The Independent’s journalism is supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission.

The best whisky advent calendars for Christmas 2021: Dram-filled treats to enjoy all month long

From tree-shaped options to show-stopping boxes, each offering will ensure a very merry countdown

Hannah Jane Thompson
Tuesday 12 October 2021 12:51
<p>Aside from the whisky inside, we considered how gift-worthy each calendar felt </p>

Aside from the whisky inside, we considered how gift-worthy each calendar felt

Sherry might be Santa’s typical tipple, but your countdown to Christmas can be significantly more sophisticated with a whisky advent calendar.

Any whisky lover knows the drink has been having a serious renaissance of late, soaring in popularity and no longer languishing under its erstwhile stuffy, “old man” image. In fact, the Edrington–Beam Suntory UK Whisky Yearbook forecast predicted that the UK whisky industry is expected to be worth an incredible £2.44bn by 2022.

And while advent calendars are generally more associated with tiny bits of cheap, child-friendly chocolate, this selection is a rather more serious affair, packing a hefty array of delicate drams into hulking boxes that’ll take up more than a bit of room on your mantelpiece.

Though we’ve tested these calendars with a few months to go until December rears its snowy head, just like a good whisky, the flavours have lingered pleasantly, like the smoke of a good Islay. So we’ve picked out the best of the bunch, from Bourbons to hard-to-find distilleries, so you (or your whisky-loving friends) can get stocked up as winter sets in.

How we tested

If this was simply about the “best whisky”, we might have focused only on taste. However, this is about the anticipation of counting down to Christmas, so our standards were high. We firstly considered how much of a “gift” the calendar felt; how good it felt to hold, look at, and open. We gave extra points for design and packaging, and how good it would look on a shelf or Christmas mantelpiece, especially if they looked and felt a bit special (with embossed metallic or artwork).

We then considered how robust it was, and how easy or fun the doors were to find and open (or how fun the overall concept was). We awarded extra points for extra details such as information about the whisky, and variety inside, especially if the whiskies were more unusual. Finally, we considered taste and interest of the whisky. Rare and varied selections got more points than those with your standard Laphroaig or Jim Beam, on the grounds that they felt like more of a treat.

Read more:

The best whisky advent calendars for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – Drinks by the Dram the whisky explorer advent calendar: £99.95, Drinksbythedram.com
  • Best for real whisky lovers – The Really Good Whisky Company whisky selection box: £149.50, Reallygoodwhisky.com
  • Best for big kids – Elizabeth Shaw famous names whisky collection: £24, Elizabethshaw.co.uk
  • Best for generous gifting – Drinks by the Dram bourbon & american whiskey advent calendar: £134.95, Drinksbythedram.com
  • Best for variety –Hard to Find whisky the spirits selection advent calendar: £159.95, Htfw.com
  • Best for your Christmas decor – Stag design personalised oak advent calendar for miniatures: £45-£69, Etsy.com
  • Best for grown-ups – Dibor personalised Christmas advent calendar decanter gift: £45, Notonthehighstreet.com

Drinks by the Dram the whisky explorer advent calendar

Best: Overall

Rating: 9/10

As a tall and imposing box with a windswept countryside scene in the shape of a whisky bottle “painted” on the front, this advent calendar was among some of the more beautiful we tried. The windows are pleasingly “out of order”, making it more fun to find each day’s door, and the thick card keeps its shape satisfyingly as you prise it open to pick out the daily dram.

Unlike some of the boxes on this list, this calendar has no spoiler “menu” of the selection inside, meaning each is a veritable treat. The only hint at what’s to come is a sentence on the back, reading: “From old favourites, through innovative bottlings and...exciting, lesser-known expressions, there is something delicious behind each door”. We were indeed happily surprised by the array of offerings, from the brilliantly-titled singleton of dufftown 12-year-old single malt (£32.25, Masterofmalt.com), to the American eagle tennessee bourbon (£33.95, Amazon.co.uk), to the Irish double oak writer’s tears (£44,95, Masterofmalt.com) (a name that this freelance journalist noted with wry irony).

Without giving too much away, the final Number 24 window offered a sweet-yet-sharp taste of blended scotch, rounding this international tour up with a flourish that would complement any Christmas Eve. We would have appreciated more information about each of the drams (perhaps a sentence on the back of the windows?), but that’s a small quibble on what is essentially a super-solid Christmas selection.

The Really Good Whisky Company whisky selection box

Best: For real whisky-lovers

Rating: 8/10

As a whisky advent calendar, this literally does what it says on the box, and we have no complaints. A respectable selection of 25 drams for 25 days (we appreciate the extra bottle for Christmas Day itself), packaged in a solid, functional square, it’s simply named: the really good one. The design isn’t as sexy as some on this list; the number windows are in numerical order (our inner child was a little disappointed at the predictability); and the blue, snowy scene doesn’t hint much at the frankly satisfying whisky variety inside.

Yet, containing everything from Arran Amarone cask finish (£44.63, Masterofmalt.com), Glenturrent peated (£44.04, Masterofmalt.com), Old Forrester statesman Kentucky (£57.85, Drinksandco.co.uk), and our favourite the Laphroaig quarter cask (£44.56, Laphroaig.com), plus the excellently-named Scallywag speyside (£36.45, Thewhiskeyexchange.com), this box made us excited to discover each new day’s choice. There’s also a link to find out more about each whisky, and the brand is even set to host a live YouTube series in which they will open and review each of the drams starting 1 December, so you can drink along and perhaps even find a new favourite, just in time for Christmas. True connoisseurs also have the choice to upgrade to the premium option (£249.99). Cheers to that.

