Ringmaster John Glaser’s latest Big Top attraction: the nose juggles dark marmalade, almonds, sweet sherry, dates, and dried pineapple. Flavors swing like a trapeze between deep orange, dried tropical fruits, nuts, and chocolate, with the silky composure of a seal balancing a ball on its nose. Ridiculously smooth; if you’re looking for burn, try fire eating instead. Knife throwers accurately pinpoint the finish: fruit, (thud) chocolate (thud), spice (THUD). In this manner, Mr. G. will challenge the world! (2,490 bottles)
No age statement on the label, but aged for 8 1/2 years. Bottled at the same ABV as its entry proof into the barrel. Lush and mouth-coating. A pleasingly sweet bourbon, with caramel, nougat, and chewy toffee, mixed with ripe orchard fruit, golden raisin, and creamy vanilla. Soothing finish. A wonderful way to end a meal. (With a cigar, perhaps?) This is a beautiful bourbon and a great value given its quality, ABV, and price.
Think caramel bomb. Once you pass the crème brûlée, caramel chew, and other variations of the confectionary, vanilla custard, pumpkin, toasted pecan, raisins, light German chocolate cake, praline, tobacco, cigar box, sandalwood, and earth surface. It’s mouth-coating, covering every inch, tingling from the palate’s roof to the back of the neck. The incredibly long finish sits there with caramel. The only knock here is that caramel can be overwhelming, but it’s also bourbon’s staple note. (New Hampshire only)
William Grant Rare Cask Reserves Ghosted Reserve 21 year old, 42.8%
Blended Scotch Whisky | $140
A purity and fragility rarely encountered, with aromas as fleeting as footprints on wet sand: marshmallow, meringue, honey, and rose petals. A delicacy to the structure brings banana, caramel, spun sugar, and orange peel. The oak spices build slowly, making the lips throb from the inside. It’s an elaborate maze of ethereal suggestion and an apparition of calm beauty. It atrophies reluctantly, leaving tangy peels and lengthy sweetness anchored by spicy base notes. (12,000 bottles)
Burning driftwood, crisp bacon fat, and melting asphalt in a heat wave cut through with vanilla cream, butterscotch, and chocolate ganache. Great Southern distillery has unleashed a multidimensional beast that opens innocently with vanilla and honey, quickly blown away by a blast of salt and pepper before a deep, primeval base of peat and spice well up from the depths of your soul. Amazingly, great tenderness even at this strength, with a long, complex finish of smoke, sweetness, and spice. A$700
Is this perfect? From the look and nose, yes. Rich caramel and campfire smoke early on; it’s robust, but balanced. Crème brûlée with a sultry smokiness, raw honey with a dusting of nutmeg and a Scotch ale malt profile that’s creamy and mouth-coating. Alas, a heavy bite hides much, needing water to open up. A drop adds complexity, spice, vanilla, chocolate, and licorice.
Lock Stock & Barrel Straight Rye 16 year old, 53.5%
Canadian | $150
Another Lock Stock & Barrel all rye-grain whisky from the pot still at Alberta Distillers. To the sweet oak caramels, vanilla, and potent spiciness of new charred American oak barrels, it adds spring flowers, blistering black pepper, and blackstrap molasses. Firewood, Smith Brothers black cough drops, and new leather bring dimension to ever-present cloves and egg-noggy nutmeg. Canada balsam, licorice, cherries, clean oak, and the heat of high proof, then a long, hot, sweet and spicy finish with vegetal undertones.
Inside an ice palace located 11,332 feet up the Jungfraujoch, this American oak oloroso butt matured gracefully at a chilly but constant 25°F. A rich vista of currants, red Anjou pears, pecan brittle, musty spices, and saline, with a rootsy, earthy vibe. Flavors climb through intense vanilla, fleeting balsamic notes, a ridge of succulent cherry, sherry, and sultana. Orange and grapefruit at the summit. Drawn-out spice and oak finish, then clove and peppermint. A pinnacle of Swiss whisky making. (981 bottles) CHF179
Evan Williams Single Barrel 2007 Vintage (Barrel No. 724), 43.3%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $30
Aged slightly more than 9 years. (The annual single barrel releases jumped last year from approximately 10 years old to 9 years old, with both a 2005 and 2006 vintage released in the same year.) A mélange of fruit (apricot, candied citrus, pineapple, golden raisin) spiked with fresh mint and cinnamon on a bed of caramel and vanilla. In true form, this bourbon is flavorful and well-rounded.
Four Roses 2016 Limited Edition Single Barrel Elliott’s Select, 58.4%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $125
There’s a certain complexity here that you just come to expect in limited edition Four Roses. This one doesn’t disappoint. Rose petals, honeysuckle, caramel, roasted pine nuts, cotton candy, dark coffee, and vanilla. The creamy mouthfeel delightfully brings in warm cinnamon roll, chocolate truffle, and honey taffy, balanced by herbs and subtle earthiness that settle with a long-lasting cinnamon-forward finish.
George Dickel Distillery Reserve 17 year old, 43.5%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $75
Tennessee whiskey shall not be undersold in this flavorful version. Rich notes of caramel and vanilla developing in yellow cake batter with dark caramel, brown sugar, leather, toasted pecans, and hints of walnut, smoked apple, and honey. Then red fruit, baking spice, and complex butterscotch over a palate-coating mouthfeel that’s perfectly warm and balanced all over. As good as it is, it could be better with ten more proof points. Its light proof shows in a shorter-than-desired finish. (Tennessee only) 375ml
Just pause for a moment before tasting. 50 years. What has happened in the world during that time? How have you changed? What has it done to the whisky? Added a quiet elegance. It brings to mind elements of long-dried concentrated fruit and nut, damson, even smoke. The tannins are initially dusty, but a splash of water adds a fresh potpourri perfume. Is it expensive? For something that’s spent 50 years in a cask? No, it isn’t. (937 bottles) £1800
Lagavulin 18 year old Fèis Ìle 2016 bottling, 49.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $162
It’s been quite a year for Lagavulin; a 25 year old is due (but no sample at the time of writing). This was a 6,000-strong bottling, aged in refill hoggies and ‘bodega’ butts. Initially restrained and mildly oxidized, it shows angelica, a spritz of lemon juice on potted shrimp, then fennel pollen and water mint. The smoke is pulled back. The palate has orchard fruits, creosote, and moss. Lagavulin’s top notes accentuated, but with the depth of age. £125
Toasty granola, rye crackers, barley sugar sweetness, and Murray Mints make for a balanced nose on this top-of-the-range blend representing the art deco elegance of 1920s Shanghai. A gloriously thick texture of rich citrus blossoms bolstered by toffee, lime, pineapple, tropical fruits, and vanilla sugar. Mr. Kinsman has engineered methodical and well-paced complexity here, with emergent little lights of spiciness. A long-lasting, deep orange buzz and dimming spice round off proceedings. A precious joy indeed. £115 Travel Retail exclusive
Aromas of black grape, sultana, fresh plum, and fennel seed arouse the senses. The Australian port-cask finish coats the bourbon characteristics, enriching rather than saturating, draping raspberry and cherry around caramels and runny honey. Sultana notes pull ahead, the whole experience becoming buttery in the final stretch as the spices balance out. More spice to the fore on the finish, pumping in the pepper while serving up rich cooked fruit. A highly respectable effort. A$135
Delightful opening of fruit, praline, caramel, maraschino cherries, and spice, with a burst of smoked paprika and a hint of leather. It’s soft on the palate, easily gliding down the jawline, filling with flavors of caramel chew, saltwater taffy, coffee, and a rich, toasted pumpernickel rye with just a sprinkle of cinnamon. Based on the taste, I’d think this flavorful beauty would offer a long finish, but misses the mark. Thankfully, spice over the medium finish is quite pleasant.
