After 40 years in barrels, the trademark Canadian Club dark fruit is as rich as ever. Reminiscent of raisin tarts with sprinkles of sweet baking spices, then strawberries and black pepper. Warming but never hot. No tannins, no woodiness; silky barrel tones are the only hint of oak, while soaring floral esters speak loudly of time in the barrel. The glowing, never-ending finish is spectacular. Canada’s Sesquicentennial Celebratory Release. C$250
Oh, the glory of used cooperage. Woody notes begone—let time slowly breathe life into what began as almost neutral, high-proof corn spirit. Creamy spice, barley sugars, peach syrup, dry grasses, and ancient barn boards. Incredible complexity, yet so tightly interwoven it achieves oneness. One hundred points until a campfire bursts onto the finish and consumes five of them.
Chivas Regal 18 year old Ultimate Cask Collection First Fill French Oak Finish, 48%
Blended Scotch Whisky | $120
An auld alliance renewed, this gorgeous whisky packs spicy aromas of peppercorn, star anise, and cardamom seeds, mingling with toffee squares, plum jam, dunnage earth, and dried sprigs of heather. Rich fruitcake, jellied fruit, and bramble, then spices course through the mouth: chili heat, black pepper, and raw ginger. Final phase has chocolate praline, growing milky, nutty, and soothing. Exceptional lengthy finish with reignited spices. Chivas 18 goes electric. (Travel Retail exclusive)
Although it sounds more like the warped master plan of a sinister Bond villain, it’s actually named after the four different woods in Amrut’s second wave of spectrum casks. Prune stone, dried fig, black cherry flesh, raspberry, cinnamon, and a hint of macchiato aromas. Dense concentrated cherry and sultana, cooked apple and pear, heavy spices, and fruit and nut chocolate. Finish of hot, sticky dates and baked orchard fruit. Commendable.
Cask strength Lot No. 40 has been in production at Hiram Walker Distillery for over 75 years for use as flavoring whisky. Finally in bottle, this is more than regular Lot No. 40 amped up. New notes of halva, pansies, blistering spices, tropical fruits, minty candy canes, and peanut skins are layered over the lilacs, rye bread, dark fruits, and slatey rye of its 43% standard release. Long, glowering finish.
Not seen since 2010, this yields vanilla frosting, menthol, spearmint, cream, dry spices, cedarwood, chopped herbs, and a discernable whiff of old grain. Silky taste of butterscotch; it becomes more honeyed, with creamy vanilla, dried banana, malt, and a pinch of cinnamon, pepper, herbs, clove, and eucalyptus. The yin and yang of Glen Elgin and Girvan makes an admirable exercise in precision, minimalist blending. Mad as a box of frogs.
Distilled in 1988 and finished for an unspecified period in port casks after lengthy maturation in bourbon barrels. Floral, perfumed, and very enticing on the nose. Vanilla fudge, cocktail cherries, polished oak, and gentle spices. Soft and sweet on the palate, with vanilla, overripe orange, cinnamon, and milky coffee. Long and slightly peppery on the finish, with persistent drying fruitiness. Complex and extremely accomplished.
That Boutique-y Whisky Company (distilled at Glenturret) 35 year old, 48%
Single Malt Scotch | $173
Sherry cask matured in its entirety, this rich, southern Highland beauty exudes a perfume of deep orange, sweet cherry, plum, nutty fruitcake, and pleasant oak. Beautifully balanced, it showcases sweet orange, red fruits, baked Victoria plum, and brown sugar, while ginger and pepper sparkle across the tongue. Honey and stewed fruits mollify the throat. An absolute joy.
That Boutique-y Whisky Company (distilled at Macallan) 29 year old, 43.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $560
This has the poise and physique of a classic sherried Macallan. Hazelnut, mixed peel, peach cobbler, and wood spices form a delightful olfactory combination. Warm, weighty sherry notes bathe the mouth with ginger loaf, milk chocolate chunks, and espresso in support, lilting toward a lip-smacking finish of peach melba and amontillado sherry. It’s increasingly rare to find a top-quality aged independent Macallan, so don’t miss out.
Exclusive Malts (distilled at Invergordon) 43 year old 1972, 48.2%
Grain Scotch Whisky | $260
This grand old Highlander brings warm flapjacks baked with golden syrup, nutmeg, oak spices, toffee brittle, toasted muffin, cinnamon sticks, and beeswax polish. The oat breakfast cereals and caramel beckon in a fruit explosion of mango, burnt orange, raspberry, banana chips, and papaya. Rejoice in that dense, ever-changing satin mouthfeel, with Invergordon’s grain character only more apparent toward the end. Soft spice underplayed on a dry finish. An enchanting find.
Try this in your next Manhattan. Heather honey sweetness, Belgian waffles, cinnamon, rye spices, creamy vanilla, peppercorn, and dried porcini emerge after the 6-month rye cask finishing period. Sweet caramel oozes over the tongue, Highland toffee and Orkney fudge hold the spices in check. Banana candy and deep citrus acknowledge the Dufftown single malt component. The most accomplished Blender’s Batch to date. Emma Walker has nailed it. (Travel Retail exclusive)
Chivas Regal 18 year old Ultimate Cask Collection First Fill American Oak Finish, 48%
Blended Scotch Whisky | $120
And you thought all Chivas Regal 18 year old was the same. Luscious toffee, cinnamon, nutmeg, chocolate praline, dry grasses, hazelnut, and just a lift of lime and peppermint. The palate has fudge-like sweetness, caramel, walnut cake, murmuring spices, orange peel, and toffee banana. Water unlocks watermelon and a fruitier side to its character. The spices push hard through the finish as the toffee flavors relinquish their grip.
