Whisky Advocate

Top 10 Whiskies Reviewed in the Summer 2014 Issue Buying Guide

May 13th, 2014

Here’s a sneak preview of our Summer 2014 issue’s Buying Guide. A total of 117 whiskies were reviewed for this issue. We welcomed two new members to our review team: Jonny McCormick (blended scotch, blended malts, grain, Irish, and world whisky) and Geoffrey Kleinman (flavored whiskies and U.S.-exclusive imports).

Crown-Royal-XO-bottle#10 – Crown Royal XO, 40%, $45

A rich luxurious whisky finished in cognac casks, as was the crisper, brighter Cask No. 16 that it replaces. This is the cedary, leathery, tobacco-ish sipping whisky of the private club. Simple toffee and the cherry essence of Beaujolais nouveau evolve into ripe red apples and heavy, dusky, dark fruit with candied citrus peel, bitter almond skins, and hints of oak. Sizzling gingery spice and white pepper linger over textured sandalwood. Defined by its heavy, creamy body. —Davin de Kergommeaux

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 92

#9 – Evan Williams Single Barrel (Barrel No. 1) 2004, 43.3%, $27

Polished and nicely balanced, with caramel as the main note, followed by candied fruit, soft vanilla, sweet corn, and nougat. Subtle spice (ginger, cinnamon) and gentle oak on the finish round out the sweet notes. Easygoing demeanor and very drinkable. Great value too! A very pleasing, versatile bourbon. —John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93JW Odyssey

#8 – Johnnie Walker Odyssey, 40%, $1,100

Jim Beveridge delivered these aromas of toffee apple, peach, and rich berry fruits by working with European oak casks. The smoke is timid, with hints of background salinity. The finely structured mouthfeel is where this triple malt whisky truly shines: the polished smoothness is exceptional. The flavor journey begins with honey, citrus, and swirling melted chocolate, building to a fire of squeezed orange oils, dry fruits, and pecan nuttiness before concluding with rich espresso, dark caramels, and plain chocolate. Immaculate.—Jonny McCormick

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93

#7 – Cragganmore Triple Matured Edition, 48%, £80

This is Cragganmore in early autumnal guise. Dry leaves underfoot, ripe black fruits on the bushes, waxed jacket, chestnut, and a whiff of cedary smoke, opening into dried peach. The palate is thickly textured, with those fruits, dark chocolate, and pomegranate molasses. The immensely long finish gives you light pepper, smoke, and blackberry jam. Cragganmore at its very best, and at a great price. —Dave Broom

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93mortlach_18yo

#6 – Mortlach 18 year old, 43.4%, £180/500 ml

Deep amber in color with the green glints of first-fill sherry, this has bosky notes and meat—mutton and venison—plus graphite, bitter chocolate, and wet rock before layers of dried stone fruits and date. This is the most savory and Bovril-like of the new range. The palate is feral and earthy; think mushroom with game pie, and rowan berries. Deep, but with more dimensions than the previous 16 year old which, in comparison, seems like a blunt instrument.—Dave Broom

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93

#5 – Brora 40 year old Single Cask 1972 Vintage, 59.1%, £7,000

Just 160 bottles of 1972 Brora are available through UK World of Whiskies and World Duty Free Group stores. The oldest bottling of Brora to date was distilled using heavily-peated malt. A big hit of oily peat on the early nose, with malt, dried fruit, and black pepper. Mildly medicinal. The palate yields bonfire ash, licorice, honey, more pepper, and well-integrated oak. The finish is long, with peat smoke, plain chocolate, and tannins lingering in harmony. Complex and rewarding. —Gavin D Smith

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 94

#4 – The John Walker, 40%, $3,500

The pinnacle of the current Johnnie Walker range, this is a rare, inimitable blend of just nine whiskies. It exudes the aromas of ripe bananitos, whole mango, satsuma, vanilla seeds, barley awns, butter biscuits, and crystallized pineapple. The supple grain sustains indulgent, characterful malts creating a weighty, smooth mouthfeel. I’m smitten by the vanilla creaminess, burgeoning deep fruit layers, how it swells with a satisfying snuffbox smokiness. A beautifully styled blend delivering a captivating, sensuous experience. (330 bottles only)—Jonny McCormick