Following the 2015 limited edition release of 18 year old Arran single malt, an 18 year old has now been added to the core range. It is uncolored and non-chill filtered. The nose is bright with freshly-squeezed orange and lemon juices, honey, and vanilla fudge, plus a fleeting menthol note. The early palate mirrors the fresh fruit-laden nose, with developing ginger, honey, malt, and milk chocolate. Slowly drying in the finish, with plain chocolate, licorice, and charred oak.
Tomatin released this 28 year old expression under its Cù Bòcan label. This cask strength variant was matured in refill hogsheads and refill sherry butts that previously contained heavily-peated Islay single malt. The nose is sweet and fruity, with apples and pears, background vanilla, and sweet, light smoke. The palate is voluptuous and sherry-sweet, with chili peppers and subtle, earthy peat smoke. The finish is slowly drying, with persistent spice, nuts, and smoke. (2,200 bottles) £200
This is a batch of 100 barrels of MGP light whiskey, an American whiskey using higher distillation proofs and used cooperage. It reminds me of 1980s Crown Royal, with floral vibrancy, honey, and a slight hint of chocolate, followed by licorice, allspice, and vanilla. Its spice hits early and often with balanced black licorice. Blackberry, blueberry, and ginger come down the final stretch for a nice medium-length finish. Sourced whiskey. (Distillery only)
High rye is evident, with rounded baking spices up front, leather, muted caramel, vanilla, and a hint of tobacco. This ABV beast coasts with the warmth and richness of crème brûlée, toffee, cinnamon rock candy, fruit, and nutmeg. Oh wait, there’s more. Smoke kicks in toward the end with marshmallow undertones and more cinnamon, finishing strong with lasting spice. This is a cask strength sipper or a lovely bourbon on the rocks.
Bainbridge Yama American Single Grain Barley Mizunara Japanese Oak Cask, 45%
Craft Whiskey | $495
This high-end whiskey exhibits restrained oak, elegance, and delicateness, with wonderful poached pear, cereal, crème caramel, floral, and lemon chiffon cake aromas that yield to a bright beam of tart, mouthwatering citrus—clementine, lemon, and yuzu—tingling with allspice. Bright, light, and lively, but not lacking in complexity, finishing with marshmallow, toasted almond, and marzipan. Very pretty! American single grain whiskey aged in Japanese Mizunara oak casks.
As time goes by, Still Waters is developing a recognizable house style. Acetone, fruit esters, and floral notes on the nose, with lemon biscuits and a hint of graham crackers. Hot, sweet, and lively on the palate, with blistering spices soon cooled to sweet dark licorice. Hints of Cheerios and roasted grain are Still Waters’ signatures, as this all-rye whisky shows. Clean dry grass, pears, and sweet barley sugar on a medium finish.
The Exclusive Malts (distilled at Invergordon) 42 year old 1973, 51.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $255
Lush caramel, red apples, sanded oak, and olive oil first pressings with herbal overtones, this ancient grain has managed to retain its distinctive character. The palate is initially mouth-drawing with an oily structure, the flavors are a pleasing tangle of caramelized apple, toffee, and sultana, with a noticeably long finish. Banish any notion you might have of adding water right now. It’s welcoming to have a great aged grain unafraid to show its true colors. (248 bottles)
The Exclusive Malts (distilled at Cooley, Cask 20024) 13 year old 2002, 54.2%
Irish | $130
The golden sweetness of the wine cask is apparent, with light floral notes, baked almonds, warm flapjacks, and golden syrup. Initially, it lands light as a feather, introducing melon and green apple, becoming textured with cinnamon spices and nutmeg, and swirling with caramelized sugar sweetness. Complex, with fruit sourness and gooseberry notes adding depth to the flavor progression, leading to a dry and pure finish. Water adds sugariness: it’s preferable in its full-strength fighting Irish guise. (K&L Wines only, 380 bottles)
Roasted spices, more peat than smoke, coastal breezes, lemon creaminess, bacon-flavored chips, and carbolic soap. Disarmingly, it starts with lemon, apple, and honey before, brilliantly, the pepper and chili heat slams into you like an Acme grand piano falling from the sky. Bitter chocolate notes, velvety cocoa, and dry orange peel, with morning-after cigar smoke, settling ash, and roasted meat juices. Seriously impressive delivery of flavor from Oliver Chilton, who has concocted a versatile dram at a terrific value. £35
The 2016 Fèis Ìle limited edition of Jura was triple finished in sherry casks, namely palomino fino, amoroso oloroso, and apostoles oloroso, and is non-chill filtered. The nose is soft and warming, with notes of candy, vanilla, and almonds against a sweet sherry background. The palate is rich and rounded with a significant sherry influence—dried fruits, notably raisins and prunes, new leather, and aniseed. Finally, slightly mouth-drying with prickly spices and more raisins. (2016 Jura Tastival whisky festival exclusive) £85
Aged in new American oak barrels for 1 year and then port barrels for anywhere between 3 to 6 months. Roasted corn, pine nuts, vanilla, cinnamon, and sweet oats. Oak surfaces for a second, then is quickly replaced by lovely brown sugar followed by taffy and bread pudding. This certainly is more rich and pronounced than most young bourbons, with a decent finish of cinnamon pastry. Kudos for making 1 year old bourbon taste well beyond its year. Sourced whiskey.
Vancouver Island grain farmer Patrick Evans built Shelter Point distillery in Oyster River on one of the last remaining seaside farms in British Columbia. Distiller James Marinus has been crafting traditional single malt whisky there since 2011. Barley sugar and a sweet waxiness lead into ripe red fruits and soft peachy sweetness, with mild spices and hints of mealy halva. Malty and mature well beyond its years, rising peppery notes introduce a long, sweet, grassy finish. Nicely balanced. C$70
Dried peat smoke, a papery column of cigar ash, sizzling bacon fat, baked earth, and a shower of sea spray, coupled with hints of fresh peach and ripe fruits. The palate has a light, oily consistency ingrained with smokiness throughout, tasting of vanilla toffee, pick ‘n’ mix foam bananas, tangy citrus, and sweet tropical fruits, the whole arrangement given a peppery lift before succumbing to a late nuttiness. It’s not named after the Gaelic for smoky for nothing, you know.
Tarlogan is the third and most recent release in Glenmorangie’s Legends Collection. Some of the component whisky had been matured in virgin oak casks, while the remainder was aged in bourbon barrels. A hint of freshly-dug soil on the very early nose, then toffee apples, malt, and vanilla kick in. The smooth palate focuses on coconut and more vanilla, with kumquat and lime. Almonds and vanilla in the mildly spicy finish. (Travel Retail exclusive)
This limited edition 16 year old release is named after a collie dog that belonged to a distillery manager pictured in a 1905 photograph of Glenturret staff. Malt and milk chocolate, dried apricots, and subtle spice on the floral nose, with a hint of worn leather and, ultimately, ripe pears. Supple and rounded on the palate, with sweet spices, honey, black pepper, dark fruit, and coffee notes. Finally, bitter orange and plain chocolate in the medium-length finish. (1,740 bottles) £95
After 18 years maturing in traditional oak, this triple distilled whiskey undergoes a four-cask finish in bourbon, oloroso sherry, port, and madeira casks. Following a 6 month period of finishing, molasses, raisins, chocolate ganache, malt loaf, and solid oak notes have emerged after careful blending of the component whiskeys. Smooth, yet thick and mouth-drawing; black fruits, treacle, wrinkled vanilla pods, chocolate chip muffins, and sticky dates. There are less than 2,500 bottles of this attractive, resinous whiskey that slips away leaving sweetness, dark fruit, and cinnamon. €110
Here they take a triple distilled blend of pot still, malt, and grain whiskey matured in bourbon and oloroso sherry and finish it in golden rum casks (a favorite finishing vessel at Wm. Grant). A soft, relaxing sweetness emits from the glass, showing barley sugars, lemon bonbon, vanilla, and freshly-planed oak. The oloroso has been used sparingly, but rounds off the lemon, light fudge, and hazelnut flavors. There’s a spicy last stand that burns brightly. A terrific composition.
