Review: That Boutique-y Whisky Company Countdown to Christmas Calendar 2019
Whiskey-themed advent calendars have become a thing in the last few years, and while the concept is fun, they’re plagued with a few problems. One, they’re expensive. Two, you don’t know what you’re getting — and whether it’s worth the outlay.
With independent bottlers That Boutique-y Whisky Company’s 2019 calendar, solutions await. First off, this calendar is only 12 days (and hence, 12 whiskies) in size, which cuts down on the complexity and the price. Second, TBWC sent us the kit ahead of time — technically you should tuck into this around December 13 — so we could give all the whiskies a trial run. Is the kit worth the outlay? Here’s a look at the entire kit, with brief reviews of each whiskey included.
(I’ll be updating this post daily as I sample additional whiskies, so keep checking back!) Each vial is wax-sealed and contains 30ml of whiskey, so you’re getting about half a standard bottle of whiskey in the kit.
#1 – TBWC New York Distilling Company Rye 2 Years Old Batch 3 – A modest beginning to the holiday season — and a rare whisky in this kit that’s not Scotch — this young rye is brash and woody, but fresh, with lots of spice and herbs on the nose. The palate is dry and classic with rye spice notes, but a bit too much wood still overpowering everything. The finish finds a bit of heat and a rustic, winey character. Still, it’s approachable and a fair enough start. 95.4 proof. B-
#2 – TBWC Macduff 10 Years Old Batch 8 – We’re now moving into single malt with this rarely seen Highland bottling. Sharp on the attack, there’s some astringency here, the nose mingling in notes of sandalwood, sawed oak boards, toasted coconut, and some honey-laced grains. The palate is racy and pops with a Sauternes-like honey character, though there’s more toasty oak and some Listerine notes in the mix, too. Fun, especially considering its age. 100.4 proof. B+
#3 – TBWC Auchroisk 12 Years Old Batch 7 – Speyside single malt. Boldly malty on the nose, with an undercurrent of bacon fat and Christmas spices. Delightfully spicy on the palate, with notes of clover honey, gingerbread, and toasted almond on the palate. Definitely appropriate for the holiday season and an easy winner up to this point. 95.8 proof. A-
#4 – TBWC Teaninich 11 Years Old Batch 2 – A Highland malt largely used in Diageo blends, known mainly for the fact that it has no mash tun. As light as a feather, this thin whisky is lightly smoky and a bit astringent, and surprisingly harsh on the palate considering its age. Notes of spearmint, tea leaf, and creosote are evident as the palate builds toward the finish, but none really pop out. Teaninich is primarily a blending malt, and here it’s easy to see why. 95.8 proof. C+
#5 – TBWC Ben Nevis 21 Years Old Batch 8 – This coastal Highlands whisky is fairly well known, and this 21 year old is a fine example of the mingling of this region and the sea-influenced islands. Nutty and citrus-fueled sherry notes lead the way on the nose, while the palate mixes this with maritime, briny character. The finish is bold and heavy with nutty citrus and a thick layer of spice. Lots going on, and fun. 97.8 proof. A-
#6 – TBWC Tomatin 11 Years Old Batch 4 – We cover the Highlands-based Tomatin quite a bit, but this expression is unlikely to thrill many Scotch fans. Notes of bacon fat, barrel char, and chimney soot dominate the nose. The palate is flabby and underwhelming, though a pop of fruit emerges for the otherwise dusty, almost dirty finish. 102 proof. B-
#7 – TBWC Clynelish 21 Years Old Batch 7 – Another well-aged Highland malt, this Clynelish bottling presents as a soft, gentle expression with a sedate but fruity nose, touched and toned down by notes of camphor. Subdued on the palate, it finds notes of apple, spice, and some gentian toward the finish — but nothing overly unexpected. 95.6 proof. B
#8 – TBWC Bourbon #1 24 Years Old Batch 1 – A surprise and a nice break from single malt — wow, 24 year old bourbon? This is amazing stuff, austere and old but not overly woody at all. There’s a surprising amount of fruit that immediately comes to life on both the nose and the tongue, with notes of cherries and apple cider popping on the palate. There’s an edge of caramel corn and some hemp rope on the finish, but overall it’s a real delight for the bourbon fan and one of the best bottles in the calendar. 96 proof. A
#9 – TBWC Cambus Single Grain Whisky 28 Years Old Batch 11 – TBWC seems to be kicking up the weird stuff near the end, and this single grain offering from well-known Cambus is unusual enough that most drinkers probably won’t have seen it straight. It’s a fairly traditional expression of well-aged grain whisky, with notes of honeyed cereal, golden syrup, and butterscotch mingling together amidst a backdrop of fresh hay and some spice, leading to a sweet finish. A modest body is always a drawback with single grain whisky, and that’s the case here, too, with a somewhat gummy quality that isn’t always a delight. 94 proof. B+
#10 – TBWC James E. Pepper Rye Pedro Ximenez Finish 3 Years Old – No batch number. The sherry gives this an immediate oddness, both on the nose and the palate. Aromas of curry powder are significant against a backdrop of gingerbread, while the palate’s overt dryness strips the sweetness out of the experience. That curry character increases in pungency toward the finish. We’ve essentially had this same PX Pepper whiskey before, but this batch feels considerably different, and too far afield for easy enjoyment. 100 proof. B-
#11 – TBWC Linkwood 10 Years Old Batch 7 – It’s back to Speyside for day 11 with this pleasant but fairly harmless youngster. Notes of honey and brown sugar give the whisky an instant sweetness, though some lightly nutty aromas add a moderated nuance. Sharp on the finish, with a slug of fresh citrus. This would be a delightful everyday dram… if there was more than 30ml of it. 96.4 proof. B+
#12 – TBWC Speyside #3 8 Years Old Batch 1 – This is, well, who knows what it is. Presumably a single malt from a single Speyside distillery, but possibly a blend? Young and a bit brash, it’s not the highlight one would expect from the final bottle in the lineup, with a nose that speaks of mothballs and wet wool. The palate is slightly more innocuous, green and heavy on the cereal, and just generally undercooked. 101.4 proof. B-
Averaging all of the above ratings nets us…
OVERALL RATING: B/ £75 / thatboutiqueywhiskycompany.com