Remarkably flavorful, with linen, oilcloth, dragon fruit, hints of cereal, dark fruits, warm peppers, creamy rye spices, vague chocolate, and coffee. Not overly sweet and just slightly floral. Viscous and creamy, yet massive, muscular, and so beautifully complex, balanced, and integrated. (102 bottles; Canada exclusive) $225 CAD
William Larue Weller 12 year old (2018 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection), 62.85%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $99
Tilled earth, tobacco, and leather meet clover honey, maple syrup, and pecan pie sweetness. It pours broad and mouth-coating across the palate, with a lovely softness and pervasive vanilla and apple sweetness, gently tugged at by oaky tannins and more tobacco leaf. A touch floral and gently spiced, with cinnamon leading the way. Overall, this exudes beautiful balance right through the long finish that resonates both prettily and powerfully with dried citrus. Collectible
Bushmills’ sumptuous magnum opus spins aromas of sultana, brown sugar, walnut oil, date slice, chocolate-covered cranberries, leather gloves, and a hint of espresso. The dark, crepuscular mystique continues in the syrupy mouthfeel redolent of forest honey, banana bread, nuts, browned butter, sultana, date, and blackberry. Utterly beguiling, the Madeira finish works wonders here, right through to the last moments of the smooth, sweet finish. A must-try for all.
This is mastery of American oak! Polished wood, cinnamon cereals, dry spices of pepper, allspice, and paprika, and a riot of mostly overripe fruit: custard apple, mango, brown banana, baked apricot dessert, and fresh fig. Caramel, date slices, treacle, and cracker bread flavors are bathed in feisty pot still spices and fleeting green apple, before a lush, rich sweetness of banoffee pie, vanilla, and cinnamon descends. The finish is seemingly eternal.
George T. Stagg 15 year old (2018 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection), 62.45%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $99
This offers up warming ginger, candied orange, and wisps of furniture polish. The lavish and leathery oak flavors are apparent but don’t overwhelm the abundance of zippy, bright citrus—orange oil and yuzu—as the palate unleashes wave upon wave of spices that keep you guessing where it will head next. In the end, more lingering ginger and dusty cocoa.
The nose of this veteran is hugely enticing; rich, with old leather, soft spices, sultanas, figs, polished oak, and dunnage warehouses. Tangy orange develops in time. The orange carries over onto the palate—amazingly vibrant and youthful fruitiness—followed by soft toffee, woodsmoke, and a sprinkling of dusty oak. The finish is extraordinarily long, with licorice and fruit-laden old oak. A true classic! (77 bottles in U.S.)
Sure, the oldest of this year’s Diageo Special Releases manifests the brown-and-orange world of 1970 incarnate, but it does so in glorious fashion. Golden and warm, dessert-like, with bread-and-butter pudding, spun sugar, plenty of oak character, lavender honey, golden puff pastry, perfumery scents, and the first fruits plucked from the orangerie. Quite simply the grooviest thing to come out of Alloa this year. (1,000 bottles)
Redbreast Cask Strength 12 year old (Batch B1/17), 58.6%
Irish Single Pot Still | $80
The latest release pits plum, damson, fruitcake, and rosehip against wild, untamed pot still spices straining at the leash. Clove vociferously trumps raisin as the mouth-drawing power is realized; spices deflect off the tongue’s surface like sparks off an anvil. As its grip slackens, the fruit ripens, bruising slightly, yet sweetening deliciously, and vanilla pod, toasted stave, and cinnamon bark emerge. I swear you feel more Irish with every sip. Editors’ Choice
A limited-release vatting of triple distilled, bourbon cask-matured spirit distilled in 1994 and 1996. This immersive and intense whiskey has waves of honey and fruit sweetness, floral and herbal notes, melting butter on fruit scones, macaroon bar, vanilla pod, candied grapefruit peel, and faint wood spices. Sharp orange, kumquat, and lime flavors mingle with honey, vanilla fudge, and barley sugar. Spices peak and retreat ahead of a sweet finish.
Refined elegant smoke, quayside ropes, liniment oil, waxed lemon, cake mix, ripe peach, and a buoyant maltiness, as Flaming Heart roars back with a vengeance. After the controversy surrounding the 15th Anniversary edition, this time it’s all about the whisky. Sweet tangy orange, bitter peel oils, dark chocolate, clove, peppercorn, and nutmeg glide into menthol, spice, beeswax, and espresso on the finish. Solid gold: this is what they do best. (15,050 bottles and 800 magnums at $330) Editors’ Choice
Highland toffee, dried banana, salted caramel, seashells flipped from rock pools, and crispy-skinned oily fish barbecuing over a fire. Sweet toffee meets cinnamon, pepper, and clove, as an express train of smoke clatters through, leaving intense citrus peel oils and green fruits in the backwash. A spasm of spice marks the finish: arid, amid baked fruits and toffee. Leave me now, I have everything I need.
Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare Port Ellen Edition, 43.8%
Blended Scotch Whisky | $350
This uninhibited, tempestuous expression of Blue Label highlights the artistry of the blender through the judicious use of closed distillery malts and grains. Coastal notes of sea spray, lemon, dirty peat smoke, cookies and cream, After Eight mints, caramel, and dry-roasted spice aromas. Combining lemon bonbon, waxy orange, cookie dough, fondant icing, and chocolate, with tobacco smoke, hints of peppermint, and grapefruit notes, this flagrantly outclasses the Brora variant.
Brooding, primal, and robust thanks to its fat, rolling, oily notes, slightly fermenting Bramley apples, oolong tea, green banana, hint of sherry, and purposeful delivery of allspice, peppercorns, and star anise. The fruit and chocolate stay one step ahead of the spices; orange, chocolate, coffee, apricot, boiled candy, marmalade on buttered toast, and barley sugar meet a finish of heavier spices, bitter chocolate, and dusty cocoa. Unmistakable, epic whiskey.
Lovely aromas of warm banana bread with toasted nuts are met with oak and underlying savory notes of garden soil, mushroom, barnyard, and menthol that build layers of complexity. The flavor similarly melds sweet and earthy notes, as Bit-O-Honey and grape candy yield to zesty lemon, drying tobacco leaf, and polished oak tannins. The sweetness, perfectly permeated with earthy complexity, is totally captivating, made complete by a long and satisfying finish laced with spices.
Teasing out the threads of this perfectly woven fabric takes time. And what an enjoyable time it is! Big whisky with no dominant notes, but enticing suggestions of pine pitch, butterscotch, barley sugars, freshwater plants, sandalwood, cream, brisk peppery spices, sweetish baking spices, clean wood with vague tannins, and gorgeous orange bitters late in the finish. Apricots, hard peaches, and echoes of raspberries throughout.
This big, sweet, warming bourbon strikes all the right chords. Sizzling sweet corn meets generous oak, like dusty old books, but the bright peach nectar, wet walnuts, and vibrant spice beam through in abundance. Unctuous and concentrated on the palate, it evokes cinnamon-dusted peach pie, with hints of clove and pepper on the finish. A solid and seamless whiskey, with fruit, floral, oak, and spice in perfect harmony.
Four Roses Small Batch 130th Anniversary Edition, 54.15%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $140
A beguiling nose balances maturity and freshness, with charred oak, caramelized sugar, blackberry pie filling, floral notes, and toasted almond evolving in deep layers. The concentration on the palate is jaw-dropping—so much richness, power, and grace, as flavors flit across the tongue. Robust and drinkable, the fruity pie filling turns to candied orange peel and buckwheat honey before a licorice-laced finish. (13,140 bottles) Collectible
Caol Ila 35 year old (Diageo Special Releases 2018), 58.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $989
A rare veteran bottling from Caol Ila, and the oldest of the 2018 Special Releases, this was aged in refill American oak hogsheads and refill European oak butts. The nose is fragrant and inviting, with dried fruit, ginger, and beach bonfire. Vibrant tropical fruit on the palate, with cinnamon and developing brine-sodden peat. Bold fruit flavors along with white pepper and soft peat remain in the lengthy finish. (3,276 bottles) Collectible
Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye 6 year old (2018 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection), 64.4%
Rye Whiskey | $99
Cereal grain notes and fresh-cut oak suggest some youthfulness here, but the stone fruits and hot caramel sundae appear dense and richly layered. On the palate the big, up-front sweetness evolves into nougat, marzipan, and caramel-covered apple, sprinkled with root beer spices, before more grain and pastry notes appear on the finish. Powerful and vibrant stuff.
This is one of those whiskies where one sip will convert you to its delights. Fruit salad with fresh apple and lime, fruit-flavored hard candy, roasted aromatic spices, salted potato skins, and digestive biscuits. A moreish palate of salted caramel, musty chocolate, sweet fruits, viennoiseries, creamy caramels, malt, and gentle spices, which peaks during the finish leaving baked apple flavors and late sherry notes. Don’t pass this up.
