Start spreading the news: WhiskyFest New York on November 16th will be the premier whisky event of the year. After all, it’s WhiskyFest’s 20th anniversary, and there will be over 115 tables tables pouring more than 480 whiskies to celebrate. And scotch lovers, rejoice—WhiskyFest New York will have a truly stupendous selection of single malts, blended malts, and blends for you to explore. These highlights are just a small portion of what’s on offer, so be sure to check out the full list—and don’t miss our guide to WhiskyFest, which will help you get the most out of the event. And if you can’t make it to NYC or are already jonesing for the next one, start planning ahead: tickets for the 2018 WhiskyFest events go on sale on November 9.
Ardbeg An Oa
For ten years, there were just three flagship Ardbegs: 10 year old, Corryvreckan, and Uigeadail, each distinctive in its own right. Now there are four. An Oa, aged in new oak, Pedro Ximénez sherry casks, and ex-bourbon casks and married in a “gathering vat,” is a balanced Ardbeg that should appeal to both newcomers and die-hard fans.
Lagavulin and Oban Distiller’s Editions
Every year, Diageo releases limited Distiller’s Editions of some of its single malts. They’re slightly different than the distilleries’ core offerings, often with an unusual finish, and they’re always worth trying. This year, Diageo is pouring the Distiller’s Editions of both Oban and Lagavulin at WhiskyFest. Try the Oban early, then stop by again at the end of the night for the peaty pleasure of Lagavulin.
Laphroaig Cairdeas 2017
If you’re a peathead, Laphroaig is surely already on your list for WhiskyFest New York. The venerable Islay distillery is pouring many great whiskies, including its entire core range, but the highlight is surely Laphroaig Cairdeas 2017 Edition. This year’s annual limited-edition release (pronounced “Car-chiss”) is a cask-strength version of Laphroaig Quarter Cask, and a phenomenal dram. VIPs, stop by early for Laphroaig 25 year old.
Macallan Rare Cask
In certain circles, non-age-statement whiskies get snubbed. The folks at Macallan don’t run in those circles: their NAS whiskies are consistently high quality, showcasing the power of blending when it’s freed from age constraints. Macallan Rare Cask is a $300 whisky without an age statement. Taste it for yourself, and see that age isn’t the only thing that matters. Purists can stick to the excellent Macallan Fine Oak 15 year old.
Do the different regions of Scotland still offer distinctive flavor profiles? Whisky lovers argue back and forth endlessly on the question, but independent bottler Douglas Laing & Co. cuts to the chase with regional blended malts that really do reflect those traditional differences. Try The Epicurean for a taste of the Lowlands, Timorous Beastie for the Highlands, Scallywag for Speyside, Rock Oyster for the Islands, or go for the most famous of the Douglas Laing blends—Big Peat, a blended malt made entirely with whiskies from Islay distilleries, including Port Ellen.
GlenDronach 18 year old
GlenDronach is perfect for fans of heavily sherried whiskies. It’s viscous, rich, oily, and full-flavored—one of the purest representations of the style. Compare the 12 year old to the 18 year old, but don’t worry if you can’t pick a favorite—just enjoy.
Old Pulteney 17 year old
Old Pulteney calls itself the maritime malt for a reason, and it’s not just marketing: the distillery is located right on the sea, and the whisky has distinctive saline, briny notes. Try the recently discontinued Old Pulteney 17 year old while you still can, and grab a nip of the 12 year old too—it’s a classic.
Independent bottlers purchase high-quality casks from other distilleries and release them on their own, often as single casks. Wemyss Malts is bringing its three newest evocatively named, single cask whiskies to WhiskyFest: Coastal Orchard (19 year old Clynelish), Italian Bakery Delight (19 year old Glenrothes) and Hike to the Haven (25 year-old Bunnahabhain). Give them a taste and find out why some scotch lovers can’t get enough independently bottled whisky. Pro-tip: the name rhymes with “reams.”