This DIY Bourbon Countdown Calendar is the Perfect Way to Get Into the Holiday Spirit

Amandalin Ryan
Amandalin Ryan,
November 16, 2021

(NOTE: Homemade Bourbon countdown calendars are for gifting purposes only and are not intended for resale. The repackaging liquor for sale is strictly prohibited by law.)

The only thing better than a countdown calendar of chocolate is one that’s filled with Bourbon. Because nothing spreads holiday cheer like a few dreamy drams—or 24—to sip throughout December!

Whether you’re looking to impress that one person on your list who’s impossible to shop for, or just want to get in the spirit yourself, a DIY Bourbon countdown calendar (or advent calendar as they’re commonly known) is the perfect gift. 

The best part? You can make one to countdown to any holiday, milestone or event: Birthdays, New Year’s, the date your family arrives (or maybe when they leave!)…The possibilities are endless. Plus, making your own is a more personalized, affordable option than the ones available online. 

Here’s a look at how I made mine, so you can get creative with yours!

Step 1: Choose a Theme & Map It Out

Building your own Bourbon countdown calendar allows you to decide what pours you’re going to include and why. Get creative and have fun with it! 

Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Local Legends: Include Bourbons from Bardstown, Louisville, Lexington, Northern KY and other places in Kentucky known for their spirits. 
  • High Rye Spice: Bring on the flavor and zing of spicy high-rye Bourbons (and maybe a few rye whiskeys). 
  • The Unicorns: Feature rare, collectible Bourbons not often spotted “in the wild” (AKA on the shelves in stores).
  • Sweet Drams: Add a touch of sweetness with wheated Bourbons. Or include Bourbons made with sweet mash—a process that can help whiskey retain delicate flavors and aroma compounds from fermentation. 
  • Barrel Proof Pours: Give the gift of Bourbon in its purest form with bottles labelled as barrel strength, cask strength or full proof. 
  • Growing Old: Showcase Bourbons with increasing age statements, going from youngest to oldest. 
  • Memory Lane: Queue the nostalgia by including Bourbons that have personal meaning and are special to you or the person you’re gifting them to. 
  • Mix & Match: Get creative and feature several of the ideas above—the world is your whiskey glass!

Pro tip: Try to pick Bourbons that may not be readily available on the shelves at most people’s local liquor stores. You may be limited by what bottles are available to you. If you don’t have enough options for 24 containers, you can ask family and friends for an ounce here and an ounce there, or consider purchasing mini/airline bottles from your local liquor store.

Once you’ve got your Bourbons, make your list from 1 to 24. I arranged mine in proof order, with the highest proof being last. Having a numbered list before you start will be so helpful when it comes to actually filling and decorating your bottles. It’s easy to lose track of what’s in each if they’re not properly labeled—so this is an essential step!

Step 2: Pick Your Packaging

There are so many fun options for packaging your Bourbons! Take a look around your local craft store or look online for food safe and leakproof containers. I chose a variety of fillable tree ornaments and felt number stickers. Don’t forget to number your containers prior to pouring unless your numbering solution is paper and you don’t want them to get wet. You may opt to post-it notes to keep yourself organized until after the pouring is done.

Now, it’s time to decide on how you’re going to present the 24 pours to your lucky recipient. You might be able to find empty advent calendar boxes or another organizer to present them in. This is where you can add a lot of fun personal touches with paint, stickers, woodcuts, or anything you want! You could just opt for a large shirt-sized box filled with tissue paper to hold them in place and wrap it really pretty. Might I also suggest a dedicated mini tree just for your advent ornaments? 

Here’s a list of everything you’ll need:

  • 24 food-safe and leakproof containers or ornaments
  • 1-24 number stickers, stamps, paint or whatever you decide to use
  • 24 hooks or ribbons, if going to the ornament direction
  • 24 index cards or gift labels
  • Box, tree and decor for presentation
  • Jigger or shot glass, if you don’t already have one
  • Flask funnel, if you don’t already have one
  • Bourbons as needed
  • Any additional gift items you’d like to include

Step 3: Pour Twenty-Four

This is the fun (and potentially messy) part! Using a flask funnel is the easiest way to get the Bourbon into your containers. Use a jigger or shot glass to measure out consistent pours. I recommend 1 ounce for each, which is the equivalent to ⅛ cup. Wipe off the funnel and jigger between pours so there are no lingering flavors from previous whiskeys. Make sure the caps are tight and there is no leakage. Add your hooks, ribbons, or other decorative touches.

Include either a numbered list of what each pour is, or index cards/labels with all the information for each whiskey they will be enjoying. Include the numbered pour, brand name, style, proof and age (if given). Creating the index cards was honestly my favorite part! On several of them I added fun anecdotes like “We drank this Bourbon at our wedding ceremony earlier in the year, I’m so happy to be able to share it with you now!” or “Pair this one with dark chocolate and thank me later!” Make the cards as personal and special as you want.

Step 4: Package and Give

Arrange your glowing amber orbs in whatever packaging you choose, or trim your Bourbon tree with the beautiful ornaments you’ve created. 

To make your countdown calendar even more special, pair it with other fun gifts like the Official Bourbon Tasting Glass designed by Kentucky’s Master Distillers or the Bourbon Trail™ Passport & Field Guide. That way, when the whiskey lover in your life makes their way to the one true home of Bourbon, they’ll be ready for the adventure. 

Don’t forget to get the recipient their calendar in time to start the countdown! Typically you would start on December 1st opening and consuming them once per day leading up to Christmas or their holiday celebration. 

Countdown calendars are also a great way to celebrate winter birthdays that so often get overlooked in the hubbub of the holidays. And you don’t have to create a full month to make your countdown super special: Even a week’s worth of different Bourbons is a great way to build excitement for the big day and that grand finale pour. 

Don’t forget to keep these best practices in mind when making your DIY Bourbon Countdown Calendar: 

  • Use food-safe and leakproof containers only
  • Measure each pour at one ounce each
  • Use a flask funnel or similar method for pouring
  • Wipe or rinse your funnel and measuring device between pours
  • Stay organized and have a good system in place
  • Write down the proof of each pour so your recipient knows what to expect
  • Keep everything safely stored at room temperature and out of reach of minors
  • Create and hand-deliver before December 1st
  • Check shipping laws before trying to mail your advent calendar as this is prohibited in most states. Afterall, aren’t hand-delivered packages more fun?
  • Homemade Bourbon countdown/advent calendars are for gifting purposes only and are NOT intended for resale. The repackaging liquor for sale is strictly prohibited by law.
  • Enjoy responsibly, and have a happy and safe holiday season! 

Share your Bourbon Countdown Calendar creations with us by tagging @kybourbon on Instagram and @kybourbonofficial on Facebook if you give it a try. Happy gifting…and happy sipping, y’all!

About Amandalin Ryan

Amandalin (Mandy) Ryan has been with the Kentucky Distillers’ Association since 2012 and currently serves as their Director of Marketing. Her various monikers have ranged from “the Arts & Crafts Ninja” to “the Cookie Fairy” to “the Cocktail Wizard.” Baking, cocktailing and gift giving are her love languages. You can find her on Instagram @amandolinthegirl.

Enjoy Like a True Kentuckian: Responsibly