Chanukah Wish List
A repurposed empty of one of the authors' favorite drams. Courtesy of Grapelines
Actually, 'tis better to receive than to give.
Actually, 'tis better to receive than to give.
Our annual Chanukah wish list begins with a simple but essential accessory for any wine lover, a corkscrew. One of us prefers the simple and cheap “Waiter’s Corkscrew”, like the one by Pulltex ($8-10), with a double-hinged lever allowing corks to be extracted effortlessly without breaking, and with a small knife at one end to cut the foil cover over the fork. This style is the industry standard in bars and restaurants. Pulltex also makes a slightly more sleek and upscale model (around $50) that one of has been ogling. An apparently even easier way to pull corks that one of us has been eyeing is the Oster Electric Wine Bottle Opener ($18) that effortlessly removes corks but without the flair of the more conventional methods.
While neither of us has tried it, one of us is firmly intrigued by the “Sonic Decanter” ($250), a tabletop ultrasound device that purportedly can make a bottle of young wine taste like it has been aged in a cellar for years. The process apparently takes less than 20 minutes and the inventors claim that it softens tannins and enhances the wine’s aromas and flavors. One of us — the less scientific one, as it happens — thinks this is total hokum. Regardless, however, it must be noted that for the overwhelming majority of wine consumers there is no need or reason to shell buy such a device — even presuming it works as advertised —because the overwhelming majority of wines currently produced are fashioned for early consumption. For those who buy wines fit for long-term cellaring and yet are impatient, one of us thinks this could be an ideal, albeit somewhat extravagant, gift.
For a more traditional functioning yet sleek and very attractive looking decanter, consider the Black Tie Horn by Brilliant ($50) that can hold up to a magnum of wine. Stylish and sleek, it looks great on the dinner table and is easy to pour. Though one of us—the one who doesn’t have or desire it — thinks this looks too delicate and is likely a pain to clean. So also consider getting the Riedel 1-3/4 inch bottle beads ($11) and the Oenophilia Decanter Brush ($6), which will make cleaning odd shaped decanters and glassware much easier.
And we are still waiting for the opportunity to formally try some of the new wines from kosher Israeli wineries like Bashan, Beit-El, Ben David, Domaine Ventura, Livni, Kinor David, Nachal Amud and Yaffo. But in the meanwhile we would be content with a couple of the newest releases from the Shmaltz Brewing Company such as their “Hanukkah, Chanukah: Pass The Beer” a dark ale made with 8 malts and 8 hops (8 percent abv; $13 for a four pack). Or their anniversary beer, “Jewbelation 18” (18 malts, 18 hops, and 12.4 percent abv; $20 for a 22 ounce bottle), the latest in their award-winning Jewbelation series. Also, their “5th Annual He'brew Gift Pack” that includes 8 craft beers and a kit to make your own menorah from the empties would go down a treat (eighth 12 ounce bottles plus a branded glass; $27).
Spirits-wise, we just love getting free hooch, so there seems little point in compiling a specific wish list. Though for any of our friends still trying to figure out what to get us: anything from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, the world’s greatest bottler of single-cask, single-malt Scotch whiskies; similarly (for those who will be traveling through the United Kingdom), any of the whiskies bottled by Cadenhead or Berry Brothers & Rudd would go down a treat; and likewise any of the single-cask, single-malt Scotch whiskies from the Jewish Whisky Company’s Single Cask Nation label would be very greatly appreciated, too.
And if you really want to make us love you, consider the Laphroaig 10-year-old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (43 percent abv; $50). Although lower proof and chill-filtered, unlike everything else from this distillery, this flagship expression is nonetheless utterly fantastic and one of our perennial favorites. It is, in turn, soothing and stupendous, and familiar and reliable, yet complex, deep and dreamy. It enraptures with its heady yet nuanced mix of iodine, smoke, sea brine, and sweet malt; with its oaky backdrop and whispers of vanilla; and with its rounded, oily, subtle and ever so slightly drying finish. Yet it is a dram with enough of a medicinal, fish oil, seaweedy presence to keep one grounded and alert, like a good-natured thump from an older brother or an old school chum. Not for all tastes, obviously, but this is serious, brilliant whisky. L’Chaim!