William Larue Weller (Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2017), 64.1%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $90
This is a work of art. It begins by revealing vanilla, from custard to cake icing. Then it speaks caramel with a dark chew, crème brûlée, and Werther’s Original hard candy. From here, complexity takes over, with candied popcorn, butterscotch, chocolate ganache, French toast, maple, honey, pumpkin pie, fried pie dough, blueberries, and cinnamon, with hints of molasses and pecan. The long finish seems to offer a concentration of all the flavors. Delicious. Editor's Choice.
Wild Turkey often exhibits a delightful earthiness, and when earth meets sweet in whiskey, it’s a beautiful thing. Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Decades achieves a rich texture where deep-tilled soil, fresh-cut grass, and mushrooms meet leather and dark chocolate, followed by dill, oregano, and oak. Caramel and vanilla explode over a heavy dose of cinnamon. Master distiller Eddie Russell mingled barrels ranging from 10 to 20 years old in order to strike this balance and complexity. His method displays the potential of combining extremely old stocks into batches with younger barrels to build a great whiskey. Number 3 in the 2017 Top 20
Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch (2017 Release), 53.95%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $130
This is an ode to this bourbon’s old-school style that, post-caramel and cinnamon, is balanced with dried blueberries, sweet cornbread, nutmeg, saffron, citrus, and slight hints of chipotle, ginger, and clove. Under the beautiful spice come vanilla cake batter, almond butter, and salt water taffy that walk it to a finish that just doesn’t quit. It’s the vanilla-forward finish that makes this an upper-echelon whiskey. (13,800 bottles for the U.S.)
George T. Stagg (Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2017), 64.6%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $90
Caramel. Caramel. Caramel. It comes early and remains to the finish. In between this caramel sandwich, it’s nutmeg, cinnamon, jasmine, rose petals, baked apples, fudge, pecan pie, peanut brittle, and roasted peanuts. Over a mouth-coating palate, its complexity tingles and every note plays just under the rich and layered caramel that presents itself as a chew on the extremely long finish. This is a must-have sipper.
The first bottling of Astar was released in 2008. The 2017 release was matured in casks made of oak from Missouri’s Ozark Mountains. The nose is floral, with rosehips, orange blossom, and milk chocolate-coated Turkish delight. Honey and citrus notes follow. Voluptuous on the palate; sweet, even sugary fresh fruit notes, plus vanilla, cinnamon, and cloves. Drying from coconut to plain chocolate in the lengthy finish. Extremely accomplished. (Individual reviewer rating: 93)
Glenmorangie Astar returns after a five-year absence. Astar is matured in custom toasted casks made from slow-growing trees on north-facing slopes in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri. The barrels harbor bourbon for four years before heading to Glenmorangie. That level of provenance doesn’t come cheap, which is why the original Astar was discontinued in 2012, just four years after its acclaimed appearance. The exquisite Glenmorangie aromas and flavors—floral, with rose hips and orange blossom—are dialed up to new levels of intensity, while the voluptuous and sweet palate exudes harmony and balance. Number 2 in the 2017 Top 20
Lagavulin 12 year old (Diageo Special Releases 2017), 56.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $130
This is the 15th Special Releases bottling of Lagavulin 12 year old. Matured in refill American oak hogsheads. The nose is smoky, with kippers, charcuterie, and bonfire embers, offset by berry fruits. On the unctuous palate, smoke blends with vanilla, green apples, and licorice, plus pepper and sea salt. Peppery, ashy peat in the lengthy finish. (Individual reviewer rating: 91)
Lagavulin 12 year old (Diageo Special Releases 2017), 56.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $130
Conventional wisdom suggests that Lagavulin is at its peak at 16 years of age. However, this superlative 12 year old confirms why many consumers like their Lagavulin younger. This is Lagavulin at its very best: bold, yet complex and satisfying; full of character, with smoky, savory, maritime, sweet vanilla, and fruit notes all merging into a balanced and eminently drinkable whole. It takes a few drops of water well, releasing burnt grass aromas and more palate sweetness. The Diageo Special Releases are not known to be bargains, but this Lagavulin is sensibly priced, and the greatest all-around value from the 2017 lineup. Number 4 in the 2017 Top 20
Rejoice! Those greedy angels have left sufficient liquid behind in the Amrut warehouse for a new release. Chocolate ganache, dark fudge, rye bread, toasted fennel seed, overripe mango, lavender, and parma violet aromas. It’s divine: chocolate brownie, orange peel, espresso, bramble, candied fruit jellies, toffee, and blackened oak, with a finish of fruity chocolate. Repay such celestial avarice by acquiring some of this heavenly whisky for yourself. (180 bottles for the U.S.)
As bourbon matures in new charred oak barrels over time, it approaches a perilous point when the oak dominates the flavor. To sip Elijah Craig at 12 years of age—at full barrel proof, without dilution or filtering—is to taste bourbon at its apex, so dangerously close to going over the crest of the hill, yet delivering a massive mouthful of incredibly robust flavors that drape leathery oak over a gooey caramel core, sprinkled with baking spice, while candied nuts and tobacco leaf notes appear on a drying finish dusted with cocoa. Number 1 in the 2017 Top 20
Collectivum XXVIII (Diageo Special Releases 2017), 57.3%
Blended Malt Scotch Whisky | $164
An incredibly complex creation using stock from Diageo’s 28 operational single malt distilleries, this has minted toffee, gummy bears, raw gooseberry, fresh whole grain bread, and earthy spices shaken over sweet banoffee pie. Rich fruit, cocoa, granular white chocolate, dark citrus, waxy caramel bars, nutmeg, cinnamon, and bitter dark chocolate. Water stimulates green fruit notes. A beautiful sugared almond note materializes with sweet fudge and dried apple dipped in chocolate. £125
Following the Spice Tree recipe of 60% Clynelish, 20% Dailuaine, and 20% Teaninich, Extravaganza’s core was matured for more than four additional years in light/medium toast, refill, and heavy toast hybrid casks of American and French oak. Finally, sherry-matured Glen Ord, Benrinnes, and Allt-a-Bhainne were added to the mix. The elaborate process is typical of maverick blender John Glaser, but it’s his results that count. Flavors of peanut brittle, toasted coconut, and pale, light sherry translate into a delicious honeyed palate of caramelized sugar, red apple, and red berry fruit. Ginger and clove provide further rigor before a finish of incendiary spices. Number 7 in the 2017 Top 20
Ardbeg's first standard release in nearly a decade, An Oa is matured in virgin oak, Pedro Ximénez, and bourbon barrels, with component whiskies married in the distillery's French oak 'Gathering Vat.' The nose offers sweet peat, smoky lemon rind, ginger, and angelica. A soft and sweet palate entry is followed by hot peat, black tea, peppery cloves, and aniseed. Black pepper lingers through the long, smoky finish.
