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Whisky Advocate’s Fall 2015 Issue’s 10 Highest-Rated Whiskies

August 12th, 2015

WT Master's Keep Bottle x

The Fall 2015 issue of Whisky Advocate magazine will be hitting the newsstand in early September. Here’s a sneak preview of the issue’s Buying Guide reviews; the 10 highest-rated whiskies of the issue.

 

#10 – Wild Turkey Master’s Keep, 43.4%, $150

A very pricy (for Wild Turkey) 17 year old whiskey honoring master distiller Jimmy Russell. Nose is hot for the proof, with oak, dried barrel drool, warm dried corn, tobacco barn, and teaberry. Entry is not hot; rather, a thread of sweet syrup spreads out into thoroughly integrated corn and oak. Finish slides into drier oak. A fascinating journey through bourbon flavors, this is both lighter and more complex than expected. I still prefer younger Wild Turkey, but…—Lew Bryson

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 91

#Nikka Coffey Grain 750ml_300 x9 – Nikka Coffey Grain, 45%, $65

Sweet, with subtle, crisp, nutty oak, then comes fudge, ripe banana, and peach. The overall effect is like eating vanilla ice cream with toffee fudge and hazelnut sprinkles. The structure is thick and physical, the palate sweet and quite fat, with light hints of raspberry, fruit salad. A jag of acidity freshens the delivery on the finish. With water there’s more toffee, and it becomes slightly more yielding, with less oak. For me the gold standard of grain.—Dave BroomCompass Box Hedonism Quindecimus x

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 92

#8 – Compass Box Hedonism Quindecimus, 46%, $200

How time flies! This eloquent blended grain marks CBWC’s 15th anniversary and the combination of these aged grains is idiosyncratic of whisky auteur John Glaser’s distinctive taste. Rich honey, apricot stone, crisp spices, vanilla custard, gentle oak char, and tropical fruits promise a real reward. Succulently juicy, with melon, apple, and caramel, subtly paced, with chocolate and dark fruit infiltrating. Slowly the sweetness depletes to black pepper and spiced roast meats. Defer swallowing for as long as possible. (5,689 bottles)—Jonny McCormick

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 92

Canadian-Rockies-21yr-46percent x#7 – Canadian Rockies 21 year old (batch 2), 46%, C$69

When Thomas Chen introduced Canadian Rockies in Taiwan, he chose Highwood Distillers in High River, Alberta, to supply a delicate yet fragrant, fruit-laden whisky that would please the Taiwanese palate. Now launching in Canada, Chen upped the bottling strength to 46% to boost the flavor. The complex, exotic fruit salad and faint lilac-like flowers that characterized the original remain, along with blistering white pepper, sweet oak caramels, and crisp, clean barrel notes on a luxurious, creamy palate. (Canada only) —Davin de KergommeauxBT French Oak Barrel Head Aged only x

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 92

#6 – Buffalo Trace French Oak Barrel Head Aged, 45%, $47/375 ml

Nicely round flavor profile, with complex notes of creamy vanilla, subtle tropical fruit, mocha, fennel seed, and light tobacco. Lingering cinnamon spice and cocoa on the finish. An extremely drinkable whiskey that entertains throughout. —John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 92

Bernheim-Original-7-year-old-Straight-Wheat x#5 – Bernheim Original 7 year old Straight Wheat, 45%, $35

This select bottling of Bernheim Original comes from Warehouse Y on the 4th floor, and is non-chill filtered. Without the filtering, the nose is notably more expressive and becomes a real showcase for wheat grain, oak spice, caramel, and citrus. On the palate, this whiskey maintains a firm balance between soft and strong, with supple wheat grain entwined with caramel, oak, and cinnamon spice. A long, flavorful finish caps off a well-curated selection of an excellent whiskey. (Julio’s Liquors only)Geoffrey KleinmanBARRELL Whiskey Batch 0001 x

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 92

#4 – Barrell Whiskey Batch 001, 61.25%, $59

7 year old whiskey (an unspecified “corn, rye, and malted barley” mashbill “distilled in Indiana”) aged in used barrels. Maple syrup, well-browned popovers, and Canada mint lozenges in a boozy-hot nose. Richly sweet on the palate: pastry dough, hints of anise, buttery and slightly-burnt cornbread, syrupy dark fruits: complex, rich, delicious. Water brings out more of the dough and tames the heat. Delicious, unique, intriguing. Sourced whiskey.—Lew Bryson

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 92

Pigs-in-Plaster x#3 – The Scotch Malt Whisky Society Pigs in Plaster 14 year old (#4.1980, 59.1%, $140

This single cask, distilled at Highland Park, is an excellent example of why distilleries sell off certain casks. On the nose it’s Highland Park’s signature sherry and peat, but on the palate it’s a beast. Monster peat smoke surfs on a lush layer of berry and malt. This builds to a peak with smoke, salt, and oak spice, bolstered by the high proof. A smoky, dry finish rounds off a monster whisky, different from Highland Park’s style, but very interesting. (Julio’s Liquors only)Geoffrey KleinmanEWSB 2005

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93

#2 – Evan Williams Single Barrel 2005 Vintage (barrel #292), 43.3%, $29

Complex fruit (clementine, pineapple, golden raisin) balanced nicely with honey, vanilla custard, and dusty corn, along with a sprinkling of cinnamon and nutmeg. An extremely versatile whiskey with its medium weight, easy to embrace personality, and subtle charms. Perennially one of the best values in whiskey.—John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93

#1 – The Exclusive Malts 13 year old 2002 (cask #20021), 52.2%, $ 135

The Exclusive Malts 13 year old 2002 Irish Whiskey xThis 13 year old malt from central Ireland is an uncommon foray into the Irish whiskey space for the Exclusive Malts Collection. Pure malt is the focus of the nose which supports that malt with tart green apple. On the palate this whiskey is a stunning mix of lush, sweet honey, salt, malt, green apple, and ginger spice. The balance and integration are nothing short of perfect. A long malty finish caps off one of the best Irish whiskeys I’ve had. (U.S. only)Geoffrey Kleinman

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 96

27 Responses to “Whisky Advocate’s Fall 2015 Issue’s 10 Highest-Rated Whiskies”

  1. Chris Dion says:

    Lew,
    Because Barrell Whiskey Batch 001 is just designated as “whiskey,” can it contain flavorings? Sugar? Other rounders? What %? I’m not judging, just curious.

