SPIRITS AND WINE
Paul John (the makers of the best single malts in India, nay, the world) recently launched its first blended whiskey. Roulette, a name inspired by the popular game, brings bold new flavours to the home bar. This is one smooth blend with a hint of smokiness, created using high-quality grain and peated malt spirit, with notes of fruit and honey to light up those Diwali and post-Diwali evenings.
Indians tend to be whiskey lovers and what better gift than a blended one? The clean gold-coloured dram is a blend of single malts from three distilleries – Yamazaki, Hakushu and Chita. On the nose: it has aromas of green apple and honey. On the palate: grapefruit and unusual flavour of thyme. A lovely gift for whisky lovers who may want to try out Japanese whiskey.
Grant’s Distinction is a premium single malt whisky with a robust, malty and raisin cake rich character, perfect for whisky cocktails for the festive season that stretches over the next three months.
Jameson Irish Whiskey is my favourite when it comes to anything beyond the Indian Paul John or the Scottish single malts. The blended Irish whiskey is redolent with a light floral fragrance, and the perfect balance of spicy, nutty, and vanilla notes.
Inspired by Scotland’s national flower, the thistle, Teacher’s Golden Thistle is double matured in American and European oak casks for 12 years. The deep golden dram is finished in Islay casks to get that smoky and creamy flavour it is known for.
For those who love wines, we recommend some of the Paladin wines such as the Merlot Drago Rosso with deep ruby red colour and a bouquet of cherry and blueberry aromas, the fruity and elegant Chardonnay, or the copper colour, pink shaded Pinot Grigio, with a nose of dried flowers and wild strawberries. These are good value-for-money gifts. La Madre Red comes in a retro-cool pink-coloured bottle; the wine inside is sweet, with notes of orange juice.
Grover’s La Réserve Chardonnay is redolent with aromas of French oak barrels and fragrant with notes of fresh peach, melon, tropical fruit and a hint of lemon zest. Aged for 12 months, the wine, rich and full on the palate, is complemented by soft oak notes and crisp acidity.
If gifting champagne is your thing, the peachy Besserat De Bellefon makes for a nice gift. The Cuvee is made using a unique method of champagne making. Less “liqueur de tirage” (a mix of sugar, yeast and must) is added at the moment of bottling. The result is a lighter, diaphanous formation of effervescence and a drink that is smooth and creamy.
Ciders are rather new to India and Thirsty Fox Ciders are a great way to introduce someone to the drink. The Thirsty Fox Izzy is golden summery, very crisp and delicately balanced, while the Thirsty Fox Reed is a ruby red vegan cider, conditioned with tart cherries and peppercorns. With just 5.4% ABV, this could be for someone who likes their spirits to be, well, light.
Bowmore Timeless 31, matured in Bourbon casks for 29 years and then Spanish Oak Matusalem Sherry-seasoned butts for another two, is one of the most indulgent gifts you can give. Floral and summery on the nose, with notes of sweet almonds and vanilla, it is a festive delight.
Strangers and Sons’ iconic flavoured gin, Perry Road Peru, which they launched two years ago in collaboration with Bombay Canteen in Mumbai in a small batch of 3,000, is back. This time in a limited edition of 30,000 bottles to be sold across India. This single-batch, limited edition distilled cocktail, which tastes like the juiciest of pink perus distilled in a glass (which it is!), is inspired by the seasonal pink guavas that line the streets of Bombay twice a year. Fresh and luscious, it makes for a great gift for someone you truly love.
The Perch Diwali wine hamper, available in Mumbai and Delhi, is filled with all things nice: a bottle of Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel Shiraz, Montasio, Zarai and Parmesan cheese from Darima Farms, and a choice of Brunost or Belper Knolle from Elftheria. Besides there are savoury frills, violet mustard, fig & thyme spread, candied chilli walnuts, smoked nuts, olive and herb sourdough crackers and marinated olives. Not to forget a citrusy marmalade, pear and vanilla jam, port wine marinated Medjool dates and apple and cinnamon chips. A super indulgent gift for someone you may want to indulge…or impress.
This one also supports a good cause. Jägermeister, which launched the #SAVETHENIGHT initiative backed by superstar Post Malone, has launched a limited-edition bottle in select markets – a symbol for switching the lights of nightlife back on. A German digestif made with 56 herbs and spices and an ABV of 35%, it is sure to be a rather heady gift.
Who doesn’t like the classic Monkey47 dry gin? The range of botanicals that go into making a Monkey47 gin is staggering: foraged juniper, blossoms of acacias, jasmine, wild honeysuckle, bramble leaves, herbs such as chamomile and sage, hawthorn berries, lingonberries, and from India, coriander, musk seed, cardamom, cloves and nutmeg. Mandarin, lemon peels and grapefruit peels are added for the citrusy flavour. This is one trippy gift to give and receive.