Bright, clean, and fruity, with spearmint and oak, this smells of chewy marmalade, with pretty wildflower, waxy crayon, and solvent notes adding intrigue. On the palate the fruit feels dense—dried apricot and a cardboard box of prunes—before veering toward citrus and Peanut Chews. The generous finish lingers with bitter orange peel, vanilla, and sweet creamed corn. Complex, fresh, and immensely likable.
Kentucky Owl 11 year old Straight Rye (Batch 2), 50.9%
Rye Whiskey | $200
The vanilla and oak-driven nose offers layers of stone fruits, golden raisin, tropical fruit, and citrus zest, along with hints of espresso, violet, and fresh herbs. On the palate, this is so dialed in! Laser-like in its delivery of sweetness and spice, it rings clean and bright, and simply sizzles with candied ginger warmth before the finish pours on cocoa and nutty flavors. Tastes wonderfully mature, yet full of vigor.
This blend of eleven whiskies commemorates the eleven children William Gooderham adopted. Hints of cereal grain, creamy mouthfeel, blossoming caramel sweetness, and an increasingly peppery glow with suggestions of sweetish ginger and clove. Black fruits: figs, plums, dates, and prunes. Slowly develops pulling wood tannins. More components than mainstream Gooderham & Worts, yet just as tightly integrated. (Canada exclusive) $100 CAD
Butterscotch and smoke, with rewarding maritime and medicinal characters balancing the sweetness, candied peel, poached apricots, and lemon squeezed over warm, sugar-sprinkled pancakes. The smoke billows up around the citrus-tinged caramel, cotton candy, marmalade, and dried fruit. Wave after wave of spices ride the smoke trails through the finish, carrying along some residual caramel sweetness.
Little Book Chapter 2 “Noe Simple Task” 2018, 59.4%
American Blended Whiskey | $100
A fascinating flurry of aromas—red fruit punch, floral bouquet, honey, tropical guava and passion fruit, and assorted gummy candies. The dense palate balances sweet pineapple upside-down cake with tart ruby-red grapefruit, punctuated with lively allspice, dark cocoa powder, and ginger. The spectrum of bright flavors is underscored by deep spice and polished oak, while the impressive impact and skillful blending are spellbinding. Kentucky straight rye whiskey with two Canadian whiskies.
A scrumptious nose, with PayDay candy bar, honey on toast, crème brûlée, cherry fruit leather, creamed corn, root beer, and horehound candy, paves the way for the robust flavors that unfold on the palate: cherry Coke, roasted peanuts, earthy oak, and layers of spices. You can taste the age here, encased in complex balance, a chewy texture, and pleasingly high proof. 144 bottles
Marmalade, almond, and cinnamon buns, this is a grand interpretation of rich and dry fruit, with an extra layer of lush fruit from the cognac cask. It is thoroughly integrated and the cognac is respectful of the scotch. The palate is luxurious with rich, dark fruits and toffee, velvety smooth, with the cognac fruit encircling the blend, and wood spice on the finish. The perfect dram for frosty winter nights.
Eagle Rare 17 year old (2018 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection), 50.5%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $99
An intriguing nose features cherry cough drop and horehound, with hints of mint, crushed herbs, and dried flowers. The palate crackles with candied peanuts, lush spices—pepper and allspice—and oozes with some molten licorice. The oak-driven finish shows exquisite maturity, while keeping the wood in check.
Michter’s 10 year old Single Barrel Rye 2018 (Barrel 18E560), 46.4%
Rye Whiskey | $160
This smells of rich toffee and caramel draped over leathery oak, and warm apples, with a touch of paraffin that evokes age. The body is quite generous—full and creamy—as flavors of maple candy and chocolate-covered cherry are nicely punctuated with red-pepper spice. Dense fudge-like flavors and lively citrus oils lead to a finish of black pepper and baking spices.
This expression has returned to the shelves after a three-year absence due to a shortage of stock. Matured in Pedro Ximénez and oloroso sherry casks. The nose offers rich sherry, ripe cherries, walnuts, milk chocolate, and marzipan, with a savory hint. Full-bodied, with a palate of spicy damsons, cinnamon, dried fruits, and dark chocolate. The finish is long, with cloves and blackcurrants. Luscious!
Sazerac 18 year old (2018 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection), 45%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $99
This elder rye shows fine craftsmanship, balancing touches of toasted-spice and floral aromas, with dried herbs, candied orange peel, and mature varnish notes. It’s big on the palate, with heaps of molasses, creamy vanilla sweetness, and orange Creamsicle that lead to pleasing cedar and sandalwood oak, with zesty grapefruit notes. The medium finish is satisfying and well balanced.
An implacable tide of sherry aromas, succulent sultana and currant fruit, dried apple, bara brith tea cake, treacle, black tea, and fabulous baking spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. A thick, chewy, malty mouthful with chocolate, Horlicks, coffee notes, and that well-honed Penderyn spice character woven in among the dark fruit. A sweet swan song of clove and peppercorn meets espresso, molasses, dark toffee, and burnt staves. Quite a gem, this one. (600 bottles for U.S.)
The subtle sweet smoke, like singed rocks around a beach fire, becomes more pungent if left unattended. Underneath, aromas of sweet lemons, tropical fruits, lemongrass, and smoked olives abound. Juicy sweetness, with a real concentration of mango, papaya, and sugary boiled candies melds into flavors of vanilla and Battenberg cake. After a concluding rush of pepper, the smoky fumes permeate through the back end. Oh boy! Ridiculously good! €115
After blending, 21 year old Canadian whisky was finished in French and Hungarian oak barrels for added zest. This brought hints of nutmeg and candied Christmas cake fruits to berries, green fruits, pineapple, kiwi, spearmint, lush caramels, exotic wood, charred firewood, applewood, and lovely clean barrel notes. Glowing heat, leather, tobacco, furniture polish, and a creamy body. Beautifully complex, peppery, and balanced. (Canada exclusive) $100 CAD
Belle Meade Cask Strength Reserve (Batch No. 5), 56.8%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $60
Oak, corn sweetness, and tropical fruit collide in this powerful bourbon that suggests grilled pineapple and charred corn on the cob. It handles the proof well, but be prepared for a no-holds-barred tongue lashing of licorice, bitter citrus pith, and oak, before a heaping spoonful of butterscotch pudding quells the heat. Reveals even more flavor with water—blueberry muffin, clove-studded orange, and cedar shingle.
Kirkland 20 year old Sherry Cask Finish Speyside, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $58
No doubt about the sherry finish here: Toblerone, brown sugar, raisins, Fig Newtons, and hazelnuts on the nose, along with a hint of sulfur. The palate is oak-driven and chocolaty, with dried figs, raisins, cherries, blueberries, candied ginger, cloves, black pepper, and almonds. A supple, moreish finish with dark chocolate and lengthy polished oak. From the same undisclosed distillery as Kirkland’s 18 year old. (Costco)
Glendalough 7 year old Black Pitts Porter Barrel Finish, 46%
Irish Single Malt | $50
Like two people talking at once; one telling you about the malt biscuit, orange cake, and honey, the other espousing dark chocolate cookies, cocoa powder, and black fruits. It’s an articulate dialogue, not an argument, and they find consensus. Substantial dark chocolate, black fruit, honey, mixed peel, roasted peppery spices, and praline are a treat for the taste buds. Active spices and bitter chocolate conclude the conversation. (12,000 bottles for U.S.)
This blend of Scotch whisky and Virginia Distilling’s own-make whisky is finished in cider casks for 8 to 20 months, and has layers of flavor. There’s light peat, campfire, and fragrant meadow on the nose, along with sweeter notes of vanilla coulis, applesauce, marzipan, pears, and cinnamon-spiced almonds. The palate offers polished oak, clementine, grilled apple, and almond pudding. A lengthy finish adds brown sugar, grilled fruit, dark chocolate, espresso, and white pepper.
Domaine des Hautes Glaces 100% Organic Rye (Cask #79), 53.1%
French Whisky | $90
Explore the layers of this malted rye. It is herbaceous and minerally throughout, with aromas of licorice, chamomile, ginger, tarragon, incense, cooked pears, bread dough, cinnamon, and soil. The flavors express grain, minerals, and earth—tarragon, licorice, peppercorn, roasted peaches, walnut shells, and assertive but not overpowering oak. This young whisky’s flavors are from the field, fermenter, and still, not the barrel. Unique, complex, and exciting. (450 bottles)
Sun-bleached driftwood, iodine, curry spices, and hot asphalt, with a highly charged, aromatic smokiness: a combination of peat kiln and crackling moorland blaze. There is serenity too, with soft cream, ripe citrus, and key lime pie. Thick and glossy, it’s an intense, mouth-puckering, cask-strength prospect. Chocolate, cinnamon, and mint collide with a barrage of clove and barrel char. Booming spices reverberate in the grip of an extremely long finish. £155
Perfect for drinkers with a Goldilocks complex, this falls between the lemon-favoring 12 year old, and the richer, sherry finished 16 year old, with a nose of sweet mandarin, tropical fruits, fruit pastries, warm banana muffin, barley sugar, and forest honey. Bold, attention-grabbing flavors of orange, honey, vanilla, dried ginger, pepper, and jam-slathered pastries, with caramel, ground almond, and a tantalizing, zesty grapefruit bitterness toward the end.
