Drinks by the Dram Advent Calendar’s 2017 / @DrinksByTheDram

Every year it seems to come by quicker (sign of old age!). But yep. It’s that time again. The Whisky Advent Calendars are just around the corner. 

Have a look here!


I really enjoy these sets.  Last year I had some fun with the independent bottlings set. It was great fun going through some quality random drammage on the run up to xmas. It helped take some selection choice difficulties out of my hands and gave me the opportunity to try something I wouldn’t normally have selected. With some very pleasant results in the flavour experience department. 

So. Time to hint to your loved ones. Or just decide you love yourself enough to go for one regardless. 

There are 25 different Advent calendars to choose from. Priced from £99.95 to £9999.95. 

This year the full Drinks by the Dram Advent Calendar range includes Whisky, Premium Whisky, Old & Rare Whisky, Very Old & Rare Whisky, Scotch Whisky, Bourbon, American Whiskey, Japanese Whisky, Irish Whiskey, Single Cask Whisky, Gin, Vodka, Rum, Cognac, Tequila, Armagnac, Mezcal and Absinthe.

There are also some brand specific calendars to choose from –  That Boutique-y Whiskey Company, Glenfarclas Scotch whisky, The ‘Hot Enough’ Vodka Co., Gin Foundry, Origin Single Botanical Gin, That Boutique-y Gin Company and Douglas Laing whisky.

So go forth. Pick wisely. And count down the days to mayhem with a relaxing beverage. 

Browse the whole selection here. 

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Whisky Review – Glenmorangie Astar (2017)

Glenmorangie Astar (2017)

52.5% ABV

Non chill filtered

£74.00 from Master of Malt

This year’s Glenmorangie limited release is somewhat of a re-release of an old favourite from 2008. Astar on its first iteration was met with lots of critical acclaim and enjoyed a sell out at the whisky shops. It’s maturation is essentially ex-bourbon, but the wood used is more selective. 🤔

From the press release:

The Astar’s custom-made casks began their journey in the Ozark mountains of Missouri, where Glenmorangie carefully selected slow-growth oak trees, for their porous structure. Staves were cut from these oaks to the Distillery’s exact specifications. Then, they were left to season in the open air for at least two years, to breathe and soften. After being coopered into oak casks, they were gently toasted to contribute further flavours of almond and coconut. Filled with bourbon, they were set aside to mature for four years to smooth away any rawness. Finally, they were emptied, shipped to Scotland and filled with Glenmorangie’s delicate and complex spirit, for a long, slow maturation.

I’m very happy to get a chance at tasting this one never having had tried the original Astar. 

Nose. 

On first pour and sniff things are quite closed, but there is some fizzy citrus sweetness that reminds me of lemon fizz bomb sweeties. With a small amount of time a richer vanilla ice cream note kicks in. A few more minutes and things stay the same but get even more richer and deeper in the sweet stickiness of the vanilla. Creme brûlée, some pepper and maybe a touch of nutmeg after some further time in the glass. In the background there is a touch of zingy mint and some pencil shavings. 

Palate. 

The arrival is quite cooling and spearmint like, quickly become sweet, honey laden and treacly. There’s a lovely balance of spicy ginger and a touch of aniseed in the mix. Some yellow fruits, apricot, maybe a touch of peach, all covered in Devon custard. The mouthfeel is beautifully thick and suits the flavours very well. There’s a little oak later on in the development, which gives a touch of dryness balancing against the sweet and spicy. Very drinkable. 

Finish. 

Light apricot and sweet lemon, punchy spice and some oak over this medium to long length finish. 

Adding water. 

After a little splash has been added the nose becomes softer and sweeter, with a touch of added floral. Sugary, with some light talcum powder. Some overripe apricot, gentle Creme brûlée, with an undertoasted sugar crust. The spice is much lowered, now maybe a touch of cinnamon sugar glaze. The palate still retains a nice thickness. It’s sweeter, almost treacle toffee like, a touch of burnt caramel now, very chewable, very delicious. Fruits are fresher and the experience is awesome. The finish continues the theme – sweeter, scrummier, full of flavour. Oh my the water does this dram wonders. 

Conclusion. 