This limited release was matured in 60% refill sherry butts and 40% fresh bourbon barrels. Initially sweet vanilla and ripe apple notes on the nose, giving way to chimney soot and dry peat. The palate is very full and oily, with honey and vanilla merging with smoked haddock, charcuterie, and more overt peat. Licorice, coffee beans, brine, chili, and peppery peat in the lengthy finish. (4,500 bottles)
What’s a rye single malt, you ask? It’s 100% malted rye distilled in pot stills, bursting with rye spices, thick toffee, malt loaf, chocolate, licorice, burnt sugar, and tropical fruits. Praline, cinnamon, and burnt orange flavors succumb to an assault of spice, tropical fruits, and licorice, ending with virgin American oak char before a gum-numbing aniseed finish of Fisherman’s Friends. Water just mutes the enjoyment, so leave it.
Glen Moray is celebrating its 120th anniversary with Mastery, a vatting from 1978, 1988, 1994, 1999, and 2001. Maturation—and finishing—has occurred in a mix of bourbon, sherry, madeira, and port casks. Resinous sherry, smoky red wine, caramel, and vanilla on the nose. Voluptuous on the palate, with sherry, succulent stewed fruit, soft toffee, and cocoa powder. Long in the gently spiced finish, with port-soaked oak. (1,000 bottles)
Wonderful opening of cigar humidor and tack room, it presents vibrant caramel and vanilla, but really shines with complex fruit, spice, and nuts. Baked apples, canned pears, blackberries, and strawberry jam meet white pepper, followed by roasted walnuts and honey. Then resounding nutmeg appears, with slight hints of smoke, chipotle, and earth. The long finish rekindles the caramel note from the beginning. Must-have sipper.
Ballantine’s 21 year old Signature Oak Edition, 40%
Blended Scotch Whisky | $140
Sandy Hyslop has excelled at solely blending European oak sherry cask whiskies here. A dry, spicy nose to relish: rum-raisin ice cream, wafer biscuits, fennel seeds, roasted coriander, seasoned oak, and dense fruitcake. After the Cinnamon Toast Crunch and toffee sweetness disrobe, a riot of spices cavorts across the tastebuds, bedding down to a flavor of spiced, chocolate-covered toffee bars. For cigar lovers, this demands a fine, robust smoke. (Travel Retail exclusive)
Rebel Yell Single Barrel 10 year old (barrel 5043515), 50%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $60
With the quintessential traditional bourbon bouquet, it’s caramel and vanilla all day, with honey, oak, brown sugar, and freshly baked corn muffins following. Then pure bliss, striking powerful mouth-coating notes of crème brûlée, fried dough with powdered sugar, raspberry tarts, and maple syrup. The long finish offers a beautiful pecan pie note. Delightful to sip.
For those interested in transparency, the detail Box releases about each bottling is staggering; e.g. 5% of this whisky was matured in medium-toasted Hungarian virgin oak. This one is for Islay fans, showing more peat than smoke; nutty, and replete with barley notes. Approachable at cask strength: melon, bright citrus, tropical fruits, burnt orange, and plenty of pepper. We hear the first U.S. release from Box is imminent. (8,291 bottles) 743 SEK
Sweet, lush, and creamy with hints of banana cream pie, maple syrup, and mild vanilla, then spicy hard candy, new barrels, and a wealth of creamy, fruity aromas tightly integrated. Caramely cough drops melt into sweet baking spices. The mouthfeel stays creamy, as hot spices emerge. Complex, balanced, and very quaffable. The long finish is sweet, with peppers and cereal notes. Bottle numbers correspond to individual weeks since Confederation. Canada’s Sesquicentennial Celebratory Release. C$50
Jota Tanaka, Kirin’s chief blender, utilizes all the versatility of the complex production at Fuji Gotemba Distillery to create this truly superb non-chill filtered whisky. The dark vanilla, toffee brittle, macadamia nuts, heady incense, and singed oak have instant appeal. Sweet popcorn smothered in milk chocolate rotates through cherry, damson, and red apple, settling on a palate of toffee apple spiked with pepper and licorice. Tingling spices on a drying finish. £41
Vague fruitiness, barrel notes, and corncobs on the nose turn to lush caramels, with a plush mouthfeel punctuated by hints of rye spices that become more assertive as notes of cloves meld into candy cane on a long, spicy, then pithy finish. There is more fruit in this special Canada 150 edition of Confederation Oak—sweet ripe apples and tart gooseberries. A masterful example of blending.
This vintage bottling was distilled during the 1970s and spent 41 years in a refill bourbon hogshead (#3434). Spicy on the early nose, with fresh oak. Increasingly malty, with ginger and apricot. The palate is rich and full, with Jaffa orange, stewed apples, cocoa, and pipe tobacco. Plain chocolate and increasingly tannic oak in the finish. Ultimately, warming spicy citrus fruits and smoky black pepper. (162 bottles) £1,250
Maturation took place in refill bourbon casks before a final 12-month period in first-fill bourbon casks. Lemon, ginger, pine resin, and a hint of sea salt on the nose, then banoffee pie develops. Luscious on the palate, with subtle spice, a touch of ashy smoke, and principally big orchard fruit notes. Drying in the lengthy finish, with a wisp of smoke, brine, and peppery oak. Glen Scotia at its characterful best.£250
Matured in oloroso sherry casks. Confident plum, prune, and raisin notes on the early nose, with developing ripe cherries, sherried fudge, and resin. A slightly earthy undertone. Viscous in the mouth—very sweet—with developing tingling spices, then darker fruit notes emerge, with licorice and plain chocolate. The finish is long, with enduring dark chocolate and fruity spice. (1,180 bottles)
This hybrid of bourbon, rye, and blended malt scotch is the dusty trail made liquid flesh. Smoke and cooked meat up front, balanced by sizzling rye spice, red fruit, and dark chocolate. Seaweed, salt spray, and peat are happy to share the spotlight. Barbecue ribs dry-rubbed with paprika, chili powder, and clove, with a smoldering finish. Hot, powerful, and beguiling. A great improvement over earlier releases (2016 batch).