Ardbeg doles out occasional limited releases for their avid fans, but for nearly a decade the core range consisted of just three whiskies: 10 year old, Uigeadail, and Corryvreckan. The addition of An Oa, matured in a combination of virgin oak, Pedro Ximénez sherry, and bourbon barrels, and married in a French oak ‘gathering vat’ prior to bottling, marks a reason to celebrate. An Oa is a more approachable Ardbeg. It lacks some of the typical oiliness, but flavor and complexity abound with hot peat, black tea, and peppery cloves. Die-hard Ardbeg fans should have no complaints, and new converts have a real treat in store. Number 6 in the 2017 Top 20
Brora 34 year old (Diageo Special Releases 2017), 51.9%
Single Malt Scotch | $1,700
Distilled in 1982, this expression was matured in refill American oak hogsheads. It is the 16th Brora in the Special Releases series. Ripe pears and vanilla on the nose; progressively more perfumed, with developing toffee notes. Slightly waxy on the palate, with fresh-squeezed lemon and sweet background smoke contrasting with spicy dark berries. Plain chocolate, sultanas, and raisins in the medium-length finish. A relatively restrained Brora. (3,000 bottles)
This veteran Dalmore was matured successively in bourbon casks, Matusalem oloroso sherry casks, colheita port pipes, more bourbon wood, and finally, Champagne casks. The nose offers orange marmalade, vanilla, milk chocolate, maraschino cherries, white pepper, and a hint of black treacle. Sweet sherry and sultanas on the early palate, with developing prunes and licorice. The finish is extremely long, with increasing licorice, plain chocolate, wood spice, and tannic oak. (50 bottles)
Port Ellen 37 year old (Diageo Special Releases 2017), 51%
Single Malt Scotch | $3,500
This 1979 vintage is the 17th Special Releases Port Ellen. It has been aged in refill American oak hogsheads and butts. The nose offers fresh-mown grass, ripe pears, and damp tweed, before smoked fish and bonfire aromas emerge. The oily palate features spicy peat, barbecued meat, and peaches in syrup. Very long in the finish; smoky and earthy, with a hint of chili and mouth-drying tannins. (2,988 bottles)
Historically used for blending, Tamdhu flies under the radar of many scotch aficionados. But this underappreciated Speyside whisky compares well with more famous sherry bombs by offering a sweet, savory, slightly funky depth. At first sniff, Tamdhu seems like it might knock you out with one blow—but this gentle giant is a lover, not a fighter. Viscous and meaty, this cask-strength stunner reveals dried fruit, dark chocolate ganache, ginger spice, and saline minerality, thundering softly into a long finish. Ian Macleod Distillers revived Tamdhu, and their pledge to bring Rosebank back to life excites us to rediscover more top-quality whisky with a distinct identity. Number 8 in the 2017 Top 20
It’s like someone just turned up the volume on flavor. Cherry fudge, marshmallow, vanilla pod, ristretto, luscious caramel, almond-topped Dundee cake, and wood spices. Dark, oily, and muscular, with burnished orange, clove, licorice, and burnt char. Sweetness brims over the tongue with apple, pear,
and malted barley as it softens to a beautiful velvety texture. This whisky’s great journey
is over. The baked apricot instigates an eternal finish (1,352 bottles, 300 for the U.S.)
Exclusive Malts Irish 13 year old (distilled 2003), 54.2%
Irish | $125
This gorgeous whiskey has taken on a lot of sherry character from the refill sherry hogshead: cherry, prune, chocolate orange, baked pineapple chunks, and toasted spice. A good weighty structure boasting deep citrus intensity, with ginger and pepper snapping at its heels; a sensation only intensified with water. Lush fruits, butterscotch, and milk chocolate, with a finish of lively spices, stone fruits, and zesty orange muffins. (276 bottles)
Indian single malt distillers like Amrut and Paul John turn out first-rate whiskies that measure up to the most venerable names in scotch. Rampur, a single malt from Radico Khaitan Distillery in the foothills of the Himalayas, is the newest ambassador for this blossoming whisky nation. Indian-grown six-row barley provides biscuity malt aromas that undergird a cornucopia of tropical melon, papaya, and soft yellow jackfruit. The oily palate coats the mouth with cocoa, grilled pineapples, hibiscus blossoms, and tingling spices. With its exceptional, long finish, Rampur may set America on a path to truly appreciating Indian whisky’s style and terroir. Number 5 in the 2017 Top 20
A fan favorite now in its 11th year, the 2017 edition, Heritage, maintains the grain-forward, fruity Forty Creek house style, adding a buttery slipperiness, honeycomb, citrus peels, kumquats, marzipan, and blazing rye spices. Nutty and oily, but clean and spicy, with a never-ending finish. (under 16,500 bottles)
Parker’s Heritage Collection 2017 11 year old, 66%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $130
A wonderful beginning of floral, fruit, leather, and oak notes; the start to a truly sensational whiskey. Its round caramel meets florals, stone fruit, honeysuckle, and dried apricot, with hints of dark chocolate, pear, and raw almonds not far behind. But this whiskey is about the spice, from pepper to baking spices; they wander the palate and walk you down a long and lovely finish with a hint of cinnamon apple.
