Looking for a Great Boozy Gift? Flaviar's Spirits Subscription Box Could Be It

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Flaviar Tasting 19

The Spirits of the Season

As many of our favorite bars and restaurants are closed temporarily (or, in too many cases, permanently) due to the pandemic, those of us who enjoy a good stiff drink or an imaginative cocktail have had to turn to our home bars for a stay-at-home happy hour. To keep those tipples interesting, and to avoid splurging on a bottle that ultimately winds up gathering dust, the subscription service Flaviar offers a “try-before-you-buy” type of membership, as well as gift sets, that allows you to sample a wide range of craft and premium spirits and order full-sized bottles delivered to your front door.

It's a service that's gotten a lot of interest from our readers, so we decided to depart from our usual policy and accept a sample membership from Flaviar to try the subscription ourselves. This review is not a paid endorsement, however, and all opinions and assessments in this article are entirely our own.

Related: Boozy Gifts That Don Draper Would Endorse

The following content is intended for readers 21+ only. Please drink responsibly. If you or someone you know is dealing with alcohol or substance abuse, please get help. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) offers a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

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How Does Flaviar Work?

Flaviar offers a few different options for conveniently delivered booze. Whether you’re gifting a subscription or treating yourself, you can choose either a half-year membership or a full-year membership. The membership includes quarterly shipments (two for the half-year and four for the full-year) of a member-selected full-sized bottle of alcohol, along with a pre-selected themed tasting box of three 1.5 ounce glass vials of spirits. The tasting box includes a trio of a particular spirit from different distilleries or a variety of spirits that feature a particular flavor profile, theme (e.g. Hemingway’s favorite spirits), or region. As a member, you also receive plenty of other perks, including free shipping on additional bottles, access to exclusive spirits, online events, and more — all of which we’ll get into later.

Flaviar also offers the option to send one-time gift sets that include their 1.5-ounce themed tasting trios.

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How Much Is Flaviar?

Flaviar offers both a half-year membership for $190 or a full year for $300 (saving $80). It may seem a bit of a splurge, but as you’ll see, the membership includes plenty of other benefits, in addition to the quarterly shipments of a full-sized bottle and tasting box, that may make it worth the price for some.

The gift sets, meanwhile, which include a tasting box of the three 1.5-ounce vials, range in price from around $29 to $42 — offering a lower bar of commitment just without the added perks and full-sized bottles.

Related: 20 Affordable Wine Clubs That Will Satisfy Even the Snobs

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Selecting the Tasting Boxes and Full-Size Bottle

While most subscription box-type gifts don’t allow you to pre-select what’s going to be sent, Flaviar kindly does. The member pre-selects their quarterly tasting box and full-sized bottle from a wide variety of options — including everything from bourbon and Scotch to rum, gin, vodka, tequila, mezcal, brandy, and more, as well as the themed boxes mentioned above that feature different types of liquor. Allowing the recipient to pick out their bottles and boxes conveniently takes the guesswork out of trying to figure out exactly what to give someone. It also sidesteps the tricky rules and regulations of trying to ship alcohol across state lines yourself.

To get you started, Flaviar first asks a few questions to find out which spirits you tend to prefer and which producers you’ve heard of or tried. This just helps to prioritize your preferences, but you’ll still be able to explore all of the spirits available.

Related: 20 Best Whiskeys Under $50

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What Options Are Available?

Some of the many options available for the intriguing tasting boxes that are currently available include American-made single malt whiskies, rums from under-the-radar producing countries, a variety of spirits from South America, and a mix of smoky spirits, including gin, vodka, and grappa. To help you make your selection, Flaviar offers detailed descriptions of each box and the spirits included, and you can also check out reviews and ratings from other members.

The full-sized bottle options are extensive and can be sorted by spirit, as well as new arrivals and Flaviar classics. While even the casual imbiber may recognize some of the producers, you’re likely to find varieties and special releases, along with plenty of unfamiliar producers, that you’d be hard-pressed to find in most local liquor stores. As with the tasting boxes, Flaviar includes detailed descriptions of each spirit, ratings from other members, and helpful illustrations of the tasting notes known as the “Flavor Spiral.”

Related: Subscription Box Gifts That Keep the Giving Going

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My First Shipment

To kick things off for my membership, I selected the “Mezcalistas” tasting box and a full-sized bottle of Ron Colón Salvadoreño dark aged rum. My wife and I have been wanting to try out more mezcals, since there are so many variations, not only regionally, but also ones that utilize different agave plants and distillation techniques. This way we were able to try a few different options without investing in a full-size bottle that we might not be crazy about.

My box, a very stylishly appointed cylinder, included Rey Campero Espadín, Alipus San Baltazar Joven, and Vago Elote (which is infused with roasted corn during the distillation process) — all mezcals that wouldn’t normally be available as a tasting flight outside of maybe a high-end bar. The box included a ceramic coaster and circular cards with useful tasting notes for each selection, featuring descriptions and illustrations such as “ripe banana,” “nutty,” “vegetal,” and even “marshmallow.” It was helpful to sip each one and compare the notes on the card with my own first impressions. Each really stood out with its own unique characteristics — distinct from other mezcals I've tried — but the corn-distilled Vago Elote was probably the most memorable.

