What It’s Like To Count Down To Christmas With A Whisky Advent Calendar

I’m drinking my way through the holidays — but it’s not what you think!

This year hasn’t ended up too badly for me, when all is said and done. Yes, our kids are constantly underfoot as they attend virtual school and I miss spending my days going from one coffee shop from another, but I’m healthy and I’m safe.

I have lots of work, to the point where for the first time in years I’ll only be taking off the statutory holidays, but I figure there’s nowhere to go anyway. And to top it off, I have Drinks by the Dram’s incredible whisky-filled Advent calendar to make each day a little more celebratory.

Filled with 24 30ml bottles that whiskies that range in range, the calendar is comes in a box that looks like an old fashioned distillery building. In any normal year, this would be a conversation piece that would look fantastic on any mantle or at-home bar setup.

Although we gave Advent calendars to my kids that were filled with chocolates instead, they were far more attracted to the look and feel of mine as I cracked it open.

This is the second year Drinks by the Dram has offered the calendar in Ontario (you can buy one at the LCBO) but the first I’ve gotten to try the brand’s products.

It also marks an anniversary of sorts, given the company launched 10 years ago as an affordable way to explore the variety and sophistication of single malt whisky without having to buy an entire bottle.

I couldn’t help compare my experience to that of my children. Although they look forward to opening their Advent calendar every day, the chocolate is essentially the same. My calendar, on the other hand, offers a genuine sense of surprise and anticipation.

On some days I’ve opened the brand’s Haven Hill nine-year-old batch, while others have been in the 11-year-old range. Every label has its own unique, lighthearted labels whose style recall a graphic novel.

Opening the drams, meanwhile, is akin to unwrapping a Christmas present, given that each one is sealed by wax, a process that is done by hand. It’s a bit tricker than simply twisting off a lid, but the extra effort reminds you that this was put together by a real person, which makes it feel even more like a gift.

Though my work as a journalist I’ve had the opportunity to tour a number of distilleries, including a few in Ireland, so I’ve come to appreciate the work that goes into a single malt whisky or Scotch, and I’ve bought special glasses at a shop in Stratford that makes them even more enjoyable to consume.

Seasoned whisky drinkers will appreciate the differences between the drams, but if you’re new to whisky or drink it rarely you should be prepared for a fiery kick in many cases. That said, I would discourage mixing them with soda, which drowns the whole experience with sugar and other ingredients that compete with the intended flavour.

At $195.95, this is a luxe gift that will be far more memorable than a bottle of wine, especially if you’re looking something to offer a corporate client or to impress an in-law.

(There are other variations too, such as a calendar created in collaboration with the Boutique-y Gin Company.)

I should add, however, that actually drinking a dram a day may not be the best idea. After about a week or so, my wife looked at the growing number of empty bottles in shock (I don’t normally drink alcohol through the week unless I’m at a social or business function).

The alcohol content here is enough to knock you out cold for the night, and as tempting as that might be in 2020, whisky is better when it’s truly savoured. There’s also the matter of setting a good example: as I write this post, my eight-year-old daughter just came in and said, “You’ve skipped, Daddy, so you need to drink nine bottles of whisky today.”

With that in mind, I’m only taking a sip of my dram on some nights and saving the rest. I’ve also kept a few drams sealed and so I could regift them to a few friends who I know will love them. Surprisingly, although it was gifted to me, getting Drinks by the Dram’s Advent calendar has helped me to think a bit more about the nature of consumption, and of giving.

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