    Regards, Chris

    • Lew Bryson says:

      I’m not sure it’s a great label, regs-wise. All it says is “Whiskey” and “American whiskey.” And when you look at section 5.23(a) of the Standards of Identity…things get somewhat nebulous. (https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/27/5.23#a) I would say no, it shouldn’t contain flavorings (even “harmless coloring, flavoring and blending materials”) with that label. But I’d sure like to know.

      • sku says:

        If it’s not straight and it’s not bourbon, it can have up to 2.5% coloring or flavoring additives.

        • Lew Bryson says:

          It’s seven years old…but the American oak was used.
          And isn’t the 2.5% limit down to something “traditional”? Where’s that here?
          Like I said — as we’ve all said, at some point — I’d really like to know what’s in that bottle.

        • Lew Bryson says:

          Oh, and…if MGP can make it taste like that with flavoring additives? I may have to revisit my stance on them.

          • Joe Beatrice says:

            I’m happy to address these questions. Barrell Whiskey Batch 001 is a straight whiskey. There are no sugar, rounders, or flavor additives in this whiskey. It is corn, rye and malted barley. I do have the specifications of product report of what was in the barrels I used. I was combining whiskeys of different ages from the same state but thought the regulations were not clear about using the word straight with different years. So I chose not to use the word straight.

          • Lew Bryson says:

            Thanks, Joe, much appreciated. Was part of it aged in used barrels? That’s what the report I got said.

          • Andrew C-W says:

            How can Barrel Whiskey 001 be classified as Straight Whiskey if it is aged in used oak?

          • Lew Bryson says:

            Andrew, as Sam points out below, it can’t be straight if it’s aged even partly in used barrels.

  2. RN says:

    ABV cited for Exclusive Malts 13 Irish appears to be a typo. ABV of bottle pictured (same cask #) is 52.2%.

  3. Joe Beatrice says:

    Yes – it was aged in used barrels. That’s why I can’t call it bourbon.

  4. Nick says:

    Regarding the Barrell Whiskey – in this case based on the discussion, it seems this would be best described as “A blend of whiskeys distilled from bourbon mash,” and further “Aged in used bourbon barrels” which can be inferred by your comments Joe. It seems that the reason it cannot be called “bourbon” in any sense is due to it being aged in used barrels from the beginning which implies that the mashbill/distillation process would otherwise qualify it as bourbon. Additionally, your reference (Joe) to being unsure whether the term “straight” could be used suggests that it could actually be a blend of straight bourbons (of different ages) that were then finished in used barrels for some period of time (blended either prior to or after that finish aging). By visiting the Barrell Bourbon company website, it could be inferred that it was aged in used barrels from the beginning (still not 100% clear on this), however the mashbill lists the ingredients without percentages. From a consumer standpoint, the percentages are nice to know because it helps us understand what the base whiskey traits may be – are we talking bourbon base, rye base, or maybe even a malted barley base? To that end, High West sets a great example of explaining what’s in the bottle on their website, and how the whiskey would be specifically classified via their labels. The description of what makes up this Barrell Whiskey seems to be almost there, but a bit more clarification is always appreciated.

    Now that I’ve written this, I realize it may sound critical which was not the original intent. If anything, it’s just a request for additional clarification. I have not had the Barrell Whiskey yet but am looking forward to the opportunity to try it.

    • Nick says:

      For the record Joe Beatrice saw this comment and reached out to us directly to address any questions more specifically. Will be talking with him more and posting a review / write up soon. Really appreciate the response from Joe.

  5. Joe,
    Will the under-served citizens of New Jersey get a chance to taste this? As I am trade, who distributes or will distibute in our great Garden State

    Peter Bernstein

  6. Matt sellers says:

    While a prefer a high proof bourbon wiskey (my everyday is Eagle Rare 10yr), I have been drinking quite a bit of Berheim 7 year, it is amazing for a wheat based wiskey. Well worth the $25-30 price. Nice to see that it is getting some press.

  7. Joe W says:

    Thank you Joe Beatrice for your input.

  8. OudErnest says:

    I didn’t see the Bernheim in the Fall issue that wa just delivered. Maybe it was accidentally left out.

    • Lew Bryson says:

      Page 123, first column, halfway down. It’s not a bourbon, so it’s in a different category, along with the Barrell Whiskey.

  9. OudErnest says:

    Thanks Lew, I was looking for a wheat category so must haveoverlooked it. I bought a bottle a Julio’s over the weekend so looking forward to trying it!

    • Lew Bryson says:

      Excellent!

      We found that an “Other” category was becoming more and more useful, especially compared to, for example, a “Wheat” category that had one entry. American whiskey is a moving target right now!

  10. MadMex says:

    That sure is a good looking bottle from Wild Turkey.

  11. Andy Kirkbride says:

    Sad that Woodinville Whiskey Co ‘straight bourbon whiskey’ wasn’t released in time. This is the recipe that was crafted with Dave Pickerell from Makers.

    Have you sampled it yet? What’s your impression of them as a distillery?

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