Whisky Advocate

What was the last whisky that really wowed you?

June 26th, 2009

When was the last time you had one of those whiskies where you thought to yourself, “This is amazing stuff!”? What was the whisky? And were you taken by surprise, or did you expect it to wow you?

For me, I think it was the most recent release of Black Bowmore a couple years back.  I was amazed at the depth and complexity of that whisky. I was hoping it was going to be as good as it was, but  I must admit that, before I tasted it, I feared it was going to be been past it’s prime and not as good as the original three Black Bowmores released in the early 1990s.

Okay, it’s your turn.

53 Responses to “What was the last whisky that really wowed you?”

  1. BourbonBuzz says:

    The last whiskey that really knocked my socks off was the 2006 W.L. Weller Antique Collection from Buffalo Trace. The unfiltered, barrel proof wheated bourbon is unlike any other! very hot, but sweet and full of caramel, nuts, tobacco, and complex flavors. The sediment actually adds character and doesn’t take away from the whiskey. The finish lasts forever and puts a smile on my face. Pair it with a premium cigar and it is pure bliss.

  2. bgulien says:

    My knock-out whisky was the Ardbeg Corryvreckan.
    Even more then the Renaissance, The Corry was, in my opinion, the most balanced Ardbeg I ever tasted.
    Delivers on the smoke and peat, but more then that it’s a very complex tasting experience.
    It was a committee release, so a lot of people couldn’t taste the whisky, but I heard that the Corry is set to replace the Airigh Nam Baist later this year. I hope the general release Corry will be as good as the committee release.

  3. Ox says:

    The last whiskey that really wowed me was the 22yo/136.7 proof (Doug Phillips) Willett rye bottling that I tasted for the first time at the 2008 KBF. I was given a sample early in the week and joked that it was so remarkable that it ruined me for the rest of the festival. It is such a complete whiskey that nothing that I’ve tasted since then has blown me away like it did. I’ve set the bar high with this bottling, but I will enjoy the search for the next eye popper.

  4. Whisky Party says:

    Hmmm…..good question.

    The first time I tried a Laphroaig 15 and an Ardbeg 10, and really figured out that I was an Islay person stands out in my mind as one of my most formative moments in scotch exploration.

    More recently, I tasted a Longmorn-Glenlivet from 1967 bottled by Scott’s Selection that I thought was pretty damn tasty. It tasted like carmelized berries – a really great smoke and fruitiness.

    It was my first Longmorn and I enjoyed it enough that I’m now on the lookout for some official bottlings of Longmorn.

  5. NW says:

    The Highwest 21 year Rye was a revalation for me. Used barrels let the spirit age in peace without becoming an ‘oak eau de vie” and losing it’s grain. Tropical fruits instead of the usual chocolate and spice one finds in older Rye. This is one of those great bottles that lets you know you still have alot to learn about whiskey.

  6. Sam S. says:

    Mine would have to be Highland Park 30.
    The depth that it has with the long finish, and everything balanced very well, make it a delicious treat.

  7. Patrick says:

    Good and difficult question.
    Probably by best surprise over the last 18 months was the old Laphroaig 15 YO 43% 75 cl with 15 YO written in red letter on the main and shoulder labels. An amazing mixture of peat and sherry, very complex, without any off-notes. Just pure pleasure.

  8. butephoto says:

    Most recently the Karuizawa cask from 1971 that came out last year. A shame that the ’72 out this year wasn’t a patch on it.

  9. John Hansell says:

    Bourbonbuzz: Some of those old Wellers were fantastic!

    Ox, ditto some of those Willett’s

    WhiskyParty, I might have that bottle of Scott’s Selection Longmorn. You have inspired me to go and look to see if I do.

    NW, I love the Highwest Rendezvous Rye.

    Sam S., I was just finishing up a bottle of the HP 30 last weekend with a friend. In fact, we didn’t get to the bottom of the bottle, and I gave him the rest of the bottle to take home with him. Is that true friendship or what?

    butephoto, I never had the privilege to have the Karuizawa 1971, but I have heard good things.

  10. Sam S. says:

    Hey John, that indeed is true friendship.
    I consider you my friend.
    Do you have any Highland Park 40 sitting around? 😉

  11. Tony M says:

    Earlier this month, we welcomed an unexpected addition to our family; a three week old rescued kitten! To celebrate, I cracked open a Redbreast 15YR, Green Spot, and Knappoge Castle 1951. I think it was a combination of the whiskies and the moment, but I was blown away, and was truly in heaven!!

  12. Whisky Party says:

    Careful it’s not the 1968 Longmorn Glenlivet. MJ gives it a bad score (thought he always hates independent bottlings). I’m talking strictly about the 1967.

