Well, with only a couple of weeks until the big man comes down the chimney, we thought it was a good time to talk about whiskey, Christmas, and Christmas whiskey.
Much of the food consumed in the US or UK at Christmas time is covered in the article about Thanksgiving (see below), but of course, there are additions we cannot miss, as their flavors are very much associated with "Christmas Whiskey."
Firstly, let's start with Christmas Pudding. The pudding we eat now, that lovely domed, dense, fruity, nutty, steamed, and generally full of alcohol dish we have once a year, didn’t quite start out as we now know it.
Do you recall the episode of Friends where Rachel makes a traditional trifle? The recipe book pages were stuck together, resulting in a half-savory (mince and peas) and half-sweet (jelly, custard, and cream) hybrid of a dish. Well, our lovely Christmas pudding started life in the 14th Century as something called "frumenty" and was generally a porridge mix of beef and mutton with dried fruit, wines, prunes, and spices. By the late 1500s, it had developed into "Plum pudding." After a ban instigated by the Puritans, it came back in the early 1700s, as declared by King Geoge I. Our current (excuse the pun) form of Christmas pudding is set by the Victorians and is still enjoyed today, along with the many traditions surrounding it.
The main tradition, which will always bring a hush to the dining table, followed by a "Wooooow," is when it is doused in a spirit (generally whiskey or brandy) and lit. The alcohol burns off with the beautiful blue flame, leaving the pudding with a slightly crisped outer layer. (Please be careful when you do this at home!!)
(For more Christmas Pudding history and traditions, see the links at the end of the blog).
Along with the Christmas pudding comes Christmas cake and mince pies, all with a common flavor theme running through them (and similar histories): dried and alcohol-soaked fruits, nuts, peel, and generally a brown spirit. Christmas cake comes with the addition of marzipan and icing, while the mince pies have a wonderful buttery pastry casing.
We have focussed very much on US and UK Christmas flavors here. So, what about elsewhere in the world?
In Germany, Lebkuchen is a famous Christmas cake/biscuit (depending on the bake). With base flavors of honey, spices, and, of course, some nuts. Also, Stollen which has very similar ingredients.
From Italy, we have more fruit coming in with the beautiful Panettone, and from Poland, we have poppy seed cake (makowiec)
Central America gives us Pio Quinto, which brings us cinnamon, rum, raisins, plums, and even cocoa.
Check the link at the bottom of the blog for more global Christmas cake inspiration.
Now, all these flavors really do lend themselves to whiskey!
Sherry cask influenced whiskies, so generally not American whiskies, may be the best place to start looking if you want a 'Christmas flavored’ dram. The dark fruits and raisins are regular tasting notes that could be right for you.
Yet bourbon cask whiskies, and thereby even some bourbons, may lend themselves to nutty and more sugary notes associated with icing.
So, really, what IS a Christmas whiskey?
Well, given the variety of flavors, personal taste preferences, local traditions, and clever marketing, it could be anything you choose it to be.
Some may be drawn to darker, sherry cask influenced or double cask maturation (sherry and bourbon) drams to gain all the flavors noted above. Others may be tempted by drams explicitly marketed for Christmas. Humans are easily manipulated; if it says Christmas on the bottle, we'll taste Christmas in the liquid. For the rest of us, a Christmas whiskey is the one we choose to have in our glass on Christmas day.
In fact, Christmas is an ideal time to enjoy a dram; most of us will have the time to not worry about a foggy head the next day. So many different foods surround us to pair our drams with (think chocolates and bowls of nuts that usually sit around till mid-March because using a nutcracker is too much hard work). Of course, Santa Claus may enjoy a wee nip when he visits your home to drop off the presents!
As you can see, Christmas isn't restricted to the USA and UK (though marketing may make us think it is); it's very much a worldwide celebration, meaning worldwide foods to discover and try.
Link to Thanksgiving article:
History of Christmas Pudding:
Global Christmas cakes:
If all this talk of whiskey and Christmas has given you a hankering for a dram, the best one is from your own cask, or you could gift your friends and family a bottle next Christmas. Our team will be delighted to speak with you to help get you started.
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