Terroir and provenance are keenly debated in many corners of the whisky world, and Bruichladdich shows intense focus on the question with Islay Barley, which uses only locally grown grain. The 2017 release was distilled in 2010, using Optic and Oxbridge barley varieties grown on eight Islay family farms and matured in a combination of French oak and bourbon casks. In addition to Islay Barley’s ambitious pursuit of true single-origin whisky, this is a real gem for its ginger and tobacco aromas, muscular mouthfeel, and flavors of toffee, spices, and youthful oak. Number 9 in the 2017 Top 20
Sazerac Rye 18 year old (Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2017), 45%
Rye Whiskey | $90
Ah, the pleasant aroma of warm rye rolls nails its opening, but so much more awaits. Balsam, peppercorn, almond butter, arrowroot pie crust, pine nuts, pumpkin pie, brown sugar, and savory toasted rye bread tingle, as slight hints of pear, tobacco, and citrus develop. Then, it’s earth, from sautéed mushrooms to soil. The long, strong finish presents baking spices. Lovely sipping rye!
The dark chestnut liquid results from maturation in bourbon and port casks, and it has an equally enticing nose: squishy prunes, dried fig, blackcurrant, sour cherry, apple tarts, and nutmeg. The concentration of fruit on the palate circulates around dark cherry, red apple, and raspberry flavors. Then vanilla, caramel, and milk chocolate flood the mouth and everything turns deliciously gooey. Go on, give in to your urges. (240 bottles for the U.S.)
The relentless upward march of prices for well-aged scotch is discouraging to veteran whisky drinkers and newcomers alike. At just $90, this lovely Speyside 18 year old hearkens back to the good old days of single malt. A warm, soft, and rounded whisky, with pleasing melon and apricot flavors, hints of dried hay and apple pie à la mode, and a backbone of peppery fruit and malt, Glen Moray 18 year old isn’t about bombast. It balances delicacy and strength rather than embracing raw power. Although it’s celebrating its 120th anniversary this year, Glen Moray isn’t very well known in the United States, but that may be about to change. Number 10 in the 2017 Top 20
Availability and quality are two words that you don’t often hear in conjunction with new American whiskeys. But Rebel Yell 10 year old Single Barrel scores on both counts. The 2017 release presents stellar caramel and vanilla notes, then pure bliss, striking powerful mouth-coating notes of crème brûlée with a beautiful pecan pie note on the finish. Since these are single barrels, flavors may vary by bottle; no two barrels yield identical flavors. However, Rebel Yell 10 year old has come pretty close to a house style, and that sort of consistent excellence in a single barrel whiskey is an achievement in itself. Did we mention it’s available? Number 12 in the 2017 Top 20
This is a nuanced delicacy, so tread lightly. It offers a nose of rich apple, oloroso sherry, cranberry, pepper, fennel, star anise, and a touch of milk chocolate. The sherry casks are at play: dark ruby fruits, peppery spice, and cinnamon. The mouthfeel holds steady, with Cola Cubes, stewed blackberry, and apple peels as the spices fall out, ending with cocoa-dusted dried fruits. (1,479 bottles)
By focusing exclusively on high-quality straight whiskeys, without neutral spirits, Little Book is a fine example of America’s new era of blends. It includes all straight whiskeys: 4 year old bourbon, 13 year old corn, 5 year old 100% malt, and 5 year old rye. Like Booker’s bourbon, Little Book is uncut and unfiltered, to preserve the full flavor. The dominant note, cornbread, still allows the malt’s sweetness and the rye’s spice to come through. This is the first release from Freddie Noe, son of Beam master distiller Fred Noe and grandson of the late Booker Noe himself. It’s an impressive and unconventional debut, as Freddie prepares to continue the Beam legacy. Number 11 in the 2017 Top 20
The nose is superb, with oat and pecan flapjack, cocoa powder, nutmeg, star anise, and caramelized brown sugar. Golden syrup laced with strands of citrus swim within a smooth, thickly textured malt. A rich sweetness spills over, unctuous with sweet honey and nuts over a base layer of spice. Confident, self-assured, expressive whiskey.
