Distilled in 2003. Weller is the only wheated bourbon in the Collection, with wheat replacing the rye found in most other bourbons. It’s a very impressive representation, too. Notes of nutty toffee, black raspberry, blueberry, green tea, cinnamon, and vanilla. Soft, lingering oak on the finish. Like last year’s release, this is a soothing whiskey with a gentle demeanor. Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2016. Editor's Choice.
Often overlooked by collectors because it’s not as high in alcohol as most of its siblings, it’s superior to last year’s release, which I felt brandished more oak on the finish than needed. Caramel, rhum agricole, golden raisin, and dried citrus segue into polished oak, along with a wisp of honey and cinnamon on the finish. Well rounded and subtly complex. An exceptional bourbon. Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2016.
Another Special Releases staple, this is the fifteenth and oldest Brora in the series to date. The nose offers hemp, oiled brown paper, lemon juice, ashy peat, and sweetening malt. The oily palate boasts sweet fruit notes, peaty toffee, and ginger. Long in the softly smoky finish, with black pepper, plain chocolate, char, and licorice. Diageo Special Releases 2016. (2,984 bottles)
This cask strength, sherry cask matured expression was released as part of Lagavulin’s bicentennial celebration. The nose offers new leather, tropical fruits, brittle toffee, and brine, backed by spicy peat smoke. Smoky sherry notes open up in time. The rich, well-mannered palate boasts sweet peat, brine, muted sherry, figs, gentle spices, tangerines, and lemons. Becoming more savory in the long, gently smoky, malty finish. Very drinkable at cask strength. A great Lagavulin. (8,000 bottles)
The sixteenth Special Releases Port Ellen is the oldest to date. Initially, sea breeze on the nose, brine, rock pools, and gentle iodine, followed by dried fruits, peat, and wood polish. Full-bodied, very silky, again with brine to the fore, plus sweet peat, drying slowly, ginger, black pepper, and balancing tropical fruit notes. The finish is long, with burnt oak embers and licorice. Diageo Special Releases 2016. (2,900 bottles)
This Sazerac 18 year old is now a distinctly separate whiskey, after several years of releasing whiskey that had been stored in stainless steel to prevent further aging. It doesn’t have as much of the rye zing as previous releases, which may disappoint those hoping for a repeat performance. Still, the new release is richer and sweeter, which I find attractive. Toffee and molasses, yielding to clove, mint, and cinnamon. Polished leather on the finish cuts through the sweetness. Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2016.
Amrut’s chimeric five-wood cask has been one of the greatest whisky innovations of this year. The aromas release Madagascan chocolate, the fruitiness of Panamanian Geisha coffee, a sturdy granite core, new oak extractives, fresh walnuts, wood spices, treacle, and mango peel. Like velvet, the palate develops lush fruits, Gianduja chocolate, rich, dark coffee, nut oils, and oak tannins, before the red juicy fruits soak through the chocolate. Heat, dry spices, and ground coffee finish. Clever concept: a seminal whisky. £100
The 120 year old sherry house Lustau originally operated as an almacenista, but now produces a broad portfolio of wine styles in Jerez. The nose is intensely fragrant, bursting with fat dates and squidgy prunes, red apple and Battenburg cake. It’s fruity, yet bone dry, with oak, walnut, and spices. This is full-bodied yet refined Redbreast: the Spanish oak sherry butts shaping the red berry fruits, apples, marzipan, and creamy yet oily consistency. Clean, sweet oloroso finish. Qué delicioso!
From rickhouse G, floor 5, barrel 136 is a study in caramel. Layered in crème brûlée, salted-caramel cupcake, caramel brownie, caramel apple fritters, caramel popcorn, and the classic caramel chew. Then, complexity: chocolate truffles, nutmeg-dusted hot bananas, ginger ice cream, cinnamon-candied almonds, and warm povitica. It’s so creamy, so rich, and so unrelenting with masterful flavor that the powerfully long and caramel-forward finish is expected. Splendid, must-have sipper. (Lincoln Road Package Store exclusive)
Whoa...this sherry-finished bourbon offers an up front impression you don’t find in American whiskey: marzipan meets ground-up raw almonds sprinkled over pistachio gelato. Then caramel, nuanced cinnamon, delicate vanilla, and a slight hint of campfire smoke. It’s supremely complex, with the third layer being honey, dried apricot, dried pear, figs, and prunes over a sublime nuttiness and rich caramel. The finish lingers with salted-caramel cashew. If this is the future of barrel-finished American whiskey, let there be more. (Jack Rose Dining Saloon private selection)
This 41 year old single cask was aged in a sherry butt and interacted magnificently with that wood. The nose offers peeled red apples, sultanas, honey, fudge, milk chocolate, and American cream soda. Balanced and harmonious throughout, the palate yields remarkably fresh orchard fruits, pipe tobacco, black pepper, and ginger. Long in the finish, with cinnamon drying to dark chocolate, and slightly smoky, unobtrusively tannic oak. A 1970s classic!
This 44 year old was matured in oloroso casks before being bottled at cask strength in May 2016. Mellow, sherried fruit on the nose, with rose hips, vanilla fudge, almond, honey, and slightly earthy spices. The fragrant palate features an intense blast of ripe fruit, caramel, and sweet spices, while resin develops in time. The medium-length finish offers plain chocolate, raisins, and prunes, with no negative tannins. One of the best Tomatins to date.
There’s a lot going on here, and it starts in an unusual place—corn, specifically corn husk, followed by caramel, vanilla, oak, banana, pineapple, crème brûlée, vanilla, a hint of cedar, cherrywood, sautéed porcini mushroom, and cinnamon. Over a mouth coating texture, the velvety structure drips down the jawline, offering butterscotch, paprika, nutmeg, baked apple pie, bread pudding, caramel chew, roasted walnuts, and baking spice, which lingers over a long finish. Must-have Tennessee whiskey. Price is per liter.
Yoichi age statements are gone for now, but if the whisky stays this good, I can live with that. Black earthy peat, smoldering fires, a turned-out pocket of briny seashells, whole lime, lemon twist, sugared orange, ground ginger, and licorice. Silky smooth, with light, fruity sweetness developing into tangy Spangles, kiwi, and lime juice. The smoky peat is the weft woven through the fruit structure’s warp. The finish is insanely long: menthol, peat, and leather.
Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style Whiskey Row Series, 57.5%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $60
The perfect proof. Rich in color, aroma, and flavor. It begins with powerful caramel, baking spice, chocolate, cherries, cinnamon, and toffee. Then nuance and complexity. Honey, jalapeño, rosemary, crème brûlée, malt, and fruit, from the spicy citrus of grapefruit to prunes and dried apricots. Hard to believe this is over 100 proof, as you never sense the strength challenging you to find what’s next amidst the subtlety. Extremely long finish with cherry, cinnamon, and caramel. Value Pick.
Redemption Barrel Proof High Rye 9 year old, 54.6%
Rye Whiskey | $100
First impression: spice and herbs completely own the moment. Then caramel, vanilla, and the cadre of baking spices develops into identifiable clove, cardamom, ginger, crushed poppy seeds, and cinnamon. Then the spice turns to another style: pepper, with hints of earthy black pepper and habañero jelly. Slight hints of vanilla, powdered sugar, and marshmallow appear just before a medium-to-long finish with a spicy caramel chew.