Complex, elegant textures from the get-go; woodsmoke from a bonfire of green twigs, ashy peat embers, grain stores, vanilla cream, and honey drizzled over baked apples. Golden syrup flapjacks, vanilla fudge, candied apricot, orange peel, Quaker oats, gingerbread, pepper, and a catch of smoke that bridges into the finish, where hints of citrus and golden honeyed grains are found. Classical allure, but eminently accessible.
Unpeated Caol Ila has become a staple in Diageo’s Special Releases program. This year’s expression was matured in a combination of refill and rejuvenated American oak barrels and bodega European oak butts. Fresh and spicy on the nose, with tropical fruit aromas. Creamy on the palate, with fruit-and-nut milk chocolate bars, plus notes of developing citrus. The finish is slightly earthy, with wood spices.
The third release in Glenmorangie’s Bond House No.1 Collection spent 10 years in bourbon casks before being transferred into Bual madeira casks for 15 years of secondary maturation. Spicy nougat and ginger on the nose, stewed apricots, and a hint of bonfire smoke. Viscous on the palate, juicy, with strawberry liqueur chocolates. Spices linger long in the finish, with damsons and dark chocolate. (Travel Retail exclusive)
This is one of four new additions to the portfolio in 2018, and is the pick of the bunch. It is a ‘marrying-strength’ variant of the 18 year old, relaunched in 2017. Treacle tart, sweet woodsmoke, and milky coffee on the robust nose. The palate is voluptuous, with tangy orange, malt, and more woodsmoke. Milk chocolate and smoky Jaffa oranges in the finish. (Travel Retail exclusive)
One of three Mortlachs introduced in 2018, this has much to live up to, as the classic Flora & Fauna Mortlach was also 16 years old. The whisky has been aged entirely in sherry casks. The nose offers malt, gingersnaps, baked apple, and a delicate savory note. Quite full-bodied, with toffee apples, gammon, and old leather on the palate. Cocoa powder and tinned peaches in the finish. Editors’ Choice
This blends bourbon and oloroso cask-matured elements drawn from every style of Irish whiskey. A mouthwatering dram with warm, creamy toffee, ripening yellow banana, wood spices, toasted coconut, spiced stewed apple, and cinnamon sticks. A delicious sip reveals a smooth medley of malt, chocolate, gentle spices, Brazil nut, and dried fruit, which sidles into a long finish of chocolate-covered raisins and deep, resonating spice. No reservations; this is special.
Fresh morning blooms in the flower shop, soft summer fruits of cantaloupe, nectarine, peach, apricot, scallop-shaped madeleines, light vanilla, and dry, unobtrusive spices on this blend of sixteen single malt whiskies. Plunge into a pool of honey, orange, mango, vanilla, and sugary-sweet candy, shot through with little darts of spice. The finish is relatively short, with sweet pastries and light pepper, but I think ewe will like this.
Kirkland 7 year old Tennessee Straight Bourbon (Batch T-1796), 51.5%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $30
Orange zest, cocoa powder, toasted marshmallow, spiced root beer, peanuts in the shell, and pure vanilla bean on the nose, along with the pleasant aroma of standing inside a dusty old barn. The body has heft and purpose, weaving together orange marmalade, corn cakes, root beer, horehound candy, gingerbread spices, and blueberry jam, with well-integrated oak throughout. Unlike other contenders, this hits the perfect proof. (Costco)
Ripe pit fruit, especially apricot and peach, Quaker oats, and comb honey aromas are boosted by aromatic fragrances and sandalwood. Cantaloupe, mango, and papaya are followed by chocolate and cocoa, which pair beautifully with the muted citrus. Fragrant spices really add shape and contribute to a sublime balance, with spicy chocolate, coffee grounds, and menthol to finish. A most impressive leap forward in quality and complexity. (6,000 bottles for U.S.)
Lavish oak aromas display sawdust, sandalwood, baking spices, and Christmas cookies, but lurking underneath is lots of dark fruit—black cherry soda, blueberry muffin, and cassis—tinged with root beer barrels and alpine forest. A truly pretty, complex, and delicious whiskey, although the oak feels like it’s just a bit overdressed. Finished in charred wine barrels. (12,000 bottles)
Blender Anup Barik follows up his No. 5 whisky of our Top 20 of 2017 by deploying a Pedro Ximénez sherry-butt finish to the same winning formula. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, tiffin, honeydew, cherry, cinnamon, nutmeg, and hints of vanilla. A mouth-clinging concoction of swirling honeys and caramel, kumquat, redcurrant, banoffee pie, chocolate ganache, and cinnamon, with emerging pepper and clove, highlighting the blender’s enhancement of flavor by the finishing vessel.
There is a lot of pride behind this bottle, but undoubtedly its best features are the gloriously juicy mouthfeel and generosity of flavor. Orchard fruit, creamy vanilla, and freshly sliced orange square up to a company of spices: a mix of dried cumin, cayenne, paprika, and black pepper. Heavy and tangy, the orange conquers the initial charge of spices, with flanking maneuvers from lemon and bitter peels giving close support. (1,000 bottles for U.S.)
This blend of bourbons includes 11 year old and 18 year old liquid finished in armagnac, sherry, and cognac casks. Toasted oak, cinnamon apples, clove, blueberries, and vanilla cake on the nose, followed by a palate of chocolate cream pie, brown sugar, and more apple, cinnamon, and blueberry. Long and rich on a silky finish, with a final note of tobacco leaf atop chocolate, cinnamon, and cherry. A whiskey that combines power and finesse.
Sweet scents of maple syrup, creamy vanilla, caramel, and rich chocolate start things off, enlivened by notes of pepper, orange peel, and bread spice. A chewy palate tastes of dark chocolate, cherries and plums, cinnamon and layered spices of ginger, white pepper, cinnamon, and cloves. A similarly spicy finish is balanced by plums and berries, dark chocolate, and oak. A balanced, dessert-like whiskey with beautiful sweet notes and much more.
Glen Fohdry Làn-abaich 21 year old Speyside, 47.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $80
Though the name means “rich and mellow,” this whisky offers fresh, clean aromas: honeysuckle and lilies; melon, lemon, and lime; hay and grass, a sunlit meadow. Sweet and zingy on the palate, with lemon oil, guava candy, blueberry, strawberry, gentle spice, milk chocolate, and walnuts. More spice on the finish, with polished oak and dried fruit. Well constructed, supple, and easy to enjoy. (Total Wine & More)
Glen Fohdry Aiteal an Òir 12 year old Speyside, 47.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $38
Honey Nut Cheerios, pistachios, pomegranate, and softly spiced, earthy aromas lead into a rich palate of juicy grapefruit, guava, salted dark chocolate, and toasted nuts, with biscuity and oaky flavors to round things out. Gentle, but well balanced; no need to add water. (Total Wine & More)
A staple in the liquor cabinet, this hearty, malty dram conveys peppery smoke, kippers, dry spices, pencil shavings, a biscuit-like cereal note, and more pungent peat smoke as the glass warms up. Among others, this comprises Talisker, Linkwood, Cragganmore, and Caol Ila malts. Fruit follows smoke, with vanilla, pastry desserts, and peppercorn spices, becoming creamier with shredded peel, apple cobbler, and a warming finish of orange peel and forward spices.
This is sure to be a divisive edition, but once you open your mind to the idea, it’s hard to argue with the titillating aromas and seductive sweetness that curaçao casks bring. Resembling a bourbon liqueur, the nose is replete with tangerine, orange peel, tropical fruit, and nougat. The palate circles back to classic bourbon notes that manage to find balance with the candied orange nose.
This limited edition bottling celebrates the 25th anniversary of the DoubleWood releases. DoubleWood malts are initially matured in bourbon casks before a second period in European oak sherry casks. Classic Balvenie honey, orchard fruits, toffee, and oak on the nose. The palate is voluptuous, with orange, honey, ginger, and milk chocolate. Spicy sherry in the rich, long finish. (3,600 bottles)
Lagavulin 12 year old is represented in Diageo’s annual Special Releases lineup for the fifteenth consecutive year. This was matured in refill American oak barrels. Earthy, peppery peat are present on the nose, along with hazelnuts, seaweed, and lemon juice. It offers citrus fruit, bonfire smoke, pepper, chili, and antiseptic on the palate. The medium-length finish features smoked chilies.
This replaces the 21 year old expression. Initially matured in bourbon and second-fill American oak casks, and then in Spanish oak oloroso butts. Rich, warming aromas of cinnamon, honey, oak, and milk chocolate. The chocolate darkens on the full palate, with contrasting ripe pears and crème brûlée. A hint of brine, along with citrus fruits and light oak in the lengthy finish.