Dalmore launched a trio of vintages finished in tawny port pipes. The pick of the bunch is the oldest, distilled in 1996, which displays a confident, rich nose of raisins, mildly smoky prunes, vanilla, and blood orange. Full-bodied in the mouth, with red berry fruits, ginger, white pepper, and spicy oak. Medium-length in the finish, with coffee-soaked oak, figs, and damsons at the close. £450
New for 2017, this was matured for 17 years in bourbon casks before being finished in oloroso sherry casks for 1 year. The nose is fragrant, with prunes, oranges, vanilla, and faint wood polish. Ultimately, ozone. Silky palate delivery, with sweet sherry, honey, and dark chocolate-coated orange fondant creams, then a note of angelica. The finish offers spicy plain chocolate and a suggestion of sea salt. £86
An oddball that crosses the divide between American whiskey and scotch by literally mixing the two, Campfire combines straight Indiana rye, straight Indiana bourbon, and peated blended malt scotch, marrying them together in heavily toasted French and Hungarian oak wine barrels. The scotch adds hearty, meaty flavors to the dry, spicy, and rich bourbon and rye. This is a robust and beefy whiskey, with smoke reminiscent of Southern barbecue. Earlier releases of this ambitious whiskey didn’t quite hit the mark. Now, it’s right on target. Number 14 in the 2017 Top 20
Most Irish whiskey consumed in the U.S. is blended, and Ireland’s single pot still whiskeys enjoy a cult following. However, Irish single malts, including Tyrconnell 16 year old, are often unfairly overshadowed by their Scottish neighbors. This limited-edition whiskey, made entirely with Irish barley, is double distilled in pot stills like most scotch, then aged in bourbon barrels. Tyrconnell is named for a racehorse, but this whiskey is slow and steady: it’s soft and gentle, yet full-flavored, with warming vanilla, graham cracker, and citrus notes, and rounded spice. Though it may not be as brash as some scotch malts, this thoroughbred is able to go the distance. Number 16 in the 2017 Top 20
Deftly blending the power and grace of popular Islay malts, this whisky offers a sizzle of bacon fat, thick clods of peat, cocoa, and breezy smoke on the nose. The rounded palate has sweet satsuma, swathes of toasted spice, sweeping malty notes, delicious chocolate, and burnt caramel. The wafting smoke builds formidably, until it engulfs the back of the palate. Sheep Dip whisky may have been around since the 1970s, but this latest creation maps out the best of modern Islay styles to great effect. A triumphant, approachable blend that shows great strength of purpose, yet remains full of charm. Number 13 in the 2017 Top 20
Royal Salute Special Batch 21 year old Polo Edition, 40%
Blended Scotch Whisky | $145
A pedigree blend gracing your glass with aromas of sultana, prune, glacé cherry, toffee, nutmeg, dense dark fruits, sweet toffee, and cozy Christmas spices. This well-paced, silky blend canters through red apple, cherry, pomegranate, pressed date bars, Brazil nut, nutmeg, and pepper. Cinnamon, black pepper, and apple peel make for a harmonious finish. A suitably glamorous libation for spectators of the sport of kings. £110
This limited edition 20 year old assemblage was matured in bourbon barrels, sherry casks, Cabernet Franc casks, Cabernet Sauvignon casks, and Pinot Noir barriques. Rich and sweet on the nose, with marzipan, apricot jam, and fresh pineapple with vanilla custard. Silky, with ginger, cherries, and caramel on the palate. The finish is long, with black pepper, licorice, and slightly tannic oak. (5,000 bottles) £120
The salty coastal twang meets the sherry head on, revealing mandarin, gingerbread, glazed ham, clove, seashells, and driftwood bonfires built on pebble beaches. Smoke comes to dominate the sherry. Orange oils precede a delayed ignition of the spices. More honeyed sweetness comes through, while a smothering layer of peat rises up. Warm spicy finish, until a thick curtain of smoke closes it down. But hey, this rocks.
It opens with dark chocolate, coffee, hazelnut, leather, earth, cornbread, and maple syrup. Then it pops with brown-sugar butter melting over grits, but the iron skillet cornbread reappears with a dominating and pleasing malt note. Hints of dill, parsley, and roasted almonds come next. Toward the end, a burst of vanilla hits before a long finish with a hint of honey. As American blends go, this is a fantastic pour.
Delivering a buttery mouthfeel with toasted rye and baking spice notes, Peerless is the only craft producer on our list. It’s hard to pinpoint why this young rye succeeds where others fail, but one point of difference is the use of sweet mash fermentation, rather than the much more common sour mash technique, where spent mash is added to the new fermentation. Furthermore, the Peerless warehouse achieves temperatures upward of 110 degrees. Whatever the technical reasons, Peerless is paving the way and we expect more craft distillers to join them. Number 15 in the 2017 Top 20
Peerless Distilling’s first whiskey in nearly a century; at 2 years old, it’s precocious. Captivating on the nose; fruit-driven, with orange, peach nectar melded with vanilla custard, and nice details of clove and nutmeg. The palate pours big and bold, bursting with fruit alcohol and a face slap of spicy, peppery rye. While it’s a touch hot, the reveal of 53.7% makes this forgivable. A generous splash of water unleashes more flavor, baking spice, and aniseed on the finish.
Crown Royal Noble Collection Wine Barrel Finished, 40.5%
Canadian | $60
Until recently, Crown Royal, Canada’s best-selling whisky, took a conservative approach to limited-edition releases. The annual Noble Collection is a promising taste of the innovation underway at the Gimli, Manitoba distillery, which includes experiments with single grain wheat whisky, single malts, and more. This first venture into cask finishing uses Cabernet Sauvignon barrels. It is still Crown Royal, but on top of the bourbonesque vanillas and woody notes, rich red fruits jump from the glass. A new direction that moves Crown Royal into the realm of big, beautiful whiskies. Number 18 in the 2017 Top 20
The first blended malt to carry the Chivas Regal name was created as a tribute to the legacy of the five master blenders, from Charles Howard in 1895 to Colin Scott. Malts from five of Pernod Ricard’s Speyside distilleries (Strathisla, Longmorn, Tormore, Allt-a-Bhainne, and Braeval) were used to create intricate and elaborate flavors. Even more enchanting than the story are the aromas of fresh red apple, cherry, peach, and mango, mingled with cinnamon and dry heather. This luxurious whisky delivers dark vanilla, soft fruits, chocolate-dipped Brazil nuts, and is cloaked in sumptuous layers of caramel, wood spices, and gingersnaps. Outstanding. Number 19 in the 2017 Top 20
Benromach’s first triple-distilled single malt was matured in first-fill bourbon barrels. The nose offers peaches with a wisp of sweet smoke, vanilla, and a hint of lime. Voluptuous and very sweet on the palate; intense sugary orchard fruits and stem ginger, with the characteristic Benromach peat smoke dialed back. The finish embraces insistent black pepper, nutmeg, and very mild peat. £45
Blair Athol 23 year old (Diageo Special Releases 2017), 58.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $460
This Perthshire single malt was distilled in 1993 and aged in European oak sherry butts. Brittle toffee, black treacle, aniseed, black pepper, and cigar boxes feature on the rich nose. The bold palate yields full, creamy sherry notes, almonds, ginger, old leather, and a slightly savory tang. Long, warming, and peppery in the finish. (5,514 bottles)
Distilled in 1969, the oldest Bunnahabhain ever released was matured in second-fill sherry butts. The nose yields sweet resin, marzipan, ginger, glacé cherries, a hint of cloves, and red berries. The silky palate features Jaffa oranges, dark chocolate, prunes, and more glacé cherries. The finish dries steadily, with slightly bitter tea, white pepper, a savory note, and quite subtle oak tannins for a dram of this vintage. (198 bottles)
A nose of bold sherry, worn leather, figs, malt, white pepper, and ginger. Ultimately, a mildly savory note. Full-bodied on the palate, with overripe damsons and more ginger; spicy sherry and dried fruits develop. Medium to long in the finish, with persistent prickly spices, black coffee, and fragrant oak. (240 bottles for the U.S.)