    If you do have it and open it up, I would love to read your thoughts here on the blog.

    • Texas says:

      An old thread I know..but I received a bottle of the Scott’s Selection Longmorn-Glenlivet 1968-2003 as a surprise birthday present and it is just absolutely FANTASTIC. It is 61.3% ABV but it absolutely great neat. A very buttery, fruity nose, with a hint of smoke. Mouth is just absolutely fantastic with smoke, oranges, pineapple, tangerines. Finish is almost peppery, with smoke, more tangerines, and mint.

  13. Amit says:

    I recently had the Glenrothes 1972 32 year old that was simply exceptional!

  14. Todd says:

    Springbank Local Barley Cask, 1966 cask 472

  15. Jon W says:

    I’m going to cheat a little and pick two.

    W.L. Weller 2008 took American whiskey to a new level for me. From start to finish, I think it’s as good as some of the best Scotches I’ve had.

    Springbank 1997/2007 bottled for Park Avenue was a nice surprise. I had heard good things, but wasn’t expecting something quite so pleasant and satisfying.

  16. Leorin says:

    I rescently had the chance to try Jack Wieber’s Port Ellen (it was the Gentle Noses edition, but the Auld Distillers Collection release is said to be from the same cask).
    This is an absolute stunning combination of dark sherry and the leathery peat so typical for the lost Isaly distillery. WOW!

  17. WhiskyNotes says:

    I’m glad to say lots of whiskies are still able to wow me. The old Springbank 21yo for example, or the Bowmore 1968 Anniversary Edition. Of the more recent releases, Highland Park 21yo (travel retail) and Caperdonich 1972 by Duncan Taylor (for Belgium) really impressed me.

  18. John Hansell says:

    Sam S., sadly no HP 40 lying around. I wish I had more of that stuff!

    Tony M: A whisky combo? Gotta love synergism! That’s a topic for a future posting sometime.

    Amit, yes that Glenfarclas 1972 is wonderful stuff. I Have a bottle myself. Two, actually.

    Todd, I remember that Springbank Local Barley. Yum. I don’t have any of that nectar, unfortunately.

    Jon W.: No worries, go ahead and cheat a little.

    Leorin, I haven’t had that Port Ellen, but I have had some great ones over the years. So sad to see that distillery slowing disappearing.

    WhiskyNotes, that’s great to hear! I don’t think I’ve had the fortune to taste the DT Caperdonich, but I can surely second the other three you mention.

  19. Red_Arremer says:

    I hear that Whiskynotes– I come across lots of whiskies that are worth talking about.

    The last whisky that really took me by surprise was a 26 year old Ardbeg from Single Malts of Scotland. It was released a few years ago and I only tasted it recently so I’ve had trouble getting a hold of it. According to the guy at my local liquor store, though, that may change this week, which would be awesome.

  20. Kyle says:

    John, I would have to second your motion toward the latest release of Black Bowmore being the last whisky that really wowed me, but to be a little for realistic I’m going to have to go with a DT Longmorn 34yr cask #8916. Great malt nose, with some nice fruit and an amazing texture to this whisky. Great whisky its a shame the price on the distillery bottling has gone up so much sine being “re-packaged” by Pernod Ricard or maybe I’d enjoy Longmorn more often.

  21. Koz says:

    I recently bought a bottle of Rosebank OMC 1990 for my birthday next week, but ended opening it sooner to celebrate the birth of my son this past week. Very enjoyable!

  22. Steve says:


    Since I generally stick with whiskies at a slightly more humble price point than most mentioned above my opportunities to be “wowed” by a rare or ancient whiskey are a bit limited, so the last major surprise I got came from a completely unexpected source: a miniature of Jim Beam Black. I have to admit I was expecting a mixing bourbon a bit above Beam White so the difference between what I expected and what I got wowed me.

    In order to try whiskies without investing in a fifth I pick up every miniature the local package stores get in (or try at a nice bar for those without miniatures). Beam Black surprised me to the point I went back over the course of a couple of weeks to different stores to get a couple more miniatures to verify this is my new everyday pour.

  23. Harvey Fry says:

    of things fairly widely available i’m still
    very high on PC7. though i like it more
    than he did, i agree with John that a bit of Sherry works better with it’s basic DNA than does the Madeira of PC6. +, by a smidgen, PC5 remains my favorite of the 3.
    hopefully, PC8 will be allowed to come to
    us without ‘ACEing’ or other superfluous

    of things now clementined (Preiss is out, may have a few unspoken for), a Duncan Taylor Bowmore cask 85033, 25/82-08, 54.2%, outrun 211 bottles, about
    $180= has the most concentrated & intense citrusy quality perfectly integrated with
    the peculiar sweet peat style of the make.
    from the moment it hits your nose to the
    too short finish, as you climb to the top
    of Jack’s lemon-lime vine you realize that
    whatever awaits you in the clouds above is
    highly unlikely to be any better than the
    heavenly experience you’ve just come thru.