A single oloroso cask bottling, so an interesting comparison with the Loch Gorm (see below). The cask has more of an influence here, with plummy fruits, fig rolls, and Medjool dates. The smoke is restrained and foggy, allowing some seashore breezes to come through. The palate reverses this, with the smoke rolling in first, then the soft dark and sweet fruits, treacle, and garam masala. Tannins are very soft. Kilchoman with heft. (637 bottles) £90
The style and class of the youngest was inspired by the classic elegance of Paris in the 1920s. Comprising Kininvie and Girvan married in tuns of Portuguese oak, this is pure, creamy goodness bathing in lemon meringue pie, vanilla tablet, and fresh oak shavings. A buttery-soft texture, the back of the palate kicks off with honey explosions, nougat, and toffee, backed with a distinct oakiness to remind you that it’s got much more to offer than just vanilla playfulness. £50 Travel Retail exclusive
With NAS, 12, and 18 year old versions long-established as Canadian favorites, Gibson’s master blender, Brian Kinsman (of Glenfiddich), turned his hand to an 8 year old specifically intended to be mixed with Coke. Why? That’s how 40% of Canadians prefer their whisky. Rich in dark rum notes, kola nuts, vanilla pods, and sweet rye, it bursts with ripe black fruits and sizzling hot spices. Sip slowly to uncover black licorice, a touch of tannin, and the classic Canadian hot, bitter pith finish. C$29
It’s not bourbon, but the mashbill contains corn, rye, and malted barley sourced from western Australia. It has zippy vanilla, whole hazelnut, hints of rye spiciness, overlaid with taffy candy and fresh fruit. Syrupy sweetness drenches the taste buds, peeling back honeyed layers to reveal vanilla, melon, ripe banana, citrus, and tropical green fruits, diluting to delicious coconut creaminess. A moreish small batch whiskey with a finish of custard cream biscuits that sticks it to those boys in Tennessee. A$130
A dense, suffocating fog of peat smoke, sea salt, dry seaweed on the high tide, and lemon-scented candles. Remember to come up for air once in a while. A supple, silky texture of lemon mousse, baked apple, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, and a massive rush of pepper. Hold this in your mouth for as long as possible; the flavor delivery is impressively long and constantly evolving. Hot, drying finish, and, frankly, a relief from the peppery assault on the palate. £47
If you like sherried malts, you’ll love this! Bottled at a respectable strength too. Red apple, cherry skins, strawberry, raspberry, Eccles cake, malt loaf, and warming spices; there’s a lot to get your nose into here. A finely structured dram, with soft leather, rhubarb, Bramley apple, cherryade, fresh Victoria plum, pepper, and muted ginger deliver sustained flavors. A long, spicy, and peeled fruit finish. Given the distillery closures in 1983, there could be some interesting components in here. (464 bottles)
Hunter Laing Old Malt Cask 1996 (distilled at Arran), 50%
Single Malt Scotch | $115
This expression was distilled during Arran’s second year of operation in September 1996 and bottled at 19 years of age. The single refill hogshead yielded 288 bottles. Sweet and malty on the slick nose, with honey, lively spices, and hints of pine. Ultimately, caramel and satsuma. Full on the palate, with juicy fruit, more malt and honey, and developing milk chocolate. Long and soft in the finish; lightly spiced, finally slightly citric, with a hint of brine and dry oak. £80
A combination of 7 year old year rye finished in port barrels and 11 year old wheated and rye bourbons. It presents exceptionally fruity aromas, with prominent plum and floral hints, fresh-cut grass, toasted pecan, burnt butter, brown sugar, and a touch of chocolate. On the palate there are warm cinnamon apples, fried donut with caramel icing, and a hint of dry popcorn. The medium finish offers lovely toffee. Sourced whiskey.
Cinnamon-roasted pecan nuts, cedar sticks, maple cookies, and cracked black pepper make for a parched, dry nose with alluring touches of sweetness and spice. Smucker’s Magic Shell chocolate, warm fruity notes, maltiness, and pepper on the tongue. It’s so succulent, with long spices and cocoa notes concluding a sophisticated experience. Quick, go now, before the stores close.
This torchbearer for the Compass Box Scotch Whisky Transparency campaign is looking for your support. A fruit medley of lemon, lime, gooseberry cream, and soft pineapple chunks. Ripe apple and pear from the orchard are given a fresh, spicy lift and integrate with the vanilla and sweet toffee notes. It makes a clean exit with lengthy spices and juiciness, never becoming bitter. One thing is clear, it’s a finely structured dram worthy of your vote. (5,922 bottles)
Think of sitting on the front porch swing, legs up, a good song playing, and this smooth barrel strength rye. It’s an easy sipper, from the allspice and old-style licorice to the cadre of caramel and vanilla expressions that intertwine custard and German chocolate cake. You don’t expect sweetness, but it’s here, and lasting. If it has a weakness, it loses its intensity about mid-palate, but rebounds with a healthy medium-length finish.
Following a 6 month period of finishing in the same four cask types as its older sibling (see above) we get a fruity nose of cherry lips, black currant juice, brambles, Cox’s orange pippin, taffy candy, and the citrus acidity of oils squeezed from the peel. Oh, it’s sweet, syrupy, and spicy; a fruity cocktail of apple and strawberry. Diminishing spice and bright rustic apples usher in a rewarding finish. A complex and distinctive recipe, for sure. €70
Grand Traverse Ole George Double Barrel 100% Straight Rye, 46.5%
Craft Whiskey | $64
The quality is instantly discernable, even as the rye grain takes a back seat to layered aromas of cherry and dark currant, coupled with sweet notes of brown sugar and treacle underscored by fresh oak, toasted spices, and dark chocolate. Beyond its richness and depth, this beams bright and lively on the palate as grapefruit zest meets rye bread, followed by a finish of harmonized sweetness and spice. Aged 3 years in American oak; finished in French oak. (Distillery only)
There’s a marriage here, one of perfect harmony; fruit, floral, spice, sweet, and expressive toasted oak. Then the broad genres become specific: the fruit is cherries; the floral, a hint of lavender; the sweet, an array of toffee, caramel, and vanilla, until its spice complexity kicks in, showing allspice, white pepper, Spanish anise, and nutmeg. Its proof never shows, but the medium finish is just a touch short to make this truly special. (New Hampshire only)
A growing number of Canadian craft distillers are making Scotch-style single malt whisky, and several, including Still Waters, do quite a good job of it. Round, leafy, cereal notes on the nose give rise to a granular fruitiness, delicate oak, caramels, and glowering peppers on the palate. It’s beautifully balanced, lush, and mouth-filling, and though delicious now, with a few more years it would be stellar. Lovely hot peppers, sweet grassiness, yellow fruit, and a long spicy finish.