At the moment there seems to be no competition on this front: Svami has swept the market with its amazing range of cocktail mixers launched either by themselves or in collaboration. These little boxes make for great gifts for anyone who loves drumming up a mean cocktail at home. There are the craft mixers they launched with three of Moet Hennessy’s spirit brands — Belvedere, Glenmorangie, and Hennessy. They are inspired by indigenous Indian flavours such as Pomelo ‘chakotras’ (Belvedere); Tangerines santras (Glenmorangie); Ginger ‘Adrak’, Cinnamon daal cheeni & hint of Black Peppers ‘Kaali Mirch’ (Hennessy). Then there is the rank favourite, their tonic water, which works perfectly with a gin.
And their ginger ale and soda, which will help the person who receives this gift to elevate their whisky cocktail making skills. Helpfully, their festive offerings include gin and whisky appreciation kits, which besides their offerings, come with a pairing guide and a tasting wheel.
COFFEE & TEA
Gourmet coffee is an ideal gift for both, a regular coffee drinker and a coffee snob. Blue Tokai’s Premium Coffee Festive Bundle is a goodie basket with a 250g coffee pouch from one of the best coffee brands, two ceramic cups and Armatuer’s exquisitely crafted candle in a shot glass.
Want to gift more than coffee to someone special? Coffeeza, the online coffee company, has put out a range of coffee machines and capsules. The Finero Next Machine, with two brewing options — espresso and lungo—is a gift lovers of black coffee will not forget in a hurry. The Lattisso One-Touch Machine can brew a cappuccino in under a minute; but it can also brew espresso and lungo at the touch of a button.
If you want to gift something a little more modest, choose from coffee capsules with freshly roasted ground coffee, sourced from the best coffee plantations around the world, which is then roasted and blended by experts in Italy. An absolute must-gift is their Pour-Over Coffee Bags that are made of speciality-grade, Indian Arabica coffee, with three kinds of roasts: light, medium and dark.
Tea Trunk’s gourmet tea box is inspired by the art of tie & dye and has been curated by tea sommelier Snigdha Manchanda. A tin of soothing Chamomile tea is paired with a beautiful ceramic tea mug crafted by local artisans of Uttar Pradesh.
Packaging has gone creative and artisanal across the board. Teabox’s artisanal tea boxes fuse elements of Indian folk art and heritage. The Gaja tea box is inspired by an elephant. Within are six aromatic, organic whole leaf green teas—Chamomile Green, Mint Green, Dandelion Green, Jasmine Green, Turmeric Tulsi Green and Rose Green. Kaja (translated to mean ‘which springs from water’), is embellished with a magnificent lotus on the gift box cover and includes Assam Masala Chai, Bombay Cutting Masala Chai, Caramel Spice Chai, Punjabi Masala Chai, Wayanad Cardamom Chai, Kolkata Street Chai and Kashmiri Kesar Gulab Chai, a striking gift for an Indian chai drinker.
MITHAI & CHOCOLATES
Bombay Sweet Shop is everything a mithaiwala should be but in the most modern way possible. Its Diwali offerings include mithais, some traditional and some with a contemporary twist, and savoury snacks crafted with the best of ingredients, sweet-inspired candles and even a deck of the sweetest playing cards. Gift a box of happiness with out-of-the-world Badam Paak, a festive take on silky Mysore Paak, stuffed with almonds, besan, ghee and cardamom; Kaju Bon Bob, cashew marzipan layered with dark chocolate ganache, sprayed with dark chocolate, and Dodha Barfi, the classic winter sweet from the north-west frontier of India. Even their super-indulgent Doodh Boondi Ladoo, a version of Jaipur’s famous boondi ladoos, is made with milk, besan and rabri, and topped with pistachios and rose petals.
Ether Atelier, one of my favourite patisseries/chocolatiers in the country, is putting out a Tablet Box, a blend of beautiful fruit and nut chocolate bars. Choose from Dominican Milk-Dark Chocolate, Apricot, Iranian Green Pistachio); 42% Ghana Milk Chocolate, Coconut, Goan Cashew Nuts; and 64% Peruvian Dark Chocolate, Fig, Caramelized Pecans. There is also a super-experimental Halwaii cake, a delectable blend of pistachios with Damascus roses and saffron of three different origins: Kashmiri, Arabic and Spanish.
