Why you should care
’Tis the season for a wee dram — for breakfast.
Holidays equal presents, chocolate and tasty tipples — for the 24 Dionysian days leading up to Christmas, should you choose.
Advent calendars, where daily treats are used to count down the days until Santa arrives, are now officially available for alcoholic indulgence. In 2012, Master of Malt, a company that’s been in the booze business for over 25 years, released its first Advent calendars in two varieties: whiskey and gin. It now sells eight options, including rum, vodka and tequila. Prices start at $157, and for those with refined palates — and deeper pockets — the premium version retails for $440. The luxury version includes samples of 21-year-old Balvenie ($180 a bottle) and 40-year-old Glenfarclas Scotch whiskys ($580 a bottle).
The calendar is designed to let people try new things, not help them get tanked at 10 a.m.
Each calendar aims to showcase the range of what that spirit type has to offer, Alexandra Piciu, a Master of Malt marketing assistant, told OZY. “For whiskey, there are Scotch single malts that were aged in different cask types, alongside Irish whiskey, bourbon and whiskeys from India and Sweden.” Each calendar contains 24 drams (basically a shot) of drink. But instead of settling in with a wee glass by the fire on a frosty evening, the idea — by Advent tradition — is to wake up with a slosh. According to tasting notes on the Master of Malt site, the Balvenie is described as having an elegant nose of “white peach and a faint puff of smoke” and a cocoa finish. On the palate the Glenfarclas is all about chocolate — “with notes of chocolate raisins, dates and figs, orange and maraschino cherry. Then spices and thick espresso coffee.”
But let’s be real: Morning drinking — even festively so — doesn’t sit well with everyone. Dr. George Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, says that issues lie with the idea that you’re sipping first thing. “There’s nothing inherently wrong with a drink at breakfast,” he told OZY, but skip it if you’re going shopping or, please, if you’re driving. He warns that even a small amount can cause impairment. For other experts, it’s not so much the timing of the booze sampling as the frequency — especially as the holiday season can be challenging for some.
But Piciu says the calendar is designed to let people try new things, not help them get tanked at 10 a.m. “They’re samples of fine spirits to be sipped and savored,” she said. So the lesson here: Drink smart, but enjoy the fine whiskey that you may not otherwise be able to afford.
Like Scotland’s finest tipples. You may have guessed it, but whiskey is the most popular calendar. But can such a small taster be helpful for those looking to expand their drinking palate? “It’s a fun way to taste test many things in a short period,” said Kirk Wiles, founder of Paradise Springs Winery in Virginia. Education drives the craft alcohol market, so if the calendar has educational components and purpose, “it’s a fun idea.”
Unless … Santa?