Elizabeth Shaw famous names whisky collection

Best: For big kids

Rating: 7/10

For whisky lovers loath to give up their childhood chocolate nostalgia in the run-up to Christmas, this might be the perfect solution. Turns out, you really can have your dram and drink it, as this combines the burnished taste of classic bourbons and whiskies, wrapped up in a comforting blanket of grown-up dark chocolate. Although not strictly an advent calendar, each box of 16 is big enough for you to countdown to Christmas if you allow yourself one bite every couple of days or so (tricky).

And if not, the super-affordable price point means that if you make it a daily habit, opening another box before the 25th won’t break the budget (it’s only available in threes from the Elizabeth Shaw website in any case – perfect). And, if you simply must have numbers on your windows as December rolls on, Elizabeth Shaw also does an advent calendar in the same famous names range, which includes an array of spirits including whisky, offering enough variety to please even the pickiest of drinkers as Christmas Day draws ever nearer.

Drinks by the Dram bourbon and American whiskey advent calendar

Best: For generous gifting

Rating: 9/10

With easily the most eye-catching design out of all the calendars we tried, this huge box makes a real statement, and feels like a gift even before you’ve put up your tree. The stylish packaging promises drams of the “very finest bourbon and American whiskey from boutique spirit producers” that will “tantalise your tastebuds”, and we can confirm that the selection was pleasingly varied.

Bottles included the pungent 10-year-old Kentucky straight bulleit frontier (£25.49, Thebottleclub.com), the fresh and floral Sonoma Country cherrywood rye (£49.20, Masterofmalt.com) and the sweet-yet-smokey Burnt Ends blended (£29.95, Amazon.co.uk), which put us straight in the mood for a low-and-slow Southern barbecue.

For American whiskey lovers, this calendar offers a real taste of the States, while its dramatic black-and-white embossed box is stylish enough to look right at home on your mantelpiece.

Hard to Find Whisky the spirits selection advent calendar

Best: For variety

Rating: 7/10

Dark and heavy with an imposing black, gold and red design, this advent calendar includes unusual whiskies in the brand’s signature “hard to find” spirits collection. Despite the whisky theme, you’ll also find bottles of Discarded Banana Peel rum (£25, Waitrose.com) and Ciroc red berry flavoured vodka (£28.06, Amazon.co.uk), among the From the Barrel Blended whisky (£43.95, Masterofmalt.com), Monkey Shoulder malt scotch (£30.90, Masterofmalt.com) and Laphroaig lore (£66.79, Laphroaig.com).

That means it could work well for a household in which one person loves whisky and is happy to share with another who is less partial to it. There’s also an element of surprise in the mixed selection; will today’s window reveal a 15-year-old single malt, a crisp serve of gin, or a cheeky shot of tequila? A small note of caution to those with a keen eye for Christmas decor: these cardboard windows are oddly difficult to wrench open, meaning that it all looked a bit of a mess once we’d finished with it, in comparison to other calendars we tested. But, for those looking for variety and fun in their alcoholic advent, including some fab whiskies, this box marks the spot.

Stag design personalised oak advent calendar for miniatures

Best: For your Christmas decor

Rating: 8/10

Before we go any further, we must confess that this advent calendar technically doesn’t actually include the whisky (bear with us). However, it does offer the sweetest, most Christmassy display option we ever did see, with 24 perfectly cut and numbered openings especially designed to hold standard miniatures, arranged in a classic tree design cut from delicate sheets of oak.

Thankfully, the team at Stag Design, have recognised the flaw in the ointment (or should we say glass), and will send you 24 ready-to-fill miniature bottles perfected fitted to the tree, for an extra £24. Even without the whisky, the calendar smells incredible, with notes of autumnal, woodsmoke and fire emerging as soon as we opened the packaging (a marker of the wood carving process, perhaps?) but when full to the brim with minis, it really looks the part. It needed minimal assembly on arrival – we fit it together in a few short minutes. Not only that, but you can personalise the message on top of the tree, making it the perfect pre-Christmas gift for anyone who loves a good festive tipple.

Dibor personalised Christmas advent calendar decanter gift

Best: For grown-ups

Rating: 9/10

An advent calendar, but not as we know it. Instead of a cardboard box stuffed with miniatures, this instead offers a more refined alternative; a glass carafe that counts down, measure by measure, to the main event. Pleasingly heavy to hold, with a solid stopper, and generous enough for a decent nightcap every evening (750ml divided by 24 equals more than 30ml per drink), the decanter will also look the part in any sophisticated Christmas decorative display.

The design is perhaps a little square and standard, and sadly the whisky does not come as part of the package, but we appreciated the ability to personalise the product, and we like to think of it being engraved by hand in Dibor’s west Yorkshire studio. There is also the option to buy matching, personalised “Highland pheasant” tumblers from the same brand (£23.95 for two), which evokes a serious sense of Scotch if nothing else.

The verdict: Whisky advent calendars

While we were impressed by The Really Good Whisky Company’s commitment to holding live tastings of its advent calendar picks, and its addition of a 25th bottle (most only included the standard 24); the style and selection of the Drinks by the Dram the whisky explorer advent calendar slightly pipped it to the post.

The arty design was appreciated, and the wide range of whiskies was intriguing and of great value. The Bourbon & American whiskey advent calendar must get a special mention for its cool packaging; while the Stag design personalised oak advent calendar for miniatures is a real talking point when on display. Whatever you pick, we’re sure any of these will help warm the cockles of a dark December night, and get you in the well in the mood for Christmas by the end of the countdown.

Voucher codes

For the latest offers on whiskey and other drink, try the links below:

Looking for a sweet accompaniment? Why not indulge in a Hotel Chocolat or Lindt advent calendar

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in