Two oaks are better than one in this single malt, which marries whiskies matured in sherry-seasoned casks of both American and European oak. The sherry imparts aromas of raisins, figs, hazelnuts, blanched almonds, candied orange peel, and leather. A backbone of vanilla sweetness on the palate supports layers of ginger and white pepper, dark chocolate, leather, raisins, toasted hazelnuts, and orange oil. This Macallan joins the core line between the Sherry Oak and Fine Oak ranges. Warming and rich without being syrupy, it doubles up on accessibility with its balance and remarkably affordable price for its quality and age. Number 17 in the 2017 Top 20
Initially, it’s extremely perfume-like, with floral notes often found in fragrances. Then the fruit completely takes over: banana, blueberry, plums, cherry, apple, pear, and quince. Of these, the banana lingers until chocolate and vanilla enter the picture, followed by hints of green pepper and graham cracker. Then, boom, baking spices launch into a lovely medium to long finish.
Generously oaked, with toasty oak drive delivering brown spices and earthy dried apple on the nose. The palate pours sweet and rich, with warm corn porridge underscored with dark molasses and maple flavors. There is a lot to like here, from the boiled peanuts to a spiced palate, as the young, house-made whiskey imparts its verve to the 9 year old Indiana bourbon.
Port Dundas 52 year old (Diageo Special Releases 2017), 44.6%
Single Grain Whisky | $900
This 1964 distillate has a nose of rich toffee, weighty oak, allspice, antique hardback books, dried apple, cracker bread, and banana chips. A fairy tale taste of red apple perfection, as if Snow White polished it on her skirt. This ripens to encompass gumdrops and lollipops. Golden syrup, lime zest, caramel, and vanilla bleed into a conclusion of nutmeg, oak, and apple peel. An auspicious moment for grain whisky. (752 bottles)
Peach, meringue, whole apple, runny honey, vanilla, eucalyptus, and spices that are just about to burn in the pan. Lively and fresh Highland whisky flavor proffering sweet honey, cooked apple dusted with icing sugar, lime zest, and a supportive lift of vibrant spices before diffusing into sugary squares of Scottish tablet. Water accentuates the peppermint in the finish and brings out sugary chocolate-mint flavors. One not to miss.
The legacy of the cask’s history imparts more smoke than peat. It hasn’t overpowered the spirit, but the whisky is light enough to be put in the shade, with singeing smoke, coal dust, vanilla, and asphalt. Sweet rice, vanilla, honey, and warm spices of ginger root and black peppercorn, before a late arrival of peat. Milk chocolate, burnt driftwood, toffee, and a little residual pepper on the finish. (636 bottles)
Fuji-Gotemba Distillery’s talent for grain whisky is evident here, with a nose of waxy green leaves, whole peppercorn, and fleeting glimpses of lemon peel, lime zest, and white peach amid the airy, floral top notes. It has a serene, calming quality to it. Spicy pepper, orange peel, mouth-coating vanilla, creamy toffee, and crunchy apple, with a clean finish, like orange flesh laid out on
hot stones. JPY 5,000
Chapel Gate whiskey aims to resurrect the lost art of the Irish whiskey bond. This delicious debut is built around parcels of aged single malt and grain sourced from County Louth. Fresh hay, floral blossoms, comb honey, dry spice, oak, a crate of whole lemons, and growing spices. Lemon sherbet, clean vanilla, and a peppery grunt resolve flavors of rich barley sugar and a hot pepper finish. (7,000 bottles)
Supple nose of lychee, ripening peaches, candy hearts, watermelon, allspice, and white pepper. A light, slightly syrupy texture with an underbelly of watermelon and raspberry, this year’s release unwraps peach, nectarine, rhubarb, and custard candy, fruit Life Savers, stewed fruits, red berries, and light citrus. It’s surprising just how much flavor is packed into this rice whisky. Finish is dry—the watermelon is gone. (4,411 bottles)
Japanese rice whiskies enjoy a cult following for their delicate flavors. This Fukano stands out with its ethereal fruity delights, the result of meticulous vigilance to preserve the spirit’s subtle nature. It brings a supple nose of lychee, ripe peaches, Smarties, watermelon, allspice, and white pepper. A light, slightly syrupy texture is underscored by watermelon and raspberry as it unwraps peach, nectarines, rhubarb, and custard candy, fruit Life Savers, stewed fruits, red berries, and light citrus. Fukano promises to broaden our whisky horizons. Number 20 in the 2017 Top 20
Eagle Rare 17 year old (2017 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection), 45%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $90
At first it’s a confectionery delight, with notes of cotton candy, caramel, burnt brown sugar, and praline. Then a spice explosion hits as the caramel becomes more defined. We’re talking pumpkin pie spice with hints of allspice, cardamom, and clove. Tobacco and stone fruit develop toward the end. Alas, its medium finish, with a hint of oak, doesn’t continue the complexity found on the palate.
