STORY. During the last couple of years, advent calendars filled with spirits have gained much popularity among tasters of the good spirits. Not only whisky, but also gin, rum, cognac, armagnac, you name it and it has its own calendar. I can imagine why many want are drawn to these walls of pleasure. It takes you back to your childhood. The thrill of fumbling with your big finger to open a tiny door each day, the excitement if not knowing what is exactly behind it, the pleasure consuming your treasure in the evening. All this speaks the language of Christmas, great pleasure from small gifts. Even I have been tempted to push the order button, but so far I have been able to resist it (just) in time. So I was eager to take part in the Tweet Tasting on November 15th, my first one, when I read that we were going to taste a small selection of drams from the whisky advent calendar from Drinks By The Dram.
Drinks By The Dram was launched in 2010 to offer 3cl to spirit lovers, so they could try whisky or any other spirit before buying the entire bottle. We all know the disappointment of spending your savings on the blind purchase of an expensive bottle, which turns out to a big disappointment when you open it. Drinks By The Dram have now more than 5,000 different samples in their collection, which are extended around Christmas with a wide array of Advent Calendar and Christmas crackers. All filled with booze of course and available from Master of Malt.
The tasting was organised by Steve Rush through The Whisky Wire, which he founded in 2010 along with another website concerning whisky news, The Whisky Business. The so-called Tweet Tastings that are organised by Steve, take place once or twice a month and involve a distillery, independent bottler or other whisky-related brand. I followed part of some of the previous tastings on Twitter, and was captured by the enthusiasm of the host and the participants. So you can image it was a pleasure for me to be selected for the November 2017 tasting.
So there we were, the postman had delivered a box with 5 selected dram the whisky advent calendar and was ready to open it… and you could say that I was quite delighted with their selection. On the 15th of November, I was ready for tasting along with around fifteen other bloggers to get the pre-Christmas party started!
Tasting 2017-03 «Specifics» Samples (5 x 3cl) • Occasion was the Drinks By The Dram “Whisky Advent Calendar” Tweet Tasting on November 15th 2017 • Organised by Steve Rush from The Whisky Wire via Twitter • #WhiskyAdvent
The Macallan 12 years Sherry Oak
The session started with this Macallan containing an age statement (hooray!). A not overly sherried nose containing all the usuals (raisins, Christmas cake, dried figs, leather), which develops into nuts, cereals, dried apricots, complete beehive of honey, and some slightly metallic notes. A pleasant take-off. The mouth is much lighter containing candied oranges, nuts, apricots and peaches, caffe latte, topped off with a few pieces of red fruits. Then it pretty much fades away. I was expecting much more sherry on the palate, but that is not per see a bad thing. What also bothers me is that there is something off-putting in there, a chemical, slightly burned, metallo-herbal note. The finish is light and fast-fading. At first sight this seems to have class, beneath the surface it feels thin, incoherent and, well, shallow. Please continue!
More details here.
Bain’s Grain Whisky
The second in line is a single grain whisky all the way from South Africa! The nose is a big vanilla party mixed with toffee, banana chips, and Japanese soya sauce. Add to that those peculiar Japanese sweet and spicy crisps, and peanut butter. You can tell it is young, for sure, but they have succeeded in finding a rather satisfying balance. This seems to be perfect for an early evening with some nutty refreshments, and I must say that I quite like it so far. On the palate we can find banana candies and honey glazed almonds, simple and sweet, but very effective. Followed by popcorn, butter, cream soda, and some vegetal notes in the development, which stays short. Lots of vanilla in the aftertaste, along with some dried grass. Being my first single grain whisky, for which I did not expect too much based on the things I read about them, this was certainly not a disappointment.
More details here.
Lost Distilleries Blend Batch 10
Expected to be the highlight of this tasting, this blend composed of several closed distilleries. Nothing really happening in the nose at first, a slight disappointment, besides some wood influence. This obviously needs some time to revive. Fifteen minutes later I find some apple skin, chocolate covered pears and gingerbread. I might even consider a crowbar to open this up any further. Notes of pine juice, barbecued meat, as it finally gains speed now, also olive oil butter, artichoke, dusty carpet, egg nog, and lemon curd. I am glad that I gave it some time, since we have now reached a considerable level of complexity. The palate is something completely different! Buzzing all around with light, fruity, vegetal notes. There is straw, cereals, hints of leather, lots of candle wax, and a hint of peat. Oh this is very interesting. Freshly shaved oak, hint of varnish, some metals, are we in a carpenter’s workplace? A slightly peppery edge on the finish. Jalapeños, oh the heat is getting my tongue… followed by a sweet desert wine. Interesting. Flowers in a vase, lettuce, violets, beeswax, honey, complex toffee, I can go on and on! A distant hint of peat, orchard fruits, very juicy and fragrant. Ok, I’ll stop now. This was a great experience and typically a sample for which you would buy the a whisky advent calendar (also considering the price of the bottle).
More details here.
Next in line, a Swedish single malt. One I experienced before, and quite liked it. The nose is a big buttery lead-on! Did somebody accidentally put a big lump of dairy butter in this?? Add to that creamy milk, natural vanilla, barley, Melba toast, juniper berries, Mirabelle eau-de-vie, a hint of spearmint, a spring-like fruitiness, and a floral perfume with roses. In fact could be a light woman’s perfume… Never been there, but could this be the scent of Swedish spring-time? The palate feels like velvet on the tongue! Notes of fresh barley, butter and creamy yoghurt. Followed by fermented apples, frosted flakes, elderflower, lime for freshness, bubblegum, cranberry compote, eucalyptus, pink peppercorn, and peppermint tea. Beneath the velvety surface appears prickling champagne and a touch of bitterness from a dry white wine. An image of walking through flowery fields with fruit orchards blooming is appearing in my mind (and a smile hits my face). Lovely whisky. This will not be for everyone, but I quite like it.
More details here.
We finish this tasting with some peated whisky from the well-known Island. The nose tells straight away where we are, on Islay, bringing dirty smoke, brine, bonfires, smoked raisins and salty caramel. The sherry is nicely meeting up with the smoke, and forms a very pleasant intertwinement. Underneath that there is a red fruit sweetness and lemon freshness. In fact, it reminds me of some of the young Ledaigs I tasted recently. The palate brings plums and figs in smoky seawater combined with salty chocolate cake. Then lime-infused chocolate and smoked mackerel. Plum sirup, musky perfume and eucalyptus. Drying finish with hints of leather, pine tree, brine, salt and sherry. Very well composed, I must say. This new Kilchoman Sang is very likeable and recommended when you are searching for a good integrated peat-sherry combo.
More details here.
My final conclusion for this Whisky Advent calendar tasting is that it has certainly shown the wide variety of different whiskies that you can find in such a calendar. If you are willing to pay the price, that is to say, you are in for several weeks of excitement. Feeling (again) like a child wondering each morning what you will find behind that little door in the evening. Then tasting like a real man (or woman), wondering if it might be added to your shopping list for next year…
And of course, a big thank you to Steve Rush and Drinks by the Dram for the organisation!
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