Oh mom, or pop, or auntie or cousin or over-generous/under-visited grandparent: it’s that time of year again. The time we dig deep into our pockets to finance the perfect gift for someone who just spent four years playing Ultimate Frisbee, singing a cappella, and writing a thesis entitled “The Uncertainty Principle: Breaking Bad and the Undermining of American Drug Law.”
It’s Graduation Day, y’all. And yes, while you might have financed four years of exponentially overpriced institutionalized recess, there’s one more purchase to make: the graduation gift.
You could be outlandish and go for the car, or entirely appropriately parsimonious with a framed cover of “Oh the Places You’ll Go.” But why not celebrate your grad’s education, and legal drinking age, with a bottle of something decent? Something, unlike “The History of Yelp Criticism,” that won’t let them down?
Don’t worry about fishing all over the Internet for a good bottle (save that web browsing for looking for an apartment or room or hovel for your new grad). Whether your budding intellectual is a wine, spirits, or beer drinker, we’ve got a roster of bottles that’s got them covered. Until grad school graduation, that is. Then, they buy for you.
If you’ve got a hophead, or a graduating chemist, go the way of the beer kit (it’s summertime, they’ll need an activity). Based on the original recipe from the Russian River Brewing Company, the kit should yield something close to the fresh, flagrantly hoppy double IPA that made Russian River (and double IPA) famous. (NOTE: Kit’s not totally complete, you need to buy your own yeast. Or, have the grad pitch in.)
Nothing says “I love you in a big way” like a big wine, right? This bottle delivers—with an inky purple, almost wet stone smoky depth underlying dark, sweet fruit and supple tannin. Plus, Bordeaux is a classic, so this gift should encourage your grad to trade in those Hello Kitty oven mitts for something grown up and hopefully velvety.
Old Rip Van Winkle 10-Year– MEGA SPLURGE
Yes, the Pappy legacy is possibly overhyped, but it’s also a bit of a right of passage, the kind of thing you break out when someone gets a job (or, more likely, starts a podcast from your garage). If you’re gonna go the way of Pappy, there’s some maneuvering involved, and high pricing. Make sure your grad’s a summa. (Or just by god loves whiskey.)
OK, half the reason this makes a good graduation bottle is the whole “alpha/omega, first/last, beginning/end” thing. But there’s also the thrill of having a bottle of wine that’s at least 10 (to 20) times more expensive than your grad’s had in the last four, er, one year. Add to that you’ve got a terroir-driven, Napa Valley Cabernet that can age comfortably with your grad and it’s kind of the ideal metaphor in a bottle.
What makes Burgundy so special, and so goddamn expensive? The sense of place. Give your grad a (roughly) reasonably priced premier cru red Burgundy with supple soft fruit and foresty depth, explain to them the value of rootedness, character, and always expressing where you’ve come from, and celebrate your victory in grad gifting.
You can get good Elijah Craig for less than $200, but if it’s Graduation Season and you’ve got the cash, dive into, well, this single barrel. An award-winner, like your grad, delivering toasty vanilla and caramel flavors enriched with some fleshy fruit and dried out on cherry pit peppery sweetness.
Sparkling wine is an easy go-to in the scramble for grad celebration. But score even more points with a bottle of eco-friendly, super on-trend, and genuinely interesting “grower champagne.” (Basically Champagne produced from one plot, which no, isn’t the norm.) This bottle from Gaston Chiquet should only run you about $50, with soft chalky notes balancing bright citrus and minerality.
You could always go for Compass Box’s original “Hedonism” for less money, but their Quindecimus (meaning fifteen) is actually a celebratory bottling, so why not splurge? For a few coins more, you’ll get a particularly playful blended grain whisky from one of the best independent bottlers—run by an American dude!—generously mingling coconut and tropical fruit with salted caramel, citrus, and baking spice notes. Not to mention, the none-too-subtle nod to the way your grad spent the last four years (hedonism….awwww yeah).
Sparkling wine and champagne can go higher than Magnum, but since your grad probably can’t carry a Methuselah along with that diploma, stick with a Magnum for Graduation Day. And stick with this Australian brut rose from Tasmania, a super pale pink bubbly with soft orchard and berry notes lifted by a gently perky acidity. We’d say it demonstrates the value of restraint, except it’s a giant bottle.
No, we’re not trying to refer to the abyss of debt your grad may or may not be falling into. This beer—a (triple) barrel aged Imperial stout—will encourage your grad to calm down, sit by a quiet fire, and contemplate the next steps in life. Not to mention swirling notes of molasses, toffee, coffee, and cream (to start) going on in the bottle. Affordably priced, so buy a few for now and a few to age along with your student.
Since your grad may have been drinking Johnny Walker Red all the way through college, why not encourage maturity with a bottle of matriculated J-Dubs? And with the option to engrave the bottle (which will up the price), you’ll give them not only one of the most famous premium blended Scotch whiskies with fragrant wood spice, toffee, and smoky florals, but a souvenir to remember it by. (Recommendations for the engraving: “Forget About Journalism School,” “I’m Not Gonna Keep Paying for Netflix,” and “Congratulations. Sorry About the Economy.”)