That Boutique-y Whisky Company Blended Whisky #1 35 year old (batch 3), 46.5%
Blended Scotch Whisky | $150
This dark, chestnut liquid exudes wafts of rose hip, dense fruitcake, sliced fig, cherry, oak, Brazil nut, and earthy, fragrant damp moss within the rich sherry complexity. A voluptuous, palate-saturating whisky, with burnt orange, ginger spices, star anise, dried fig, and ripe purple plums, concluding with chocolate truffles. It’s a rollicking good blend, dripping with sherry notes, and leaves a deep glow far back in the palate. You’re going to love it. (1,428 bottles) £120
This straight bourbon is a race of notes trying to outrun each other. Out of the gate, it’s caramel and vanilla, with a bevy of fruit, soft florals, and chocolate slightly trailing. Oak and smoke take the lead on the first turn, then an explosion of butterscotch and Spanish flan setting the pace. Then graham crackers, marshmallow, and melted chocolate eye the prize, with rich, rounded caramel custard taking the long route to the finish line. Definite contender!
The importance of master blender Billy Leighton to Jameson cannot be understated. His whiskey expresses smooth, creamy aromas with floral top notes; a treat of poached pear, golden delicious apple, and peppercorn spices. There’s a thick, clingy mouthfeel, with sweet barley sugar, gingersnaps, sultanas, and a peppery flare. Undoubtedly the best spicy pot character of the three Whiskey Makers series, and that warming spiciness plows on into a lengthy finish. €70
Complexity right off. Cherry candied nuance, smoke, caramel, French toast, vanilla, and apricot, but then an explosion of marzipan coats the palate with vanilla, freshly baked rye bread, and hints of brown sugar, nutmeg, toasted almond, and bittersweet chocolate. Finally, cherry cola and herbs walk you to a lovely, long, bitter finish with warm undertones. This is a year-round front porch sipper.
Distilled in 2010, this is always the youngest whiskey in the Collection, and is younger than last year’s release. I feel this is a slight liability, as it comes across a bit green and harsh for a Handy. Bold and spicy, with mint, clove, and cinnamon leading the way. Fig, caramel, and candied fruit round out the palate, but its youthfulness supersedes on the finish. One of the weaker offerings of Handy. Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2016.
Every May, Jean Donnay searches for an exceptional single cask to bottle in honor of the patron saint of Brittany. This fresh bourbon barrel was an inspired pick. Summer honey, creamed coconut, honeysuckle blossom, vanilla panna cotta, and an attractive turf-rich peat note leap from the glass. Tart and juicy, with tangerine imbued with peat, its journey takes on a delicious malty and chocolate character, arriving at a delectable final plateau of nutmeg. He’s found superb balance this year. €95
Expect six 2nd step bottlings, each showcasing different personalities of Box single malt; peating, wood, and cask size will be tweaked in pursuit of world-class quality. The twin pleasures of fruity sherry and smoke wrinkle the nostrils delightfully. An admirable balance: prudent use of peat, countered by apple, chocolate Kendal mint cake, nougat, and a fresh minerality. Resplendent in noble oloroso; think apple flapjacks, sultana, fig, maple syrup, and toffee banana, with a prickle of spice lasting into the finish. (5,000 bottles) SEK747
Think of an Almond Joy candy bar: coconut, almond, and milk chocolate, followed by the candy bar’s rival flavors: caramel, vanilla, and butterscotch. Then oak, leather, cigar box, marmalade, grape jelly, a plethora of baking spices, and toffee. This beautiful study of barrel strength bourbon needs no water. Caramel in all forms, from candied to syrup, follows this home for a long and delightful finish.
Distilled at a time when the future of the distillery looked bleak. It is non-chill filtered and mildly herbal on the nose, with soft peat, muted iodine, and a sprinkling of pepper, plus warm leather. The palate is initially peppery, then vanilla and green apples emerge, along with aniseed and rich peat. Peppery to the end, with a hint of iodine and coal smoke.
An inviting and complex nose of honey, orchard fruits, apple blossom, rosewater, and subtle cinnamon. Rich and creamy in the mouth, with initially intensely sweet fruit and spice notes, followed by ginger, toffee, and vanilla. The finish is warming, gently spicy, and medium in length. Diageo Special Releases 2016 bottling. (4,932 bottles)
The oldest of the 2016 Diageo Special Releases, distilled in 1975, then rested in refill American hogsheads. The initial nose is slightly balsamic, with green tea, ripe eating apples, and developing vanilla. Creamy on the palate, with big vanilla custard notes, white pepper, and dates. Relatively short in the finish, with soft spices and mild oak. No negative tannins, despite its age. (1,812 bottles)
Rebel Yell Single Barrel 10 year old (barrel 4744359), 50%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $50
Caramel and earth on the nose, with freshly tilled soil, flowers, and oak just before an explosion of caramel, vanilla, allspice, and fruit. It really grows on you, with a buttery mouthfeel that presents cinnamon, honey, cornbread, marzipan, pecan pie, granola, nutmeg-dusted pumpkin pie, and a slight hint of candied ginger. Finishes long, with rich caramel. Quite tasty.
The nose is focused on cereal, hints of fresh ripe cherries, cooked fruit salad, herbs, and overt, bourbon-like charcoal. Take a sip though, and big, beautiful tones of real peat reek rush to the fore on the palate. These are sustained by sweet barley sugar, candied fruit, dry cereal, and a lush mouthfeel. The smoke, incidentally, comes from a few drops of real scotch added at blending. Very moreish. (British Columbia exclusive) $65 CAD
This is how to age gracefully. A remarkable, decadent drop released to follow the success of the Golden Age blend, this delivers heather honey, tangerine juice, banana chips, dried apricots, and sanded oak. It’s a whisky of big, expansive flavors. Citrus strands, candied peel, neroli, and dried mango swirl amidst a syrupy mouthfeel, steadily becoming creamier as it squeezes out yet more flavor. Dry, oaky finish with residual fruit, coffee beans, and pleasingly bitter oak tannins that tingle the gums. £600
John Hall’s tenth annual release blends 4 to 9 year old single grain barley, corn, and rye whiskies from a mix of barrels. Sweet and sour fruits, prunes, and grassy green grapes, all inside a barrel warehouse, yield a complex nose. Pears, violets, barley sugar, vanilla fudge, and hot pepper fade slowly into barrel tones and gentle bitter pith. A slightly slippery palate grows hot and spicy in the middle. Not as lush as past releases, but equally as complex. $75 CAD
After six ‘Work in Progress’ releases, Kilkerran from Glengyle Distillery has finally come of age with this core expression. It comprises 70% whisky from first-fill bourbon casks and 30% from sherry casks. Floral on the nose, with honey and a hint of brine, then peaty fruit notes develop. The palate is confident and oily, slightly earthy, with tinned peaches, black pepper, cinnamon, smoke, and a suggestion of medicine chests. The finish is relatively long, with pepper, licorice, and drying oak.