Whiskeys made from 100% Irish barley are not abundant, so at sweet sixteen, there is much to celebrate about this grown-up version of Tyrconnell. Honey, pear, crème brûlée, clementine peel, tinned peach, and pencil shavings on the nose. Citrus, candied peel, lemon, and grapefruit mingle among the sweetness, but it’s anchored by layered spices and rounds out with a finish of juicy spiced oranges and peach. Moreish and delicious.
William Brabazon, 3rd Earl of Meath, once presided over Newmarket, the area of Dublin the Teeling Distillery now calls home. Clean lemon-ozone character, with peach, apricot, and melon, the sherry finessing the distillery character. There’s further fruitiness apparent on the palate; oaky chardonnay notes, more melon, and warm orange, though the strength burns through. Grapefruit and gooseberry sharpness keeps this zingy and fresh above a sweet toffee base. €78
That Boutique-y Whisky Company (distilled at Bruichladdich) 23 year old, 47.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $111
There is a beautiful interplay between the lemon and sharp lime set against the bracing coastal nature of this dram. Gentle vanilla, honey, lemon zest, and gooseberry compote waft from the glass. Vanilla frosting, coconut macaroon bars, malt drinks, peach, lemon, and an undercurrent of pepper. Creamy chocolate once the spice subsides, it ends with a fantastically chewy mouthfeel. Nuts, pepper, and cocoa make for a mouth-coating finish.
Yes, there is a cute, mewing black kitten on the label. Turkish delight, pomegranate, rose water, lemon, lime zest, clementine, and sandalwood. A syrupy texture with the sweetness of hard fruit candy; there are flavors of cooked apple, mandarin, butterscotch, melon, ginger, and chili pepper. The slow crescendo of spices is particularly impressive. The pleasantly fruity finish sees a drop-off in the spices. Distinctively aromatic and exotic.
Saturated with tropical fruits, banana, butterscotch, barley sweetness, marzipan, creamed coconut, and a fine thread of spice after the 8 month finishing period in dark Caribbean rum casks. This is a huge vehicle for flavor: silky and thick mouthfeel with sweet citrus, honey, mango, guava, passion fruit, Seville orange, and a sting of bitterness to keep your taste buds on their toes. Spice is merely a bit-part player.
Alexander Murray & Co. The Monumental 18 year old, 40%
Blended Scotch Whisky | $65
Sweet caramel on the boundary of maple syrup flavors, with aging tobacco leaf, walnuts, malted barley, charcoal sticks, and snuffed candle wicks, all cushioned by soft oak. An initial impression of a lighter character, though it’s bursting with juicy toffee, butterscotch sauce, wood spices, and dried banana. The spices vibrate gently around the gums on the dry finish of this high-malt content blend, leaving nutty residual flavors.
What happens when you light a bonfire underneath Green Label? Earthy peat smoke with medicinal characteristics of lanolin and antiseptic, a salty tang balanced with creamy vanilla, strands of citrus, and touches of menthol and aniseed. Smooth as a thief in the night; mouth-coating toffee, growing smoky notes, and peppered mackerel push back the waxy, citrus elements. Now the fire is alive; the sweetness gets out while it can. (Travel Retail exclusive)
Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch No. 3 Triple Grain American Oak 10 year old, 41.3%
Blended Scotch Whisky | $30
Wheat, corn, and malted barley are your three grains here. Orange grove before harvest, a rounded candied peel note, plenty of sweet grain, and creamy vanilla, all backed by gentle spice. Luscious and chewy caramel, taffy candy, lavishly rich orange, and glowing spice notes wrap around the tongue. It’s incredible how they can make this tasty blend of five whiskies look so devastatingly easy (when it’s not). Value Pick
Cotton candy, marshmallows roasting over an open campfire, baked apples, and cornbread batter start a whiskey that then offers hints of caramel apples, pumpkin pie, and roasted pecans. Water opens it up to more nuanced fruit, spice, and sweetness. Without water, brown-sugar butter dominates about mid-palate and leads to a long finish. Dilution makes this a completely different whiskey experience.
Matured in first-fill oloroso sherry casks, this is 20% peated whisky from 1997 and 80% fruitier whisky distilled in 2001. Earthy on the early nose, with bonfire smoke, vanilla, raisins, and prunes. The palate opens with sweet fruit notes and medium-dry sherry, giving way to nutmeg, brine, and peat. The finish features plain chocolate, bitter lemons, and a hint of smoky chili. £85
This is the sixth—and oldest—limited annual release of Loch Gorm, distilled in 2009 and aged in oloroso sherry butts. The nose is earthy, with raisins, dry spices, smoldering peat, and a not unpleasing hint of rubber. The palate is lively with spices, sherry, cherries, and iodine-soaked peats. Aniseed, sweet sherried peat, and tingling spices in the medium-length finish. (13,500 bottles)
Rich and bold, it’s loaded with caramel notes that range from macchiato to salted caramel chews. Then complexity sets in, with brown sugar, vanilla cake batter, cinnamon-dusted molasses cookies, candied pecans, brown-sugar butter, and cornbread. The key here is that each note appears with that initial caramel richness and follows this to the long, warm, and satisfying finish with a hint of spice.
Swiss-based Chapter 7 released this 19 year old single malt, a marriage of two sherry butts (#796 and #1,476). Malt, sweet sherry, cocktail cherries, milky coffee, and a slightly earthy undertone on the nose. Very rich on the palate, with chewy-sweet soft fruits, notably strawberries, syrup sponge, and lively fruit spices. Mouth-drying in the long finish, with aniseed and wood spice. (1,076 bottles)
That Boutique-y Whisky Company (distilled at North British) 27 year old, 56.3%
Grain Scotch Whisky | $51
This slippery little rogue exudes sweet popcorn, lemon peel, summer florals, linseed, and Quaker Oats pillows adrift in a sea of butterscotch sauce. Rather tasty; the cask strength alcohol rips through the juicy mandarin and toffee opening, overcoming an active peppery middle section, then relinquishing its grip to leave herbal notes, corn, and fudge. Reverberating lengthy toffee and spice finish. Water brings out more cereal notes and soft orange.