A great example of Glenmorangie and a solid well matured whisky. A little on the closed up side without water, this one comes alive with a drop of H2O. Beautifully sweet, thick, thoroughly drinkable and delicious. A great example of how whisky is better with a high ABV and water to break it all up, releasing the flavour. The longer it’s in the glass the more complexity of flavour it has to give. Definitely one to spend a long time over a dram with. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and will be obtaining a couple of these. For drinking! 

Thanks to Glenmorangie for the official review sample. 

Whisky Review – Yellow Spot 12 year old  

Yellow Spot 12 Year Old

46% ABV

Non chill filtered

£64.22 from Master of Malt

Nose. 

An abundance of fruit. Very juicy, apricot and peach, with a touch of orange flesh. Lots of creamy vanilla custard backing this up, very substantial with a cinnamon spice twang. Delicious desert stuff, tinned fruits and custard all around. 

Palate. 

Leads with spicy vanilla custard, a touch of ginger then comes and then waves of fruit and creamy vanilla. The fruits are all lovely, juicy and ripe, lots of apricot, a touch of honeydew melon. Creamy through and through with a very velvety mouthfeel. There is practically no burn of alcohol, extremely smooth, totally exquisite. 

Finish. 

A medium length exit of mainly vanilla custard covered fruit with a touch of warming spices. Lovely. 

Adding water. 

I’m not doing it. This is perfectly hitting the spot as it is and I’m not willing to risk a splash. 

Conclusion. 

I’m having this late after a very warm day, and it’s going down really well. Good summer whisky, totally fruity and absolutely beautiful as the heat of the day fades. 

From my own collection

Whisky Review – Octomore OBA (Octomore Black Art). @bruichladdich

Octomore OBA (Octomore Black Art)
59.7% ABV

Non chill filtered

No added colouring

£99 from Bruichladdich – alas sold out very quickly. 


Another Octomore. Another experience. 

Nose. 

Fruity on first pour. Oranges, grilled pineapple rings on the BBQ. A Ham from the same BBQ, done crispy! Smoke starts bellowing through with further sniffs. There’s some wine reduction on the meat now which is turning more spare ribs, and a bit of Chinese five Spice. Even some Peking duck. This is immense and I haven’t stopped sniffing since the pour. Loads going on. Immensely complex and continually evolving. Ok, so give it a rest for a few minutes. 
Starting again. Burnt stuff. Toffee (burnt), pineapple (grilled), a slice of orange (thick cut, dried and toasted), some dark chocolate (melted), fennel (well roasted), bubbling caramel, pork crackling. There’s an overlying fruitiness, almost like things are covered with breakfast juice as it’s all cooking. It’s bloody lovely. A bit more time and some added herbal notes, but this is all about the fruitiness. Oh yeah, it’s quite smokey as well, but the smoke is muted a little behind the immense fruit, not to say it isn’t smokey though, it is, a nice background raging bonfire in autumn smoke. 

Palate. 

Lovely sweet fruit juice arrival, lots of fruit, orange juice, mango, grapes (a bit of wine), berry juices, blackberry/blackcurrent jam, marmalade. There’s a liquorice root in there somewhere as well, during the ABV burn, which is extremely short and pleasant, this is easy to drink at full strength!! Very easy in fact, extremely sip-able, scarily so. The mouthfeel is BIG, oily and utterly tremendous. During the delivery there is a hint of well done ribs, and that Chinese style meat rub, some chocolate late on which goes very seamlessly into the finish. It’s incredibly chewy overall, and the whole palate experience is one you want to experience over and over again. This is really drinkable, extremely enjoyable. Probably one of the most, if not the most drinkable Octomore’s I’ve had. 

Finish. 

Chocolate, dried fruits, and a touch of liquorice. It’s a medium to long length finish, warming, not burning, well matured, delicious juice. 

Adding water. 

I’ve made it through the majority of a dram without adding water. But it needs to be done as I could be missing out. A small splash added and sat back for a bit. It’s unleashed the smoke beast. Lots of smoke now, almost (I said almost) too much, it’s definitely muted the fruitiness quite a bit. The herbal notes now come second, lots of liquorice and some fallen wood on a forest floor, perhaps even some damp earth and a touch of mushroom. The palate has more grapes, berries, quite a bit more wine influence, lots of fruit, juicier and less toasted, still very easy to drink, in fact easier now, making this one of the most dangerous whiskies I’ve had for high ABV quaffability. The finish has more of a wine tannin note to it now, very pleasant, but not as nice as the undiluted. I personally wouldn’t add water to this whisky, you gain in the terms of easy to drink, but you loose an experience which is worth holding onto. 