A beautiful opening of oak, butterscotch, and fruit quickly becomes more pronounced in banana and pineapple. Then baked apple, Bananas Foster, caramel pudding, and salt water taffy. Hints of smoke and paprika lurk, but marzipan and orange blossom honey nail the landing. The finish doesn’t hold up to the palate, only offering a hint of caramel. Very good, but not quite outstanding.
Glen Elgin 18 year old (Diageo Special Releases 2017), 54.8%
Single Malt Scotch | $340
Matured in European oak butts, this 1998 single malt has a nose of soft toffee, vanilla, and orchard fruits. The palate is very full and sweet, even sugary, with baked apples, peaches in cream, and cinnamon. Medium to long in the finish, with fruity oak, lingering ginger, and pepper. (5,352 bottles)
A U.S.-exclusive variant of this popular Islay single malt. Lemon juice and warm granite on the nose, backed by sweet heather, ginger, and developing Jaffa orange, medicinal peat, and charcuterie. Mouth-coating and initially sweet, before darker berry notes emerge. Savory, saline, and smoky. Medium-length in the finish, with lingering peat smoke and spicy oak.
Teaninich 17 year old (Diageo Special Releases 2017), 55.9%
Single Malt Scotch | $310
Distilled in 1999, this single malt was aged in refill American oak hogsheads and refill American oak barrels. Pineapple and walnuts figure on the early nose, which becomes more floral, ultimately offering violets. The palate is full and fruity, majoring in peaches in syrup, with new-mown hay and white pepper. Nicely balanced and rounded, with buttery notes emerging. The finish dries slowly, with subtle licorice.
Part of a series of innovative wine finishes marking the revival of distilling in Dublin. The fourth release spent a year finishing in sweet, aromatic Muscat casks, imparting the bouquet of a rose garden, with ripe peach, satsuma peel, peppercorn, and black cardamom. Syrupy sweet wine notes, canned peach slices, vanilla cream, ginger root, and pepper make this attractive and unique among Irish whiskeys. (12,500 bottles) €120
Scallywag is no lapdog; this mutt runs off the leash and disappears down a rabbit hole. The first thing that strikes is a spicy blast of cardamom, fennel, and onion seeds. Baked chestnut, grapefruit, baked orange, plum, and walnut aromas. Warm marmalade with thick peel, a fanfare of spices, and brown sugar cubes. Gratifying finish of grapefruit peel and a burning core of spice deep in the throat.
Rich on the nose, with stewed fruit, butterscotch, and soft spices. Very smooth palate delivery, with luscious fruit flavors: baked apples and peaches in syrup, then cinnamon and ginger. The medium-length finish features ebbing spice and developing milk chocolate. Likely sourced from Tullibardine Distillery.
A peated malt from Loch Lomond, this vintage expression spent 25 years in refill bourbon barrels. A delicate, mildly smoky nose, with vanilla, gentle spice, black pepper, and a subtle medicinal characteristic. Soft and fruity on the palate, with encroaching earthiness and dry peat smoke. The smoke lingers in the lengthy finish, with vanilla, aniseed, and spicy, slightly tannic oak.
On safe territory here, with neroli oil, caramel, roasted spices, surly peat smoke, and just enough fruity sweetness to stay in the good books. Weightier than the 15 year old, with more aged whisky characteristics: bright clementine, dried citrus wheels, and clove, but after an eruption of smoke, it fades to pineapple, fermenting fruits, and a prickly grapefruit acidity. The ashy embers on the finish retreat quickly.
Brown rice, balsamic vinegar, hoisin sauce, spiced rhubarb, white pepper, and clove make this an intriguing and appetizing olfactory experience. The palate is fruitier, with dark citrus, stewed apple, star fruit, taffy candy, and orange Jell-O, drifting to light pepperiness and aniseed. A drying aftertaste homes in on orange peel, with some late spice contributions. Complex flavor combinations make this a great exploratory whisky for seasoned enthusiasts. (440 bottles)
Connemara’s wild west coast landscape is a world away from this peated whiskey’s production at Cooley Distillery on Ireland’s east coast. Greater smoke than Original; lemon and fresh cream translate into lemon lozenges and sherbet, with tangy tropical fruits and well-balanced smoke lasting throughout the finish.
The Balvenie Peat Week 14 year old (2002 Vintage), 48.3%
Single Malt Scotch | $99
This expression dates from 2002, when Balvenie first produced a batch of heavily peated malt. Matured in American oak casks, the nose exhibits subtle peat balanced by honey, vanilla, and ripe red apples. On the palate, the soft smoke is well integrated with vanilla, more honey, ginger, and overripe pears. Ashy peat, citrus fruits, cinnamon, and tangy oak in the finish. An elegant peated whisky.
Caol Ila 18 year old (Diageo Special Releases 2017), 59.8%
Single Malt Scotch | $100
This unpeated version of Caol Ila was matured in refill American oak hogsheads. The nose is quite reticent, with subtle vanilla and milk chocolate notes. Big, fizzy-sweet fruit notes on the palate, with caramel, rock pools, hot spices, plain chocolate, and very mild wood smoke. Bubble gum and peppery chocolate in the medium-length finish.
Smooth, delicious, and easygoing, this has sweet cereal and biscuit notes, vanilla, macaroon bars, salt, pepper, and lemon zest on the nose. Sweet caramel, smooth honey, zested mandarin, gentle wood spices, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, mango, guava, and papaya, with a finish of cereal notes and dried tropical fruits. Provenance watchers: Beam Suntory makes grain at Cooley Distillery, and the Kilbeggan name was appended to Irish blends in the past.