Exclusive Malts (distilled at Glen Elgin) 21 year old, 50.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $160
This single cask bottling was distilled in December 1995 and matured in a refill hogshead (#258). Warm, sweet biscuit notes on the nose, plus almonds and tangerines. Substantial on the palate, with vanilla fudge and Jaffa orange. Softly spicy, with developing licorice. Long in the finish, with spicy licorice, plain chocolate, and light tannins. (258 bottles)
Gordon & MacPhail 1954 (distilled at Glen Grant), 40%
Single Malt Scotch | $2020
This veteran expression was fully matured in first-fill sherry butts. Fragrant on the nose, with black treacle, prunes, raisins, lanolin, bung cloths, and polished oak. Big stewed fruit and warm leather notes on the palate, soon reeled in by spicy tannic oak, plus licorice and aniseed, though a stubborn dusty fruitiness persists. The finish is lengthy and mouth-drying, with lots of dark oak. A lovely example of its kind. £1,575
The standard Gooderham & Worts blends corn, wheat, barley, and rye whiskies. This special edition forgoes the barley but not the flavor. A lovely hard toffee start slides into a wealth of cereal notes: barley sugars, Cream of Wheat, and oatmeal. Lovely soft caramels send a smooth sweetness gliding over the palate. Little Trinity exemplifies luxurious mouthfeel as much as it does breadth of flavor.
Alexander Murray & Co. The Monumental 30 year old, 40%
Blended Scotch Whisky | $140
Sherry finishing influences, from leather satchel, maraschino cherry, floral blossoms, and deep orange notes to a pinch of Chinese Five Spice and buttered ginger loaf. Medium bodied, with a malt content of 75%, it riffs around an orange theme, at times quite sharp, with pith, some bitter grapefruit, more ginger, and herbal strands. Lively spices flicker across the tongue throughout the long finish as the citrus seeps away.
One hundred ten years after the Nimrod expedition, blender Richard Paterson’s adventurous marriage of over 20 Highland malts brings fresh green fruits, manuka honey, vanilla, banana muffin, cantaloupe, fresh herbs, spice, and a wisp of smoke. Refreshing palate of green melon, light honey, vanilla, cinnamon, cooked apple, and gooseberry, becoming sour. More complexity on the finish: spice, smoke, cooked fruits, and chalky Sweethearts candies. Pair with mature prosciutto.
Swiss-based Chapter 7 released this 19 year old single malt, a marriage of two sherry butts (#796 and #1,476). Malt, sweet sherry, cocktail cherries, milky coffee, and a slightly earthy undertone on the nose. Very rich on the palate, with chewy-sweet soft fruits, notably strawberries, syrup sponge, and lively fruit spices. Mouth-drying in the long finish, with aniseed and wood spice. (1,076 bottles)
Brown-Forman deployed a triple-cask finishing process on mature sourced whiskeys, involving virgin oak, refill, and sherry casks. A lovely fruity complexity ensues, with blackberry, apple-toffee notes, malt, vanilla, and sherry influences. Butterscotch with nutty undertones, herbal notes verging toward spicy, and hints of dried apple, red berries, and a touch of leather roll into the finish. You want complexity, intrigue, and flavor for thirty bucks? Look no further.
When spice meets fruit in whiskey, it’s a beautiful thing. Here, chili pepper melds with banana and pear, then baking spices tumble into passion fruit. Next, it’s cornbread, vanilla ice cream, hazelnut, and brown sugar. Finally, a touch of caramel appears toward the end, where a medium but lovely finish takes it home. This will make a fine table whiskey for easy sipping.
This 2017 edition is non-chill filtered and finished in Amarone dry Italian red wine casks. Slightly perfumed on the nose, with a suggestion of madeira, plus malt and ripe pears. Viscous in the mouth; earthy, with plum and dry blackcurrant, black coffee, and plain chocolate, balanced by notes of honey. Mouth-drying in the finish, with a touch of tannic oak.
The initial Glenrothes 1995 was released in 2011. This edition comprises first-fill American oak casks seasoned with dry oloroso sherry. Significant sherry cask influence early on the nose, with a savory note, rich fruitcake, cherries, malt, and developing vanilla custard. Supple in the mouth, with honey, berry fruits, and citrus notes. Spicier in time. The finish dries slightly, with cinnamon and a sprinkling of black pepper.
As with previous releases, the 7th Edition of 100% Islay is produced from barley grown and malted at the distillery. Matured in fresh and refill Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels filled in 2010. Smoky ripe pears, wood preservative, vanilla, and apple purée on the nose. Fresh citrus fruit, buttery toffee, and ashy peat on the palate. The lengthy finish features licorice and cigarette ash.
That Boutique-y Whisky Company (distilled at Arran) 19 year old, 49.7%
Single Malt Scotch | $69
Thanks to the Gulf Stream, palm trees grow on Arran’s west coast. That prevailing sunny climate appears to have influenced this mature example from Lochranza: ripe, yellow summer fruits, lime zest, strong mixed spices, and notes of the sea, like sand brushed from seashells. Very approachable; this just oozes sunshine, bringing us the joys of sweet citrus, spices, marzipan, mango, and papaya. The finish is like slurping melted ice cream.