Signatory Vintage 10 year old (distilled at Edradour, Cask 41), 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $78
Part of Signatory’s Un-Chillfiltered Collection, this was distilled on February 25, 2005 and bottled on November 25, 2015. Initially a little earthy on the nose, then more fragrant, with orange blossom, nutmeg, and a hint of polished oak. Oily and rounded on the palate, with supple sherry influences: prunes, dates, more orange, and tingling spices, plus toffee. The finish is medium to long, with a hint of smoke and lingering spicy Jaffa orange notes.
5 years is when bourbon really starts developing complexity, and you find the beginnings of greatness here, with saltwater taffy, vanilla custard, citrus, corn pudding, and a healthy dose of cinnamon. Its proof offers satisfying warmth that quickly turns to spice. Medium finish gracefully gives a hint of warm vanilla icing. In an age of barrel strength bourbons, this is a good one, but lacks complexity for higher praise. Sourced whiskey.
Diurachs are the inhabitants of the Isle of Jura, and this single malt named in their honor is initially matured in bourbon casks before 2 years of finishing in amoroso sherry casks. Floral and honeyed on the nose, with caramel, pine, and spicy dark chocolate. Sweet and oily on the palate, where the chocolate changes from plain to milk, with vanilla and delicate cloves. Darkening chocolate and drying oak in the finish.
From the Rugen distillery in Interlaken, this was filled into American oak oloroso sherry butts and rolled into the Rugen Mountain rock cellars that were built in 1875. Almond, glacé cherry, apricot, wood spices, and nougat create a very active nose. A lightness of touch, with vanilla, honey, strawberry, and raspberry make for a juicy mouthfeel, despite a swell of black pepper and ginger. It just grows and grows. The fresh fruits seem impervious to the dying spices. CHF119
Bowmore Vintage Fèis Ìle 2016 Edition 25 year old, 55.7%
Single Malt Scotch | $455
This was a true double maturation: a dozen years in first-fill bourbon and then 13 years in claret. In its 20s, Bowmore tends to shed its smoke and allows the soft fruits (here, persimmon, nectarine) which have always been there to show themselves. There’s a light oiliness on the tongue. The casks have added vanilla, red fruits, and spice, but the overall impression is of harmony and integration. Lovely. (200 bottles) £350
Bruichladdich 2001 15 year old (2016-1881-135-PHD), 50%
Single Malt Scotch | $123
The official Fèis Ìle 2016 bottling. This is a mix of bourbon and wine casks given a period in virgin oak. The finish initially adds a certain sauna-like element, but then the distillery’s lemon drops and flowers come through, alongside baked apples, coconut, and a touch of smoke. The alcohol burn is negligible, allowing more estery elements, melon, and red fruits to come through. A classic Laddie, in other words. (1881 bottles) £95
Wemyss Malts Nuts about Pears 1991 (distilled at Blair Athol), 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $150
From Wemyss Malts’ Midsummer Single Cask Releases, this bottling from Blair Athol was distilled in 1991 and bottled in 2015. Soft, sweet fruits as the nose opens—principally juicy pears. This is backed up by malt and cinnamon. Very smooth and inviting on the palate, with honey, brittle toffee, gentle spices, darker malt, and walnuts. Slightly mouth-drying in the finish, with cocoa powder and lingering spice. (312 bottles) £115
Once you get over any initial disappointment (there is no peat smoke), this is one engaging and mouthwatering whiskey; clean with malty cereal notes, golden raisins, bread dough, and freshly-sawn oak. The real clincher, however, is the captivating wisp of saline sea breeze echoing across a warming finish of cherry hard candies, rye spice, and salt brine. Medium-bodied, fresh, and delicious. (Distillery only) 375ml
Seven years after distilling their first drop, Still Waters can barely keep up with demand. The single malt distillery took a giant step forward when partners Barry Stein and Barry Bernstein decided to mash some rye grain. Rye is now more than half of their production. Waxy, sizzling-hot spices and a lovely leafy sweetness lead to softer peppers, hints of vanilla, and a mildly floral palate. Linseed oil and a slippery palate suggest chocolate, but only just.
Douglas Laing Old Particular 1988 (distilled at Glenturret), 45.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $144
A 27 year old offering from Glenturret, in Perthshire, this bottling is from a refill hogshead that was filled in December 1988. Fresh mango and ripe peaches on the early nose, followed by a slightly smoky, earthy note. Viscous on the palate, with orchard fruit notes, coconut, caramel, and nutmeg. Drying in the finish, with mildly tannic oak, black pepper, and a final flourish of citrus. (264 bottles) £110
Douglas Laing Old Particular 1995 (distilled at Glen Garioch), 51.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $105
Distilled in September 1995, and after 20 years maturing in a refill hogshead this Aberdeenshire single malt was bottled in February 2016. The nose is soft, with ginger, lots of floral notes, cinnamon, and vanilla. Sweet and malty on the mature palate, with banana, honey, milk chocolate, and cocoa, plus big cinnamon and nutmeg spice notes. Drying in the finish, with a drizzle of lemon juice and then black pepper. (254 bottles) £80
Douglas Laing Old Particular (distilled at Girvan) 27 year old 1988, 62.6%
Single Grain Whisky | $124
Buttery croissants, golden honey, peach stone, rye cracker bread, royal icing, vanilla essence, and dry oak. It’s sweet and sticky with icing sugar and yellow fruits before a scorching alcohol burn kicks in, lasting 30 seconds. It settles down to banana custard and vanilla, becoming tangy with candied peel, Turkish delight, and Edinburgh rock. The gum-tingling finish evaporates quickly. Careful—water disables the flavors all too easily, though adds some toasty spice and warmth. (192 bottles) £96
The Exclusive Malts (distilled at Girvan) 27 year old 1988, 53.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $180
An uplifting nose of golden honey, linseed oil, vanilla, sanded oak, and wheat biscuits on this west coast grain. Neat, it is mouth drenching. Banana and ripe fruits are followed by juicy orange before a snarling pepper onslaught ensnares the tip of the tongue, igniting a glowing ball of white heat underneath. You can bask in this experience for minutes with each sip. Water emphasizes the oak and mellows the dram to the flavor of almond-sprinkled custard. (180 bottles)
Blend of 5 and 9 year old whiskeys aged in American oak and finished in Papillion (a French oak-aged red wine) barrels. There’s something to this, with orange zest, rose petals, honey, vanilla, and cotton candy. Then, a contradictory array of flavors abruptly changes the conversation. Think smoke: charcoal, campfire marshmallows, cinnamon, with hints of white pepper and tobacco plug. Its medium-spicy finish captivates me, even though palate and nose seem to be two different whiskeys. Very interesting. Sourced whiskey.
John Myer New York Straight Bourbon Single Barrel, 45%
Craft Whiskey | $42
Crafted from estate-farmed organic grain and aged for 2 years. The flavors are impressively seamless, with nice complexity and everything neatly in its place. Fresh oak is well integrated with notes of orange rind, rosewater, sweet corn, and red fruits. The slick, buttery palate sizzles with peppery spice—cinnamon hearts candies and ginger. Robust in flavor, while showing impressive craftsmanship and polish. 375ml
Lavish red fruit and sherry blanket this whiskey, initially aged in American oak barrels followed by 12-18 months in oloroso sherry casks, to approach 5 years age in total. It may be the light toast of the initial barrels that allows this wheat whiskey to stand up exceptionally well, developing seamless flavors of figgy pudding, walnuts, chocolate-covered raisins, cacao nibs, and maple candy, culminating in a finish that nicely balances fruit and leathery oak. Carries its proof nicely.
