Christmas in a Glass?
I saw a question on Twitter last week; it was along the lines of “What is a Christmas whisky?” Well, of course this got me thinking. I suppose the true answer is that there is no such thing, is there? No whisky is really made just for Christmas, is it? What you do get are brands that release products that are branded for the season, a festive limited release in a package decorated with baubles and such. The liquid is no more Christmassy than if it had been released in the height of summer… so what does make a Christmas whisky?
I read a number of answers to the question. Some suggested that it’s perhaps a sherried whisky, filled with fruit reminiscent of a Christmas cake; others leaned more towards it being a port matured or finished liquid, with a warm fruity hit. Of course peat was mentioned: the warming embers of a fire expressed through the aroma. Some answers were more intricate and wanted to offer recipes for cocktails. Of course, more than one answer was that a Christmas whisky is called a toddy… and to be honest, who hasn’t enjoyed a hot toddy of some various old family recipe at some stage over the Christmas holiday period? But for me, the reason for viewing a dram as a Christmas whisky that I had in my head – and that was shared by several other respondents – was deeper than the liquid.
Christmas is for me a very family-orientated affair. Unfortunately for me, my immediate family live a fair distance away: my sister flits between London and the USA, my brother is overseas, my father passed several years ago, my daughters are in their 20s and, well, dad is just old and boring! My elderly mum lives close, and of course I have my rock that is Amy and my two sons, so directly around about me is pretty quiet on the family front.
But, on Amy’s side it’s a different matter: the clan are close together… just not close to us! So, this year we have rented a lake house in the Cotswolds, England and are heading south for the festive period. Amy’s family – all of whom live around the Cotswolds area – will migrate towards us there, and for me that will be the start of what creates a Christmas whisky. It is about the setting, it is about the people, the fun, the memories, watching the faces of the families as gifts are opened and hugs given and received. It’s the decorations that fill a room, the food laid across the table, perhaps even the location and the weather; for me, this is where a Christmas whisky is born
It’s perhaps even irrelevant what the whisky is; it’s what you do with the dram in this magical environment. Yes, it’s the sharing and the pouring, the face of your sister, your brother, or father as they take that sip of the liquid you have poured, and of yours as they maybe pour you something they have taken along or just unwrapped.
Whisky – no matter where it is made, no matter how it is made – is good! Some whiskies you just enjoy more than others but, for me, at this time of year – maybe just for that day – I switch of from the intricacies of overthought whisky. I drink what’s in my glass and I soak up what’s in the environment around me. This is what a Christmas whisky is: its not the liquid, it’s the environment in which its poured and shared!
OK, here we go again attacking some of the more easily accessible drams at the gateway to whisky level. It’s another Glen Moray; I’ve perhaps mentioned this range previously and I know I’ve covered its “sister” dram the Depaz Rum Cask Finish, but for this I’m looking at a wine finish. It’s a whisky that I think could easily appease those folk who actually want to think about their whisky on Christmas day: the Glen Moray Elgin Classic Cabernet Cask Finish.
This well-made dram can be picked up here in the UK for the princely sum of £25! Wven if I have five people visit over the holidays, it’s probably still cheaper to pour them a healthy dram from this bottle rather than go to the pub!
Glen Moray Elgin Classic Cabernet Cask Finish – Review
Colour: A slightly darkish amber,
On the nose: Aye it is a Speyside, so we have that orchard-like style in this dram, but honestly the fruity nose is much more in this presentation than the Speyside effect. It’s a very dark fruit-lead nose.
In the mouth: The palate is sweet, yet I get that grassy hint on my tongue alongside the sweet taste of dark fruits, red grapes, and cherries. There is a chocolate hit, perhaps chocolate covered nuts… dare I say that it tastes Christmassy! As it finds its place in your mouth there comes a citrus tingle, which subsides to a slight white pepper, toward the finish there the citrus returns along with those dark fruits.
OK, there is no Christmas whisky in the liquid sense. For me, what makes a Christmas whisky is the people and how they enjoy what they are drinking… but I can understand how people will associate different styles of whisky with Christmas. Association by taste and smell is, in effect, how we tend to describe the whiskies we drink anyway. I have this bottle on my shelf now, I think I always have it on my shelf!
Glen Moray Cabernet Cask Finish is not a Christmas whisky, but I can honestly say it’s a whisky I would enjoy and love to share with my family and friends at Christmas. It’s one of those drams where you could maybe sit on a winters evening with some chocolate, perhaps some almonds, and really enjoy the warmth. At £25 it’s, great because Amy will have spent the rest of our cash on the kids! Merry Christmas folks; enjoy the holidays!
What you described in your tasting notes is exactly what I found with this whisky as well. It was only available here for a short time and now has disappeared, along with its Chardonnay-finished cousin, as it sold through quickly because it was excellent value. Such is reality here in the world of government-run liquor boards that really do not know (or perhaps care) about filling out the edges of their assortments. I hope this added to your enjoyment of the season with your family.