Convalmore 32 year old (Diageo Special Releases 2017), 48.2%
Single Malt Scotch | $1,400
Distilled in 1984, just a few months before the distillery closed, this was aged in refill American oak hogsheads. A whiff of early earthiness gives way to pear drops, honey, vanilla, and resin on the nose. Pears, pineapple, caramel, and vanilla on the slightly waxy, spicy palate. Slowly drying in the medium-length finish, with peppery licorice and a hint of char. (3,972 bottles)
Big Peat looks incredibly pale in the glass this year, but his message is undiminished. Antiseptic, pine-scented floor cleaner, and an enveloping cloud of peat smoke with underlying peach and faint dabs of lemon. Sugary sweet, with lemon lozenges, light vanilla, caramel, and dark toffee, while a bowling, somersaulting smoky element gleefully turns cartwheels in the mouth. Hot, dry finish, like gargling with hot coals. Merry Peatmas everybody.
There is a freshness to the wood on the nose, laced with caramel and delicate minty notes. The palate pours pleasantly chewy with molten butterscotch and offers a pleasant jolt of cinnamon and clove that suggests rye at work, before settling on bitter orange peel, salted caramel, and cocoa, leading to a drying leathery and warm spice finish. Nicely done.
If you are a scotch drinker contemplating your first Japanese rice whisky purchase, this is the one. Dates, Christmas cake, glazed gammon, red cherry, and muted roasted spices show the quality of the cask. Raspberry coulis and cranberry make for a juicy palate that evolves into caramel, fudge, chili, and pepper. Spices rule the finish, the fruit fading quickly. A great introduction to Fukano single casks. (527 bottles)
This noble Scot consists of a blend of 20 different whiskies and impresses with its nose of hazelnut, dark chocolate, vanilla pod, menthol, peppercorn, and wisps of damp wood smoke. Warm chocolate fudge, mellow spices, dark burnished orange, smooth oak, old leather, and malted milk. The mouthfeel is weighty enough to sustain the heavyweight flavors. Long finish of dark rum, cocoa, and spiced chocolate. Just add your own favorite leather armchair. Value pick.
Aromas of oloroso sherry, strawberry, almond paste, clove, licorice Allsorts, black treacle, and smoke from burning haystacks. Honeyed palate with citrus elements, light lemon, green melon, pear, redcurrant, and pineapple, brightened by some well-rounded spices and root ginger. It glides into a mouthful of chocolate-coated digestive biscuits with a little smoke, then a finish of citrus oils, fruit skins, and active spices. Brilliant and satisfying.
Exudes beautiful soft peat notes, barley sugar, and apple-cinnamon granola. Light lemon and honey, with a delightful growth in apple crumble flavors, golden syrup, and more peat smoke and orchard fruits on the finish. Drink this neat.
Blender Aimée Gibson set out to make a sundowner scotch by incorporating whiskies matured in wine casks. The blueberry, blackcurrant, and fresh oak aromas continue on to the palate: fruit compote, raspberry, strawberry, and lingonberry with light spices. A late resurgence of dark toffee, chocolate, and cigar smoke blow into the finish. Sip away by all means, but this fruity sensation calls to be served up in long, cool drinks.
The latest version of the first certified organic Scotch whisky is a creamy malt that has lashings of vanilla, banana peel, and pecan pie aromas. Smooth, malty flavors abound. Banoffee pie topped with sliced banana, apple, nectarine, and ripe peach, with a good flare of peppery spices. Fuzzy, earthy spice, then an outro of sweet fudge. With water, more green fruit, melon, tropical fruits, and a little chili kick emerge.
Named for Highland Park Distillery’s founder, Magnus Eunson. It has been matured in first-fill and refill American oak sherry casks. The nose offers honeysuckle, vanilla, rising bread dough, and faint, aromatic wood smoke. Slightly smoky orchard fruits on the early palate, with sultanas, ripe cherries, and cinnamon. Medium to long in the finish, with drying fruit notes, wood spice, and ultimately, licorice sticks. (U.S. exclusive)
The new Wemyss Family Collection includes two blended malts; this is the better of the pair. Raisin, date, fruitcake, stewed apple and plum, cumin, coriander, allspice, and new leather leave little mystery about the role played by the sherry hogshead. Gingerbread, plum, and dark orange draw the mouth. Fruity sweetness, but never sugary; there are jam tarts, walnut, and minimal interference from the spices until the dry finish. (6,300 bottles) £47
This light-hued bourbon is bright and airy, with tropical fruit aromas of papaya and lychee, vanilla, and sweet lemon curd. While not especially bourbon-like it’s interesting and super-likeable for its Bit-O-Honey candy and pleasingly nutty notes. Last reviewed in 2011.
This has the warming comfort of cask strength rice pudding, with just enough rice character peeking through the sherry. Marzipan, sultana, fig, and toasted spice. Nutty amontillado notes load up on dried fruits, including apricot, mango, and apples pricked with cloves. The late phase includes black cherry, old leather, cola-flavored candy, and burnt fruitcake. A quick fizzle of spice and dried fig turns slightly savory.
The nose is inviting, with marzipan, malt, ripe bananas, milk chocolate, and cinnamon. Green fruit notes emerge later. Very sweet on the smooth palate, with bubble gum, satsumas, peaches, and delicate spice. The finish is medium to long and persistently sweet and fruity, with a hint of dark chocolate at the end. Sure to satisfy a sweet tooth.
Peat smoke dominates the nose of salt crystals, green tea, pine cones, peppermint creams, and charcoal. The tasty palate has sweet fudge, heather honey, and mandarin, which balance out the ginger and light pepper spiciness. Smoke catches in the throat as it becomes fruitier in the later stages. Finish is hot, drying, with smoke and ginger spices. Decent enough, though its appeal will skew toward peat lovers.