The mid-priced Fèis Ìle release took Bowmore off into darker than usual territory. The key here was how the cask (PX is, after all, as sweet a sherry as you can find) had been so well controlled. Rather than being a thick, sweet mess, a balance was struck between the two elements: the cask added density and raisined fruit, while the distillery gave aromatic smoke and orange, and both combine to layer on molasses, leather, and dark chocolate. A success. £100
Edradour 9 year old 2006 Barolo Cask Matured (Batch 5), 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $65
This expression of Edradour was distilled in April 2006 and was the fifth batch to be matured in Barolo wine hogsheads. Fruity farmyard aromas, spice, then developing heather honey, soft oak, and caramel. Earthy fruit notes on the palate, with walnuts, malt, and pepper. Mildly mouth-drying in the medium-length finish, with aniseed and black pepper. (2,000 bottles) £50
This 18 year old variant of Ledaig from Tobermory distillery on Mull was released in spring 2015 and is finished in oloroso sherry casks. Old warm leather predominates on the early nose, with salt, pencil shavings, a suggestion of asphalt, and dried fruit. Big fruit and spicy peat notes on the robust palate, which features sherry and a sprinkling of brine. Drying slowly, with licorice and marginally tannic oak behind persistent smoke.
The annual (albeit limited) Loch Gorm release allows you to chart Kilchoman’s development in sherry casks. Here, first-fill and refill sherry casks (oloroso to be precise) were used. The latter seem to have more of a say, as the distillery character is more apparent: sweet fruit, marine smoke, and clementine, before the golden raisin from the cask develops. The palate is smokier and also more overtly sherried. A bolder style, but very well balanced. Limited, so get in there ASAP.
Brace yourself: the marauding alcohol vapors will slap you across the chops within inches of the glass. The finishing vessel, a small sherry cask, exudes sweet red fruits; Fragola Fabbri candied strawberries, stewed apples, and brandy characteristics. Diving in neat, become immersed in a sweeping intensity of fruity plum, crabapple, and fig. Taming with water unlocks flavors of honey, caramel, green fruits, and vanilla, though it retains that plum leitmotif throughout. Finish of black pepper on stewed fruits. A$220
Raising the bar a little higher, Still Waters is introducing Red Label, a blend that is rich in 100% rye, all-corn, and single malt whiskies. The undisclosed base whisky is sourced, the rest made in-house. Luscious with sweet esters, lilacs, white clover blossoms, oak sugars, vanilla, and a brace of warming spices. Round, mouth-filling, and creamy on the palate, and after a second, pleasing rye spices emerge. Hints of barrel notes with glowing pepper and citrus pith. Mix or sip. C$40
Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice 1997 (distilled at Tomatin), 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $92
Matured in refill bourbon barrels, this Tomatin is softly floral on the nose, with sweet fruit spices, pineapple, vanilla, and honey. The palate is fresh and fruity, with cream, milk chocolate, and nutty spice. Fruity to the end, notably ripe apples and red berries, plus more milk chocolate before slightly drying oak notes develop. £70
Two-thirds malt smoked with Scottish peat, the remaining third is unpeated Viking malt, all filled into first-fill bourbon quarter casks, achieving 30ppm. Peat smoke, lobster pots, pine forests, smoked fish, and some zesty lemons. A beautiful, dense texture of candied peel and sweet lemons; smoke flaring briefly before dying back to a honeyed conclusion. Water picks out an almond and nougat note with lemon sherbet. If you are new to Box, this is a fantastic place to begin. (2,000 bottles) €124
An 8 year old Kentucky straight bourbon finished in Oregon oak that apparently brings about vanilla cake batter, caramel, hints of coffee, and citrus. Soft and delicate to the taste, with exploding French toast notes, cinnamon, allspice, and a hint of blueberry jam. The finish comes and goes, but leaves an impressive watermelon Jolly Rancher-cinnamon combo at the end. This one is meant to be sipped without the addition of water or ice. Sourced whiskey.
John Myer New York Straight Rye Single Barrel, 45%
Craft Whiskey | $42
Fresh oak, sweet malt, caramel, and spiced cherries flirt with cracked pepper on the nose, while the smooth and sweet palate offers up clean flavors of citrus zest, butterscotch, drying oak, and saddle leather. Pleasantly herbal and licoricey on the palate with a perky cinnamon-spice finish. Nicely executed. 70% rye with certified organic grain. 375ml
Distilled and matured under the midnight sun in Whitehorse, Yukon, Two Brewers whiskies benefit from having a brewery to keep the cash flow positive during the 7 year maturation period, and a brewer to manage the fermentation flavors. Peat smoke, freshly-washed hospital garments, antiseptic—typical Islay with a lot more fruitiness. Sweet canned fruit cocktail and persistent smokiness all wrapped together in a neatly-balanced unit. Hot peppers, hints of green licorice, and caramel. C$95
This vatting of three virgin oak casks and one oloroso butt was so keenly priced that it sold out in seconds, all 1,500 bottles of it. It shows Bowmore, that ever-changing, elusive Islay dram in perfumed, scented mode. I picked up vetiver (an integral part of classic male cologne), but also peach, some flamed peels, and plenty of smoke. The palate dips into the sea for a second, then again becomes scented, alongside gentle chocolate. Amazing price too. £55
Some single malts just suit specific cask types. Such is the case with Bunnahabhain and sherry. The spirit has a soft and nutty undertow, plus a gingery note that is given weight and depth by the cask. Amontillado, with its nuttier character, is an ideal bridge between the two. This shows surprising maturity with more oxidized and mulch aromas alongside coffee grounds, and a character that’s drifting into meaty. Brooding, medium-bodied, slightly dry…but the price? Ouch! (Fèis Ìle 2016, 250 bottles) £250
The eighth edition of heavily-peated Edradour bottled under the Ballechin label is part of the distillery’s Discovery Series and has been aged in Sauternes wine casks. The nose yields sweet, fruity smoke, cocoa, and spice. Sweet and soft on the palate, with more fruity smoke, notably pineapple-influenced, with a hint of smoked fish. The finish is medium to long, with ashy peat and slightly bitter citrus fruits.
A new addition to the core range, this shows Glen Grant with a little more weight, but just a little. I’ve never been one for the heavily-sherried versions. Here, the distillery’s signature green elements—spring flowers, fresh apple and pear notes are given a little added weight—apple syrup, toffee, and cooked fruits on the palate. If you’d like an alternative to Glenlivet or Glenfddich 12 then look no further. £43
Glenglassaugh distillery launched both unpeated and peated expressions matured in octave casks, approximately one-eighth the capacity of a butt. They have not been subjected to chill-filtration. The nose of this unpeated Classic is sweet, with ripe apples, peaches, toffee, and buttery spice. Smooth on the palate, with more peaches and now intense spiciness, followed by vanilla, aniseed, licorice, new oak, and mild cloves in the long, slightly citric finish. £55
Wemyss Malts Banquet of Fruits 1994 (distilled at Aberfeldy), 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $131
Distilled in 1994 and matured in a single hogshead, this 21 year old expression is part of Wemyss Malts’ 2016 Midsummer Single Cask Release. Rich, stewed fruits, honey, and allspice on the pleasing nose. Voluptuous on the palate with spicy apple and cranberry. The finish dries quite rapidly to aniseed and spicy oak. (220 bottles) £100
Wemyss Malts Rosy Apple Brûlée (distilled at Invergordon) 1988, 46%
Single Grain Whisky | $115
Perfect for fall; like strolling through an orchard polishing a windfall apple before crunching into its juicy fruit. Nose of caramel, dry worked wood, banana chips, cinnamon, and Indian spices. The palate is warming, with apple juice backed by a slowly growing spice note, later caramels, and a slight oxidized apple and brown peel note to end. The finish has a mildly bitter apple tinge and buzzing spices. The apple sings out with a dash of water. (494 bottles) £89
This first release in the Steamship Collection was matured in oloroso sherry butts and enticingly smells both oily and jammy. Dried fruits, such as cranberry, cherry, and raisin, with Brazil nut oil, wood spice, and light pepper. A soft dram, tasting of stewed apple, plum, cherry jelly, spiced orange, dark chocolate, and ending with spices, pepper, fading fruit, and carob nibs. It’s not all at sea, but just needs more body, especially mid-palate, to ride the waves of oloroso influence. (Travel Retail exclusive) £65
Brenne’s first age statement whisky, this was matured in virgin French Limousin oak and cognac barrels. It’s a fruit salad of nectarine, white grape juice, watermelon, and pear, with touches of light vanilla and black tea. A cool, clean sip delivers apple, pear, peach, and apricot, followed by an intense wave of citrus, Fruit Pastilles, spice, and orange butter icing. Those spices fade slowly; the residual flavors are fruity rather than sweet. Clear evidence that Brenne is improving all the time.