Dry and mildly dusty on first nosing, with a touch of pine pitch and red cedar. Tingling peppery spices and barrel notes carry onto the palate, bringing a slightly bitter counterpoint to luscious crème brûlée. Vanilla and hints of real maple syrup nuance apple pie sprinkled with baking spices, ripe black fruits, and a toffeeish but clean finish. Complex and beautifully integrated. Labeled 12 years old, Onyx includes some older whisky as well. (Europe exclusive) €27
One for no age statement naysayers. An eloquent expression of sweet osmanthus, baked lemon, yuzu, violin resin, rich malts, and bonfire aromas on a favorite woolen jumper. It glides across the tongue with sweet barley sugar, but attests to greater depths; grapefruit, spicy ginger, and mandarin developing milk chocolate-coated, candied lemon flavors. A firm finish: green cardamom spices slowly releasing their grip on the front of the palate, leaving clingy vanilla. Unbound by an age statement, it’s a beautiful offering.
There’s a lot going on here: rich caramel, soft vanilla, gingerbread cookies straight from the oven, cinnamon, marzipan, honey, and peach. Then it’s a dance of the caramel/vanilla-combo richness with brown sugar, butter, and toffee. The thing is, you need to appreciate barrel strength whiskey to capture its essence, as the beasty alcohol overpowers. Even barrel strength lovers will find a splash of water opens it up, giving more caramel, walnut, and whoopie pie. Long caramel finish.
Right up front, there’s really rich caramel with a lovely vanilla undertone. Then fruit, and lots of it: blackberries, blueberries, baked apples, and canned peaches, followed by wood, nutmeg, and maple syrup. It’s borderline complex, with a seamless balance and transition to the flavors. Extraordinarily rich caramel reappears over a medium, buttery, and satisfying finish.
This bottling replaces the 15 year old Tawny Port Wood Finish. After first maturating in bourbon barrels, finishing took place in tawny port casks. The nose offers vanilla and milky coffee, with peppery red berries and a hint of plain chocolate. Vanilla, toffee, orange, and spicy oak on the palate, while the finish is long and warming, with more spicy oak. £110
This batch of GlenDronach’s popular cask strength has been aged in a combination of oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherry casks. Malt, honey, rose blossom, and chocolate-coated Turkish Delight, plus emerging vanilla on the nose. The palate is full and rounded, very sweet, with more milk chocolate and very gentle spice. The finish is lengthy, with milky coffee, sweet spices, and subtle oak.
One of two initial releases in Glenfiddich’s Experimental Series, this is a non-chill filtered expression. A vatting of twenty casks, including first-fill bourbon, sherry butts, and port pipes. The nose is fragrant and faintly oriental, with vanilla, Jaffa oranges, and apricots. The palate is full and sweet, with oranges and lemons, fudge, plump sultanas, milk chocolate, and tangy spices. Drying steadily to fruity oakiness in the relatively lengthy finish. £50
Along with Auchroisk, Mannochmore is one of Diageo’s well-kept secrets. This 1990 distillate was matured in first-fill American oak hogsheads and European oak butts. Oily orange notes on the nose, plus vanilla, brittle toffee, and honey. The palate is substantial, rich, and sweet, with figs, sultanas, banana, and more honey, plus developing cloves. Raisins and plain chocolate in the long, spicy finish. Diageo Special Releases 2016 bottling. (3,954 bottles)
Wemyss Malts (distilled at Invergordon) Mocha Moment 1988, 46%
Single Grain Whisky | $127
A rather moreish grain, and Wemyss certainly nailed the chocolate orange aromas on the nose here. Bright bursts of rich orange and comforting milk chocolate accompany gentle underlying spices, star anise, treacle-drizzled hams, and Godiva mint pearls. The palate is easygoing, with chocolate muffins, condensed milk, dates, and milky Coco Pops. There is oak, but it’s never obtrusive, and of course, cold mocha that fades slowly, until the moment has passed. (240 bottles) £102
Confectionary goodies all around. Vanilla, caramel with milk and chocolates: dark, Mexican, sweet, and white. Lots of chocolate. It’s soft and gentle, with zero spice, only rich chocolate and caramel with hints of grain and fruit, but this richness cannot be overstated. If you love chocolate and caramel, this is your dream bourbon. It finishes long and strong with a hint of—you guessed it—chocolate. Price is per 375ml
Admirably, they go to all the trouble of bottling single casks individually for their Solist range at Kavalan Distillery. This single cask has the most gorgeous, deep ruby color and a very fruity nose: pomegranate, fresh orange, plum, walnut jam, macadamia, and some zestier elements. At full strength, it’s mouth drawing; warm, fruity, with stewed plums, young rhubarb, pepperpots, and fine-quality dark chocolate. A clean finish, with the fruit and wood spices remaining fresh to the end. (181 bottles) NT$3,500
No two Angels Envy Cask Strengths offer the same aromas. Here, cotton candy, honey, roasted pecan, and chocolate malt. Then a strange turn on the palate; roasted corn, dark chocolate, honey syrup, mashed cherry, caramel, Scotch ale, and cinnamon. Smoked cherrywood, hickory, milk chocolate, strawberry preserves, orange peel, and peach cobbler. What were once multiple fruit flavors now become a single cherry turnover with a sprinkle of cinnamon. It finishes medium with cherry.
That Boutique-y Whisky Company Islay Blended Malt #1 23 year old, 46.3%
Blended Malt Scotch Whisky | $102
This is a sophisticated and finessed take on Islay blended malt, which must be Kilchoman-free given the age statement. Driftwood, waxy lemons, soft buttery fudge, banana milkshake, dry grasses, and the gentlest puff of smoke promise calm seas ahead. A silken dram, anointing the palate with lemon meringue pie, honey, and caramel. This becomes creamier, with faint tendrils of smoke and dancing spices through to the finish. Utterly charming and tremendous value for the money. (419 bottles) £82
That Boutique-y Whisky Company Irish Single Malt 1991, 46.7%
Irish | $156
The Boutique-y incursion into Irish whiskey leads with this splendid vintage. Rejoice in this fresh, clean nose with sweet barley, lemon zest, lime pith, vanilla frosting, and early summer florals cut with a slight saltiness. This flavorsome whiskey has thick, juicy oils, and progresses from an early citrus dominance to reveal ginger, pepper, and ground almond. Water magnifies the citrus to great effect. £125
That Boutique-y Whisky Company Irish Single Malt 2001, 56.6%
Irish | $84
Bonfire smoke, sea salt caramel, and plain chocolate, with a dry minerality and a reassuring, dusty garden shed aroma. Chocolate and ripe fruit on the palate, with pears, some tart acidity, candied jellies, then damsons, sultanas, cocoa, and cinnamon. The creamy mouthfeel slides into Bourneville plain chocolate. The peatiness is well integrated, supporting the alignment of flavors: the smoke outlasts the fading chocolate-cinnamon finish. Best neat, as water blunts the precision and enjoyable sharp edges. £67
That Boutique-y Whisky Company Paul John 6 year old (batch 2), 54.7%
Indian Whisky | $125
Great to see an age statement on this second Boutique-y Paul John release. It’s aromatic, with hoisin sauce, sweet plums, clove, black pepper, and a cloud of heady peat smoke. Sweet, dark toffees, vanilla, apple danish, poached pear, and baked orange swim above an undercurrent of peppery spice. Water provokes more smoke on the nose, more apples on the palate. The dry finish leaves singed vanilla and the satisfaction that you’re puffing out perfect smoke rings through pursed lips. (173 bottles) £100
Douglas Laing Scallywag Cask Strength (batch 2), 54.1%
Blended Malt Scotch Whisky | $62
Rich marmalade, gingersnaps, dried tropical fruits, vanilla pods, and cinnamon bark abound on this limited edition, top dog whisky from Douglas Laing & Co, which includes Mortlach, Macallan, and Glenrothes. The satsuma peel acidity settles quickly to show off its tricks of green apple, spices, hazelnut, Maltesers, and ginger. Late development brings out plain chocolate squares, maltiness, and intense coffee notes. Water picks out chocolate orange truffles. Coffee cups and chocolate biscuits to finish. My tail is wagging for more. (4,800 bottles) £50
This holds real promise for the scotch lover. Interesting vanillin oak, peaty phenols, and adhesive bandage balance the generous, sweet malt foundation. Robust on the palate, but far from fiery, the mouth coating peat takes charge of the marshmallow-sweet malt, before dusty cocoa and dark chocolate win out across the long finish. Like other Westland efforts, this tries hard on many fronts and succeeds on some. It’s hard to deduce what the Oregon Quercus Garryana oak actually brings to the whole.
