The Dram Team's ultimate whisky winners

Having sipped much of the world's best whisk(e)y, blogger Greg Dillon co-founded a subscription service to give other enthusiasts a taste


The Dram Team started with three whisky-lovers – Chris Borrow, who is the entrepreneurial brains; James Glen, the techno whizz; and me. We curate and send subscription boxes of out-of-the-ordinary whisky tastings by post. As an author and blogger, I love writing about whisky and, as a brand consultant within the spirits industry, I love to develop brands, but what really appealed to me about helping set up The Dram Team was actually producing something physical that people could enjoy and then give feedback about – it's nice to have something more than a PDF or a PowerPoint document to show for all your work!

I've tasted thousands of whiskies over the years, but there are still thousands I've yet to try. So in curating whiskies for the Dram Team, the ethos is to find ones that are interesting to those new to whisky as much as to other people like me, who've experienced everything in the whisky mainstream and are looking for the more unusual experiences – for example, limited editions from well-known distilleries; special cask finishes; whiskies from now-closed distilleries and independent bottlings (for example, Douglas Laing's Big Peat 2016 is in our Christmas box, which is a blend of every distillery on Islay). The other thing is we really concentrate on putting premium drams in there – we're not trying to improve our margins by throwing in stuff that's cheap and easy to get hold of. Five of the drams are 25ml, then the sixth dram is a 10ml sample of a super-premium whisky that is so rare, it could cost hundreds to get your hands on a bottle – and that's if you could find one.

Even if there is something that some of our subscribers have tried among the six, they won't have had the chance to taste it alongside the others in the flight. Each month they receive a box curated under a theme. We have them charted for the next 18 months, and we like to be a bit weird and wonderful with our themes – they could be focused on fun ideas such as national days, or more studious comparisons of, say, whiskies all aged in the same type of barrel. We have one set coming up that will be six single malts of the same age, which have had similar maturation but come out of it incredibly different. It's all about getting people thinking about whisky while they drink it.

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What makes it such fun as a business is that we are not only delivering a product to our customers every month, but also building a real community and creating a dialogue about whisky. We host a monthly Tweet Tasting on a specific evening and, in 2017, we will have some other ways for people to get involved if they're not on Twitter. Our boxes contain cards with information and smile-raising tasting notes, which we write to help make things accessible – we don't want this to be an exclusive club, by any means. At whisky tastings, people can often defer to the more "expert" tasters in the room.

On Twitter, it's one time when relative anonymity can be a benefit – it allows people to express their thoughts about the whisky freely, and there are no right and wrong comments. We've had a lot of feedback from subscribers saying they feel more empowered to talk openly. It's the same within our team – Chris, James and I all taste the whiskies together, and their notes are as valid as mine. In the world of whisky, there can be an attitude of prescription and proscription, right way and wrong way. To us, that's a load of rubbish – as long as you're smiling as you sip it and are drinking responsibly, that's all that matters.

The Dram Team subscription, from £26.99 a month;

Six unusual drams from 2016, recommended by

Scottish single malt – The Dalmore Quintessence, £1,000

The maestro Richard Paterson, The Dalmore's master distiller, loves to explore the influence of wine casks on the whisky, and this is the ultimate expression of that. It is what he calls an assemblage of The Dalmore matured in five red wine casks – zinfandel, pinot noir, syrah, merlot and cabernet sauvignon. It's rich, layered and magical.

Irish whiskey – Jameson The Makers Series, €70 each

The Distiller's Safe, The Cooper's Croze and The Blender's Dog form a series of whiskeys that each highlight a different stage of whiskey production. They celebrate, in turn, the work of Brian Nation, the head distiller, with a bright, zesty whiskey; head cooper Ger Buckley, with a very oak-influenced one; and head blender Billy Leighton, with something rounded and smooth.

Indian single malt whisky – Paul John Bold, around £45

The majority of Indian-made 'whisky' is actually made from molasses and is closer to rum, and not exported outside of India. But a couple of distillers do it the traditional Scottish way, and Paul John – which distils in Goa from barley grown in the Himalayan foothills – is a really premium product. I am cheating slightly, because this was released in 2015, but it is superb.

Single grain whisky – Douglas Laing Old Particular range, from £38

This independent bottler has released four limited-edition bottlings of whiskies from grain distilleries – ie, not malted barley but other grains, typically wheat – such as Cameronbridge, Cambus, Strathclyde and the now-closed Port Dundas. Usually grain whisky goes into blends (such as Johnnie Walker or Chivas Regal), but these bring to life why single-grain whisky should be taken seriously. Their flavour profiles are fascinatingly different and have remarkable depth. Some of them are over 25 years old, including one that is a whopping 50 years old and, when they're super-aged like that, they can knock single-malts out of the park without costing as much.

Bourbon – Garrison Brothers 2015 Release, £75

This comes from Texas and has a big, rich mouthfeel that is just begging to be drunk with barbecue. It is powerful but also has a fantastic dexterity of flavour profile, with sweet and spicy notes.

GREG DILLON, aka "GreatDrams Greg", is an award-winning luxury spirits writer, IWSC judge, brand consultant and founder of, which he describes as "one man's mission to experience, share and inspire with everything great about whisky, whiskey, gin, beer and fine dining". In 2016 he co-founded The Dram Team, and in 2017, his book, The GreatDrams of Scotland, will be published by RedDoor

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