Conclusion. 

This is the one of the, if not the most drinkable Octomore’s I’ve had. I really want to know it’s make up, but I’m guess I’m never going to find out with it being a black art(?). It’s absolutely delicious, I hope many more people will open and enjoy their bottles and not auction it. You’re missing out if you sell it guys and gals! Open it. Drink it. It’s magnificent. 

From my own collection. (This review from a bottle share split with friends). 

Whisky Review – Kilchoman 100% Islay 7th edition @Kilchoman05

Kilchoman 100% Islay 7th edition 

50% ABV

Non chill filtered

No added colouring

£71.14 from Master of Malt







Nose. 

First sniff has lots of cut grass and fresh mossiness. A backing of fresh cream, vanilla, and a touch of citrus oils. Smoke is there, a gentle medicinal peat smoke. Letting it sit a while. After some time the grass/earth/nature aromas have calmed down and we have more lemon notes, lemon pip sweets. There is a lot of creamy barley, porridge oats, and an all round fresh and honest nature about it. A hint of liquorice root is now present with a little more time. An evolving nose, one to go back to frequently and experience new wonders. In more time and a little more gentle smokiness comes forward, slightly menthol, reminds me of opening a fresh pack of menthol cigs. 

Palate. 

A sweet peat arrival, lots of light honey and caramel sweetness, driven with a smokey spiced backing. There’s some lemon squash drink, cream covered porridge and a touch of aniseed. The mouthfeel is very thick and oily, deliciously so, practically a honey viscosity. Later in the development there is a touch of mint, spearmint, and menthol. The ABV is unrecognisable at 50%, its very easy going. There is a fresh, clean experience here, very honest whisky. 

Finish. 

Turning dry over a medium duration. Still lots of clean barley cream, a touch of mentholated smoke and a lovely warming chest hug. Very satisfying. 

Adding water. 

A splash added. Unleashed the farm! The nose now has a lovely farmyard thing going on, hay, freshly cut grass is back, a twiggy bonfire. Very countryside. The palate is still sweet, more tarty in the lemons, still immensely thick on the mouthfeel, and still with lots and lots of creamy vanilla laden barley. The liquorice notes have migrated towards the finish, which is now slightly drier. I like this one with or without water, both variations is an experience in itself. 

Conclusion. 

Beautiful Islay. Beautiful, honest, clean, tasty whisky. Love it! Gotta bottle now. 🙂

Thanks to Kilchoman for the official review sample. 

Whisky Review – Arran 1996 – 20 year old (Bartels – Highland Laird) @bartelswhisky_

Arran 1996 – 20 year old (Bartels – Highland Laird) 

51.3% ABV

Non chill filtered

No added colouring

Cask #1337

520 bottles

£135.00 from Bartels Whisky

Nose. 

Intense perfumed sherry explosion on first pour and sniff. Lots of quite breathtaking dark fruits, with a backing of vanilla and almonds. Subsequent nosing after a while in the glass and this comes across as an older whisky. The sherry intensity has calmed and there’s more old oak, orange oils, complex nuttiness, richer vanilla and dusty museum effect. It’s definitely more old fashioned in its presentation, not as in your face as modern sherried whiskies are. 

Palate. 

Bursting on the palate we have loads of vibrant fruit, red currents, blackberry, cherries and raisin. There is a gentle sweet spiciness running through, clove and cinnamon. The mouthfeel has some substance to it, a pleasant oiliness on the tongue. The development shows a little heat from the ABV, but overall it does not feel like the percentage it is. Further on and the fruit comes back again, rich dark fruit compote which really gives a warming chest and happy factor. That old school feeling is in the palate as well, tasted blind I would have thought this an older bottling of a sherried Speysider. 

Finish. 

Short to medium length stewed fruits and cask dust with a touch of butterscotch sweeties! 

Adding water. 

Tiniest drop added. The nose has a more dusty vanilla note now, a touch more floral, the fruits having been hurt by the drop of water. The palate, while still vibrant in flavour is not as thick on the palate, lots more floral in the later development and finish. This is quite fragile and needs to be treated with respect, and without water. 

Conclusion. 