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 94Last Drop 50 year old

#3 – The Last Drop 50 year old, 50.9%, $4,000

Would you have gambled The Last Drop 1960 liquid in new sherry wood for four more years? The indulgent nose proffers maple syrup, buckwheat honey, roasted spices, blue grapes, pomegranate, raspberry compote, cilantro, pandan leaf, and beefsteak juices soaking into mushroom gills. The complex, lustrous mouthfeel is replete with a sheen of rich maltiness, molasses lashed by sherry before a dry, resinous finish. Water brings an oily nuttiness, then further drops produce a silky, clingy texture. Glorious. Miraculous. Victorious. (388 bottles only) —Jonny McCormick

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 95

peatmonster_park-avenue_front2#2 – Compass Box The Peat Monster 10th Anniversary Special Cask Strength Bottling, 54.7%, $120

As you’d expect, solid peat is the first thing out of the glass, but this isn’t just a peat beast. Underneath are honey, dried fruit, and malt. The palate is all about balance with honeyed malt, raisin, and oak spice all complementing smoky peat. A lush mouthfeel makes you forget it’s cask strength. A pure love note in a glass from Compass Box to Park Avenue Liquor.  (Park Avenue Liquor only.) —Geoffrey Kleinman

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 95
Bookers 25th Anniv Bottle

#1 – Booker’s 25th Anniversary Bourbon Batch No 2014-1, 65.4%, $100

The complete package: uncut, unfiltered, full-flavored, richly textured (almost chewy), and very complex. Notes of toffee-coated nuts, vanilla fudge, polished leather, cedar-tinged tobacco, barrel char, cocoa powder, and a hint of fig, wrapped up with a firm oak grip on the finish. Worth every penny of the premium price being charged for this commemorative release. —John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 96

13 Responses to “Top 10 Whiskies Reviewed in the Summer 2014 Issue Buying Guide”

  1. @alligatorchar says:

    I’ve tried exactly one of these listed whiskeys having bought a bottle of the Booker’s 25th. Our bourbon society had a blind taste against the standard Booker’s. The anniversary edition barely edge out the regular edition. I’m happy to have tried it but couldn’t see buying a second bottle.

    • RWT says:

      But isn’t that what special editions are all about? Edging out the normal release? It’s all a matter of taste anyway…

  2. ericinmtl says:

    Phew….I missed out on buying a bottle. Now I don’t feel as bad. Or should I still feel bad out it ?

  3. Sam Komlenic says:

    Hey wait…there are some very affordable whiskeys here. Did we make a mistake somewhere?? :^D

    • Dan Z. says:

      Very funny. There is an article in today’s Wall Street Journal: You’re Not Worthy: Snubbed Customers Snap Up Luxury Goods – For luxury-goods retailers, nothing spikes sales like snubbing the customer.

      Seriously, a few of these look interesting from a price standpoint. However 1 is from an outfit I won’t do business with and another, the Bookers, I have given up on finding.

      • BM says:

        Dan, not sure where you’re located but I’ve seen Booker’s 25th on the shelf in the Indianapolis area as recently as this past weekend.

        • Dan Z. says:

          Thanks. I am in NY. I may have spoken too soon on the Bookers. It looks like I may have found one and I am looking forward to it.

          • Adam says:

            Which company do you avoid doing business with?

            Gotta say, can’t complain too much about the prices here. Evan Williams at least is both really cheap and really easy to find, although it probably won’t be Barrel #1….

  4. DLH says:

    I’m quite surprised that the 2004 vintage EW Single Barrel rated so high. I have tried two different barrels and both seemed headsy to me, very unlike previous vintages I have had. No doubt it is still a nice whisky but it doesn’t even begin to compare to 2003 (also rated a 93) or 2000. But then again, all of our tastes are different; perhaps barrel number 1 wasn’t as headsy as the two I have had.

    I still very much enjoy the Heaven Hill product line but I won’t buy quite as much 2004 as I did with the 2003 and 2000 vintages. And I get to look forward to the 2005 vintage!

  5. DLH says:

    BTW, the barrels I have tried are 197 and 254.

  6. EricH says:

    Woah, I never expected to own a bottle of the #1 Whiskey. I happened to see a bottle at BevMo and said why not.

  7. JSW1 says:

    Very excited to have four bottles of the Booker’s 25th. I had 5 but was able to trade straight up for a bottle of the Four Roses 125th. When I first saw the Booker’s 25th, I wasn’t aware of the limited edition release. I was in Illinois on a road trip and did a google search while at the liquor store. When I read these were the last Booker Noe barrels, I bought it right away. When I returned home to Kansas City, I found the next 4 bottles in 3 different Kansas liquor stores. I plan to drink one in the near future and save the rest for special occasions. I might also add the presentation is excellent….it simply looks delicious.

  8. narendra k.gupta says:

    lucky are those who have enjoyed i am waiting of my turn to enjoy NKG

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