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The Dram Team
Whisky subscription services have been around for a wee while now and seem to offer a very convenient way to sample some new drams. Having never tried it myself, I thought it might be fun to give it a go and report back on my experience. When an introductory offer came along from the good folks at The Dram Team, I eagerly signed up and awaited my first arrival.
For £26.99* a month, the Dram Team send you a set of six samples. There are five 25ml drams and one 10ml sample of a rare or limited edition bottling. Each box contains a small envelope with tasting notes for each whisk(e)y. It makes for a rather attractive looking package I must say but any such service must surely live or die by the quality of the drams included.
(*Since writing, the Dram Team Subscription has increased in price to £29.99.)
Judging by this introductory offering at least, there appears to be a strong focus on interesting, good-quality whiskies. My box featured drams from Starward in Australia and Teeling in Ireland. There was The Norfolk Farmers from the English Whisky Company and Rye Whiskey from Illinois. Peated single malt from Mackmyra in Sweden and a 6-year-old Paul John Indian Single Malt bottled by That Boutique-y Whisky Company.
Below are my notes for 5 of the drams in the selection. I didn’t feel like I could really get to grips with the Paul John and based on a 10ml sample, though I can say it was bloody lovely. Even a 25ml sample is a little small for review purposes but I felt I should at least give it a go so that my readers get an idea of what’s on offer here. Cometh the hour, cometh the man and all that.
Starward New World Malt Whisky
A single malt from the New World Whisky distillery in Victoria. Produced from Australian barley and matured in Apera fortified wine casks.
Smell: Vanilla, Chocolate & Berries with Honey, Malt and a touch of Marzipan.
Taste: Nice mouthfeel with notes of Berry, Caramel, Orange, Toffee, Honey and Ginger.
Thoughts: A full bottle retails for around £50 in the UK. I would maybe have liked to see a higher bottling strength for that kind of price but 43% isn’t too bad. In fairness, it packs a bit of a punch where flavour is concerned and suggests that Starward could be a brand worth investigating in a little more detail.
Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey
A small-batch, blended Irish whiskey from Teeling, given a unique twist by some additional maturation in ex-rum casks.
Smell: Vanilla and Cream, Lemon Citrus and Cereal Grain notes.
Taste: Surprisingly thick mouthfeel for a blend, Vanilla and Spice, Oak and Creamy Lemon.
Thoughts: I have often found mainstream bottlings of Irish whiskey to be too delicate for my palate. Teeling has offered something rather different here though. 46% is a good strength for a blend and the rum casks add an additional layer of complexity to proceedings. Teeling has played a big role in the resurgence of Irish whiskey and with quality like this, it isn’t difficult to see why.
The Norfolk Farmers Single Grain Whisky
A single grain from St George’s distillery in Norfolk, matured in American Oak.
Smell: Heather Honey, Pastry, Almond, Cherry and Raspberry.
Taste: Coffee, Liquorice, Orange, Caramel and Marzipan.
Thoughts: £45 – £50 seems a wee bit high for a no-age-statement grain whisky but it’s a pleasant enough dram. Surprisingly complex with more fruity notes than you’d perhaps expect from a grain. Interesting, if challengingly priced.
F.E.W. Rye Whiskey
A Rye whiskey from Chicago, Illinois. Takes its name from the initials of Frances Elizabeth Willard, a key figure in the Temperance movement that led to US prohibition.
Smell: Aromatic Spice with Orange, Cinnamon and Sherbet, Lemon, Toffee and Chocolate Caramel, Vanilla and Brown Sugar.
Taste: Spicy. Ginger and Chilli with Pepper, Salted Caramel and Orange.
Thoughts: I can’t claim to be massively experienced with rye whiskey but what I’ve tasted I’ve enjoyed. This one carries on that trend. In fact, I’d say it’s a contender for the standout of the box. Rye can offer a big, spicy, flavour explosion and the higher bottling strength helps to deliver that in all its glory. A full bottle will set you back £65 which certainly isn’t cheap but I think I would enjoy this enough to feel justified in paying that.
Mackmyra Svensk Rok
Svensk Rok means Swedish Smoke. There’s not much else that needs saying…
Smell: A little strange at first, almost an ‘off’ smell. Musty even. Touch of New Make Spirit, Malt Vinegar… Then Lemon Cake, Lime, Sea Salt, Biscuit, Malt, Fudge and Coastal Peat Smoke.
Taste: A light body with sour Lemon and Orange, Honey, Wood Spice and burnt Toast, Vanilla and Earthy Peat.
Thoughts: I’ve been rather intrigued by Mackmyra. They make a single malt that is comparable to the Scotch version, yet seems to have its own unique identity. It’s a single malt, but not as we know it. Rok is their peated version and things take an interesting turn when distillers add juniper twigs to the peat that smokes the malt. At £50 it isn’t cheap but also isn’t too extreme for an un-chill-filtered single malt and it’s tasty enough to warrant a purchase. Mackmyra could have a huge future if they carry on with bottlings of this quality.
This was an impressive wee selection of drams and an encouraging introduction to the Dram Team’s service. I must confess that I’m unlikely to stick with my subscription in the long term but that’s because I’m fortunate enough to live in Glasgow, a city that provides me with regular opportunities to attend tastings. Should you be devoid of such alternatives in your local area, however, this could prove useful. It could also be of great use to beginners. The world of whisky can be tough to navigate and prices are rising at an alarming rate. Taking a risk on a new bottle may not seem all that appealing but a monthly box of samples that allows you to taste lots of new stuff is hugely educational. So, while it may not be for me, I can see people falling in love with these little boxes when they start showing up at their door every month.