KWM Whisky Advent Calendar 2016: Day 1

1 12 2016

All right, team:  let’s do this.  Another blogging year has come and gone, another December has arrived, and another 25 straight days of whisky blogging madness stands before me.  I will not break, although I will occasionally wonder what the hell I’m doing.  To set the stage, for those of you new to this year-end PnP tradition:  every year the indomitable Andrew Ferguson, the owner of Kensington Wine Market and (for my money) Calgary’s primary whisky authority, meticulously sources and compiles 25 mini-bottles of premium whisky that go into the shop’s annual Whisky Advent Calendar.  Two years ago I got such a Calendar as a present and decided to write up each whisky inside on a daily basis.  Last year I decided I probably couldn’t leave well enough alone and did it again.  This year I resigned myself to the fact that I’m a slave to precedent, and here we are.  Note that these mini-whisky bottles were NOT provided as samples for review purposes; I bought the calendar to support Andrew’s great work and am doing these reviews because I am clearly slightly deranged.

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Bring it, 2016.

Day 1 of 2016 Whisky Advent was an instant flashback to many different days of 2015 Whisky Advent; the all-too-familiar beige and brown labelling of Gordon & MacPhail’s Connoisseurs Choice series haunted my dreams on many a December night last year.  Day 4, Day 10, Day 18 and Day 20 of the 2015 calendar were dedicated to Connoisseurs Choice whiskies (and yes, I know there’s an apostrophe missing in that possessive, and yes, it bothers me, but I didn’t name the whisky line, so blame Scotland).  That may sound repetitive, until you find out that there are ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-FOUR DIFFERENT WHISKIES in the Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice line.  174!!  And that’s only one of G&M’s many, many ranges!  They are (obviously) one of Scotland’s largest independent whisky bottlers, purchasing barrels of whisky from a plethora of distilleries and bottling them itself.  The Connoisseurs Choice sub-label is largely intended to showcase distilleries that would not otherwise ever see the light of day as a single malt and would instead be stuffed into anonymous blends…but this one might be the exception to that rule.

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This particular bottling is a 17 year-old expression from the Tomatin Distillery, which most certainly sees the light of day under its own name as one of the largest and best-known distilleries in all of Scotland.  (It’s also the first distillery in Scotland to be wholly owned by a Japanese company, which is not as surprising as it might seem given the latter country’s massive jump into premium whisky.)  Distilled in 1997 and bottled in 2014, this G&M expression starts off Advent with a bang thanks to a set of aromas as exuberant as a pent-up Golden Retriever:  sassafras, honey, cream soda, banana Runts, cinnamon sticks.  Smooth, lush and nutty, it unfolds repeatedly on the tongue, continuing to expand and unfurl every time you think it’s done, exploding with gobs of marzipan and almond rocca, maple syrup, pina colada, marshmallow, reams of spice and toasty wood.  As you might expect after the above slew of candied notes, this is absolutely delicious, thrilling and hedonistic if not overly intellectual.  It is also not fooling around with its $180 full-bottle retail price tag, the first time I can remember that KWM Whisky Advent has gone posh to start off Day 1.  I like the approach.  24 days to go!

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