Douglas Laing Xtra Old Particular (distilled at Carsebridge) 50 year old 1965, 40.1%
Single Grain Whisky | $345
This was distilled the year before Carsebridge joined Scottish Grain Distillers under Distillers Company Limited (DCL). It brings a nose of toasted muffins, whole lemon, light honey, vanilla, pencil shavings, and a slight herbal hit. Smooth, thick, and viscous, with light lemon, honey, gentle spices, peach melba, and toffee. The finish is silky and mouth-coating; rich and luxuriant. A venerable, pleasant old grain, but it lacks the zing to become truly exceptional and distinctive. (101 bottles) £267
Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice 1999 (Ledaig, distilled at Tobermory), 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $78
This peated expression from Tobermory distillery has been aged in refill, remade hogsheads. The nose offers earthy peat, citrus fruit, vanilla, and smoked haddock in butter. Big, sweet peat notes on the peppery palate, with marshmallows and lively spices. The spices linger to the close, with peat embers and a hint of brine on the lips. £60
Cereal grains, flour-dusted breadboard, fresh cut hay, horehound lozenge, and apple pie. The appearance of Fig Newtons cookie and toasted rye bread flavors nicely complements green peppercorn spice and an herb garden edge, with good length to the salted-caramel and sweet maple finish. Pot distilled from 100% Michigan rye and aged in full-sized barrels. It’s just a touch green, but drinking nicely and totally on track. More patience will pay dividends.
Two things show almost immediately: alcohol level and sherry cask. Heat and salty nuttiness really express themselves early on, eventually followed by flavors of caramel chew, graham cracker, nutmeg, and cinnamon, with an unwanted bitterness. Walnut shell and smoked meat come along too, for a medium finish that tingles. With a drop of water, its bitterness turns to oak, making it the preferred way to sip its hefty proof. Sourced whiskey.
John Myer New York Straight Wheat Single Barrel, 45%
Craft Whiskey | $42
Soft and sweet; ripe apricot, honeyed porridge, and sweet vanilla take the lead, with a palate that elicits warm peach cobbler sprinkled with brown sugar and cinnamon. There is lots of freshly-sawn oak apparent throughout, but ample fruit keeps this whiskey juicy right through a pleasantly spicy finish. Fruit forward, smooth, and lovely; a real eye-opener for a whiskey of 100% soft white winter wheat. 375ml
Ruedi Käser has made Whisky Castle one of the best-known Swiss whiskies, and he actively experiments with different grains and cask types. This single-cask expression was produced from corn and 20% peated malt. Herbal notes, fruit jelly on toast, dry oak, cinnamon, warm toasty spices, and a little smoke. A nice silky texture; red fruits, apple, plum, ground ginger, and peppercorn. Pleasant sweetness to begin, then a growing bitterness decaying to a dry and spicy finish. CHF89
The Micro Provenance series is Bruichladdich’s web-exclusive range of single cask bottlings. This is made from barley grown on Rockside Farm (now owned by Kilchoman) and has been aged in virgin oak. The oak doesn’t dominate the nose, allowing fresh cereal sweetness to develop, along with an estery lift and some jasmine/meadowsweet florals. The palate is where creamy vanilla and white chocolate show through. Fresh, balanced, and bottled at the right time. (468 bottles) £90
This 18 year old was matured in refill hogsheads before a period of finishing in first-fill bourbon casks. It is non-chill filtered. The nose is light and fruity with pears, melon, and mild vanilla, plus caramel and a hint of toffee. Rich and full on the textured palate, with big orchard fruits, honey, buttery spice notes, then emerging aniseed. Dries in the finish, with plain chocolate and slightly tannic oak notes, plus a sprinkling of chili heat.
Glendullan has reimagined itself with a trio of Travel Retail exclusives. This, the most expensive, has been given some secondary maturation in Muscat wine casks. It’s the most complex of the trio, with more citric elements, hints of hay, and some spice, while the richness and dried scented fruit of the Muscat is a good accompaniment to the sloe-like side of the distillery character. A thick vanilla component helps the palate along to a chocolatey finish.
A spicier character to represent 1920s Bombay (now Mumbai) yields an intriguing nose of cumin, dried apple, cardamom, and roasted coriander seed, walnut shells, dry meat from the tandoor, and aged cigars in Spanish cedar. A rather gluey texture with a dominant cinnamon note, interjected by spicy fruit from the European oak and gentle cloves. A short finish leaves a reverberation of spices and chicory root. The aromas are wonderful, but it comes unstuck with the mouthfeel. £75
This mingling of Still Waters’ own mature corn, rye, and malt whiskies with undisclosed, sourced base whisky is sweeter and punchier than the Stalk & Barrel White Label blend it replaces. Clear malt notes, soft caramels, apple juice, and mild sweet flowers on the nose. The palate shows oak caramels, vanilla, and some mild white pepper. Becomes very zesty in the mouth, with a long, peppery, pulling finish. A pleasing but fairly simple whisky, more for mixing than sipping. C$33
Douglas Laing Old Particular (distilled at Invergordon) 28 year old 1987, 56.5%
Single Grain Whisky | $110
Sweet top notes of brioche loaf with baking spices, but there are savory flavors of pastrami bark lurking deep in the glass. Flavors of golden syrup and butterscotch unfurl beautifully from within the thick texture at cask strength. Roasted spices explode, but as it dilutes, stewed fruits and sucked boiled candy notes are found. Water emphasizes confectionary elements and purple fruits, but kills the spices stone dead. Dry, spicy heat on the finish. (490 bottles) £85
Sons of Liberty Uprising Pedro Ximénez Sherry Finish (Batch 2), 46%
Craft Whiskey | $30
The nose of this mahogany-hued ‘single-malt’ portends dense and chewy flavors of brown sugar, dates, and toasted walnuts. It’s a bit fiery on the palate, where it unleashes a rush of dried fruits, smoke, and spice. While some raw spirit character peeks through, this unconventional whiskey holds appeal for its originality, with a stout-like crescendo of coffee and mocha on the very long finish.
Light straw color, but its rich aroma contradicts its youthful color. Marshmallow and cotton candy really come out strong, quickly followed by decadent bakery aromas. Fresh-baked muffins, heavy whipping cream, and vanilla icing, with hints of caramelized barley and nutmeg. Its weaknesses are a slightly adhesive mouthfeel and short finish, but the pronounced flavors still make it a borderline sipper or a just-add-water whiskey. Sourced whiskey.