Douglas Laing Xtra Old Particular (distilled at Garnheath) 41 year old 1974, 48.9%
Single Grain Whisky | $277
Mid-period Garnheath here, the distillery existing for barely 20 years. This brings aromas of freshly ground pepper, oils, soft fudge, and dry monkey nut shells. The fudge is smothered by spices exploding in the mouth: ginger, nutmeg, pepper, and cinnamon. Warm toffees, oak, and citrus emerge late, but boy, this dram has great stamina and length. Sure, the finish has an oakiness, slight sourness, and a gentle, spicy pepperiness, but water subtracts more than it gains. A genuine rarity. (141 bottles) £222
With 4 years 3 months of age, this is a fine selection, with poached pear, stone fruit, brown sugar, and floral aromas nicely integrated. At cask strength, it serves up a bold and spicy punch to the palate, with peppery notes that quickly overpower the dried corn, treacle, and caramel sweetness. A little water allows that sweetness to shine through before the slightly tannic finish of drying oak and black walnut. (Lincoln Road Package Store exclusive)
If you close your eyes, the first whiff will carry you into a shoe store with its clean leather and vague, sweet, waxy polishes. A beautifully constructed, fruity, creamy, full-bodied whisky that shows hints of dry cereal, ripe red fruit, orange liqueur, and early on, something vaguely like grape tannins. Clean sparkling peppers enhance the lush fruits, while almost citrus-like barrel notes cleanse the palate with their slightly pulling, oaky finish. Very tasty. (Canada only) $45 CAD
Care for a small batch, bourbon-matured blend with a 20% malt content finished for 6 months in oloroso sherry casks? Thought so. Clementine, ripe plum, and a firm, peeled-banana nose with vanilla, warm citrus, banana, raisins, and base notes of peppery spice. There’s plenty of structure and complexity on this well-balanced blend, which ebbs away with red fruits and strawberry bubblegum. Continuously juicy, with a butter toffee and white pepper finish.
This is unique in that it seems to be malt-forward, specifically floor malt, with oak and cinnamon following. But caramel enters the dance and does so in a big way. Nuances of crème brûlée, caramel popcorn, maple syrup, and caramelized corn with hints of cola, raspberry, and apple tart. While the flavor is here, the finish is just a touch short to put this in elite company. Nonetheless, it’s a decent sipper.
Master distiller Brian Nation has the most vital job at Midleton. His distillate-driven whiskey is light, perfumed, floral, and ripe with succulent fruits of Galia melon, apricots, and citrus pith. A smooth, creamy mouthfeel of barley sugars, dried banana, and lime zest ends with light vanilla sponge and orange frosting. Sucked Jaffa segments make for a quick finish. The most distinctive of the Whisky Makers trio, where the grain and pot still contributions are clearly evident. €70
Four Roses 2016 Limited Edition Small Batch, 55.9%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $99
A batch of OESO 12 year old, OBSV 12 year old, and OESK 16 year old. Normally, Four Roses expresses a near-patented cinnamon note up front with fruity undertones. Not this time. Earth, oak, powerfully rich caramel, nutmeg, vanilla, barrel char, with slight hints of grain, corn syrup, and cardamom. Finally, the quintessential cinnamon shows over a slightly disappointing medium finish.
Distilled in 2001, this year’s release is a departure from recent releases, which were complex and nicely balanced. It’s more aggressive, with tannins and oak dominating, and lacking the body and sweetness to balance it. It’s my least favorite of this year’s offerings. Dark chocolate, toffee, tobacco, and dried fruit round out the palate and offer some comfort. Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2016
Samsara is a combination of 8 to 10 year old whiskies matured in first-fill bourbon barrels and California red wine hogsheads, bottled non-chill filtered. Initially slightly savory on the nose, then peaches and cream, and soft spices. The palate is supple and sweet, with vanilla, mango, and passion fruit. The finish is long, with spicy pears. Drier spices emerge and ultimately, light tannins. The red wine influence is greatly enhanced by the addition of a few drops of water. £60
This expression includes young, heavily-peated Bunnahabhain matured in bourbon barrels, mixed with 20 to 21 year old spirit aged in sherry butts. Fragrant, peppery peat on the early nose, brine and fabric Band-Aids. Ultimately, leathery orange. Smooth and supple on the palate, with intense, smoky fresh fruit giving way to quite dry spices. The relatively long finish yields drying peat, plain chocolate, and developing licorice. £80
Unpeated Caol Ilas have become a regular in the Special Releases portfolio and this expression from 2000 is the eleventh to appear. The early nose is reticent and faintly floral, with freshly sliced green apples. Sharp and sweet on the palate, with malt and citrus fruit, and even a hint of mint. Ginger, mixed nuts, aniseed, and more mint in the medium-length finish. Diageo Special Releases 2016 bottling.
The first peated GlenDronach release, matured in bourbon barrels before a period in oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherry casks. The nose offers dry, earthy peat, then becomes quite perfumed, with vanilla and lime. Light to medium-bodied, with sweeter peat notes on the palate. Creamy, with honey, cinnamon sticks, and green apples. The finish is medium in length, with peat slowly fading and a flaring of spices near the close.