Bainbridge Battle Point Two Islands Islay Cask Finished Wheat, 43%
Craft Whiskey | $80
This wheat whiskey from Bainbridge Island in Washington State is finished 8 to12 months in barrels that previously held Islay Scotch whisky for 10 to 12 years. The nose offers cedar, beach bonfire smoke, and kelp, along with roasted pineapple, apples, and pepper. There’s more smoke, sea, and salinity on the palate, as well as meatier flavors of grilled sausage and leather, and the finish shows sweeter notes of caramel, walnut, and chocolate.
A bold nose smacks of sweetness and deep layers of leathery oak and toasted nuts. The palate pours sweet initially, with earthy dried apples, citrus, and bread crust, before the bitter citrus pith and tobacco notes rush in, turning dry and tannic, with tea leaves, dried herbs, and cigar wrapper. Finals wisps of varnish are a hallmark of age. This elder statesman deserves respect, but is nonetheless past its prime.
Rich, supple cognac aromas fit for twilight sipping on a blustery afternoon: cooked apple, prune juice, cinnamon, pecan pie, walnut, and white pepper. A luscious palate of marron glacé, nutmeg, dusty cocoa, prune, toffee apple, nutty dark chocolate brownies, black truffle, and clove. A more rounded, darker, and better-balanced whisky than the restrained 2016 release with its taut, citrus grip. Brenne has found its sweet spot.
An array of flowers and fruits tumbles from the glass: lilacs, orange blossom, lemon oil, raspberry, blueberry, shelled walnuts, and a hint of licorice. Very light-bodied, but with entrancing candied citrus peel, bubble gum, and strawberry candy flavors, along with sherry cask notes of walnut, hazelnut, milk chocolate, raisin, and ginger. Sweet oak and berries on the finish, which is light but lengthy. (Total Wine & More)
The nose offers rubbery-sweet peat and an array of fruit: apples, strawberries, raspberries, guava, mango, watermelon, and jackfruit, shot through with briny oyster shells. Juicy fruit—kiwi, guava, orange, pineapple—on the palate mingles with minerality, medicinal peat, dark chocolate, and salt. The finish is beach bonfire smoke, grilled pineapple, and finally, tobacco leaf. This is balanced and beautiful, but would be downright stunning at a higher proof. (Total Wine & More)
Kirkland 18 year old Sherry Cask Finish Speyside, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $54
Another Kirkland with evident sherry: raisins, figs, sugared almonds, leather, and pistachio-studded chocolate show up in full force, along with a note of rancio indicating its age. Additional flavors of nougat, orange oil, candied violets, and ginger swish into a full, rounded finish that settles in for a lengthy stay. This comes from the same undisclosed distillery as Kirkland’s 20 year old. (Costco)
A somewhat tight nose, with cocoa, spiced oak, brown sugar, and saddle leather; water reveals vivid vanilla and a bit of banana. The initial honeyed sweetness and chocolate-covered peanut cluster flavors quickly get brushed aside by the tannic oak and searing spice. Drinks a bit hot and hurried—with Szechuan pepper heat before a jolt of citrus oil. (18,000 bottles)
The third release of Westland’s single malt aged in native Garryana oak from the Northwest. Supply limits meant the wood was used more as a finishing agent this year, but the results are impressive. The nose has woodsmoke, eucalyptus, dark chocolate, espresso, blackberry, and lemon zest. The palate is toasty, with cocoa powder, berries, cinnamon, and chili pepper, finishing with more dark chocolate and espresso. A lot going on here, and it’s all good.
The lost Dufftown distillery of Pittyvaich last appeared in the Special Releases as a 25 year old in 2015. Like that bottling, this was also aged in refill American oak hogsheads. Initially, it’s slightly savory on the nose, with salted caramel, walnuts, and spicy raisins. Oily on the palate, with pineapple, apple crumble, malt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Toffee, milk chocolate, and licorice in the peppery finish. (4,680 bottles)
This is the final release in a three-part series that began in 2016 with One For The Road, followed by One For All. Initially aged for 18 years in bourbon barrels, then finished in virgin American oak quarter casks. The nose features tinned peach segments, coconut, and white pepper. The palate offers caramel, marzipan, almonds, and sultanas. Dark chocolate, raisins, and black pepper in the finish. £130
This Jos. A. Magnus & Co. release marries 18 year old and 11 year old bourbon with 9 year old light whiskey. Rich oak on a nose that offers butterscotch, vanilla ice cream, and sugared pecans, along with red fruit, baking spice, and black pepper. The palate reveals more vanilla, as well as almonds, honey, toffee, and gingerbread. Chocolate, baking spice, pepper, leathery oak, and tobacco leaf complete a long, sinewy finish that shows its maturity well.
A decade of aging in an oloroso cask has bestowed aromas of stewed plum, prune, throat lozenges, and thick fronds inside a tropical palm house, while still executing the same dreamily serene Kikori character. Age has enhanced the mouthfeel of this rice whisky, serving up a smooth, clean palate of tart orange, damson, and plum sweetness, with a complex twist of spice and drying orange peel on the finish. (312 bottles for U.S.)
Not a hair out of place here. On the nose, there are cooked bananas and poached pears with a wave of spices—allspice, cinnamon, cloves, pepper, and mace—as well as iced tea, orange peel, and the distinct aromas of a tobacco barn. The chewy, oak-driven palate showcases blackberry jam, cooked cherries, peanut chews, Coca-Cola, ginger, allspice, dark chocolate, and sassafras. It all ends with robust oak and a silky, lengthy flavor of pecan-studded chocolate. 288 bottles
Trader Joe’s Glen Moray 16 year old Speyside (Distilled in 2001), 40%
Single Malt Scotch | $40
Layers of rich fruit pervade the nose—plums in syrup, mango, guava, peach, dried kiwi—along with white pepper, ginger, and tobacco leaf. Those same fruits tumble over each other on the palate, which is light but complex, with gentle spice, cigar wrapper, dark chocolate, and slightly drying oak. The finish, though light, retains length through chocolate, tobacco, and polished oak flavors. This tastes remarkably good at its low proof, but what a thing it would be at 46%. (Trader Joe’s)
Bunnahabhain 2008 Mòine Bordeaux Red Wine Cask Matured, 58.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $95
Bunnahabhain has been marketing batches of peated spirit under the Mòine banner since 2004, and this example is the first to have been fully matured in Bordeaux red wine casks. Damp peat, sweet antiseptic, and subtle raspberry aromas. Lots of red berry notes on the palate, backed by milky coffee, peat, and vanilla. Black pepper and berry fruits in the smoky finish.
Inchgower makes its debut in the Special Releases range with this veteran bottling that was matured in in refill American oak. The nose offers a whiff of soy sauce, honey, and blotting paper. Salty and spicy on the palate, with green apple, walnut, and cloves. Jaffa orange and black pepper in the long finish. (8,544 bottles)
Part of Distell’s Malt Collection, this 19 year old offering of Tobermory Distillery’s peated spirit was finished in Pedro Ximénez sherry casks for an unspecified period. The nose yields smoky caramel, raisins, and coal soot. Full-bodied, with blackcurrant, toffee, hot asphalt, and black pepper. Black pepper, peat, and chewy oak in the medium-length finish.
Named in honor of the family that owned Mortlach for many years, this was matured in sherry wood, like its 16 year old sibling. Milk chocolate, nuts, and coffee on the nose, with developing meaty aromas. Soft and slightly waxy on the palate, with almonds, apricots, and allspice. Milk chocolate and spicy orange in the finish.
The youngest of the 2018 Mortlach trio, this is named after the distillery’s famous small spirit still. Maturation has taken place in sherry and bourbon casks. Baked apricots and ginger on the nose, with black pepper, lots of milk chocolate, and an herbal note. The palate is mildly savory, with more milk chocolate, vanilla, orchard fruits, and cinnamon. Lingering chocolate ginger in the finish.
This expression replaces the previous 17 year old, and has been aged in bourbon and second-fill American oak casks, followed by a period in first-fill Spanish oak oloroso butts. Sherry is immediately obvious on the nose, with fresh-baked fruitcake aromas, honey, and allspice. The palate is sweet and spicy, with Jaffa orange segments dipped in sea salt, toffee, and dark chocolate. Orange and oak in the medium-length finish.
After 10 years maturing in bourbon casks, this expression from the 2018 Distell Malt Collection was then aged for a further 2 years in fino sherry hogsheads. The nose offers white wine, sultanas, ginger, and cocoa powder, plus white chocolate and tangerines. The palate is full, with sweet orchard fruits, ginger, and cinnamon, balanced by dry sherry. The finish is medium in length, with black pepper and cocoa. (1,710 bottles)
Rather than the customary bourbon cask, this was aged in refill European oak butts. The nose is delicate, with brittle toffee, vibrant orange, pineapple, and a hint of barley. Mellow and fruity on the palate, with apricots, soft toffee, and table salt. Gingery oak and cocoa in the lengthy, slightly minty finish.