Mashbill of 47% corn, followed by rye, wheat, and barley. Aromas of golden fruit with grassy freshness (hay and floral notes) turn a bit more plump and juicy on the palate, with apricot, raspberry, and some tropical fruit—pineapple and mango—emerging. Orange-peel citrus character is lifted by white pepper spice before the oak-laden, leathery, drying finish.
Union Horse Distilling Reserve Straight Bourbon (Batch 1), 46%
Craft Whiskey | $37
Aged up to 5 years, this whiskey serves up lots of fresh, oaky sawdust with its caramel and toffee, along with some varnish notes. Aromas of spice and smoke lead to a palate of butterscotch, smooth and oily in texture, with robust, warming spice and a dry, leathery, and tannic finish. Nice maturity and polish for the price.
Another Travel Retail exclusive, but what is a highly lucrative retail sector will inevitably demand items that shoppers can’t buy elsewhere. Imagine Balvenie Port Wood 21 year old, but with more sweetness; damson jam, blueberries, and a slight singed note before maple syrup calls in from the back. It’s big and rounded and, for me, just lacking the definition and complexity of the Port Wood. For sweeter tooths (teeth?) perhaps.
Using this ancient barley variety is a challenge for a distiller. The yields are low, the mash thick and hard to work, but I’m delighted that Bruichladdich has persevered. It adds a more overt cereal note to the whisky, taking the Laddie off into a different world of honey-nut corn flakes. There’s also a surprising rose-like perfume. It’s young, so add water to cut its more, er, bracing qualities. In fact, have it with ice and soda. (Travel Retail exclusive) £58
This cask strength bottling has been matured in oloroso sherry casks. The nose offers old leather and a slightly vegetal note, along with ginger and developing toffee. The palate features unexpectedly dry sherry, rapidly giving treacle, plain chocolate, and dark spices. Hot spices, with black pepper and raisins in the lengthy finish.
A relatively heavily-peated variant of Glenglassaugh matured in 50-liter octave casks, giving significant cask influence due to the high surface-to-volume ratio. This expression is non-chill filtered. Carbolic soap and a mineral note on the softly smoky nose, followed by apple pie and cream notes. The palate is medium-sweet and quite spicy, with black pepper. Now clear, dry peat notes present themselves with a touch of chili. Ashy peat and cinnamon in the medium-length finish. £55
Highly anticipated, this release offers freshly-popped kettle corn, cinnamon, nutmeg, oak, hints of fruit and floral. Then it feels unbalanced, a bitter woodiness hiding hopeful flavors. Once the wood disappears there’s caramel, vanilla, and baking spice over heat. A drop of water corrects the dominant oak and gives this a sipper’s chance.
The Exclusive Malts (distilled at Caledonian) 28 year old 1987, 52.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $191
Overripe cantaloupe, green apple, banana custard, and whole almond are the main soloists, though they are accompanied by a linear grain overture running through it. A quartet of golden sultana, mint, ginger, and pepper play the opening movement, then sit back as toffee-dipped banana flavors orchestrate a delicious climax before a diminuendo into minor chords, with sour gooseberry and herbal notes to finish. Water works well, elevating bright notes of lemon sponge on the palate. (238 bottles)
Sons of Liberty Battle Cry Oloroso Sherry Finish (Batch 2), 46%
Craft Whiskey | $40
Deep golden in color with a pinkish cast, this shows good purity of fruit, with red berry, black cherry, toasty oak, and some oxidative nutty notes layered across a creamy, malty palate. A nice grilled-fruit palate echoes with sweetness and charcoal smoke on the long finish. The sherry contributes a lot of nice character, but without more overall maturity feels a bit like window dressing.
Painted Stave Diamond State Bourbon (Batch 2), 47%
Craft Whiskey | $40
A coppery, auburn color betrays small barrels, in this case just ten gallons. The distinctive aroma of sassafras recalls rolling in a pile of autumn leaves, then quickly gives way to the apparent spice of a high-rye mashbill. The earthy and spicy qualities meld nicely, developing cedar box and sandalwood, wrapped in the sweetness of maple syrup, while the palate feels slick and buttery before a finish lingering with cinnamon and warm oatmeal cookie.
Chocolate, honey, vanilla, cotton candy, smoke from barbecue coals, and a big whiff of brown sugar cooking in butter. Then oak shows, softening to vanilla and an explosion of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. You’re thinking this is a nice mid-range rye, but a short finish really disappoints. Its finish is saved by a nice hint of dill. Sourced whiskey.
You can actually smell the cooper toasting oak here, so the name carries real meaning. Then cotton candy, fresh-baked rye, vanilla, apple, and caramel come to life. A slight hint of grain becomes more expressive on the tongue, offering bread-like flavors with hints of brown sugar and honey. Short finish with a hint of grain. If you like light-bodied bourbons, this is right up your alley.
Union Horse Distilling Reunion Straight Rye (Batch 2), 46.5%
Craft Whiskey | $40
Made with 100% rye aged up to 5 years, this starts off surprisingly fruit-forward, with poached pear and zesty, clove-pierced citrus, though the wood is beginning to dominate. The palate fires up the rye spice, underscored by cocoa, turning hot with some adhesive notes and finishing with fresh cereal grain and bitter oak tannins. A wood lover’s whiskey.
Pretty fruit gets swept up in distinct anise and fennel-bulb aromas, with hints of mint and quinine, backed by vanilla. Very soft, creamy, and rounded on the palate, the peachy stone fruit comes nicely balanced with oak, sweet vanilla, and glimmers of nutmeg and clove spices before the cocoa powder finish. Well-constructed, smooth, and easy-drinking with a pleasant persistence of fruit.
Named for the Port de la Lune, of course, the crescent arc of the Garonne flowing through Bordeaux. The company expects to start single malt production in 2017 in their new distillery, but meanwhile enjoy this Sauternes cask finish with its white grape, light honey, floral, and peach aromas. Flavor delivery is all up front; peach syrup and soft toffees, with some burnt spices on the finish. A character of its own, certainly not an imitator.
Another creation from Elfingen, Switzerland, this rich, dark, chestnut-color dram combines their Smoke Barley with oloroso cask maturation. The nose is a merry mix of sweet peat smoke cushioned by Serrano ham, dried fig, and fish box reek. Berry fruits and sultana initially, though the texture is quite tannic with the stronger alcohol showing through. It develops a bubblegum note, with over-boiled fruit and some savory meat juices rounding off a short, dry finish. CHF89
Glendullan has an unfortunate moniker. Any whisky with ‘dull’ in the middle of its name will always struggle in English-speaking markets. It’s a shame, because it’s always delivered a gentle, sweet, lightly fruity/estery style, making it an ideal lunchtime dram. This ticks all those boxes. Green apples are there, as is cinnamon, alongside a racy acidity before water brings out more scented aromas. The finish is short, but it does its job as an easy-drinking, everyday malt. (Travel Retail exclusive)
Despite the orange-amber color, green, stalky corn husk and bramble notes dominate this youngster, with secondary flavors of fruitwood smoke and warm cereal. The flavors are beginning to evolve nicely on the palate, as the fresh malt meets lots of dark chocolate before a savory snap of green stick returns on the finish. Malted barley, malted rye, and malted wheat.
With its straw color, this looks nothing like a 6 year old, but its aroma and taste justify the age statement. Caramel-covered popcorn, cooked grains, Nutella, honey, and toasted rye bread. No one flavor overpowers another as an assortment of sweet and spice project over a chewy mouthfeel. The medium finish shows decent caramel. This is nice, but doesn’t wow the palate. Sourced whiskey.
