It can sometimes feel like whisky is a closed shop. Those who like a drop of the amber nectar enter its world wholeheartedly, learning about single malts, blends, copper stills, sherry casks and more from the deeply passionate craftspeople that make the industry tick.
Those whose experience stretches to sniffing cynically at a friend’s dram see it as a snobbish world, full of men in smoking jackets sitting on leather chairs older than the British Empire, pretending to like the drink they have in their hand.
The misconceptions surrounding whisky are frustrating: it’s a drink that anyone can enjoy. It’s said that there’s at least one whisky for everyone, and with a rapidly growing number of distillers from different countries producing a wider range of flavour profiles than ever before, we subscribe to that claim.
Speaking of subscription, one easy way of entering the whisky world is through a whisky subscription box. A luxurious “try before you buy”, these boxes (or single bottle deliveries) give you a chance to really explore whatever whisk(e)y you fancy, from Scotland to Japan via Kentucky.
No need to enter a whisky bar, drenched in sweat, trying to remember the name of a distillery you looked up online that sounds like it produces nice stuff: now you can enjoy and learn about the world of whisky from the comfort of your own home (leather chair optional).
Ahead of this year’s World Whisky Day (15 May), we set aside a few hours for dedicated, serious research – and a day to recover – and put together a list of the best whisky subscriptions out there, from premium collections to pouched drams. Slàinte Mhath!
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The best whisky subscription boxes for 2021 are:
Best overall – Pour & Sip subscription: £29.95, Pourandsip.com
Best for widening horizons – The Dram Team subscription: £29.99, Thedramteam.co.uk
Best for a traditional feel – Drams to door by Milroy’s of Soho subscription: £34.99, Dramstodoor.co.uk
Best for exclusive bottles – GreatDrams subscription: £30, Greatdrams.com
Best for cocktails – Drinks By Post cocktail set subscription: £35, Thebuffalo.co.uk
Best for finding a diamond – Summerton Whisky Club subscription: £25, Summertonclub.com
Best for gifting – Whisky Tasting Company subscription: £89, Whiskytastingcompany.com
Best market disruptor – Whisky Me subscription: £7, Whisky-me.com
Pour & Sip subscription
Pour & Sip, from the whisky aficionados at Master of Malt and Drinks by the Dram, brings together a squad of experts to curate monthly boxes of five 30ml tasters, each focused on a different theme or geographical area. Central to Pour & Sip’s approach are the live online tastings that happen twice a month, available to all members, to properly reap the benefits of the drams on offer. An established business with a wealth of knowledge behind the scenes.
Buy now £29.95, Pourandsip.com
The Dram Team subscription
Best: For widening horizons
The Dram Team’s subscription box is a great-value, quality dive into the world of whisky. An ongoing subscription will give you the chance to explore global whiskies – April’s box was a worldwide whiskies box that included examples from India, Sweden and Wales, while May’s is a curated box of whiskies from English distilleries. Each box also includes a special “sixth dram”, a rarer expression, such as April’s beautifully-aged 18-year-old Irish Single Malt from Teeling distillery.
Buy now £29.99, Thedramteam.co.uk
Drams to door by Milroy’s of Soho subscription
Best: For a traditional feel
London institution Milroy’s of Soho, the city’s oldest whisky specialist, has entered the modern world with its first selection of deliverable drams, aptly called “Drams to Door”. Complete the short online questionnaire, and Milroy’s will recommend one of their collections for you to try. The beautiful blue, circular packaging contains five 30ml “craft and rare” drams, from a wide range of distilleries, including award-winning expressions such as Aberfeldy’s double-gold-winning 21-year-old single malt.
Buy now £34.99, Dramstodoor.co.uk
Best: For exclusive bottles
GreatDrams’ founder, Greg Dillon, knows whisky. In fact, he’s a bit of an impresario, consulting with some of the industry’s biggest names for years as a respected authority on the liquid. His family business, GreatDrams, was award-winning from its first dram, and has continued to hoover up the plaudits. Its new subscription service is something special: one bottle of exclusive, rare whisky will arrive at your door every two months for you to savour, along with a virtual tasting video for you to get the most out of your treasure. You won’t find the bottles for sale anywhere in the world apart from via your subscription – not even on the GreatDrams website – as they’re taken from the extensive GreatDrams cask inventory and bottled specifically for subscribers.
Buy now £30.00, Greatdrams.com
Drinks By Post cocktail set subscription
Best: For cocktails
Drinks By Post does exactly what it says on the tin, and does it very well. There are multiple subscription options, including luxury tasting subscriptions for small batch Bourbon and Irish whiskey, but the monthly cocktail club offers drinks with various spirit bases, including global whiskies. Everything is provided in a well-wrapped hamper, right down to the orange for your whisky sour.
Buy now £35.00, Thebuffalo.co.uk
Summerton Whisky Club subscription
Best: For finding a diamond
Summerton was first set up by Daniel Humphrey as a gift idea for his dad: a surprise monthly delivery of a premium, hard-to-find bottle of aged spirit. As he couldn’t find a company providing the service, he decided to do it himself, and Summerton Whisky Club was born. Every two months, subscribers receive a bottle of whisky that Daniel himself has sourced, providing a great value drink that broadens subscribers’ whisky horizons for a lower cost than if you were to buy it yourself. Last month’s bottle, for instance, was a rye whisky from Denmark’s Stauning Distillery, who organised a virtual distillery tour for Summerton Club members.
Buy now £25.00, Summertonclub.com
Whisky Tasting Company subscription
Best: For gifting
For a special gift that keeps on giving (for 9-12 months, at least), the Whisky Tasting Company (WTC) is a great choice. Whisky royalty flows through the WTC: it’s part-run by Colin Sinclair, nephew of one of Glemorangie’s famous Sixteen Men of Tain, who worked year-round to transform the distillery into the global brand it is today. The WTC itself works with distilleries across Scotland and beyond to curate sets of five artisan whiskies, including single cask examples, delivered to the gift recipient every three months. Sets are beautifully presented and thoughtfully put together.
Buy now £89.00, Whiskytastingcompany.com
Whisky Me subscription
Best: Market disruptor
Recent Dragons’ Den success story Whisky Me was set up by co-founders of the much-lauded Black Rock bar, Thomas Aske and Tristan Stephenson, to offer delicious whiskies in an approachable, fun manner. They’ve certainly succeeded, taking any lingering snobbery or elitism out of the equation and letting the whisky do the talking. The pouch that the whisky arrives in keeps the liquid fresh, will always fit through the letterbox, and cuts down on postal and packaging costs, meaning you get your dram sometimes for half the price you would pay in a bar – it also looks pretty cool. Simple to understand tasting notes come with each delivery, and Whisky Me works with global producers directly to get the best spirit for the best price.
Buy now £7.00, Whisky-me.com
The verdict: Whisky subscriptions
There’s a whole world of opportunity out there for you to enjoy, with a group of passionate, open and friendly producers and experts to show you the way. A good starting point would be Pour & Sip’s monthly boxes, as its regular live tastings are a useful introduction to a wide range of tastes.
However, for an experience that could reinvigorate the industry, Whisky Me is an exciting opportunity for amateurs and enthusiasts alike. Whatever way you choose to explore it, the whisky community is one of the most warm and welcoming out there. You won’t regret dipping your toe in.
For the latest discounts on spirits and other drinks offers, try the links below:
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