A lovely sherried Arran. Very tasty indeed, comes across as an older whisky, with some dusty old fruit bomb intensity without water. Don’t dare to add water though, as it falls apart quite easily. This whisky also gives a little blast to the past, as it feels like an older style of sherried presentation, less in-your-face than more modern sherry monsters. Very good stuff. 

Thanks to Bartel’s whisky for including a sample in a recent purchase.

Whisky Review – The Arran – Amarone Wine Finish @arranwhisky

The Arran – Amarone Wine Finish

50% ABV

Non chill filtered

No added colouring

£50.15 from Master of Malt

Colour. 

I don’t usually concentrate on colour, but on this occasion! Pinksky!

Nose. 

Lots of complex red fruits and some dunnage on the first sniff. Subsequent sniffs give chocolate, milky and mouthwatering. Dried raspberry and some malty cereal reminding me of Special K with red berries (It’s a breakfast cereal in the uk!). A little time in the glass and more varied fruits come forward, a little orange rind, more sumptuous red berries, a gentle background pepper, lots of chocolate powder, and some rum soaked sponge cake. Now I’m thinking about trifle!

Palate. 

Sweet and thick arrival, very fruity, tonnes of buckets of fruit, lots of red berries, grapes all ripe and fit for the picking. Strawberry & raspberry pie filling, with a touch of sweetened rhubarb. There’s a little prickle of ginger, and a touch of cinnamon. The mouthfeel is suitably thick and viscous. There’s a backing of good old bourbon maturation with some soft vanilla and custard. Damn this is moreish, highly sip-able. 

Finish. 

Medium length, the fruit and dusty cask continues through, with a little white chocolate coming into play at the last minute. Lovely. 

Adding water. 

Small drop added. The nose is a little lighter, more dusting chocolate, more vanilla, a touch of floral. Some of the red fruits have subsided. The palate still has mountains of fruit, now more integrated with the vanilla infused custard, and now with a touch of nuttiness. Slightly lighter on the mouthfeel. The finish is slightly spicier, more vanilla, but less creamy and slightly shorter. I much prefer this dram undiluted. 

Conclusion. 

This is an absolutely delicious fruity bomb of a whisky. It’s definitely got a lot of influence from the wine cask, and I personally love that style, so this works very well for me, and I can happily sip this for the duration and then some. Bottle on the shopping list for me!

Thanks to Arran for the official review sample. 

Whisky Review – Benriach Peated Cask Strength Batch 1. @TheBenriach

Benriach Peated Cask Strength Batch 1

56% ABV

Non chill filtered

No added colouring

£58.84 from Master of Malt

Nose. 

First sniff and we have light bonfire smoke, creamy barley, ground cumin and a touch of citrus in the background. Will let it sit for a bit… considering the high ABV you can get your nose in there, it’s not massively abrasive in the nasal capacity. Little time in the glass and we have meatier notes coming through now, some BBQ ribs, a little crusty steak, still nicely smoky, smelled blind you would never think Speyside. The creamy barley has changed to a richer, runny caramel, slightly salted, reminding me of Hotel Chocolat Salted Caramel chocs. Yummy. Touches of ginger and cinnamon in the far background. Lovely start. 

Palate. 

Arrival is dry and earthy, with a punchy pepper, borderline chilli spice. There’s a creamy vanilla ice bun topping amongst the punch of the ABV, which isn’t as hot as I expected. Mouthfeel is oily and fits very well. Very smoky throughout with small sips going a very long way, packed with intensity. Slightly astringency in the development, with a touch of sour lemon and bitter chocolate, then becoming creamy again, with rich and spicy vanilla.

Finish. 

Medium to long in length, spicy warmth, earthy, smouldering bonfire and slightly sweet, creamy custard. 

Adding water. 

A splash added. The nose has got sweeter, more caramel, some white chocolate, the smoke has become less intense, more mossy, a wet bonfire smoke. The palate is quieter on the spices now, still an intense smoke, lots of creamy vanilla, a touch of soft fruits (apricot, peach), lots more sweetness now, quite lip smacking, with lots of sugar rich sweeties. The finish has less Spice, more sweetness, still smoky and delicious. It’s a dram of two halves, I prefer with a splash of water, but it works very well (albeit more heat) neat as well. 

Conclusion. 

Much peatier than the quarter cask variant and really benefits from the extra ABV. This is, in my opinion, better than the quarter cask. It’s smoky, swims well, sips are compulsory and beautiful. 

Many thanks to Benriach for the review sample