That Boutique-y Whisky Company Blended Whisky No.1 50 year old (batch 5), 46.6%
Blended Scotch Whisky | $190
Here’s one in the eye for people who grumble about high prices for age statement whisky. Sherry aromas, good-quality plain chocolate, clove-studded oranges, coffee beans, and fat sultanas. Thick, gloopy texture with lashings of sherry, mouth-drawing tannins, a pleasant buzz of wood spices, peppery chocolate, and coffee dregs. It emerges from a savory middle section to a burnt orange salvation, followed by a hot, oaky finish. £148
Hochstadter’s Family Reserve 16 year old Straight Rye, 61.9%
Rye Whiskey | $200
When bakers knead dough there’s a distinct aroma that drifts upward as the flour and water combine. That doughy goodness is found here, with root vegetable cellar and funky leather notes. Then powerful flavors drive this whiskey home: black licorice, caramel-flavored rice cakes, rye bread, paprika, cumin, and sugar cookies over a richly coating mouthfeel. Its greatest flaw is a shorter than desired medium finish with a hint of toasted pecan.
This non-chill filtered vintage release was matured in a mix of American oak and Spanish oak sherry casks, and stored in traditional dunnage warehouses. Peaches and vanilla on the nose, with a hint of milk chocolate-coated Turkish Delight and background ginger. Tinned peaches in cream and more ginger on the palate, then orange notes emerge. Spicy in the long finish, with plain chocolate.
Exclusive Regions Islay (undisclosed Islay single malt), 50%
Single Malt Scotch | $55
A non-chill filtered single cask bottling from The Creative Whisky Co. This is a classic ‘full-on’ yet well-balanced Islay, with a nose of sweet peat, lemongrass, iodine, and brine. Ultimately, a whiff of aromatic pipe tobacco. Sweet fruit notes on the palate, developing smoky peat, and barbecued meat. Long in the finish, with spicy licorice, chili, and peat embers.
This whiskey is bananas. Is it banana pudding atop vanilla wafers or warm Bananas Foster melting into vanilla ice cream? It’s hard to say, but the lovely banana-vanilla combination dominates until baked pears, pumpkin bread, rye, and baking spices appear. A medium to long finish brings a bright cherry note. Price is per 375 ml.
Stranahan’s “Yellow Label” Colorado Single Malt, 47%
Craft Whiskey | $55
While the aroma is tightly wound at first, it gradually reveals layers of brown sugar and warming spice, apple and pear fruits woven through with opulent toasted oak. The palate entry is soft and rounded but quickly picks up steam, with layers of biscuity malt, peppercorns, blackberry fruit, and a lovely salted butter note that brings nice balance to the finish. Fully mature, pleasingly complex, and it keeps getting better!
It would be easy to hate on this as bourbon, but taken merely as a whiskey, it’s compelling, original, and surprisingly well-knit. The nose betrays the smoke and sea of its Islay cask finish, while the palate offers more sweet vanilla, candied nuts, and citrus before circling back with distinct vegetal notes of seaweed and jalapeño. Perhaps bourbon is in the eye of the beholder.
Pike Creek is all about creating a rich blend, then finishing it in barrels previously filled with other flavorful spirits. Standard versions feature Port and rum finishes. This 21 year old edition spent nearly 6 months in Speyside malt whisky casks. The fruity Speysider left no smokiness behind, just spices, red fruits, and buttery barley malt. Extra rye makes for a spicier blend with a longish, dark fruit finish.
That Boutique-y Whisky Company (distilled at Invergordon) 43 year old, 47.7%
Grain Scotch Whisky | $108
Like a throwback to childhood: fruity lollipops, Love Hearts, and gobstoppers. Stewed apple, crusty bread, and dry roasted coriander seeds add more dimension to the nose. The palate has toffee, orange peel, dates, and briefly flirts with chocolate and coffee, though this grain has mouth-drawing astringency and savory spices to balance the sweetness. Long finish of aniseed, spiced dark toffee, and charred oak.
Exclusive Malts (distilled at Glen Moray) 9 year old, 55.7%
Single Malt Scotch | $85
Distilled in September 2007 and matured in a first-fill bourbon barrel (#5315), this is a fine example of how good a relatively youthful Speyside malt can be, given the right cask. Soft and fragrant on the nose, with lemongrass, ginger snaps, and light toffee notes. The palate is sweet, with ripe strawberries and spicy fudge. A spicy finish offers cinnamon, milk chocolate, and lingering citrus fruits. (220 bottles)
Exclusive Malts (distilled at Clynelish) 21 year old, 52.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $265
Distilled in October 1995, this single cask was aged in a refill hogshead (#10206). Primrose, ginger, cedar spice, and malt on the nose, with a hint of salt and background heather; complex. Slightly oily on the palate, with orchard fruits, milk chocolate, a suggestion of brine, and developing cloves. Dries quite rapidly in the finish, with more cloves and light oak tannins. (190 bottles)
This is the first release in the distillery’s new core range for the U.S. After primary maturation in bourbon barrels, the 10 year old whisky undergoes a sherry cask finish. Orange marmalade, pine nuts, white pepper, and very subtle smokiness on the nose. The palate majors in overripe Jaffa oranges, ginger, and milk chocolate. The milk chocolate darkens in the medium-length finish, with coffee grounds and warming spice.
The original Iwai pot stills from the 1960s have been retired and now stand outside the Mars Shinshu Distillery. Cajoled by the savory, almost gamey aromas assimilated with brown apple and old strawberries, the whisky is surprisingly candy sweet to the taste. Dark jellied fruits: first Rowntree’s Fruit Gums, then Fruit Pastilles. Hazelnut, gentle oriental spices, and chicory coffee usher in a deep, fruity finish with creamy chocolate and fresh mint.
