take questions and presumably sign copies of the calendar.

Each calendar you buy benefits Moveable Feast, and frankly they make a much better gift for that dude you don’t know how to shop for than a record or a bottle of booze would.

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Atomic Books is located at 3620 Falls Road in Hampden.

MICA’s Art Market is at 1301 Mount Royal Avenue in Bolton Hill. Brown Center’s Leidy Atrium, Falvey Hall lobby and Rosenberg Gallery

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Best Bets: Christmas Shopping at the AVAM Sideshow

Remember the first time you ate at Paper Moon Diner? You were probably in your first year of college, or maybe it was even over the summer in high school. Remember how you had to put your name on a list, and amuse yourself outside for like half an hour while you waited for a table? Remember how all the girls were unabashed about making eyes at the dessert case and how it was a big discussion whether or not to sit in the smoking section?

Most of all, remember the first time you saw all those toys?

Of course you do. You had a good buzz on. Maybe you were even a little high, and you sat down in there and had to put forth a Herculean effort not to roam around the dining room touching everything you could reach, putting figures in dirty poses and telling everyone crap stories from your childhood. You did that. We all did that.

The Sideshow gift shop at the AVAM has toys for kids from 6 to 66.

That, Baltimore, is the very same feeling you will get the first time you step foot into the Sideshow, the gift shop at the American Visionary Art Museum.

Far from your typical museum gift shop, the Sideshow’s curiosities rival the museum itself. Part Dime Museum, part Toys-R-Us, and part Art Mart, this place is literally a one-stop non-mall Christmas shop with gifts for kids from six to sixty-six.

The last time the Chop was down that way, the Sideshow was closed because it was nighttime and the time before that the place was packed because the museum was free, so we didn’t spend as much time browsing and playing around as we might have liked, but we were definitely impressed enough that we’re planning to make a separate trip down there just to see the gift shop, which you can do without paying for admission to the museum.

This time we’re going to block out at least a solid hour for playing and perusing among their shelves, which are densely packed from floor to ceiling with everything from the highbrow (art books, tea sets) to the lowbrow (plastic dog poop, fake vomit) and everything in between. We can’t wait to get a proper look at all those toys, as well as their selection of original artworks and goods curated from around the world. We’re also especially interested in their archive of screen printed posters from indie rock shows around the country, which are art in their own right and suitable for framing.

We’re going to be bringing two lists with us when we go: one of the people we’ll need to shop for for Christmas, and a blank list for all the stuff in there we’re going to want.

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Sideshow at the Visionary is located at 800 Key Highway in Federal Hill. 443-872-4926. Of course, we’re not actually going today, because like everything else in this crummy town they are closed on Mondays. Their hours are Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-6pm.

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The Perfect Fathers’ Day Gifts at the Quinntessential Gentleman

In the heated, noisy, and sometimes treacherous downtown streets, the Quinntessential Gentleman is nothing less than an oasis. The shock of comfort and relief a man feels when crossing their threshold is much the same as what the desert wayfarer feels encountering the shady stream or the drifting sailor feels upon washing up on the shore. We know this firsthand; the QG will not just give you a haircut, but provide you aid and comfort as much as you like, and send you off ultimately feeling like a new man whose been given a fresh start.

We told you earlier this week about Rodney Henry, who built his pie shop from the ground up, virtually creating his own market through a constant attention to quality and tradition. Craig Martin has a similar story, and the QG’s unrivaled skill, attention to detail, and posh environment have made them an invaluable asset to the state of Maryland.

Bosca Tribeca leather messenger briefcase. $300.

Comparing the QG to your average barbershop is something on the order of trying to compare a limousine to a bicycle. One look around will assure you that this is no ordinary barbershop. Not only does their wide range of services outshine other shops, but their lounge is head and shoulders above most downtown bars and restaurants. They’ll hold a bottle of your favorite spirit for you, or float you a cold beer or a hot cup of coffee or espresso to enjoy while you’re shooting pool, brushing up on your putting, or taking advantage of the free wi-fi.

What keeps you coming back though is the service. It’s well nigh impossible to go up South Calvert without double checking the back of your neck or the shine on your shoes. Even if you’re hair is in good shape, it’s hard to beat a chair massage and a glass of whisky on the rocks for a little me time. When those geniuses came up with that ‘Find Your Happy Place’ nonsense, they were probably sitting around inside the QG.

QG Humidor Starter Kit. $60.

No matter what sort of dad you’ve got, the Quinntessential Gentleman has something great for Fathers’ Day. We’d highly recommend sending your old man there with a gift card in hand, and if you’ve been asleep at the switch this week you can even browse the menu and print gift certificates out online, which is incredibly convenient.

Even if dad’s not close to downtown, you’re still in luck, as QG offers an ever-increasing selection of accessories and accouterments from high end shaving and styling products to that most traditional of Fathers’ Day gifts, the necktie.

Stewart Stand Money Clip. $30.

While we’ve got to admit that many of their offerings are a little too novelty-esque for our own personal taste (think sports logo cufflinks and ties printed with little repeating jolly rogers), we did find plenty to like in the way of Fathers’ Day gifts. If the Chop had rugrats running around, we’d be thrilled to receive the Stewart Stand Bi-fold Money Clip which is on offer at half of its original $60 price and is perfect for any time you won’t need a full wallet.

We were also quite taken with the Parker Heavyweight Safety Razor. Safety razors have seen quite a resurgence in the last couple of years, and those who use them seem to swear by them. At $45, this thing will likely last forever and pay for itself once you quit buying grocery store cartridges at almost $2 a pop.

Parker Heavyweight Safety Razor. $45.

Some of the best looking cuff links in the store are also the most reasonably priced. The Celtic Cross design is a hell of a lot classier than that ‘kiss me I’m Irish’ button the old man likes to break out on St. Paddy’s day. Matching tuxedo studs are also available if you’re sitting down to dinner.

The Chop does not approve of smoking, but if dear old dad is given to enjoy cigars from time to time, the Humidor Starter Kit will look great in any study. It’s a QG original, and the kit can hold up to 50 smokes and includes an incredible amount of value for only $60. They also carry several high-end cigars in the shop.

QG's Celtic Cross Cufflinks. $45.

Finally, the Bosca Tribeca Leather Messenger Briefcase is something of a lavish gift at $300, but good things cost a good sum. The truth is that this is of such quality that you’ll likely inherit it someday, and it’s stylish and beautiful enough that you’ll actually want to.

Additionally, online orders (save gift cards) are now 10% off until Monday, 6/21 when you use the code “dadgift” at checkout, or you can save that 10% in the store by mentioning that you’re a fan of QG on Facebook.

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The Quinntessential Gentleman is located at 31 S. Calvert Street downtown. 410-685-SHAVE. They accept walk-ins and appointments 7 days a week.

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