When I was growing up, advent calendars were simple affairs – some sort of Christmas scene with stealthily hidden doors which were, from memory, shaped to blend into the background and really well hidden rather than the easy-to-spot grid of squares you get these days.
Behind each of those doors was a “prize” of a picture of some old-fashioned toy like a tin soldier or a ball, except obviously for the door numbered 24, when you would get a star instead.
I’m not quite as old as this Victorian-sounding tale might suggest, but it’s fair to say that my parents were old-fashioned themselves – Spaghetti Bolognese was viewed suspiciously as “foreign food”, a colour television license was an expensive (and therefore, unnecessary) luxury – and a young lad certainly didn’t need chocolate behind his advent calendar doors.
Of course, at the time I was blissfully unaware that chocolate advent calendars even existed, so I never really felt deprived. By the time I discovered them in studenthood, I was arguably a little old for such things but as the true meaning of Christmas seemed to be to eat your own body-weight in cheap chocolate I embraced this modern marvel with gusto.
As I got older, I grew out of such things (if only because, much like Easter eggs, advent calendars are a sodding expensive way to buy cheap chocolate) and I forgot about advent calendars again.
And then a couple of years ago, Master of Malt reawakened my interest with the arrival of their whisky advent calendars. Rather then a badly-shaped bauble of cheap chocolate, behind each door lurked a dram of whisky – and each day would bring a different dram to enjoy.
The trouble is, my whisky cupboard is always bulging with booze waiting to be tasted and I’ve never been able to bring myself to buy such an indulgence. This year, my ever-awesome wife managed to win me one in the MoM’s incredible #WhiskySanta giveaway – which, by the way, carries on right up to Christmas Eve, so get wishing!
In the spirit of sharing, I’ll be sharing the spirit – or at least, my impressions of it – throughout advent, so without further ado, let’s get those doors opening.
Haig Club is endorsed by David Beckham who is a Spice Girl’s husband and used to play some sort of sport – so he is clearly well qualified to endorse spirits.
It’s a single grain whisky from Cameron Bridge, a Lowlands distillery I’ve not come across before. Although this dram came in the usual plain tasting bottle, the full-size product comes in a square blue bottle that looks more like a giant perfume decanter rather than whisky, so it’s clearly not targeting the traditional market.
The nose is curious; after an initial clean ethanol there’s a subtle grain aroma, like freshly harvested barley in the field and just a hint of pear drops. Watered, you start to get a few toasted malt notes.
In the mouth, it’s remarkably smooth and sugar sweet, slightly creamy and with a very subtle grassy flavour – in many ways, it puts me in mind of an American Rye whiskey. Water brings a hint of harsher character and the sweetness becomes darker, more toffee than sugar.
Overall, it’s a decent and drinkable whisky. It’s uncomplicated – almost to the point of being one-dimensional – but it’s very easy drinking and approachable. 3.5 stars, although if I had to look at that perfume bottle I might knock a half star off!