One whisky a day pulled from an Advent calendar during December? Well that’s one way to make the holidays go by more quickly, if that’s your jam. You’ll find lots of these kits to choose from during the season, with offerings generally ranging from 12 to 25 small whisky samples designed to be parsed out one per day until the Christmas tree comes down.
This sampler from Drinks by the Dram includes a dozen 30ml samples — largely Scotch and mostly single malt at that. That said, quite a few surprises await in the kit, so if you don’t want to know what you’re getting into, stop reading now. For the rest of you, here’s my quick take on each of the 12 whiskies available in the company’s 2020 Whisky Collection kit.
The Character of Islay Whisky Co. Aerolite Lyndsay Single Malt 10 Years Old – Let’s start off big with an independently bottled Islay from a mystery distillery. Bruisingly ashy and overwhelming with peat, this 10 year old (aged in a combination of bourbon and sherry quarter casks) is punchy with maritime notes while keeping its sweetness under wraps. Savory and a bit beefy on the back end, with enduring notes of fireplace ash and smoked fish. Laphroaig, maybe? 92 proof. B+
The Glenrothes 12 Years Old – A classic Speyside standby from the (now-branded) Soleo Collection. This whisky always feels young to me, its pedal pressed heavily down on its cereal underbelly, with notes of orange peel, baking spice, and some toasted oak on the back end. A classic “evening starter” dram, without any significant complexity. 80 proof. B
Mackmyra Svensk Ek Swedish Single Malt – My experience with Mackmyra is limited, but this bottling appears to be a more Scandi-focused rebrand of “The First Edition,” linked above. Smokier than I remembered, with a significant oak influence, but also lots of fruit, in the form of cherries and some rhubarb influence. Spicy on the back end. Unique and quite fun. 92.2 proof. B+
Berry Bros. & Rudd The Perspective Series 21 Years Old – From Berry Bros’ series of rare blends, this nicely aged number has plenty of sharp sherry notes up top, but then begins to take its cues from a sweeter place, with notes of vanilla, nougat, and creamy pecan log. A little sultry, with some red wine notes on the finish. 86 proof. A-
Tamdhu 12 Years Old – Classically doughy and uncomplicated, this Speyside single malt is lightly woody with lots of rolling cereal notes, some nuttiness, and a grassy finish. One of the least controversial drams in the box — and perhaps in the world. 86 proof. B
That Boutique-y Whiskey Company Caol Ila 11 Years Old Batch 12 – Again, no surprises. This is nicely smoky Caol Ila from the indie bottlers at That Boutique-y Whiskey Company. Briny and maritime, with a bold seaweed character, the dram turns towards citrus as it develops, finishing with a salty-sweet note. 96.2 proof. B+
Bowmore 15 Years Old – A rather upscale option in this lineup, here showing itself as a delightful blend of ashy peat — though surprisingly gentle — with ample notes of apple and pear. Some brown butter on the finish gives this a lovely balance. 86 proof. A-
Benriach 10 Years Old – I presume this is from the 2020 Benriach relaunch (review coming shortly) but it isn’t stated anywhere here. There’s a bright citrus note leading the way, but this fades quickly to showcase cereal, sesame oil, and coconut husks — with a lightly herbal bent. There’s a substantial heat that lingers over ample, toasty oak. 86 proof. B
Loch Lomond 12 Years Old – There’s not a lot of detail on this lower Highlands bottling, and nothing in the glass is overly thrilling. Grainy and heavy on cereal, it’s edged with notes of mushroom and hemp rope, plus a touch of maple syrup. The finish is hot and a but funky, with green vegetables and a sweaty barnyard note dominating. 92 proof. B-
Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey – This Tennessee whiskey is the only American spirit in the lineup, and it’s a fairly uninspiring option considering how much great bourbon is out there. Heavy with notes of applesauce and maple syrup, things start off sweet and only get sweeter over time. Vanilla cake frosting notes dominate a finish which comes across increasingly as rather saccharine. 100 proof. B-
Glenfarclas 10 Years Old – Another solid, old reliable Speyside single malt, this creamy whisky offers notes of sweet breakfast cereal, crushed almonds, vanilla, and a hint of molasses. Toasty with oak and almost beefy at times. 80 proof. B+
The One Sherry Cask Expression British Blended Whiskey – Another unusual selection, this ultra-dark blended whisky is decidedly sherry-forward, with a nutty, woody nose a rich palate that is winey and laced with cocoa notes. Hints of cinnamon in the middle, with a note of rustic furniture polish on the back end. 93.2 proof. B+
Final analysis pegs this collection at a not-at-all-bad rating of:
B+ / $66