If you were expecting a young, grainy aroma, you would be much mistaken. Multi-layered nose of fudge, vanilla, pecan cookies, soda bread, and Ice Breakers mints. Ethereal and soft array of creamy vanilla, pear, fruity hard candy, and greengage, before a groundswell of pepper, star anise, and clove. Evolving juicier, tropical fruit notes risk being swamped in spice. The dough, gingersnaps, and hot finish remind us it’s grain. Hyde? Go seek. (5,000 bottles)
Oh, that rickhouse smell: charred oak, leather, vanilla, and a slight hint of coconut. Then it’s caramel, toasted walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, and moon pie, with hints of black licorice and cumin. Strong tobacco and ginger notes present themselves just before a delightful finish with hints of crème brûlée and vanilla custard. This is a regular sipper in my house.
This is a handy core ingredient for many cocktails, combining single malts from Yamazaki and Hakushu with grain from Chita. Dying embers of burnt heather and aromas of sliced apples browning through careless neglect. A complex interplay between the smoky embers, roasted spices, tiger fruit, coriander, and whole peppercorn precedes a sweet taste of buttered popcorn, orchard fruit, and burnished orange, supported by increasingly provocative pepperiness. Quaffable and versatile.
Valkyrie replaces the current Dark Origins expression and was matured in a combination of first-fill American oak sherry casks, American oak bourbon casks, and European oak sherry casks, along with some refill casks. Apricots and aromatic wood smoke on the nose; slightly oily, with raisins. Stewed fruits on the palate, with earthy peat, licorice, and black pepper. Aniseed, dark berry notes, and wood spice in the finish.
Delicate aromas of chamomile, marigolds, gardenias, peaches, apples, and vanilla undergirded by biscuity cereal notes transition seamlessly to an elegant palate of vanilla, green apples, malted milk balls, and fresh herbs. The finish has gentle spice that fades into warm chocolate with continuing creamy grain. A blend of Japanese and other whiskies that responds well to water.
Distilled in June 2007 and bottled in October 2016, this expression spent 6 years in first-fill bourbon casks, then 3 years in Barolo wine casks. Fresh on the early nose; herbaceous, with pineapple and a hint of oil. Big in the mouth, with white pepper, more pineapple, dried fruits, and coconut milk. Drying to tannins, with dark berries in the lengthy, minty finish. (10,800 bottles)
A blend of Canadian whisky with 1% sherry and 8% bourbon. Dried and stewed fruits, baking spices, leather, and earthy tobacco blanket light-bodied vanilla sweetness. Assertive dark chocolate and coffee, raisins, and prunes are balanced with sweet peppered jerky. The generous sweetness is tempered with water. Finishes like a Cadbury Fruit & Nut bar, but with more personality.
Are you a bourbon lover with an untapped curiosity for Irish whiskey? I have a job for you. Try nosing out the cinnamon, molasses, sultanas, tarte Tatin, and sweet crème brûlée on Colum Egan’s young creation aged in first-fill bourbon casks. A brash combination of spice, cinnamon, cooked apple and pear, caramel popcorn, bitter vanilla, and spun sugar, which finishes with wood char, burnt sugar, and toffee apple.
That Boutique-y Whisky Company (distilled at Invergordon) 42 year old, 47.7%
Grain Scotch Whisky | $106
Rich notes of baking chocolate, compacted dry earth, runny caramel, and garam masala highlight the versatility of aromas between these expressions. Chocolate digestive biscuits, plain chocolate nibs, caramel, a hit of mouth-puckering pepper and chili heat, but the chocolate endures. A zinging finish akin to Tache spiced bark.
Exclusive Malts (distilled at Benrinnes) 20 year old, 52.7%
Single Malt Scotch | $170
Distilled in October 1995 and aged in refill hogshead #8937. Slightly earthy on the early nose, with allspice, vanilla, then creamy toffee and caramel notes emerge. Big, boiled sweet notes on the full palate: nutmeg, soft toffee, and aniseed. Long and drying in the finish, with chili spice. (261 bottles)
Exclusive Malts (distilled at Highland Park) 25 year old, 46.8%
Single Malt Scotch | $345
Distilled in March 1992, this single cask expression was matured in a refill hogshead (#1266). The nose yields heather in bloom, a hint of machine oil, vanilla, orange fondant creams, and a wisp of sweet wood smoke. Smooth on the palate, with creamy orange notes, gentle spice, and, ultimately, soft peat smoke. The finish is relatively long, with Jaffa orange, black pepper, and drying oak. (209 bottles)
The power of pure burning peat smoke, lemon-scented floor polish, pine needles, salt spray, and delicate vanilla places this squarely among the archetypal whiskies from Islay. Sweet lemon, custard cream biscuits, and hints of smoked goose lend an oily mouthfeel. A combustible climax of smoke, spice, and earthy peat kindle a red-hot finish that will have you puffing smoke like a chimney.
A 5 to 8 year old blended scotch married for 3 years in sherry casks in Scotland and finished for 12 months in Pedro Ximenez casks in Jerez. The nose has luscious figs, raisins, molasses, and berries, brightened with apricot-tangerine notes when water is added. The palate is intense: Fig Newtons, dark chocolate, raisins, and orange peel, finishing with honey, Raisinets, and chocolate-covered nuts—a soft, slightly under-proofed conclusion, but still satisfying.
Mild peat smoke wafts into the room as soon as you pull the cork. A big fruity nose ripe with red apples and hints of ether rides the peat. Sweetish spices glow with hints of chocolate, then fade slowly into typical malty tones that in turn become dry cereal notes. A flash of soapiness on first sip never returns, but lessens an otherwise beautiful young whisky. Canada’s Sesquicentennial Celebratory Release. C$70
Cotton candy, campfire smoke, cinnamon, pilsner beer, butterscotch, and vanilla start a whiskey conversation that’s about balance, easy sipping, and the pursuit of spice. Around mid-palate, a plethora of baking spices—clove, nutmeg, vanilla, cinnamon, and allspice—charms the senses. It’s set up to be a great run, but the approach softens toward the finish with muted brown sugar appearing. Still, the flavor and balance make for a fun sipper and great cocktail mixer.
