Best of Philly
Best Place for Guy Gifts
2014 BEST PLACE FOR GUY GIFTS
Art in the Age
Consider the “He’s so hard to shop for” dilemma a thing of the past. From heritage clothing (Penfield and Woolrich) to cologne (he can smell like evergreens!) to a fully stocked camping cocktail kit (complete with a flask and booze, of course), it’s hard to find something here he won’t like.
116 North 3rd Street, Philadelphia, PA | 215-922-2600 | Website
The world is all about crafting these days, and we’re not just referring to knitters on Etsy. Wine and beer have been undergoing craft revolutions, with local, organic, “boutique”, and “handmade” showing up on labels and during tastings. But the biggest changes are coming from small-batch spirits and distillers, all the rage in cocktail bars which seem to be springing up practically daily across the United States. Here are three you might not be able to find in your local watering hole, but which are worth seeking out.
The strikingly beautiful Milagro Select Barrel Reserve Añejo Tequila, the world’s most awarded tequila, deserves special mention for the packaging. While plenty of bottles are eye-catching, this one is perhaps the best we’ve ever seen at showcasing both the lovely color of the precious liquid inside, as well as connecting to the crop (the hand-blown glass is shaped in the form of agave, the source of all tequila). Luckily, the stuff inside is classy as well, a very smooth and perfectly-aged sipping tequila that definitely shouldn’t be blended. In fact, this was one of the first that we didn’t bother making margaritas out of, and would consider almost criminal to do so. Clay oven roasted in the traditional style, then triple distilled and aged for 36 months in white oak, there are no edges here, and the caramel/pepper sweet/spice balance is spot-on. There’s no aftertaste, but still a slight smokiness, a little earthiness, and plenty of wood- no surprise that it’s won everything from “Best in Class” to Double Gold Medals at the SF World Spirits Competition. That said, it’s almost like a long-aged whiskey or some wines- the smoother it gets, the more you might miss some character. And the price is sure to make you appreciate every drop- at around $75 a bottle, it’s in a category of it’s own, and we’ll be savoring it (and the beautiful bottle) for some time to come.
On the flip side, the bottles for Philly-based Art In The Age spirits couldn’t be much simpler, with a style that recalls a different time. Shaped liked classic medicinal and simply labeled,we’ve been tasting their Sage “garden gin”, a very old-school version that is the fourth in their line (check out their other focused styles, like Root, Rhubarb, and Snap). This one skips the botanical behind true gins, juniper, in favor of others that make it into a very fresh, herbaceous mixer- thyme, rosemary, lavender, and fennel all play a role. We tried variations on the Julep and Gimlet, but had no trouble enjoying it over ice. 80-proof and crisp, the licorice-pine notes balance well against lemon and lime, and we found ourselves coming back to this one over traditional gins when paired with tonic too. Available now, it’s a great way to transition from summer to fall, and runs about $30 a bottle.
On the topic of “almost-gins”, how about something old-fashoned in a completely different way. Prohibition shuttered businesses and reconfigured the entire industry, and the first distiller in the city of Napa since that era is none other than Napa Valley Distillery, home to the Old Hollywood Ginn. Note that extra “n”- it’s because the government regulates spirits and defines them, and this one doesn’t meet the requirements due it’s grape brandy base. Who needs ‘em? This version is made with nine botanicals and American oak chips, and aged as well. Most gins are clear, of course, but this one isn’t distilled again so offers a nice golden color. An unusual cinnamon and clove note at the top and oaky toastiness pair better with sweet than tart- put down the tonic and try other speakeasy cocktails (they suggest a play on the Aviation). Available directly, for around $32.
Not department stores. Not discount stores. Not company stores that sell only one brand or chain stores that fill up suburban malls. We mean stores—specialty stores, if you want to get technical about it—the one-of-a-kind operations with smart salesmen and surprising options and the kind of service that makes you wonder why you'd ever settle for anything less. Coast to coast, these are the best of them right now.