Online e-marketplaces such as CocoCart has made it easy to buy gourmet gifts wherever you are across the country. CocoCart, for instance, offers up a large range of gifting options: Swiss-based Läderach's range of pralines, delicious chocolate-covered crunchy, caramelised popcorn, and rich tablets or Läderach chocolate in packaged bars, such as the reddish-brown, scented Milk Tablet, made with Swiss milk, caramel, and vanilla.
Pooja Dhingra’s famous Le15 Patisserie’s macaroons are iconic —delicate, fragrant, and crumbly. The patisserie’s Diwali collection comes in elegant boxes designed by Pavitra Rajaram Designs, which are delivered all over India. While the big daddy of them all, the Indulgence Box, is packed with chocolate mix, classic hot chocolate mix and several kinds of Dipkie, it also has a smaller Celebration Box.
The historic French patisserie Ladurée just opened in Delhi. What can be a better gift than their delicate pastries and perfect macarons in a city that loves indulgences and Diwali in equal measure? The macarons are dainty, sweet and infused with all things nice, such as chocolate ganache.
An interesting online patisserie, delivering across India, is Gaia, India’s first plant-based patisserie. It offers gluten-free, refined sugar-free options such as The Wholesome Truffle Gift Box. The gluten-free and refined sugar-free truffles are stuffed with roasted pistachio and rose, coconut and white chocolate, and such.
The traditional Diwali Dessert Box is filled with creamy, baked New York-style Mango Shreekhand Cheesecake, with a gluten-free biscuit base, mango, cardamom and saffron topping; Mamra Almond & White Chocolate Entremet, a caramelized almond mousse, with caramel glaze, buttery tart shell, filled with almond praline; Orange & Pistachio Cake, a buttery pound cake fragrant with oranges and roasted pistachios; and Kesar & Roasted Cashew French Entremet, a rasmalai mousse with layers of roasted cashews, cashew white chocolate ganache and a cardamom infusion.
Japanese luxury chocolate brand Royce has collaborated with fashion designer Gaurav Gupta to design gift boxes that resemble fairy tale books, replete with elements of a fantasy forest. The trees, the water, the sky and the birds are held together precariously in a vintage frame. The chocolates are decadent, and the boxes are works of art.
This is for someone who lives really close-by. Noto, one of India’s first vegan ice cream brands, has launched bite-sized creamy ice cream with a crunchy coating of dark chocolate.
Grazing board is one of the hottest trends of 2021. Chef Guntas Sethi Bhasin has put out a range of grazing boards with a careful curation of fruits, nuts, cheeses (from soft to hard, with a choice of flavours such as truffle and chives, smoked cheddar, burnt garlic and chilli, mushroom and truffle, etc) and crackers.
Across India, luxury hotels are putting out a super-indulgent range of hampers that exemplify luxury. The Imperial Hotel hamper in Delhi is packed with pumpkin & poppy seeds dry cakes, chocolates, roasted nuts, a bottle of fruit champagne, cheese straws, olive jar, whole wheat pasta, soba noodles, capers and more.
The Marriott Bonvoy hampers are a lovely combination of sweets and savouries. Depending on who you want to gift to, there are choices: from Yard of Happiness (gourmet mithai) to Signature Corporate Box (artisanal chocolates, gourmet mithai and diyas), to an extravagant Bespoke Hamper (gourmet mithai, three kinds of oils, from olive to avocado, nuts, Blue Tokai Easy Pour Coffee, artisanal tea, fruit spreads, cheese…all set in a luxury leather box!).
The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts ‘Signatures by The Leela’ hampers have a curated collection of luxurious gourmet hampers stuffed with chocolate pralines, cookies, mithai and savouries, scented candles and several such hedonistic gifts.
The hamper from The Lodhi in Delhi comes packed in handcrafted Kauna Grass baskets from Manipur, woven by local Manipuri women artisans. Interestingly, it has an assortment of house-made treats by The Lodhi’s master chefs who are from Agra, besides sourdough bread, a banana walnut cake, chocolates, macaroons, biscotti, and such.
ITC Hotels' hampers have always been eclectic and interesting. The Grand Curation hamper has assorted mithais made by chefs steeped in the traditions of halwai, seed bars, coffee, nutmeg chocolate fudge, Fabelle-loaded secret bars, a dry fruit cake, a dessert collection, and several such stuff.
Want to gift something a little healthier to someone who loves to keep up with their health routine? True Origins snack hamper has baked granolas, party mixes, nuts, and seeds… The Rooted & Co box has a variety of breakfast options and granolas, as will The Whole Truth, which puts out all ingredient information and food facts (does your granola bar has sugar? Of course, it does…but it also has the goodness of nuts and seeds).