Some bourbons are balanced or complex; this is an all-around versatile pour with initial notes of lightly toasted oak, brown sugar, and butterscotch. A fun maltiness, concentrated caramel, and slight hints of cinnamon and watermelon Juicy Fruit hammer home its sipping potential, but its short to medium finish suggests that it’s more suited for cocktails. But hey, why not both?
Blends of single pot still and single malt Irish whiskey without grain deserve their own category, but there’s no use crying about it. Roasted spices, Quaker Oats, light honey, and fresh apricot; a little reserved and demure. Golden honey sweetness, light citrus, green apple, peach pit, dried apricot, cereal notes, creamy vanilla, and a firm strand of pot still spiciness. Dry spice heat, citrus peel, and a dark vanilla aftertaste.
That Boutique-y Whisky Company (distilled at Speyside) 17 year old, 53.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $52
Few single malt whiskies from the Speyside Distillery make it to the U.S. This noses like a gammon joint glazed with sliced orange and a side order of sugar mice. Hesitantly, a sip brings relief with dark chocolate, stewed rhubarb, strained raspberry juices, walnut, and burnt bakery goods. Dry finish with remnants of cocoa. Worth experimenting with water, as lovely candied peel and golden syrup notes peek out.
That Boutique-y Whisky Company (distilled at Tobermory) 21 year old, 51.2%
Single Malt Scotch | $65
An aged island dram to mull over during the distillery’s lengthy closure for essential upgrades, this brims with lemon sherbet, summer fruits including cantaloupe, and Bartlett pears poached in cream. Tangy citrus balanced with ginger and peppery spice, cocoa notes, and black bun make for a lively mouthfeel. Creamy fudge and Jaffa cake rule once the spices die back. An enchantingly delicate orange sorbet flavor appears when diluted.
Caramel and cigar box lead the way, but leather comes in strong, followed by oak, earth, and mushrooms. On the palate, Nutella and roasted almonds resonate over crème brûlée, salt water taffy, vanilla icing, and nutmeg, with slight hints of apple and pineapple, at which point I think it really starts to pick up and take on some complexity. Alas, the short finish hurts what was a delightful experience.
Westland Garryana Single Malt 2|1 (2017 edition), 50%
Craft Whiskey | $150
Aromas of woodsmoke with hints of hot tar and rubber are draped over ripe berry fruit. Dark and somewhat brash, it comes off a touch hot, fully revealing its 100 proof, becoming more fruit driven on the palate, as sweet berry, buckwheat honey, and sorghum syrup give way to smoldering baking spice on the drying, oak-laced finish. More muscle than finesse, however the 21% Quercus garryana is revealing itself more in this second iteration.
Briney sea air, wet stones, and pretty wisps of campfire smoke give this a strong Scottish bent, while the medium-bodied palate nicely balances the sweet malt, salt, and smoke in a bit of salt water taffy. Showing nice complexity and balance overall, the finish smolders and evolves to become more herbaceous.
Craft skeptics will find this very aligned to mainstream bourbon, with its enticing nose of Peanut Chews candy, gooey caramel, and cocoa powder. The palate pours on sweet cornbread and marzipan, just a touch hot and slightly antiseptic, before the long finish of cherry and sweet vanilla. Lots of good stuff going on here.
Named after the warehouseman’s preferred piece of pilfering paraphernalia, the 125 year old Craigellachie Hotel’s Copper Dog bar now boasts its own whisky. It’s an appealing blend of eight Speyside malts, with honey, warm toast, pecan nut, apple turnover, fudge fingers, and orange peel. Vanilla, orange pith, wood spice, caramel, and fresh apple develop into creamy nougat. Takes a while to come into focus, then concludes with a spicy finish.
Hugely floral and perfumed on the nose, with rose petals, violet candies, and dried orange peel. This is the Gewürztraminer of American single malts—sweet lychee, laced with sachet aromas that explode as if opening Grandma’s dresser drawer. The palate is more tropical; dried pineapple, canned peach syrup, and spice. This could be polarizing, but it’s utterly captivating and worth a try.
That Boutique-y Whisky Company (distilled at Macallan) 30 year old, 46.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $604
Ebony colored whisky with dark aromas of dense fruitcake, fresh fig, Medjool dates, sultana, and Christmas spices of nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon, though a struck-match note lurks within. The treacle-thick palate has Coca-Cola, clove, aniseed, eucalyptus, sultanas, leather, blackcurrant, black cherry, dried fig, and raisin. The currant-bun finish is tannic and woody; tastebuds flinch and recoil. This is a grizzled old-timer best left to adventurous souls.
That Boutique-y Whisky Company (distilled at Cambus) 24 year old, 49.7%
Grain Scotch Whisky | $62
Nearly a quarter of a century since Cambus Distillery closed, select casks are still being bottled by the independents. Grapefruit peel, fruit teas, lemon zest, mixed spice, cardamom, and wild garlic make for an intriguing nose. A sweet taste of sugared almonds, lemon bonbons, strands of candied peel, bananas, and vanilla, before the spices stomp all over the sweetness. Hot, dry, spicy finish with just a lick of butterscotch.
This 5 year old corn whisky is blended with mature rye and single malt, creating a soft and creamy dram with flickers of grain dust and smatterings of spice. Pleasantly hot with sweet spices and fruit market aromas. Very pleasant esters, hints of acetone and pepper, it fades into corn syrup and traces of cinnamon. More woodiness would raise the score. (Distillery-only bottling or by mail order in Ontario) Canada’s Sesquicentennial Celebratory Release. C$45
Floral and spice, including orange blossom and clove, this pours berry fruit on the palate before the chocolate malt balls set in. Seamless, nicely done, and certainly moreish, as the clean, drying finish gives way to biscuit, brioche, and pain au chocolat.