  24. Louis says:

    For my 50th birthday this past January, I opened the Blackadder Glencadam 28yo/1972 58.2% ABV out of my reserve stock. It was fresh and clean, darn good for a non-sherried Speyside at this age. I was also VERY impressed by the current Glenfiddich 18 and 21 year olds, much more so than when I tried them at Whiskyfest a few years ago. These are all out of character for me, as I typically wouldn’t be interested in anything without a good dose of peat in the winter months.



  25. Neil Fusillo says:

    Whiskies often wow me, really. I just love the stuff. The last I had that really made me think it was amazing was some Black Bowmore a friend had been keeping. We shared it over a weekend of catching up.

    Before that, though, it’s been even the little things. The Canadian Forty Creek Double Barrel Reserve wowed me for its quality and price point. An excellent whisky I could drink every day. I also was incredibly impressed with the Caol Ila 12 — a surprise from Caol Ila. It wowed me because I wasn’t expecting something so… well… impressive from Caol Ila. The Ardbeg Uigeadail wowed me for its overall impact and power. My last bottle of Aberlous A’bunadh wowed me when I added water to it and it opened up into a brilliant, peppery sensation, the likes of which I’d not had since an excellent Malivoire gamay wine.

    I’m actually quite pleased with my ability to still be wowed by whiskies that are not in the realm of bank-breaking, nor are particularly rare.

  26. When I opened up the Laphroaig 10yo cask strength, I was so overwhelmed that I declared it my best whisky yet. No suprises here, as the regular 10yo has my fav bottle of everyday scotch for some time now (together with the Jura 10yo).

    Also, my first Aberlour A’bunadh is something I don’t think I will ever forget. I met this whisky only a few months back, during a beautiful vacation.

    Another one I love got beaten by Jim Murray. I nevertheless think it is great, Whisky for mad people, perhaps… the Ledaig 10yo CS by Chieftains. Jim gave it a score below 70 I think.

    I must come across like I’m a dedicated cask-strengther, which I didn’t think I was… funny.

  27. John Hansell says:

    Harvey, I feel the same about the Port Charlottes. PC5 was my favorite. Still is. Followed by 7 and then 6.

    Neil, you (and others) make an excellent point. The great thing about whisky is that we can still be wowed by some that aren’t that expensive.

  28. swede says:

    Bladnoch Caol Ila 29 yr cask 4940
    expected on early notes – blew me away
    The Bowmore Laimrig
    Did not expect much but it wowed me

  29. The last whisky that really wowed me was the 12 year old Karuizawa Noh. It has a very good Japanese wine finish and it is not like anything else I have tasted before.

    After that there have been some other incredibly good whiskies, but this one really surprised me.

  30. Maltakias says:

    Well i have to say the exceptional Lagavulin 21.He who has never try it mustn’t say he’s an islay lover.

  31. Matt G says:

    For me, the thing that wowed me most recently was Rebel Reserve. It didn’t wow me because it is one of the best I’ve tried, but because I was so shocked that Rebel Yell could produce something so smooth and drinkable. Normally, I wouldn’t touch Rebel Yell with someone else’s mouth, but the Rebel Reserve is a pretty good dram at a great price point.

    As for wowing me by shear quality, that’s a little harder. I seem to find something new every couple of weeks.

  32. Laphroaig 25 yo.

    2,200 bottles worldwide.


  33. David S. says:

    The last whisky that really wowed me, and continues to do so, is the Ardbeg Supernova (US release). The bottle is almost done, but I have both enjoyed a small dram by myself as well as sharing it with friends (it made it to one of Jon’s dba tastings), and am happier for it. It currently my favorite Ardbeg.

    Now if anyone has some Corryvreckan I can sample I might be willing to reconsider…

  34. John M says:

    There are a few…

    I tasted a 1960s Bowmore at the distillery, which was probably the best whisky I’ve had.

    I also loved the Corryvreckan, Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve and Highland Park 21.

    David, I can send you a sample of the Corryvreckan, if you like.


  35. jazz lover says:

    Bruichladdich 31 yr. 1970 44.2%
    Lagavulin 21 yr.
    Highland Park 21 yr Duty Free
    This is why I love Single Malt.

  36. I was taken by surprise by the Signatory Bottled Ben Nevis 1992 16 yr. old I had recently. I had the pleasure of trying about 16 Signatory products recently, but this one really surprised me with its rich flavor of nuts, chocolate, dry spice and a really nice finish. Quite the find.

