24 Days of Whisky | Pt. 1
A tour through an Advent Calendar
Happy New Year! We took a few weeks off to enjoy the holidays, but we’re back at it and are excited for the start of 2019 and the adventures & whisk(e)y the year will bring. To kick off the new year, we’ll be taking a look back at the whiskies we tried throughout December.
We tried a Whisk(e)y Advent Calendar in 2017 and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It gave us a chance to try many new whiskies that we instantly loved, along with days that surprised us with drams from our longtime favorites. A number of the whiskies we bought in 2018 were ones we first sampled through the calendar, so we knew we wanted to try another calendar this past month. We purchased both of our calendars from Drinks by the Dram, and really enjoyed the selection they provided in each. Unfortunately, due to changing regulations and shipping policies, we had a bit of trouble getting our hands on one. Hopefully this situation is resolved going forward.
Over the next month, we’ll be posting our tasting notes along with some additional highlights from all of the whiskies we tried throughout December, focusing on 6 whiskies per post. Unlike our typical reviews, we’ve decided to rate all of the whiskies we sampled from the calendar (on a 9 point scale) to better compare them to one another and provide a more accurate sense of how much we enjoyed the whisky. Last year we ended up mainly reviewing bottles that we really enjoyed. Sampling the whiskies in the calendar provided us a good opportunity to try and review whiskies we might not have purchased or tried on our own.
The whisky we enjoyed the most this week was December 3rd’s whisky which came from Caol Ila, one of our favorite distilleries. Located on the northern end of Islay, Caol Ila flies a bit under the radar, most likely because over 90% of their product is utilized in blends. The whisky is generally peated, yet has a lighter, smokier character than some of the distilleries southern neighbors. Since Caol Ila is under the Diageo umbrella, they have produced a Distiller’s Edition, much like Oban & Lagavulin, which takes the flagship single malt and finishes the whisky in a wine cask. In this case, Caol Ila uses Moscatel wine barrels.
The most surprising whisky from this first batch came from That Boutique-y Whisky Company, an independent bottler. With eclectic bottlings all with colorfully drawn labels, the company offers something different in every dram. We’ve had Dailuaine before, but this was a totally surprising dram. Meaty, savory, and oily, this was a meal of a dram. Doing some research revealed that the distillery used to utilize stainless steel condensers (as opposed to the copper equipment they use now) that gave the whisky a bit of a sour, sulfur character. We’ve tasted Dailuaine before and this dram was definitely a departure from the more mellow, floral Speyside style we expected.
Dec. 1 - The Lost Distilleries Blend Batch 11
On the Eyes: Pale golden-brown color
On the Nose: Clean, spirit heavy, salty and a bit fruity
To the Taste: Butterscotch mixed with cardboard. Tons of oak and sawdust mid palate. Later tastes remind us of beeswax candles. The sharper oak notes mellow after the dram has had some time to air out.
And the Finish: Vanilla and brown sugar linger, but a lot of oak flavor remains
Too oak heavy for our liking.
Dec. 2 - The Exceptional Blend 1
On the Eyes: A pale straw, pilsner color
On the Nose: Clean, fruit forward (aromas of peaches and strawberries). A hint of vanilla and sourdough bread later
To the Taste: Clean, light brown sugar sweetness up front but quickly notes of oak arrive to balance out the sugar.
And the Finish: Quick hint of spiciness and flavors of dark chocolate
A tasty blend with a delicious finish
Dec. 3 - Coal Ila 2016 Distiller’s Edition (Moscatel Finish)
On the Eyes: Honey colored (light amber), rich texture in the glass.
On the Nose: Sweet peat smoke, raisins, sea salt, wood chips in a BBQ
To the Taste: Maraschino cherries, honey mixed with a blast of dry, cinnamon smokiness
And the Finish: Smoke balanced with grape and syrup
A delicious Caol Ila variety, though one of us wasn’t as keen on the Moscatel finish. The Moscatel finish rounded out some of the sharper, more peppery notes in regular Caol Ila 12.
Dec. 4 - Dewars 12 Year Old: The Ancestor
On the Eyes: Medium amber color, with thinner legs though whisky is more thickly textured
On the Nose: Aromas of fresh grapes, flowers, greens, and a bit of melon. Very clean nose.
To the Taste: Sweet notes of melon, stone fruit, and rosewater. The dram has a strong malty character as well.
And the Finish: Slightly dry, spicy, and ever so slightly smoky finish.
This dram had surprisingly punctuated flavors but, at its core, it is still a large market blend.
Dec. 5 - That Boutique-y Whisky Company Dailuaine 15 Year Old Batch 2
On the Eyes: Pale, clear gold color. Long, consistent legs in the glass signaling a thicker texture.
On the Nose: Totally surprising - oily and sour, like bread dough. After a couple of minutes this dram resembled a bagel with strawberry schmear
To the Taste: We tasted fresh bread dipped in olive oil, tannic yet sweet underneath. Imagine a thanksgiving dinner mixed together - stuffing and candied sweet potatoes, turkey etc. A sweet and savory feast.
And the Finish: Oily, starchy, and with a long fading sweetness
An very interesting and meaty dram, almost like a good winter meal in a glass
Dec. 6 - Tamdhu Batch Strength (Batch 3)
On the Eyes: Copper color with thinner legs. Looks very much like a bourbon.
On the Nose: Raisins, cherries, and other dark fruits. Light touch of wood varnish and some dark chocolate toffee. Water brought fresh grass and forest scents into the mix.
To the Taste: A wave of heat and spice mixed with a strong helping of candied orange rind and vinsanto wine. Water brought some fresh melon and a touch of salt.
And the Finish: A strong blast of vanilla carries on after the oakiness fades
A delicious and high strength sherry bomb out of the bottle, a bit less exciting with water added.
This advent calendar has started off well, though we’d like to continue to see a better balance of single malt whiskies to go along with the blends. We’ll check back in next week to review the next six drams.