Meanwhile, the high-proof — yet surprisingly smooth with notes of tropical fruits — Ron Colón was also a treat to expand my home bar with an award-winning rum from one of the less commonly known rum-producing countries, El Salvador.

Related: 20 Splurge-Worthy Tequilas for Your Home Bar

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My Second Shipment

For my second quarterly shipment, I opted for the “Peat it! Peat it! Vol. 2,” featuring peated Scotch whiskies, along with a bottle of Ten to One Caribbean dark rum. I’m already a fan of smoky, peated Scotches, but had primarily tried only the big names, Ardbeg and Laphroaig, so I was excited at the prospect of trying labels that aren’t as widely available. Also, my wife isn’t crazy about Scotch, and even less so for the smoky varieties, so the tasting box offered an excellent opportunity to try out a few before purchasing a bottle that I would be stuck with myself.

I was definitely pleased with my selection, which included Kilchoman Sanaig, The Peat Monster from Compass Box, and Port Askaig. They all delivered on that smoky, peaty goodness that I enjoy, but each offered a distinguishing profile from dried fruits and white chocolate to hay, lemon zest, and port.

The Ten to One rum, which features a blend of Caribbean rums from Barbados, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Trinidad, was also a winner for both myself and my wife. The well-balanced rum plays well in cocktails, but can also stand on its own neat or on the rocks.

Related: 18 Best Rums Under $35 to Spice Up Your Home Bar

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What I Liked About Flaviar

One of my favorite aspects of the Flaviar membership is the tasting boxes, which gave me a chance to try spirits that I wouldn’t likely have had access to otherwise. These aren’t options that you could find in those mini bottles at the corner liquor store. Unless you’re lucky enough to get invited to an exclusive tasting event or tour a distillery — which in most cases is not an option these days — the tasting boxes offer a rare opportunity to sample premium spirits from around the world. This way you can find out which spirits you enjoy and which are worth committing to with a full-size bottle. The boxes are also thoughtfully grouped, and the included tasting note cards give you a chance to have your own tasting session and to further educate your palate.

I also enjoyed the opportunity to discover bottles that I might not have otherwise learned about or encountered. I’m fairly adventurous when it comes to exploring spirits — my wife and I love visiting distilleries when we travel, we often ask bartenders for recommendations, and I occasionally write about them — but I found plenty of options on Flaviar that I had never even heard of. Receiving a bottle of one of these spirits every quarter is a great way to further diversify my home bar.

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What Could Be Improved

As much as I enjoyed receiving a doorstep delivery with both the tasting box and full-sized bottle, I think it would be great to have the chance to receive a tasting box first, before committing to a full-size bottle. Obviously, you can use your tasting box to inform which bottle you choose for the following shipment, but it might be nice to stagger the deliveries to help your decision-making process.

One aspect of Flaviar that I really appreciate is the spotlight they place on small craft distilleries by making their products available for purchase as well as sharing their stories. I’d love to see them go even further to highlight more craft distillers, particularly smaller, upstart businesses that could really use the attention — particularly now. It would also be great if they could offer tasting boxes that highlighted the craft distilleries specifically (many are included in boxes, just alongside bigger distillers), perhaps grouping by region, spirit, or style. Since many of these smaller distillers have a more limited supply than the bigger outfits, perhaps Flaviar could offer limited-time-only bottles to members similar to how they offer members access to really high-end whiskies from The Vault once a month.

Cocktail kits would also be a great addition to the Flaviar offerings. Perhaps they could pair a tasting box or bottle with craft mixers, bitters, garnishes, and more. The kits would make for a great gift or a mini-tutorial for those looking to sharpen their cocktail game.

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Is Flaviar Worth It?

The pandemic has certainly forced many of us to reassess our budgets, so considering a premium spirits membership service is not necessarily going to be on the table for everyone. But for those with the means to gift Flaviar or to become a member themselves, I can say that the value is worth the investment. For $190 with a half-year membership or $300 for the year (which is obviously the better deal if you can make the commitment), you’re not only getting quarterly shipments with a bottle that retails for around $40 to $60 (and might be hard to find elsewhere) and a tasting box of spirits that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to, you’re also getting plenty of other perks.

Flaviar offers free shipping to members on orders over $60, so you can order bottles and tasting boxes to your heart’s content. You’ll also have access to purchase rare, high-end spirits, including special releases from distilleries, as well as members-only private bottlings. The educational resources for members are also pretty extensive and include virtual tastings (and live events during normal times) and the School of Spirits, online video and text lessons that are unlocked as your membership progresses. They also have a great referral program, which gives you a $50 credit for every friend that signs up.

Flaviar may not be for everyone. If you’re looking for a discount spirits club, you’ll want to look elsewhere. And if you’re a hardcore spirits enthusiast who is only looking for impossibly rare bottles, your thirst may not be quenched here. But if you — or someone on your gift list — are in search of a great way to expand your home bar and to educate your palate with some top-notch spirits, Flaviar is definitely a membership to consider.

Related: Spirits and Mixers Every Home Bar Should Have