The third Special Releases cask strength Glenkinchie is the oldest to date and the first to have been matured in European oak casks. Peach and pear soufflé on the initial nose, followed by apricots and toffee. The palate is rich and smooth, with dark fruits, walnuts, nutmeg, and a hint of resin. Quite lengthy, with ginger and white pepper in the aromatic and subtly drying finish. Diageo Special Releases 2016. (5,928 bottles)
Dunnet Head replaces Duncansby Head and consists of 80 percent sherry cask-matured whisky and 20 percent aged in bourbon wood. It is non-chill filtered. Soft caramel on the nose, plus a hint of fresh ginger and meadow hay. Sweet, spicy sherry and a heathery note on the nicely textured palate, with suggestions of citrus and salt. Medium in length, with lingering soft spices in the finish; ginger and cinnamon at the close. (Travel Retail exclusive)
This rested in bourbon barrels for almost 18 years until May 2013 when it was transferred to oloroso sherry hogsheads for a prolonged period of finishing. Big, waxy, warm leather notes on the nose, then dried fruit and machine oil. The palate is smooth, with cinnamon, cloves, sherry-soaked raisins, and dates. Spicy leather, plain chocolate, and slightly tannic oak in the very lengthy finish (1,800 bottles) £100
Masataka Taketsuru first blended Super Nikka in 1962 in tribute to his late Scottish wife Rita, and this limited edition pursues the flavors of the original. A dry nose of whole almond, honeycomb, woody herbal twigs, star anise, five-spice powder, and cut and dried peats. Lyle’s Golden Syrup flavors, baked apple, and raspberry coulis with a beautifully balanced, spicy accompaniment, incorporating lemongrass stalks and coconut flakes. Spicy fireworks, herbal remnants, and a slight peatiness make for a complete whisky. €49
Whether it’s New York, London, Paris, or Yilan (home of Kavalan), this expression uses the fashionable technique of maturing unpeated spirit in former peaty whisky casks. Sweet, seasoned wood smoke, chocolate peat, dry spices (notably roasted coriander seed), citrus, and tropical fruits. A thick, warming, unctuous mouthfeel perfused with peat smoke, tangy grapefruit, and baked orange, ending on a fruity red licorice and gentle peat finish. Water unlocks moreish, honeyed citrus sweetness, with a peaty nip in the tail. (Distillery exclusive) NT$1,560
This expression from Springbank Distillery is taking over from its highly regarded 12 year old sibling. It is unpeated, distilled three times, and matured in bourbon casks. It is non-chill filtered. The nose is gently floral, with pears, toffee, and soft oak, then emerging herbal tobacco notes. The palate is full and slightly oily, with cream, orchard fruits, cinnamon, and sea salt. The finish is long, with vanilla and cocoa powder.
That Boutique-y Whisky Company Blended Malt #2 18 year old (batch 3), 48%
Blended Malt Scotch Whisky | $62
A delicious and inviting proposition, this offers heather honey on toast, marmalade, dark vanilla, and flapjack aromas. Soft on the palate, there are gingersnaps dipped in thick-cut marmalade and runny caramels, though the ginger flavor muscles its way to the fore eventually. Water promotes more candied peel, before a spearmint conclusion. This is really enjoyable whisky for those lucky enough to get their hands on it. (30 bottles) £50
This blend of 6 to 8 year old bourbon is finished for 3 to 4 months in casks that aged Cognac for 12 years. There’s fruit, especially dried apricot, pear, passion fruit, grapefruit, and cherry. Then caramel, oak, leather, tobacco, vanilla, and a slight hint of cinnamon. Honestly, there’s a textural brandy-and-bourbon struggle, but beautiful vanilla and nutmeg surface, ensuring it is indeed bourbon. A muted spice comes toward the end with rich caramel. Solid sipper.
The Exclusive Malts (distilled at Port Dundas) 25 year old 1991, 53.6%
Single Grain Whisky | $175
Vanilla ice cream drizzled in caramel and speared with a couple of wafers. Ground hazelnut, faint dashes of cinnamon, and garam masala complete the nose. A brief opener of rich toffee and tangy citrus is overrun with a piquant, acidic rush and nippy alcohol flare. It’s actually light in texture, and a largely absorbing experience, ending on some dusty marshmallow notes, though never losing the tanginess. Water accentuates the tangerine and mandarin but negates the mallow candy flavors. (264 bottles)
The double-charred, first-fill bourbon casks deliver Madagascan vanilla paste, dark-roast cocoa beans, caramelized sugars, and a wedge of pecan pie. Heightened vanilla flavors, maple syrup, a little chocolate, coffee grains, sweet char, and those dark, sticky, softening pecans prized from the pie. Alternately sucking on vanilla pods and chewing leather bootstraps describes the finish. A one-trick pony, some might say, but it’s a highly distinctive and impressive steed all the same. (4,800 bottles)
Copperworks American Single Malt (release 001), 52%
Craft Whiskey | $60
The appealing nose features pretty biscuit notes, great purity of malt, and golden, honeyed sweetness, before adding some flavors of citrus blossom, clover, and cardamom with hints of licorice. On the palate, the initial sweet malt quickly turns herbal, with marjoram and a distinct sage note that lingers through a long finish of salt-tinged sweetness. Aged 2 years, 6 months in full-size charred oak.
The Connacht Whiskey Company’s first release comes in small bottles, but it goes a long way. Whole lemons, yellow plum, pine floor cleaner, and a light smear of vanilla. Neat, there’s a real intensity of lemon-drenched sweet oak with a boiled candy finish, but it’s much more enjoyable brought down in strength. The soft fruits shine; it’s lemony though less acidic, and the barley notes show their best side. One of the tastiest sourced whiskeys on the Irish market. (5,000 bottles) Price is per 375 ml.
Master cooper Ger Buckley has the most significant job at Midleton. Named after the croze that he uses to cut the groove for the cask head, these older-aged whiskeys give his rendition a broad back of toasted oak, vanilla pods, and cracker bread, with dark sultanas from the oloroso sherry casks. This has a richer, warm, glossier mouthfeel, showing toffee, vanilla, lump charcoal, and black fruits. A shadow of bitter oak creeps in toward the dying moments.
This final lesson in the Deconstructed Series teaches us of the cask influence of the wood. The nose is warm and inviting, with toasted oak, rich vanilla, and bruised orchard fruit in a cider press. Sipping is rewarding: caramelized apple, oily pot still spiciness, toasted coconut, crunchy oat bars, cinnamon bark, dark treacle, pecans, and plump raisins. The creaminess of vanilla custard develops with dilution. If you’re late for final boarding, this is the one to grab. (Travel Retail exclusive) €36
The latest addition to Bowmore’s core range is presented at the unconventional age of 9 years. Matured predominantly in oloroso sherry casks, with some bourbon cask-aged spirit thrown into the mix. The result is a whisky featuring drinking chocolate, black pepper, and soft peat on the nose. Sherry and sweet peat notes merge nicely on the palate, with dates, plums, and light caramel. Smoky brine in the medium-length finish. £30
This is the third single cask Distillery Edition cask strength. It was distilled in December 1996 and bottled as a 20 year old in April 2016. Coconut ice and vanilla fudge on the very sweet, confectionery-led nose, with a suggestion of salt in the background. Full and supple on the palate, with a big hit of ripe apples, then cinnamon and nutmeg. Very long in the finish with light black pepper. A Glen Scotia for those with a sweet tooth! (Distillery only bottling) £95
This is the fourteenth 12 year old Lagavulin bottling in the series and was aged in refill American oak hogsheads. Vanilla and wood smoke on the early nose, then black pepper, lemon, marine aromas, and scented notes, with a hint of peaty yeast. Big, sweet, and direct on the smooth palate, with milk chocolate and black pepper, while the smoke keeps building. The finish is long and smoky, with persistent pepper. Diageo Special Releases 2016 bottling.