Ahead of the distillery opening, Michael Scully is working on a series of Clonakilty releases in the warehouse. His promising first release is bourbon cask matured, with a nose of raspberry, strawberry taffy, roasted coriander seed, star anise, apple, green fruits, and smoldering cooperage oak. The palate brings mandarin, light honey, sweet oak, creamy vanilla, fresh banana, peppercorns, and custard. Vanilla sweetness and a welcome spicy buzz to finish. (3,000 bottles)
Bottled by Ian Macleod Distillers from an undisclosed producer, this Islay single malt may well emanate from Ardbeg. The nose offers lemon, rock pools, peat ash, and smoky malt, with a sweet, honeyed floral note at its heart. Medium-bodied, with big citrus flavors, tingling spices, brine, ashy peat, and aniseed. Aniseed lingers in the finish, with diminishing spiciness.
Think corn: roasted, canned, creamed, mashed, pan-fried, in salsa, and in bread. The corn pops early and often. This complements hazelnut, caramel pudding, and baking spices. A drop of water really opens this up, softening the corn-heavy notes and bringing forth fruits and spices. Even the finish is better with water. Perhaps this whiskey was meant to have a lower proof.
Lemon, lime, ripening apple, spring florals, clementine, and pear, among lilting sweet brandy notes. Calming, contemplative, and restful aromas. The mouthfeel is slightly musty, almost granular, with creamy light vanilla and juicy lemon and lime. The tip of the tongue burns brightly with warm spices. It grows heavier, the tastes shifting to lemon bonbons as the spice is annulled. A dying gasp of lemon peel, candy sweetness, and aromatic spices.
Matured for 6 to 8 years in bourbon casks before finishing in sherry casks. The early nose is earthy, with dough balls, then sweeter sherry notes emerge, with ripe tangerines and honey. Sweet sherry fills the full palate with black pepper and developing raisins. Plain chocolate, black pepper, and aniseed in the relatively long finish. Distillery not disclosed.
Nutty nose, with toasted oak, savory peppered meats, and traces of wood smoke. It starts off deceptively lightweight, with sweet juicy mandarin before a takeover of sharper citrus elements. Honey and gorgeous silky caramels slink by, chased by a gentle swish of spice. Light pepperiness with chocolate notes ushers in an aromatic finish. A tasty blend, but the nose will not be everyone’s choice.
From vintage 2009, this bourbon cask matured whiskey is around the 8 year mark. Vanilla custard tarts, digestive biscuits, green vegetal notes, and scents of a bakery counter pull you in. Caramel, active spices, soft fruits, peach, apple, pear, pepper, and golden sultana flavors, but as the caramels slide into toffee the grain character becomes more evident into the finish.
Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Straight Rye (Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2017), 63.6%
Rye Whiskey | $90
Initially, an unwanted mustiness is present, but it quickly turns into a damp cellar note, followed by dill, eucalyptus, fresh oak, and mint. Hints of smoke emerge over pecan shell and chewing tobacco. Then a cherry cough syrup note appears, with baking spices gaining steam, but the whiskey never truly finds a desired dominant note or balance. The finish gives it hope: it lingers with a hint of brown sugar.
An enjoyable 2 year old from Colorado, the sweet stone fruit nose, laced with mint and herb garden, betrays this spirit as a bit young and primary. Still a touch hot and lacking some intensity, but pleasing clover honey sweetness on the palate and long, warming spice with a cocoa finish bode very well for the future.
Aromas of grapefruit, orange peel, and burnt sugar crackling atop crème brûlée, with ground almond and tarragon. The texture is mouth drawing and astringent, like it’s warping the dimensions of your mouth for its own ends. Dark chocolate and bitter plum transition into cocoa powder and plum pudding with traces of oak. Persistent heat, with herbal notes and chili spice on the finish. Leave the water aside. (456 bottles)
Exclusive Regions Single Grain (distilled at North British) 10 year old, 50%
Single Grain Whisky | $55
The nose has a conspicuous grain quality to it, like a bouquet of flowers in a nail salon. In addition to acetone, there is orange fondant and the smell of new Legos. Soft marshmallow and orange cream dilute to strawberry candy, soft peaches, and pineapple, but it’s all swept aside by a Tabasco jackhammer that ricochets between the tongue and palate. Finish of Gatorade fruit punch and ginger root. (246 bottles)
With whiskies aged for 5 years in bourbon barrels, this has a pleasant nose of dark toffee, vanilla, toasted whole grain bread, and light spices. The mouthfeel is a bit flabby; chocolate and toasted spices, especially cinnamon and pepper, are quelled by malty caramel, baked orange, and touches of old leather. The finish is dry, malty, and slightly nutty, with a hollow core of spices. A bit dour overall.
A slightly closed nose opens to pleasing meatiness, then green fruits with hints of evergreen. The palate is sweet and surprisingly rich, although fairly simple. Strong peppery spices and something pleasantly vegetal creep in. Slowly, the sweetness becomes unctuous, turning an otherwise fine sipping whisky into a mixer. Brisk spices provide a counterpoint to the sweetness, but the balance seems off. Some structure finally develops around suggestions of dark chocolate.
Grassy notes and damp hay define the aroma of this young bourbon, while the palate offers good citrus and orchard fruits. However, there is a varnish note and stalky green character that hold it back. Needs time.
MacQueen’s has an impressive range of age statement blends, but this is the youngest one. Faint caramel and toast, a mild rub of whole spice, and snuff tobacco. The mouthfeel is meager and lacks any real punch; there is spice and fudge, but little sweetness. More caramel flavors develop alongside chocolate notes before a dry, quick finish. There are better options around, even at this price.
Lots of char and burnt sugar on the nose, leading to some sweet fruit on the palate, with coffee and mocha on the finish. Vanilla cream candies are overwhelmed by a woodpile of oak, drying tannins, and heat that lack balance. Multiple tastings with consistent results.