The nose has a bright note of lime, as well as dried herbs including coriander, parsley, and dill. Bonfire smoke and charred oak are in the mix, along with rich caramel. The palate blends sweet vanilla and toffee with smoked wood, apples, peanut shells, and a peppery spice embellishing the background. The finish is dark chocolate, espresso, peanut brittle, and more charred oak, along with a lingering, pleasant cigar aftertaste.
It works like this: triple distilled single pot still whiskey matured in bourbon, sherry, and Malaga casks, which produce a complex drink with aromas of red fruits, spice, nutmeg-dusted custard tarts, blossom honey, dried raspberry, clotted cream, cracked black pepper, and sweet flowering jasmine. The sweetness and nutmeg flavors are swallowed up by an overwhelming force of clove, with a finish of bitter nut oils and burnt toast.
GlenAllachie 10 year old Cask Strength (Batch 1), 57.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $80
This is the first batch of the only cask-strength bottling in the lineup and was matured in a combination of American oak, Pedro Ximénez, oloroso, and virgin oak casks. The nose offers gingersnap, melon, and cocoa powder, becoming floral in time. Bright fresh fruits on the palate, notably apricot and mango, with honey. Drying slowly, with a sprinkling of black pepper. (2,400 bottles for U.S.)
This expression is described by the distillers as “the heart of our range.” Matured in virgin oak, Pedro Ximénez, and oloroso casks. Oily on the nose, with ripe banana and a hint of oak. Quite full-bodied and slick on the palate, with vanilla, honey, and almonds. Milk chocolate and lime in the medium-length finish.
Driftless Glen Single Barrel Straight Rye (Barrel 203), 48%
Craft Whiskey | $55
Quite herbal on the nose, with aromas of dried tarragon, parsley, and dill, along with cherry, milk chocolate, orange blossom, vanilla bean, and sweet tea. The palate is slightly grain-forward, but is full and well balanced, with orange, dried flowers, chamomile tea, lemon rind, and ginger. The finish offers cinnamon and milk chocolate against a note of candied lemon. Youthful and barrel-influenced, but admirably executed.
Fresh and delicate on the nose, with stone fruit—especially peaches—white pepper, orange Creamsicle, and spice. A generous oak backbone provides the foundation for plums, nectarines, black pepper, clove, chamomile tea, and piney cedar that sweeps into a dry oak, cocoa, iced-tea finish. Although a bit hot at times, the balance and array of flavors is an outstanding coup for this young distillery.
This blend of bourbons (both sourced and house-made) is partly finished in PX sherry casks, and that influence makes itself known through aromas of candied pecans, honey, raisins, figs, oranges, and white pepper, along with cigar wrapper, rose petal, and some minerality. The palate is replete with roasted corn, dried dates, candied almonds, oranges, raspberry-jam cookies, cinnamon bark, and plenty of oak—a flavorful and elegant combination with silky mouthfeel and good balance.
The spectrum of aromas covers fudge, vanilla, a tantalizing crush of bitter grapefruit peel, lime pith, and Jaffa orange, with root ginger, spring onion, and cilantro stalks adding some freshness. A trio of unpeated single malts aged in French oak casks, this brings crème de cassis, mixed peel, burnt toffee, chocolate, and maltiness, with brief reminders of those green herbal notes, followed by a pleasing, malty-sweet finish.
Delicate floral and sweet aromas—peach blossom, honeysuckle, fresh apricot, milk chocolate, and nougat—commingle with earthy, herbaceous notes: espresso bean, log pile, clay. The palate is light-bodied, but doesn’t shortchange on flavor, with vanilla cookie, apricots, hazelnuts in milk chocolate, apple blossom, and salted light caramels. Take your time with this whiskey—it’s mature in flavor, if not in barrel age, and it needs room to unfold its many intriguing layers.
Nobody was expecting this Spanish proposition, as the inquisitive John Glaser adds the first new permanent addition to the range in many years. Its chief weapons are Spanish red wine, spiced orange, cranberry, redcurrant, and ristras of dried red chili pods hanging in doorways. The ruthlessly efficient palate has red wine notes, spicy chili heat, and an almost fanatical devotion to the pepper. Pour a glass and fetch the cushions.
Sliced apple, fig rolls, hot chocolate powder, baked orange, seasoned oak, and a wisp of light smoke like a red glow from burning newspaper. It has a contented, unperturbed, insouciant character. Cinnamon toffee yields to sweeter notes, with vanilla, dried fruits, and baked peach, and then goes long on nutmeg under drifting smoke. The woodiest of Walkers, this concludes with cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, allspice, and a catch of smoke. (Travel Retail exclusive)
Beeswax candles, wafers in vanilla ice cream, dried apricots, a strand of garden bonfire smoke, dried-out wedges of honeydew melon, and fruit shortcake cookies. The palate revels in barley sugar, active spices, lime, orange, and grapefruit peel, and it’s beautifully weighted with fudge and vanilla sponge cake. A mouth-clinging finish saturates the taste buds with sweet, honeyed fruits.
Chillingly good bottle for winter, this Game of Thrones tie-in sees a rakish striding man donning body armor, gripping an ice blade, and nodding a frosty greeting through glowing blue eyes. Room temperature aromas speak of toffee, lime zest, menthol, waxy foliage, and pronounced grain notes. Straight from the freezer, there are cornflakes, beeswax, caramel, vanilla, sharp citrus, sugared apple, and a hint of nutmeg. Deliciously tasty dram for your night’s watch. Best Value
Port Cask is the third and final release in Bowmore’s Vintner’s Trilogy. It was matured for 13 years in bourbon barrels, then 14 years in port pipes. Woodsmoke and blackcurrant on the mildly medicinal nose, with developing sea salt and vanilla fudge. Smoky dried fruit on the palate, with a hint of brine. Old oak, antiseptic, and black pepper in the finish.
This 9 year old Deanston spent almost 8 years in bourbon barrels before being transferred into French brandy butts for a final 2 years of aging. Cognac notes on the early nose, rich and spicy, with toffee, nutmeg, instant coffee, and rhubarb crumble. The palate is sweet, smooth, and buttery, with brandy, honey, and polished oak. The finish dries with licorice and chili warmth, then, finally, tangy dark berries. (3,432 bottles)
This follows Valkyrie in the Viking Legend series. Distilled using a proportion of Tartan barley grown on Orkney, which is said to produce additional smokiness. Matured mainly in sherry-seasoned American oak casks. Smoldering wood embers on the early nose, with heather in bloom and apple blossom. Vanilla, cloves, and smoky citrus fruit on the palate. The finish yields peat, aniseed, and nutmeg.
Matured in first-fill bourbon barrels, this youthful Talisker appears at one of the original bottling strengths used by one-time owners John Walker & Sons Ltd. It is the first Special Releases Talisker since 2013. Peppery tweed, ozone, coconut oil, and subtle smoke on the nose. The palate features woodsmoke and chili, toffee, and green berries. White pepper, sea salt, and a savory note in the finish. £70
Distilled in 2003, this expression spent a decade maturing in bourbon barrels before a further 5 years in first-fill Portuguese moscatel wine barriques. It was bottled without chill-filtration. The nose offers fragrant spices and red apples sprinkled lightly with white pepper. Very fruity on the supple palate, with strawberries-and-cream notes, background citrus, almonds, and slightly musty oak. Black pepper and figs in the medium-length finish.
Triple distilled classic containing a blend of pot still, malt, and grain whiskeys, this layers aromas of spice over toffee, creamy banana, light vanilla, sharp green apple, and zested limes. Aromatic spices quickly beat the established flavors of green fruits, followed by vanilla fudge, malty notes, peppercorn, and even a little oak char. This moreish, well-structured whiskey retains its creamy mouthfeel throughout the active, spicy finish. Best Value
This was aged in refill American oak barrels and bodega European oak butts followed by what Diageo describes as a “unique maturation and marrying process, involving five cask types.” The nose is soft and sweet, presenting malt, ginger, milk chocolate, and vanilla. Orchard fruits surface in time. Supple in the mouth, with toffee, ripe peaches, gingerbread, and old leather. Dark berries, char, and black pepper in the finish. £100
Elegant and dry, this Breton whisky from Distillerie Warenghem charms with its nose of digestive biscuits, honey, barley, dry oak, dried apricot, apple rings, roasted coriander seeds, and white pepper. The flavor delivery is well balanced with orange, honey, caramel, chocolate, vanilla, and pepper, with the masterful spices quelling the fruitiness in the end. Breton is an endangered language, so pour a glass and raise a toast. Yec’hed mat!