This is a 1978 veteran from the rebuilt Linkwood Distillery. The nose is slightly musty, even bitter, with sawdust and apple peel. The palate is sweet, with a suggestion of sherbet ‘fizz,’ elusive peatiness, and fruit spice, plus vanilla, walnuts, and ultimately, slightly grippy oak. Diageo Special Releases 2016. (6,114 bottles)
Littlemill 25 year old Private Cellar Edition, 50.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $3000
This bottling of 1990 whisky from the demolished Littlemill Distillery was initially matured in ten American and European oak casks before being married and finished in first-fill oloroso sherry casks. Boiled fruit sweets, subtle vanilla, red apple peel, and cereal on the nose. The palate is rich, sweet, and full. Intense fruitiness, then fruit spices, hazelnuts, and some oak notes. Very long in the finish, with aniseed and plain chocolate. Mildly tannic at the last. Complex and satisfying. (1,500 bottles)
The latest vintage expression of Tomatin’s peated Cù Bòcan was aged in a mix of bourbon and sherry casks. Fishy smoke on the nose, with ripe red apples, toffee, milk chocolate, and malt. Creamy mouthfeel; ripe pears in peat smoke, sweet spices. White pepper, plain chocolate, and a lick of licorice in the relatively long and lively finish. (11,400 bottles)
Distilled in 2004, The Murray was matured in first-fill bourbon barrels and is offered at cask strength, non-chill filtered. The nose opens with confident, sweet fruit notes—overripe bananas and peach slices—with background milky coffee. Rich and sweet on the palate, developing vanilla spices, chewy tropical fruits. The finish is long, with cinnamon, licorice, and oak tannins.
Think of an herb garden. It’s pronounced with herbs such as parsley, dill, and hints of basil and mint. Fruits develop (canned peaches and pears), followed by earth, floral, and oak. Then a medicinal note sets in, forming as cherry cough syrup, striking an unbalanced, astringent mouthfeel with hints of mint and salted chocolate. A drop of water softens the medicinal approach and returns the herbal, fruity, and earthy richness. Finishes medium with a hint of dill.
Distilled in 1990, this rare expression was matured in refill American oak hogsheads. Quite shy on the nose, even at cask strength. Ultimately, faintly floral notes, with pear drops, vanilla, and linseed. Very smooth on the palate, with soft fruity malt, vanilla, peach, and dark berries. Buttery mango and nutmeg in the finish. Diageo Special Releases 2016. (3,954 bottles)
The Sovereign (distilled at North British) 25 year old, 57.5%
Single Grain Whisky | $80
Green grapes, fresh apple, caramel, wood spices, cinnamon, nutmeg, and digestive biscuits show the freshness of this quarter-century dram. Before the alcohol grips, sweet corn flavors and acidic-citrus fruitiness present themselves (a North British characteristic). A pleasurable, thick-textured taste of cookie dough, lime, lemon, orange Jell-o, and oak spices. A sparkling citrus finish dances on the tip of the tongue. Water discharges the taste of artificial sweeteners, so buck up and take it as it comes. (K&L Wines Exclusive)
Like many older corn whiskies, this one unfolds slowly. Strong Cadbury caramel bar and slightly meaty, with sour fruits and cedar on the nose. Sweet and hot, with floral notes and initially a discordant touch of perfume. Pulling tannins provide structure for glowing pepper, sultanas, sweet spring flowers, some earthiness, and a touch of wet slate. Not as woody as most whiskies this age; a testament to long maturation in used barrels. (Cadenhead’s exclusive, Great Britain and Europe) £128
To stand out in the increasingly crowded marketplace of sourced, single malt Irish whiskey, you need a good, original hook: this whisky is cut with Wicklow water. Shhh! Don’t tell St. Kevin. The bourbon casks have developed a sweet, honeyed nose with fresh hay, peach pit, and some mature oak characteristics. Lighter weight than the blend (see below), it relinquishes golden honey, satsuma, ground ginger, crystal sugar, and tame spices. Pleasantly drinkable and incontestably well-made, but the liquid needs greater individuality.
The second installment in the deconstruction of Jameson Original, this is a punchy, pot still-led whiskey with a nose of white peppercorn, cinnamon breakfast cereal, whole nutmeg, and a chocolate-coconut slice. Soft, waxy beginning, strong vanilla flavors, golden syrup, fresh apple, and huge barley notes, though the spices are surprisingly easygoing. It’s worth comparing to its brothers, Lively and Round. Of the trio, this is closest to Original. Peppery finish with long lasting barley sweetness. (Travel Retail exclusive) €36
This peated expression was matured in quarter casks and is the first bottling to be launched since BenRiach was acquired by Brown-Forman in April 2016. The nose offers sweet peat and new leather, coal, and a hint of iodine. White pepper and big peat notes on the palate. Ripe apples develop and spices spread around the mouth. The finish is medium in length, warming, and gently smoky. £65
Initially matured in bourbon barrels for 6 years, the spirit was then aged for a further 31 months in wine casks from the Hermitage Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée.Soft on the nose, with fresh red berries, oiled leather, cinnamon, and a hint of smoke. Rich, slightly smoky cherry and berry notes on the palate, plus milk chocolate and lively spices. Initially fruity, then drying in the finish with wood smoke and light tannins.
One of the duo of releases in Glenfiddich’s Experimental Series, ‘IPA’ was finished for 3 months in casks that previously held the Speyside Craft Brewery’s India pale ale. The nose offers hops and honey, malt, toffee, cooking apples, and lemon. Smooth on the palate, with more honey and toffee, soft spices and, ultimately, slightly bitter, hoppy ale notes. The finish is medium in length, with dry spices and plain chocolate.
Initially aged in bourbon barrels, this expression was transferred into Cabernet Sauvignon wine casks in March 2011 for additional maturation. Musty wine notes on the early nose soon become red berries and vanilla. Supple on the palate, with big red berry notes, plus honey and ginger. Lingering ginger and raspberries in the finish, drying to dark chocolate (2,520 bottles) £70
This 9 year old bottling has been fully matured in Caribbean rum barrels. Quite delicate on the nose, with wet grass, then emerging coconut and whipped cream. Slick on the palate, with an instant tropical fruit hit—ripe banana and pineapple—plus more cream, cinnamon, and hazelnut. Spicy and nutty in the finish, with a final tropical fruit tang (6,600 bottles) £40
The second release in the Custodians’ series was matured in two sherry hogsheads—one first-fill and the other second-fill. This 46 year old is presented at cask strength. The early nose offers herbal and menthol notes, old resin, citrus fruits, then milk chocolate-coated peppermint creams… idiosyncratic. The palate is quite thin, with more citrus fruits, almonds, and developing wood notes. The finish is lightly oaky and mouth-drying, with a touch of black pepper.