  37. Vojta K. says:

    Although I didn’t taste it properly, I had this moment with Ardbeg Supernova. I didn’t know what to expect, and it really amazed me.

  38. John Hansell says:

    Matt G., how did Rebel Reserve miss my radar screen? Sounds interesting.

    I’m seeing a lot of the same whiskies being mentioned throughout this thread. Maybe I’ll summarize them in a couple days after the commenting slows down.

    If you haven’t chimed in yet, please do!

  39. sam k says:

    John, the Rebel Yell Reserve has been available for a little while,though not here in PLCB-land except by SLO at $29.79 per with a minimum order of six.

    It’s 90 proof, just like it used to be when it wasn’t available above the Mason-Dixon Line 25 years ago (sort of like the Coors mystique at the time). I’ve been hoping it would approach the quality of that S-W product, and Matt’s assessment gives me reason to believe it might.

    I’ve never bought a bottle of the 80 proof version, just because.

  40. Rich says:

    to echo two of the above: the Ardbeg Corryvreckan 2008 Committee Reserve (57.1%), and the Lagavulin 2007 21 year (56.5%). perhaps the two best single malts i have ever had.

    honorable mention to the Glendronach 33 year and the 1981 Talisker 20 year.

    a surprise nod to the Ardbeg 1991 16 year rum cask.

    and to be fair, i have not yet opened my Laphroaig 25 year (50.9%), Brora 2007 30 year (55.7%) or Highland Park 21 year (47.5%).

    so, i have goodness in my past, and goodness in my future. 🙂

  41. Paul M. says:

    Highland Park 33 y.o. – Binnys hand selected cask.

  42. John Hansell says:

    Paul M., yes I remember that Binnys HP very well. In fact, I still have a few drops left in my bottle.

    • mongo says:

      i tried to order this recently only to receive a call from the internet orders people saying that while some of the stores (or at least one) had it, they didn’t have it at wherever the online orders are fulfilled and that arcane illinois liquor laws don’t allow them to transport it there to be shipped. so i guess i’ll have to hope that it’ll still be in stock in a physical store (they also wouldn’t tell me how many bottles they had left) when i’m next in chicago, and that i’ll still be willing to drop that much money on a single bottle (and that if it is and i am my wife won’t be with me when i buy it…).

  43. Bruichladdict says:

    Spirit of Toronto 2009:

    Canadian release of Springbank 10, 15, and 18. The 18 was reminiscent of The Glenfarclas of the same age! The 10 impressed me MORE than the 15, but the 18 came out on tops.

    Colour was quite deceiving though! This is a great example of how vatting of first fill and refill of sherry and bourbon can impart magnificent flavour without the colour. They didn’t feel the need to adulter with E150. Why should they? When the quality is there, there’s no need. Listen up Macallan!

  44. TheMandarin says:

    Brora 26, Duncan Taylor bottling.

    Sit down after a long walk and enjoy this tasteful, strong but silent type. A beautiful, deep whisky that won’t bullshit you.

  45. Rick says:

    Just last weekend during a road trip in Alberta I was given a real treat to taste. A 39 year old Tullibardine vintage 1966.

    This one really blew me away, the best whiskey I have tasted to date. The multitude of holiday desert flavors and aromas saturated my senses and lingered well in to the evening.

    I swear I could still taste it even after having dinner.

    My thanks to David Michaels at Willow Park in Calgary.

  46. Lawrence says:

    The new Laphroaig 18 ( a bit of wow and a bit of relief that is was good). Aberlour 18 and a really recent wow…Glencadam 10 which I found to be awesome.

  47. Carl H says:

    Suntory Yamazaki 18 Year Old – knocked my honorable socks off.

  48. Richard Blaine says:

    I was sooooooo happy to try a 42 year old 1966 single cask of Tullibardine at Willow Park in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. It was the single darkest, richest, most complex sherry matured whisky I have ever had! The flavors just went on and on, as did the finish.

    I was lucky to be helped by Brice Coates, a Willow Park scotch expert. He explained the history of the barrel, and its impressive pedigree being the sister cask of the 1966 world cup edition. A unique experience. Thanks Brice!
    (…and its exclusive to Willow Park. So, I had to buy a bottle.)

  49. Shane says:

    I just had a dram of the first Octomore from Bruichladdie. It was very suprising! Started off sweet like a heavy syrup (not quite the descriptive word I was looking for but…) on the front of my tongue and as it moved back through my mouth gave off a citrus flavour and as I drew in my breath it unleashed a huge smokey flavour that stayed in my mouth for a good 10 minutes. I believe it is considered th emost heavily peated single malt around…… until they top it that is!

    Haven’t met Brice from Willow yet however David Michaels has been a huge help numerous times with picks for my Scotch club!

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