Quite confectionery and billowing with fruity candies—banana taffy, bubble gum, Pixy Stix, red cinnamon gumdrops, and Swedish Fish. The palate offers black cherry soda, more banana, and a bit of grapefruit. Very fruity, with just enough oak to deliver a drying finish. Fans of Jack will be like kids in the candy store, with the added proof and intensity. (Travel Retail exclusive)
Aged in American oak, Pedro Ximénez, and oloroso casks. The nose is nutty, with treacle, and developing geranium aromas. Prunes and dates, plus almonds on the buttery palate. Drying in the finish, with nutmeg and wood spice. (1,200 bottles for U.S.)
The oldest bottling in the range, this was aged in a combination of Pedro Ximénez, oloroso, and American oak casks. Farmyard aromas, with oak and dark chocolate. Very smooth and supple on the palate, with orange marmalade, raisins, and old oak. The finish is quite short, with dried fruit and milky coffee. (160 bottles for U.S.)
Berry Bros & Rudd The Classic Range Sherry Cask Matured, 44.2%
Blended Malt Scotch Whisky | $41
This is rich in cask characters, with baked orange, pronounced nutmeg notes, mace, peppercorn, and petrichor. The opening flavors of dark orange and syrupy caramel swerve headlong into pepper, root ginger, allspice, and nippy clove. Despite appearances, this is not awash with sherry-dominated fruitiness, but the finish is long, with spice-led dried fruits. £32
Three is the magic number: bourbon, oloroso, and canteiro-seasoned madeira barrels bring forth an intense whiskey that radiates summer warmth with unctuous raisin sweetness, candied orange peel, honey, ground cumin, peppercorn, and toasted oak. Peppercorn and oak char follow fruity-sweet flavors of apple, cranberry, cherry, and sultana. This impressive grain whiskey is more assertively spicy than their malts, but displays even greater depth and character than Glendalough Double Barrel. €48
One for the fruit fiends: honeyed apricots, tart kumquats, candied pineapple, dried kiwi, and layered spices—ginger, cardamom, licorice—on the nose. More candied fruit, grape soda, bubble gum, dried apricot, and kiwi flood the palate, along with licorice and earthy spice on the finish. Add water liberally—the high proof conceals some of the most entrancing flavors.
Peach, blueberry, candied raspberry, and lime lead the way, with marzipan and a background of peppery spice aromas set artfully against soft, subtle wood. A mouth-filling palate offers lemon and raspberry, along with ginger, cinnamon, chocolate, and honey. Water coaxes tropical notes of melon and pineapple. The finish is peppery, with caramel and chocolate flowing over pleasant oak overtones. A rye that strikes an excellent balance between fruit, sweetness, and spice.
Black pepper and toasted oak on the nose mingle with deeper aromas of blackcurrant and strawberry preserves. The palate is smooth, showing flavors of vanilla bean, coconut, peppermint, and cinnamon. Dark chocolate emerges on the back palate, along with pepper and tobacco leaf. The finish is long, revealing maple syrup, caramel, and brown sugar. Five years of aging have created a solid, well-constructed bourbon that has impressive depth and complexity.
Bright, fresh, fruity, and clean, with a nose of fresh cream, pressed flowers, ripening green melon, green apple, and cut pear, mellowing into baked fruit tarts, rubbed lemon peel, and spice. It’s a very sweet mouthful of sugary candy, vanilla fudge, lemon bonbon, sherbet, and fermenting apple laced with a few tangy strands of citrus. A long-lasting sweet finish, with lemon and an initial spicy buzz. €84
A well-developed nose of rich toffee, blackcurrant, red apple, and beeswax, which incorporates a mild layer of spice. Mandarin orange shines through, quite a fleshy texture overall, with chocolate buttons, and pepper and clove stepping in from the wings; the clove and a bitter note eventually taking center stage. The flavor development, complexity, and spices are laudable, and the texture and weight are distinctively different.
A blend of three malts with a finish in sauternes barrels; the sweet wine gracing the whisky with a light, delicate frame. It takes a while to open up, unfurling flavors of brioche, egg custard, walnut baklava, ground cumin, and a conspicuous vanilla scent. Cinnamon commands the palate, supported by peach, nectarine, and vanilla, with a nuttiness and base notes of spice, rounding off with cinnamon, pepper, and baked orange.
Enjoy fresh aromas in multiple ways, like fruit (melon, pear, blueberry) and a sea breeze (oyster shell, salty). Full flavors of tangerine, Bosc pear, salted pistachio, white pepper, dried ginger, and mint are diminished only by the light body. The finish is particularly satisfying, but a little more heft would make it shine. (Total Wine & More)
Hickory Hill 12 year old Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon (Barrel No. 2), 45%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $50
Aromas of peanuts, sassafras, Cheerwine soda, nutty oak, and a sweep of cloves, allspice, and ginger, sprinkled with blackberries and cherries. There’s zippy citrus on the palate, a nice lift of heavier oak, roasted nut, dark chocolate, and baking spice flavors. But the richness stops short on the finish, which is light and quick. (Total Wine & More)
Dessert is served. Blueberries and raspberries baked into a sweet pie crust, with pistachio, spiced almonds, and marzipan on the nose. The palate has gentle spice and a heft of deeper flavors—caramel, semi-sweet chocolate, candied berries and almonds, and orange gummy wedges—balanced by vanilla and coconut. Though light, it finishes with a satisfying richness of berry candy and polished oak. (Total Wine & More)
This nose is all dry, earthy oak, tightly wrapped in rawhide, but underneath lurks plenty of sweetness, like overripe bananas, with the slight bitterness of citrus oils or orange pekoe tea adding balance. Pleasing coffee and mocha flavors also emerge on the palate, but the oak feels poorly integrated, with a green-stick quality. Finished for 4 months in a custom grooved barrel. (42,000 bottles)
One of six whiskies released in Distell’s first Malt Collection. This received a secondary maturation of almost 2 years in Palo Cortado casks, rarely used for Scotch whisky. Melon slices sprinkled with salt, vanilla, and finally, peach blossom on the nose. More peaches on the spicy palate, with milk chocolate and oak. Peppery in the medium-length finish, with aniseed. (1,644 bottles)
The fourth release in Glenfiddich’s Experimental Series, this expression comprises peated and unpeated single malt, matured in bourbon barrels and then finished for 3 months in Latin American rum casks. A nose of spiced rum, vanilla, ripe pears, and pipe tobacco. Baked apple, sweet oak, and cinder toffee on the palate, with ashy smoke. Peppery sweet peat, rum, and brittle toffee in the relatively short finish. Best Value
‘Cairdeas’ is Gaelic for ‘friendship.’ This bottling was aged in first-fill bourbon casks before a finishing period in fino sherry casks. The nose offers lemon cheesecake smoked in peat, with brine, almonds, and oysters. Full and rounded on the palate, with stewed fruits, ashy peat, antiseptic, and more brine. The lengthy finish features licorice, tar, rock salt, phenols, and citrus fruits.
The only survivor from Old Pulteney’s core range shake-up of 2018, this has been matured in first and second-fill bourbon casks. The nose is delicate, with almonds, honey, and floral notes. Malt and toffee on the palate, with spicy oak and a hint of brine. The medium-length finish is nutty, with wood spices.
This NAS expression is part of the new 2018 Old Pulteney core lineup. Initially matured in second-fill American oak and bourbon casks, it was finished in bourbon casks that previously held heavily peated whisky. Sweet woodsmoke, crème brûlée, green apples, and cinder toffee on the nose. The smoke is more peat-induced on the palate, with banana fritters, and subtly sprinkled with sea salt. The finish features caramel and herbal notes.
This porter-style, 100% malted barley single malt has a nose of dark chocolate and coffee beans that’s also slightly herbal, with a note of wood and a subtle, pleasant sweetness. Toasted oak leads on the palate, with sugared espresso, cinnamon, dried flowers, and an ashy back note. More coffee, chocolate, and coconut punctuate the finish. Aged at least 2 years, this whiskey is surprisingly complex considering its relative youth, and is quite unique.
This whiskey is made from four separate mashbills of malt, wheat, oats, and rye, and aged in oak for 12 to 36 months. There’s a subtle spiciness on the nose, as well as lemon, orange peel and a hint of sandalwood. The palate has notes of rice pudding, maple syrup, malt, chocolate, and honey. A lengthy finish is completed with cinnamon, chocolate, coffee, baking spice, and a touch of pepper.
A classic rye nose, with aromas of pancakes, butterscotch, vanilla, and baking spices. The palate balances sweetness and spices—a bit tannic from the extra maturation in toasted oak, but well-rounded with flavors of cherries, chocolate, and spice, leading into a gentle, satisfying finish.