Starts off quite confectionary, with sweet top notes of vanilla, crème caramel, and violets. The palate flaunts its brash youth, showing lots of primary, new make whiskey character, while carrying its 100 proof surprisingly well for such a young whiskey (aged less than 1 year), as the cereal grain, cinnamon spice, generous sweetness, and charcoal power through the palate. Young, potent, and unapologetic.
Willie Blazer imports 100% rye whisky from Alberta, then brings it to bottling strength at his Ennis, Montana distillery with water from the nearby Madison River. Canadian whisky figured large in the history of the West and Willie’s is a local bestseller. Caramel and rye spices on the nose, toast and plum jam, sweet yet bracing spices, a long, lovely glow deep in your chest. A simple sipper or a monster mixer with cloves, fruitcake, white pepper, and gentle pithiness.
Bunnahabhain’s peaty expression is steadily coming together. It’s been one of those drams that seems to need more time than many, but that’s true of Bunna’ in general, come to think of it. In fact, the peatiness is quite mild on the nose, adding some scent to the sandalwood elements and obvious raisined sweetness. There’s a slightly cheesy note in the background and a touch of sulphur on the palate. It’s not quite wholly integrated, but progressing well. (Fèis Ìle 2016, 833 bottles) £95
The annual Cairdeas release aims to show Laphroaig in a new light. Initially I thought this too sweet and cask dominated, with the distillery battling against the wine—fresh red fruit and seaweed is a test, even for the best chef. Add water and give it time though, and there is this lightly exotic, herbal, hazelnut-like element. It lacks depth and the tarry thump beloved by many Laphroaig lovers, but is an interesting departure.
High West American Prairie Bourbon (Batch No. 16B16), 46%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $35
A blend of straight bourbons. Light straw color. An expressive dark cherry, cooked grains, and wood nose opens up to a bevy of custard, roasted pine nuts, and herbs, with hints of tobacco and smoked hazelnuts. A grain-forward approach leaves it slightly unbalanced, until roasted nuts save the day with a tinge of vanilla and caramel-flavored popcorn. Sourced whiskey.
The double maturation here is a vatting of bourbon and sherry casks finished off in what Diageo will only say is a “special” cask. That’s helpful. There’s a breakfast-style opening here of warm bagels with grape jelly, then comes citrus, before some of that dusky distillery character creeps in. It’s quite bulked-up in the center of the palate, but finishes cleanly. One for those who like things on the thick-set side. (Travel Retail exclusive)
This is the Lowland entry into Douglas Laing’s Remarkable Regional Malts collection, and on approach the nose is like sipping lemonade in a malt hopper: gristy malt, lemon, lime, honeydew melon, vanilla pods, peach, and apricot. A similarly juicy palate, gaining sweet grassy notes, Spangles, and confectioners’ sugar, before ending on a finish of dried citrus and fizzy Refreshers. True to the region, but the Epicurean makes the rest of the range look brighter, quicker, smarter, and tastier in comparison. £34
Rich copper in color, following just 55 weeks in a 17-gallon barrel at low proof (106.2), this whiskey is caught between youth and ambition, as flavors of leathery oak, earth, dried apple, and dates emerge to meet green twigs and briar, and some musty basement. Generous and broad-shouldered, this rye aims high, with solid structure and robust spice, but is overwhelmed by dusty, bitterly tannic oak on the finish.
Straw to light tawny. This blend of straight American whiskeys comes alive with wood, floral, citrus, and cola. The taste presents a heftier body than the 40% ABV suggests, with hints of coffee, nutmeg, and cornbread. This has a warm, astringent finish that gives cinnamon, caramel, and grain. Leaves me wanting more from the experience. Sourced whiskey.
A composite of 5, 7, and 8 year old Kentucky and Tennessee bourbons. It offers exceptional color at this ABV, but the grain and oak-forward nose suggests youth, with hints of medicinal boiling oatmeal and cinnamon. Slightly dry to adhesive mouthfeel is followed by menthol, heavy smoke, cinnamon-custard pie, licorice, caramel, and a hint of cherry cough syrup. With the stocks selected for this batch, I’d hoped for more, but it tastes unlike traditional bourbon. Sourced whiskey.
Distilled from corn, malted barley, rye, and flaked rye, and aged in small barrels with toasted orangewood chips. While this whiskey smacks of its youth, with green flavors of burnt cane stalks wrapped in orange blossom honey and charred marshmallow, there is something compelling about its primary spirit quality, freshness, and sincerity. A fine example of what it aims to be—young small-barrel whiskey.
Initial aromas of boiled corncob, sugarcane stalks, and burnt sugar give a suggestion of youth and slight bitterness. Dig a little deeper and the secondary flavors of honeyed fruit, green apple, lavender, vanilla, and fresh oak reveal potential. While clearly young, there is still a lot to admire in this soft and delicate wheated bourbon, with its hints of smoke and a mouthwatering saltwater taffy finish, possibly derived from aging in floating boathouses on Puget Sound. 375ml
The makers of Unser Bier in the Gundeli district of Basel produce this young whisky and host an annual seminar in November, where guests learn about distillation and maturation from the master brewer. The nose has honey and melon, but it’s drenched in the sweet wine notes. The palate mingles the melon and honey flavors with sugared sultana until the sweetness abates, bringing out more fruit skins, then a surprising spearmint note on the finish. CHF79
Hands up if you’d ever wondered what would happen if you seasoned old bourbon barrels with fermenting Irish cider, then added a triple blend of whiskeys? Anyone? Fizzy sherbet, green foliage, and cider (not apple) notes, that’s what. Seasoning suggests the cask occupants are less than good mates, the cider more a lingering tenant. Pot still surfaces through the saccharine cider flavors, with coiled Bramley apple peels, citrus strands, and a nippy spiciness. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. €54
Douglas Laing Old Particular (distilled at Strathclyde) 10 year old 2005, 50.9%
Single Grain Whisky | $57
One might speculate about the initial qualities of this young grain prior to its sherry cask finish. While it boasts a richer color, the nose is reminiscent of roast beef, plasticine, wet dog, and bruised raspberries. In the mouth, it has good weight, though mouth puckering, with some brief rubbery notes early on before showing strawberry bubblegum, sugar crystals, black cherry, rhubarb, faint coffee notes, and an ever-growing pepperiness. An enjoyable finish of baked apple and star anise. (727 bottles) £44
There’s promise here, with peach, dried apricot, baking spice, and vanilla delighting the olfactory, and a slight hint of coffee just in case you needed it. But the intense heat shows itself and grain covers subtle sweetness and spice. The best high-proof whiskeys are actually quite smooth; this needs water to find its sweet spot. Sourced whiskey.
Showing its youth through an obvious green character that peers from beneath a cloak of campfire and applewood smoke, with banana as the prominent fruit, along with secondary apple, citrus, and a peculiar rubber tire note. The palate is light-bodied and overtly sweet, with grass, marshmallow, and vanilla. Reminiscent of a Lowland malt, which only contributes to the disjointed feeling of the whole package.
Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Five Malt, 45.2%
American Blended Whiskey | $50
Four barley types—two row, pale chocolate, kiln coffee, and Carafa—and malted wheat; aged 6 months in used Woodford Reserve Double Oaked barrels. Initial pungency and varnish. Then freshly-cut grass, petrol, wood shavings, and a slight hint of chocolate. New make mouthfeel. A hint of honey and milk chocolate is quickly overtaken by an astringent finish. In another few years, maybe this will become more palatable, but this is far from ready, and bourbon remains this distiller’s strong suit. 375ml