At 3 years, 6 months, this whiskey shows so much promise. As most young bourbons do, this one starts with hints of oak and a mouthful of corn that develops into cornbread and corn pudding over subtle hints of pralines and chocolate. Then out of nowhere, raw almonds and pecan shell. The medium finish ends with a touch of cinnamon. High hopes for this one. In another year or two, we could be talking about something really special. Price is per 375 ml.
Hepburn’s Choice (distilled at Blair Athol) 12 year old, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $56
This single cask bottling from Langside Distillers was aged in a sherry butt and bottled in 2015. Candied orange peel on the early nose, soft sweet sherry, and glacé cherries. Fragrant, with milk chocolate-coated Turkish Delight. Sweet, spicy sherry, plus pepper and cinnamon on the uncomplicated palate. Fruity spices in the medium-length finish. (222 bottles, Robertsons of Pitlochry exclusive) £45
There is lovely freshness here, with sawn oak, bread dough, and baking spice aromas. Despite the generous 80% rye content, the malt component really comes through, offering good backbone, creamy caramel sweetness, and approachability. A streak of pleasingly peppery rye is balanced with sweet vanilla, leading to a lively finish with mint and chocolate malt balls.
Matured in bourbon casks, this is the second release from the fledgling Caithness Distillery. Clearly youthful on the nose, but not raw, with ginger, melon, and background resin. Ultimately, mildly floral. Chili notes on the relatively dry palate, with nutmeg and spicy oak. The finish is on the short side of medium in length, peppery, and slightly bitter. Once decanted, this dram improves significantly and is rated on that basis. (1,200 bottles)£65
Wheat has been swapped for oats in this release, but the agenda remains the same, a very primary whiskey with grain at the forefront and just a hint of oak roundness to the surprisingly creamy palate. Fresh flour, violet candies, hints of clove spice, and persistent sweetness, the palate gives the impression of warm breakfast cereal laced with banana and lemon, a testament to the quality of the distillate.
A winsome, floral nose, with icing sugar, green tea, sweet toffee, and juicy fruits including apricot, dragon fruit, and ripe watermelon. The honey-fruity core of tangerine, watermelon, orange oils, Starburst candies, and a little caramel imports attractive flavors, the balance and complexity given heft by the white pepper and dried chili notes. The drawback is the lack of body and texture. The end brings a flurry of pepper and burnt oak, and a long tail of melon and spices.
Warmth. Bakery flavors set in right away, illustrating both sweet and spice: cinnamon bread, vanilla, yellow cake batter, gingersnaps, no-bake oatmeal cookies. Then, hints of smoke, dark cherries, chipotle pepper, and a slight hint of butterscotch. As is, it disappointingly finishes short, with a hint of cardamom. Water adds caramel complexity to the previously short finish.
Sweeter on the nose than the palate, with crème caramel, autumn fruits, and sweet rye spices. Initial caramel notes become peppery, with raging heat that glows in the throat. A creamy mouthfeel works hard to resist this incursion of hot rye spices and searing cayenne pepper. Feels hotter than 40%, with sizzling spices but no alcohol burn. Fruity notes come and go, centered on cooked apples. Eventually fades to a long, sourish, bitter-orange finish.
Reminiscent of old-style sherry malts, with round, mellow, oaky notes and a dusty, waxy, farmy feel that evolves into dark fruit and striking gunpowder on the nose. Odd and enticing. The oily palate shows taffy, blistering white pepper, fresh pine sawdust, and ripe fruits, with chocolatey suggestions of Tootsie Rolls. Starts big, then moves to a quick, spicy-hot resolution. People who think all-wheat whisky is mild or weak really need to try this luscious beauty. $35 CAD
Distilled in 2008 from barley peated to 167 ppm and matured in virgin French oak casks. Sweet smoke and oak on the initial nose, with quite assertive spices. Freshly sawn timber, dried fruits, and emerging vanilla. Slightly earthy on the palate, where big spice notes continue with peaches, orange, and milk chocolate. The finish is relatively long, with cloves, licorice, ginger, and chili. Bold is the word! (12,000 bottles)
Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch No. 1 Red Rye Finish, 40%
Blended Scotch Whisky | $22
America, Walker wants your cocktails. Emma Walker that is, the blender whose signature adorns the first of these experimental expressions. Toffee Speyside nose, digestive biscuits, cinnamon, cool mint, and a pronounced grain note from Port Dundas. Orange, lime peel, lovely caramel richness, and creamy toffee through dilution. The brand’s second consecutive rye cask finish: you noticed too? Up against its sibling, JW Select Rye Cask, there are certain similarities, but this is fruitier, less intricate, and less rich and spicy.
Spicy and savory with dark soy sauce, the blackened bark of a hunk of roasted meat, peppercorn, fennel, and faint lemon zest. Lemon meringue pie and tangerine flavors; quite sweet, with lovely flowing spices throughout, and a few green notes, but when the creamy fudge comes in, the ride is over. Compared with the standard blend, this has greater balance, benefiting from the absence of the more abrasive spices and herbal aromas. Abrupt finish, leaving a hollow spiciness behind. £35
That Boutique-y Whisky Company English Whisky 5 year old (batch 1), 49.5%
Single Malt English Whisky | $50
This hothead stomps around the place, lashing out the peaty punches, but this raw power comes at the expense of balance. Coal scuttles, crumbly compost, smoked grass, chocolate ganache, and aromas of pit-cooked, blackened joints of pork. A thin medley of lemon, grapefruit, and orange segments is smothered by dense plumes of smoke, even more peaty with a dash of water, and it billows its way to a finish of chalky, fizzy candy round a bonfire. Imagine a smoked Trebor refresher. (964 bottles) £40
At 6 years, 4 months, and 4 days old, there’s a bit of an old-school bourbon nose, with caramel and butterscotch leading. Chocolate, cinnamon, and nutmeg follow. What starts out promising turns to grain, opening up to cornbread, freshly baked rye bread, and vanilla cupcake batter. Once the chewy-to-dry mouthfeel is established, there’s walnut bread, rice pudding, and buttered toast over heat. With water, the grain disappears and malty caramel dominates. This needs water or ice to maximize potential.
I loosen up my shoulders and crick my neck, first left, then right: this is strong whisky. Creamed coconut, a little fudge, hints of nutmeg, unpeeled bananas, and quite a young grain character on the nose. Powerful: West Cork firing on all six. Sweet charred wood, caramel, macadamia nuts, and cinnamon toffee emerge unscathed. Settles down obediently with water: cinnamon toast and tasty caramels. This can handle plenty of water, though ultimately, the flavors still arrive at the same destination. (4,800 bottles)
Folklore tells of the Silkies, whose siren voices and beckoning, limpid eyes were irresistible to any man. From the team planning to build Sliabh Liag Distillery in County Donegal comes a palate of vanilla fudge, wood spices, and some vegetal notes following a nose of cold toffee brittle, fresh-cut herbs, and white pepper. A conspicuous grain character penetrates through, but this adds to a mature profile, making this blend stand out from the crowd of bourbon cask sweeties. €47
Soft and warm on the nose, with peaches in syrup, heather, hazelnut, and mild ginger. Quite full and richly fruity on the palate: apricots and more peaches, plus stronger ginger and a hint of spicy oak. Lingering in the sweet finish, with gentle spices.