An Easter basket of aromas and flavors. Delicately floral on the nose, with rose petals, hibiscus, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and a hint of pastry shop. Similar characteristics show on the palate, where sweetness stops short of saccharine: orange cream candies, bubble gum, and cherry soda lead into a short finish with a jelly-bean sweetness. (Total Wine & More)
An entrancing nose shows ripe apples and peaches, blueberry pie, earthy and saline peat, and fresh citrus. Although light, the palate has an enjoyable fruity character with layers of grapefruit, candy apple, kettle corn, wild berry, and orange Creamsicle. Water does not benefit this—drink it as-is. Aged at least 5 years. (Total Wine & More)
A delicate blend that manages to express richness in its simplicity. Perfumy and floral on the nose. On the palate, coconut, marzipan, and golden raisin flavors show the grain component, but they’re buttressed by chocolate, strawberries, and orange oil, leading into a satisfying oak and chocolate-orange finish. (Total Wine & More)
Refill bourbon, American oak, and virgin oak are the woods in question. Technically, they are all American oak, just at different flavor-giving stages of their productive lives. Honey, fresh apricot, floral, and supple barley notes, candied orange, star anise, dried chili, and a touch of aniseed. Exceptionally smooth with caramel, date, red fruits, chocolate, and pecan pie, finishing with wood char and spice. One wood three ways, I grant you. Previously labeled as Grant’s Family Reserve
Part of Breuckelen Distilling’s Bonded Series, this rye starts with fresh wood and some candied fruit on the nose, as well as vanilla frosting, lemon, and cigar wrapper. The palate is somewhat oak-driven, with emerging fruit flavors of peach, apricot, and juicy orange. A strong finish has notably good length and reveals more flavors of dark chocolate, raspberries, blueberries, black cherries, licorice, and gentle wood spices.
And you shall be scotched: vanilla, fudge, eraser-tipped pencils, spoonfuls of thick lemon curd, rhubarb compote, root ginger, and cumin. This malty dram has a decent weight behind it, with rich caramel, chocolate-flavored toffee, deep notes of orange and zested limes, plum fruit, and well-balanced peppery spices. A little spice, dusty chocolate, and Horlicks on the finish. A solid whisky, so just holler if you want some. (1,200 bottles)
Fresh wood, pine forest, and grassy meadow greet you on the nose—followed by lemon, coriander, and some warmer notes of ginger and shortbread. The palate is sweet, with chocolate, caramel, hints of almond, licorice, cinnamon, and clove, balanced against notes of anise, pine nuts, dill, and black pepper. The finish is punctuated by polished oak and spiced chocolate. This craft expression is youthful, but is also dynamic and complex.
This bourbon from South Carolina’s Charleston Distilling Co. has a nose that starts with a chalky minerality, but fruit leather, strawberry, and blueberry quickly emerge, along with notes of candy corn, caramel, and chocolate fondue. The palate offers bitter chocolate, grape, and cherry, with caramel, roasted nuts, and coconut lingering on the back palate. The finish is nutty and bittersweet, with lingering fruitiness on a warm and chocolaty finish.
This high-rye expression (75% rye) has a nose of citrus, dried tea leaves, and a fennel note, rounded out by a pleasant sweetness that’s laced with Christmas cake, cocoa, clove, and cinnamon. The palate is rich chocolate balanced by citrus oil, nutmeg, walnut, and white pepper. The finish is warm, silky, and full. Well integrated, balanced, and sophisticated, this whiskey is elegant beyond its age.
Saline and earthy on the nose, lifted up by green apple, Juicy Fruit gum, and mango. A pleasant smokiness—more cigar wrapper than peat—wafts through the palate’s juicy roundness of mango, green apple, and Red Vines. More tobacco leaf and toasted oak on the finish. (Trader Joe’s)
Trader Joe’s Ardmore 10 year old Highland (Distilled in 2008), 40%
Single Malt Scotch | $33
Mineral and saline peat and brine, along with a slight rubberiness, are balanced by white pepper, orange marmalade, lemon, herbs, and grilled apples on the nose. The drying and smoky palate is light-bodied, but with generous peat, lemon, and herb flavors, finishing with oak, smoke, and more lemon. If you’re looking for a peated single malt that’s more gentle in body, try this one. (Trader Joe’s)
Trader Joe’s GlenAllachie 13 year old Speyside (Distilled in 2004), 40%
Single Malt Scotch | $55
Earthiness and aromas of toffee apple, stewed fruit, ginger, allspice, walnuts, and dried figs sweep into a sweet, raisiny palate that also has flavors of candied nuts, semi-dark chocolate, dried fruit, caramel, and apples. Sweet, with almonds and chocolate on the finish—lots of tasty sherry flavors here, but an uncomplicated character. (Trader Joe’s)
Ainsley Brae 12 year old (Distilled at Royal Brackla), 40%
Single Malt Scotch | $65
An array of tropical fruit aromas—guava, papaya, green banana—mingle with incense, fresh herbs, and homemade cranberry sauce. The palate is light, silky, and flavorful: strawberry, pineapple, grapefruit soda, and milk chocolate, with a brief cigar-wrapper finish. A higher proof would go a long way to turn this whisky from merely pleasant to excellent. (Total Wine & More)
Classic sherry aromas of raisins, hazelnuts, dark chocolate, and cooked plums prime the palate, but pay attention: a hint of peat is there, presenting beautifully as smoke and saline, along with sweet almond, gingerbread, chocolate-covered raisins, and hazelnuts. The finish is wispy, with oak, cigar, and dark chocolate flavors. (Total Wine & More)
The nose on this is lovely and seductive, with a gingerbread cookie quality coupled with leather and baking spices. The palate is lively and warming with root beer spices, but its character is overshadowed by the intensity of the toasted barrel, and feels just a bit hollow beneath all that lavish oak.
A new small-batch addition to the Aberlour line-up, Casg Annamh (Gaelic for ‘rare cask’) has been matured in European and American oak oloroso sherry casks. Rich, buttery caramel aromas, grilled pineapple, and ginger. The palate is smooth, and yields spicy vanilla, tangerines, and cloves. Lots of black pepper and licorice in the relatively long finish. Less complex than the distillery’s A’bunadh.
With two distilleries now on-site, the new Kavalan has a nose of apple and cinnamon pie, loaves of bread, new hardback books, flashes of lemon peel, and mild spices that flatter the baked fruits. A lighter structure, with pleasant green apple and pear notes, a tingle of pepper and allspice, becoming creamier with the flavor of sherbet flying-saucer candy. More active spices on the finish amid fading fruits.
Floral and creamy on the nose, like meringue perfumed with orange-blossom water. The palate is straightforward: vanilla, bubble gum, rose petal, orange blossom, and crème brûlée, with a short, light finish of toasted almonds and chalky vanilla fudge. (Costco)
The first whiff is that of a garden tea party: geraniums, potting soil, and floral and grassy aromas mingle with apple peels, toasted coconut, and vanilla. In the mouth, it’s very light, although the flavors that are present are enjoyable: vanilla cupcake, lemon muffin, toasted almonds, and a hint of coconut. Simplicity that lends itself to easy drinking. (Costco)
Violet candies, rose petal, and lots of fresh grainy aromas meet hints of candle wax on the nose. The palate is quite pretty and pure, and delivers good intensity of white pepper spice, citrus, and vanilla cream before a fairly short finish. Does not hold up to water, but there are some nice flavors here.
Driftless Glen Single Barrel Straight Bourbon, 48%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $50
Oak-forward from start to finish, with aromas of new wood, fresh and dried flowers, oranges, candy apple, cherry soda, and iced tea. Wood, fresh apple, semi-dark chocolate, orange, iced tea, chamomile, and a sweep of spices roll into a cinnamon, clove, and chocolate finish that remains oak-dominated.
A good hit of woodsmoke, some coastal character, black cherry, and ground black pepper, but there is a sulfurous note with a hint of rubber gloves. The perfectly placid palate of citrus and caramel is disrupted by an angry swarm of pepper, which eventually dies away, leaving behind more smoke and hints of hazelnut. A mouth-watering finish of orange candy and pepper.
Earthy and a bit saline on the nose, like a pine forest in spitting distance of the sea. The palate shows a bit of youthful heat, as well as grilled fruit, polished oak, walnuts, and a somewhat soapy character. The finish is nutty and chocolaty, with structured oak. (Total Wine & More)
A sweet and clean nose, with aromas of confectioners’ sugar, meringue, vanilla, and almond flour. The balanced palate has richer layers of oak, blueberry jam, red berries, candied ginger, and chocolate, leading into a quick but pleasant finish with a hint of spice. (Total Wine & More)
Sherry cask influence makes itself known through cooked plums, chocolate, dried figs, raisins, hazelnuts, and sugared almonds on the nose. The palate is also sherry-forward and sweet, featuring dried and stewed fruit, hazelnut, almond, dark chocolate, and light gingerbread flavors. There’s a youthful heat, and the finish wraps up with bitter oak and a wisp of chocolate-covered raisin. Despite the low proof, a few drops of water help this hang together more evenly. (Walmart)
A delicate nose of golden raisin, Cracker Jack peanuts, pleasing citrus, and hints of clove. The palate is fairly straightforward in its honeyed sweetness and warm cereal notes, with hints of tobacco leaf. Not exciting, but enjoyable in an understated way and a nice leisurely sipper.