Prunes, barbecue seasonings, and hoisin sauce, sweetened by rich caramel; soak up the heady aromatics. Gloopy texture on the palate explodes into life with burnt orange, dried mango, and banoffee pie, spiraling down to black licorice, burnt oak, and Brazil nut. The name acknowledges Kiichiro Iwai’s role in ushering in whisky making for Hombo Shuzo in the 1960s, drawing on the notes diligently recorded by Masataka Taketsuru in Scotland.
Brothership Irish-American Whiskey 10 year old, 45%
Multinational Whisky | $50
Grassy, grainy, and floral on the nose, with hints of citrus, grape soda, and apples. The palate is creamy, fruity, sweet, and light, with creamed corn, milk chocolate, and grassy and floral notes. There’s a hint of spice and a milk chocolate finish. An interesting flavor profile, but the blend of bourbon and Irish single malt whiskey never quite comes together as a cohesive whole.
Oola Discourse Three Shores Whiskey Black Label French Oak, Cabernet Barrel Finished, 47%
Multinational Whisky | $70
A blend of Highlands scotch, Canadian whisky, and high-rye whiskey from Seattle’s Oola Distillery, with an additional year of aging in cabernet sauvignon barrels. The wine influence is apparent, with plum, cherry, and raspberry on the nose. French vanilla, dusty oak, white chocolate, and stone fruit dominate a creamy and mellow palate. Poached pears, honey, and cornbread flavors bring a little too much sweetness and lack depth.
That Boutique-y Whisky Company (distilled at Glentauchers) 17 year old, 48.8%
Single Malt Scotch | $76
It will soon be 120 years since this workhorse of a distillery came into being. Golden Grahams, sanded oak, whole lemon, floral blooms, and cumin seeds on the nose, but the whole confection is rather restrained. The palate is sweet, but could be too sweet for some; Scottish tablet, caramel, ripe banana, granulated sugar, and ginger loaf. Some late heat accompanies the sugary finish. Remember to brush your teeth before bed.
That Boutique-y Whisky Company (distilled at Caledonian) 29 year old, 47.7%
Grain Scotch Whisky | $74
As young a Caledonian as you’ll find; I found the nose rather underdeveloped. Crystallized lemon slices, green banana, solvents, dry grasses, and a sniff of nail polish remover. In the mouth, lemon flavors, saccharine sweet honey, and banana dipped in melted chocolate, while the alcohol nips at the tongue. A good trajectory redeems its character, leaving deep throbbing spice notes in the finish, with bitter citrus at the fringes.
That Boutique-y Whisky Company (distilled at Invergordon) 25 year old, 49.8%
Grain Scotch Whisky | $49
More typical grain whisky territory here, with a nose of cornflakes, fresh cream, cut grass, filaments of orange peel, and a curiously dull pepper note. Spice, sweetness, and citrus fight for dominance. Spice wins with a K.O. on sweetness and lays the citrus out cold on the canvas. Creamy chocolate notes tarnished with hot pepper on the finish, though coffee-pot flavors emerge with a dash of water.
This is pipeline whisky made to be used in a Highball. That said, Lord Calvert is a solid blend to begin with and this beefed-up version makes all the right noises for cocktails or mixing with ginger ale. Sweet caramels, hot peppers, and hints of dry grain are bolstered by ripe dark fruits and spicy rye. This is simple, well-made whisky that shines best when mixed.
Sweet vanilla, dried berries, and a soft display of woodsmoke introduce this whiskey. While notably improved from earlier bottlings, the sherry is still rendered a bit dull, like chocolate-covered cherries, as smoky cocoa nibs and the chewy malt meet on the palate, offering a honeyed finish with hints of baking chocolate.
A blend of Highlands scotch, Canadian whisky, and house-made high-rye whiskey. Aromas of stewed red fruit, pomegranate, and mint hold promise, but the whiskey is quiet, with subtle peach, unripe raspberry, apricots, and white flowers. White chocolate, cornbread, and biscotti flavors add a good deal of sweetness. The finish is pleasant and rounded. An interesting experiment, but it’s hard to discern what each component brings to the table.
Herbal, licorice, and cinnamon notes are initially quite alluring, but stifled by a slightly sour note peering through. Still, this is identifiably bourbon, with sweet corn drive, leathery oak, and cocoa coming together nicely before a warming finish of spice candies.
Sweet and simple candied nose. Palate is thin, bright, and lemony, like a fluffy mouthful of sweet marshmallows, with hints of banana, circus peanuts candy, and gingery spice. Not especially complex, but pleasant enough.
Fresh and distinctly grain driven, like slurping warm breakfast cereal, but that malt purity also comes at the expense of complexity and development, with lots of grassy meadow, cut hay notes, that lead to a palate of husky grain and honeyed malt, before a finish sweet, young grass notes.
Pleasantly aromatic of oranges and dusty oak, turning more oily, chewy, and nutty on the palate, with honeycomb intensity. However, the tannins are quite aggressive, suggesting green walnut hulls and wooden popsicle stick.
Grain in several forms begin this experience. First it’s raw corn kernels, freshly buttered popcorn, boiled oats, rye toast, and cornbread. Then oak, raisins, and slight hints of vanilla develop, but the concentrated cornbread dominates after its appearance. However, though at a low proof, water is needed to cut the heat. Recommended with ice, water, and/or cola.
Initially, it’s earth and fruit. This develops into sawdust, more earth, and bananas. From here, it’s green pepper, banana nut bread, and warm corn tortillas over a soft mouthfeel with little complexity. This will work in a pinch and it’s great in ginger ale, Coca-Cola, or lighter cocktails, but it’s probably best over ice.
Youth and rawness offer the first impression, with fresh-cut oak and grains leading the way. The raw grains develop into cooked-oat notes followed by rye toast, tobacco, oak, smoke, and an unwanted bitterness that lingers. The short finish offers a hint of caramel and citrus. Price is per 375 ml.