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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Marc Reeves

Review: The 12-bottle Whisky Collection by Drinks by the Dram sampling set

First, a disclaimer. I’m a fan of Drinks by the Dram and credit the brand with helping me to expand my whisky horizons in recent years. I find their offer of providing a small measure (3cl - just over a single measure in an average bar) allows me to affordably taste a whisky before committing to a whole bottle - or sometimes just treat myself to a shot of a super rare and expensive expression without terrifying my bank manager.

So, how does the Whisky Collection measure up?

For £49.95, you get 12 3cl wax-sealed bottles, neatly presented in a smart card box with perforated windows giving access to each - just like an advent calendar (and yes they do actually sell a whisky advent calendar, but I’ll leave that for another review!).

If that’s a little pricey, there’s a special Father’s Day box for £25.95, but you only get five of the little bottles of course.

Being impatient, I got all the bottles out to assess what was there. First, Drinks by the Dram say on the website there’s a chance they’ll have to make substitutions if one or two of the whiskies advertised aren’t available. When that’s happened in the past, I’ve found their replacements are always of appropriate value and interest. In this case, all were present and correct.

One of the delights of having 12 whisky samples in front of you is that you appreciate the wide range and depths of colours of different styles of whisky. In this collection, this ranged from the dark hues of Michter’s Rye (which would cost you £60 for a full bottle) through to a world whisky blend by That Boutique-y Whisky Company, which is only a couple of notches away from being completely clear (and would set you back £30 for a full bottle).

In the 12 samples there’s a really good range of origins and ages, which is what you want to see in a selection, with countries as varied as Sweden and France represented, as well as the obligatory Ireland, Scotland and the US.

I started with an English malt - England’s No6 by Samual Gulliver & Co, at the equivalent of £69 for a full bottle, one of the two most pricy examples in the box. Despite being rather keen on my whiskies, I’d not seen this brand before, but a little research told me it’s the official whisky of England Rugby, and while now distilled in Norfolk, has its origins in Banbury, just 10 miles from where I live.

This is a great example of how a selection box can introduce you to new brands and their stories, but of course that counts for nothing if the dram disappoints in the mouth.

What I found was a surprisingly smooth mouth feel, after a short-lived burn. It doesn’t come with an age statement - which is important to many whisky fans - but its finishing in rum cakes definitely imparts a well-balanced sweetness.

A great hit for sample number one - and a reminder to self to consider a full bottle in the future!

Next, I went for the other end of the price range. The Peaky Blinder Irish Whiskey from Sadlers raised my suspicions immediately, both for the marketing gimmickry and also the very low full bottle price of £22. Could this be a slurpable everyday drink, or would it just be a make weight that disappointed?

Colour-wise, it’s at the lighter end of the spectrum, and doesn’t have an age statement, but is labelled as a blend finished in bourbon barrels. On the nose, the first impression is of one of the budget mass market Scotch blends, but then a hint of bourbon comes through, which is a plus in my books. The taste is not as unpleasant as some reviewers claim, but is short-lived and leaves behind a bit of a burn.

I wouldn’t choose to buy a full bottle, even at just £22, so you could say the sample has done its job by saving me wasting my money.

The other standouts for me were the Singleton of Dufftown 15 year old single malt - a bit of a classic Scotch that is famous for its sweet finish, and that Michters, one of my all time favourite American whiskies.

For smoke fans, there’s the Talisker Port Ruighe and the Aerolite Lyndsay - another brand that’s new to me but is now firmly on my whisky radar.

After sampling these over a couple of evenings, I’ve put the remainder away to savour on another day. I’m particularly looking forward to the Swedish Mackmyra and the Brenne Single Malt from France.

My verdict? Sample boxes like this from Master of Malt are definitely worth considering for a gift, and you don’t even need to spend as much as £49.95 to get a decent collection. You can even customise your own selection on their website.

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