Sweet and fruity to start, with Swedish fish, orange Creamsicle, circus peanuts, and some dusty spices: pepper, caraway, and allspice. There’s zippier spice and citrus on the palate, along with chili-chocolate, peanut brittle, cherry cough syrup, and a little leathery oak on the finish. It’s soft and light-bodied—serviceable, but not exciting. (Total Wine & More)
Sulfury funk on the nose might intimidate, but it’s a harbinger of the whisky’s strong sherry influence. There are also aromas of cinnamon, allspice, tangy stewed fruit, roasted almonds, and saline. The palate is intensely floral, with raisins, dried figs, hazelnuts, red berries, and a little milk chocolate. Richly flavored, but light-bodied; a gentle sherried whisky. (Total Wine & More)
Aromas of dry cedar, used sandpaper, and hay mingle with candied fruit—green apple Jolly Rancher, Asian pear—along with earthy tea leaves. The wood-forward palate highlights more tea leaves, dried apple rings, apple skins, gentle clove spice, and cedar. It finishes with dry wood, cloves, and a hint of dried orange peel. A peculiar whiskey that seems unsure of itself.
Soft oak, brown sugar, and a back note of iron start things off, followed by hints of corn muffin, red candy, and a subtle note of dried red fruit. The palate leads with vanilla rice pudding, a light note of orange peel, milk chocolate, and green apple. It’s creamy, light, and sweet, with baking spice enlivening the chocolate. The finish is lengthy, ending with vanilla icing and a buttery note.
A delicate grassy nose with aromas of bread dough, green bananas, cardamom, and lemon. Light-bodied on the palate, with pleasant flavors of cardamom, lemon, and white pepper, it rushes through to a more substantial finish of roasted walnuts, tobacco leaf, unsweetened chocolate, and oak. (Total Wine & More)
Stick your snout into aromas of rich tea biscuits, honey, tangerine, toasted almond chips, candied pineapple chunks, and a prickle of spice. It’s youthful but integrated, the grain domineering over the malt. A likable flavor sequence begins with lovely honey sweetness, honeydew melon, and pear, before a citrus phase, followed by an ominous wave of spice which vanquishes the sweet fruits, leaving a swift, spicy finish. (12,000 bottles for U.S.)
Behind its comic book label, this pallid 3 year old, 40% malt content whisky has a nose of vanilla frosting, fudge, caramel, whole lime, orange peel, fresh apple, nougat, sesame seed bars, and faint notes of ground black pepper This works beautifully in long drinks, with its light character of dominant lemon flavors, vanilla, fizzy sherbet, and traces of spice. No messing around: it’s sharp, tangy, zingy, and refreshing. (12,000 bottles for U.S.)
Named after the Irish victory over the Vikings at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014, this has a nose of vanilla, dusty spices, old sweet-shop toffee, dried banana, and polished wood furniture. While the tasty palate comprises fresh green apple, pear, citrus fruits, vanilla, boiled candies, and an appealing lift of spice, this would be tastier still with a bit more weight behind it.
On the nose, spiced plums, cinnamon, clove, ginger, and cooked fruit mingle with seawater and a waft of guava. A tug of war between sweet—orange oil, cookies with lemon icing—and spice—cloves, dried ginger—resolves into a finish of milk chocolate with a hint of hookah tobacco. This is light and a bit hot, but its perfumy character shows well. Finished in first-fill bourbon barrels. (Trader Joe’s)
The scents of a forest floor—dried leaves, old pine needles, twigs—mingle with stewed fruit, biscuity malt, lemon oil, and rose petal soap. The palate is light and candy-sweet, like strawberry jelly beans, candied rose petals, and sugar cookies tinged with cinnamon. Youthful and very light, but pleasant. (Total Wine & More)
An initial aroma of carrot peelings gives way to cedar, allspice, lemon, and chamomile; with water added, carrot cake, almond shell, and lemon icing emerge. On the palate there’s chamomile tea with lemon and clove, candied violet, orange, and cedar, swooping into a finish of oak and dried flowers. (Total Wine & More)
Coconut cream, orange peel, vanilla, and plenty of sweet grain permeate the nose and carry through to the palate, which is uncomplicated and youthful; a creamy, floral, banana confection touched with lemon. Light and simple—if you like this style of whiskey, this is a good option. (Walmart)
Ripe orchard fruits, white flowers, saltines, green apple candy, and a hint of floor polish on the nose, along with pie crust that expresses itself as a sweet nuttiness on the palate. The flavors are simple—caramel, roasted hazelnuts, milk chocolate, and orange—and the finish short. If you’re after an ordinary Irish blend, this should do the trick. (Total Wine & More)
A nose of white pepper and spice, as well as salty brine, light sea smoke, and toasted wood, followed by white chocolate, confectionery sweetness, and wild berries. Rich and full on a front palate that’s somewhat youthful, led by notes of vanilla, milk chocolate, marzipan, and treacle, with lemon and almond adding some zest. The finish lingers, with a hint of salinity and toasted wood, as well as light smoke.
Earthy, with corn husk and biscuit dough on the nose, along with cooked apples, white pepper, and a light spice. Honey, almond meal, toasted marshmallow, and a hint of lemon make for a simple, somewhat grainy palate. It finishes short and sweet, with some cinnamon heat. (Costco)
Sweet, fruity, and floral, with orange-blossom water, Juicy Fruit gum, toasted coconut, and honey. The palate is simple and grain-forward, with vanilla, coconut, and frosted cookie. Light, facile, and very sweet, this whisky won’t satisfy those seeking complexity, but works well for uncomplicated sipping. (Costco)
Light and delicate characteristics abound. The nose has raspberries and orange peel, along with fresh-cut wood, iced tea, and rose petals. Wood dominates the palate, lifted by gentle spice, rock candy, walnut shell, stewed plums, and grain. The finish is short, with cola, wood, and bread.
Aromas of spiced orange and lemon, cedar, bubblegum, and caramel spar with the fresh wood aromas of a sawmill. On the palate, ginger, white pepper, and oak are counterbalanced by a wave of sweetness: orange oil, bubblegum, and strawberry-flavored Fruit Roll-Ups. A touch of water benefits this somewhat simple pour.
Walk into a pastry shop and inhale the aromas of coconut cake, confectioners’ sugar, lemon cream, almond paste, and vanilla. Then take a sip: coconut custard, slivered almonds, vanilla, and sweet bread dough. The grain whisky is at the forefront here, lending simplicity and insistent sweetness. (Total Wine & More)
The nose is grassy and light, with some youthful heat, orange blossom, vanilla, coconut, and cedar. A clean palate of lemon, orange, vanilla, banana, and toasted coconut leads into a simple finish of oak and more vanilla. Basic, but well balanced. (Total Wine & More)
Some pleasant warm cereal notes emerge, like Quaker oats with cinnamon and brown sugar. The palate offers peanuts and spices, however young spirit juts out, with green stick and slightly antiseptic flavors out of synch with the ample toasted oak. Blind tasted twice with consistent notes.
Fresh, sharp citrus with lighter elements: floral notes, orange macaroons, and wisps of cotton candy. Lemon peel, tinned mandarin, and tangy grapefruit on the palate, with deeper notes of lemon curd, gooseberry, confectioners’ sugar, and a minor spice note. This delivers a narrow spectrum of flavor for a blend.
If you aren’t expecting it, the herbaceous, grassy, mineral aromas are a surprise, more expected in an agave spirit than a typical Speysider. But there’s something entrancing about the herbal flavors of tarragon, licorice tea, chestnut honey, and saline, which resolve into a lightly sweet, slightly spiced finish. This is unusual, but beguiling. (Trader Joe’s)
The nose is innocuous, with some cinnamon, herbal iced tea, sweet oranges, cedar, and dry oak. Sweet and wood-forward on the palate, it is also drying and hot, with herbal tea, orange oil, chocolate, cinnamon, and cherry cough syrup. While there are flavors to enjoy here, they seem to need more time to fully develop. (Trader Joe’s)
Roasted lemon and orange peels, grilled apples, nutmeg, ginger, and Popsicle stick on the nose. Citrus-flavored hard candies, cinnamon, cloves, iced tea, apple skins, and drying wood on the palate, which takes water well. This is simple, wood-forward, and immature, but the flavors are pleasant. (Total Wine & More)
With spearmint, licorice, dried flowers, cedar, and new oak on the nose, it’s no surprise to taste a wood-forward palate. Iced tea with orange peel, spearmint, grain, sweet cedar, and drying oak lead into a finish of menthol, dark cocoa, and shoe polish. Youthful, with some rough edges, but enjoyable. Distilled by Catoctin Creek from 100% rye. (Total Wine & More)
Somewhat vegetal on the nose, with stewed fruit, licorice, tarragon, ginger, butterscotch, and hazelnuts. More stewed fruit, salted licorice, and hazelnuts appear on the palate, along with white pepper, clove, and bitter oak. An abrupt whisky whose better characteristics are muddied by the first-fill rum cask finish. (Trader Joe’s)