19-web_whiskey_cigarA number of my fellow travelers have recommended books for Christmas gifts. Here are some ideas for gifts that will enhance the reading experience.

Cigars. In the movie Crimson Tide, Gene Hackman’s character, the captain of a nuclear submarine, tells his executive officer (Denzel Washington) not to grow too fond of cigars because “they’re more expensive than drugs.” They can be, certainly, but they needn’t be. I am forever indebted to Greg Wolfe for introducing me to the Consuegra line from J.R. Cigars. These are some of the least-expensive, quality handmade cigars you’ll find anywhere. I’ve smoked several of the varieties and haven’t been disappointed.

Irish Whiskey. While I appreciate good Scotch or brandy, they never grew on me. As much as I enjoyed sipping the glass of Maker’s Mark that Brad Birzer poured when I last visited his delightful home, my tastes have been drifting away from bourbon, too. My overarching preference is for a strong but smooth Irish whiskey. Midleton and Red Breast are the top choices. The former is rather expensive, while the latter is not quite as smooth. Either will warm your soul while you read, smoke, converse, or simply ponder the permanent things while relaxing next to the fireplace. Jameson will do if the aforementioned are unavailable. Bushmills is not fit for drinking; it belongs in the emergency kit for cleansing wounds and disinfecting surgical equipment in the event of societal collapse (I’ll let readers decide if correlation is causation when it comes to the fact that the best whiskey is from the Catholic part of Ireland).

Coffee. We here in the coastal Northwest might be on the leading edge of the “progressive” abyss, but we know how to make a damn fine cup of coffee.

I have traveled from one coast to the other, from the Rio Grande to the 49th Parallel, and nowhere is the coffee better than here. A hot cup of black coffee and the Roman breviary are how I encounter the divine each morning. I buy from two local roasters, not because of ideology or a fad, but because locals happen to make the best joe at a reasonable price (and while I work just a couple blocks from the Starbucks headquarters, their swill doesn’t count). My preferred brands are Camano Island Coffee and Fidalgo Bay Coffee. From the former I recommend the Papua New Guinea medium roast. The latter is owned and operated by a fellow Hillsdale graduate who recently gave me a tour of his operation…and a couple pounds of free coffee to boot! Both roasters ply their wares online.

To truly enjoy the whole-bean coffee you give, the beneficiary of your generosity will also need a conical burr grinder, because the grind makes all the difference in the world. Since how you brew is just as important as what you brew, I also suggest the inexpensive Melita drip system, available in most variety and grocery stores.

Quite a while back, Stephen Masty reminded us of the Jewish saying that we will be judged for every legitimate pleasure we did not enjoy. So as you ponder the Incarnation and seek to share the joy of the greatest event in human history, give good gifts and bid your loved ones to enjoy them.

Books mentioned in this article may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore

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