Lemon lozenges and chewy warm cookies, with muscular, brutish smoke characteristics; like standing too close to the open doors of a peat kiln. The palate begins with gooseberries; very sharp, sour, and acidic, the blistering alcohol rolling through like a steamroller, while ginger and pepper fly about like sparks off a grindstone. It is enjoyably mollified through dilution to suggest sponge cake, citrus, chocolate, and tobacco notes. The consummate Kornog can be divine, but this is hard core. €100
The first legal rye from Delaware since Prohibition includes 65% rye and also 5% rye malt. Although showing some spirituous aromas of youth, this is one of the more precocious small barrel projects (10 gallon), with its sweet cinnamon candy and rye bread notes turning still spicier on the palate. Not terribly complex, but enjoyable.
Rich on the nose, with damp tweed, malt, and a suggestion of earthiness. Finally, salted butter. The palate offers muted tropical fruits, soft gingery oak, and more earthiness. In the finish, the oak becomes more overt without dominating.
Surprisingly the most reticent nose of the three Inchmurrins. Mild orchard fruit, apple blossom, cocoa powder, and a hint of nutmeg. Initially, red grapes and almonds on the palate, with the fruit then darkening to raisins and developing oak. The finish is long, spicy, dry, and oaky, with persistent background fruitiness trying to break through.
Like a trip to the stalls of an old spice market, the traders beckoning you closer with their colorful wares. Nutmeg, fennel seed, and caraway on the nose, then papery dried oak leaves, toast crumbs, and slightly pungent notes of chive and shucked pea pods. This is a fatter, more glutinous whisky than the single malt. Lemon glaze, fudge, honey, nectarine, and kumquat balance an undercurrent of pepper, cinnamon, and mustard seed. A slightly sour swallow, then the spices reign supreme.
Wood. From the lumberyard to the charred barrels, wood powers over grain, caramel, vanilla, and earth. A nuttiness comes through, turning the wood into almond, pine nut, and pecan, but a resounding bitterness stays in the form of nut shells. It lacks balance and complementary flavors to the oak, but caramel finds itself on a short finish. Decent first release, but I wanted to find more nuance from the second barrel.
The Sovereign (distilled at Invergordon) 50 year old, 42.9%
Single Grain Whisky | $300
You can smell the time that has elapsed on this dark, chestnut dram. Glimpses of vanilla essence, mushroom gills, blueberries, aged balsamic vinegar, and beef stock. Flavors swirl around charred meat juices, walnut oil, chewed leather, rancio, tobacco leaf, tree bark, black toffee, and licorice root. A slight creamy salvation tugs it from its oaky and savory comfort zone. The moderate finish is awash with Brazil nut and bitter coffee grounds. Forget about adding water. An ancient, fragile grain whisky. (K&L Wines exclusive)
Parker’s Heritage (distilled Spring 1991) 24 year old, 50%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $250
Take just a moment to admire the color; it’s nearly red after 24 years. Then admire the fragrance, with florals, fruit, caramel, and vanilla bargaining for their time over prominent oak. Complexity of earth, caramel, cinnamon, vanilla, bitter chocolate, light cinnamon, sautéed mushrooms, watermelon Jolly Rancher, and a hint of tobacco. Eventually, woodiness and bitterness set in and dominate the palate. Too much wood.
Explore the grain side of Jameson’s personality in this first specimen from the Deconstructed series. Expect floral aromatics and a mixed crate of fresh citrus fruit, so it smells closer to the airport’s perfume counter than the whiskey store. Strands of honey, squeezed citrus, and vanilla blossom amid a thickening mouthfeel after a feather-light beginning. It’s tooth-achingly sweet, but daubed with lime and sweet clementine, leading to a dry, warm finish with chalky candy. (Travel Retail exclusive) €36
Parker’s Heritage (distilled Fall 1990) 24 year old, 50%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $250
Non-chill filtered plus a lot of age equals oak meeting caramel, vanilla, earth, nuttiness, and mildew. Slight hints of anise, rose petals, tree bark, and overcooked rice, before over-oaked flavor dominates with medicinal notes and soap. Bitterness, earth, and a saving grace of herbs follow for a decent, albeit woody finish. This is simply over-oaked. I’d love to have tasted this bottled three to seven years ago.
Meaning “son of the sea,” this MacNaMara has a lilting sweetness that lifts from the glass, the characteristic orange-peel oil note is present, but less assertive. Nectarine, Murray mints, and antique shop mustiness, but a lot less aromatic than many of its contemporaries. Flavors of sweet melon, golden honey, and tangy orange take off in the mouth, with tastes of white pepper, fennel, and ground ginger in hot pursuit. Pepperiness penetrates an otherwise juicy finish.
Age statements are disappearing from Japanese whiskies, but this 80% grain content blended whisky from Sasanokawa Shuzo is evidence that age is no substitute for flavor. A tight nose of lychee, white pepper, allspice, and toasted oats is bettered by a sweet, light profile, yielding American oak characteristics of vanilla and creamed coconut. It’s quickly dominated by intensely spicy seasoning overcoming late notes of burnt orange, fresh fig, and sour grapefruit peel before a finish of peppered mackerel. (1,992 bottles, Europe only) €130
Great Wagon Road RUA American Single Malt (release 6, batch 10), 40%
Craft Whiskey | $47
There is a certain rusticity here, with a nose rooted in rhum agricole, sweet malt, honeycomb, butterscotch, and molasses, tinged with furniture polish and varnish notes. The palate is sweet and candied, with Bit-O-Honey, circus peanuts, and nougat, turning a touch chocolatey on the finish.
This amber-colored blend from the Gaelic Whisky Company has sweet barley notes and gentle spice aromas. The caramels prop up the dominant flavor of cold-pressed orange oil squeezed from the peel. A crescendo of peppery spice marks the late phase and distinguishes the swallow, before a finish of tangy citrus peel with a touch of clove. Perfectly straightforward blend but limited in scope, like a linear dot-to-dot connecting barley, orange peel, and spice.
Aged in a combination of 25-gallon and 53-gallon barrels, Florida’s first bourbon since Prohibition is 16 to 28 months of age. The honor of being first comes with compromises—a youthful, spirited profile, with clear distillate lurking just beneath the heavy surface oak, dried fruit, and cocoa notes. Slightly hot, earthy, and leathery, with Robusta coffee and oak astringency on the finish.
Up front it is extremely off-putting, with overwhelming medicinal, musk, and anise notes, but herbs, candied fruit, and shrubs offer a semblance of hope. Finally, caramel and vanilla appear, though short, overtaken by raw sweet corn and oats. Grain doesn’t go away; it almost masks specks of brown sugar and citrus before a short finish with an unrelenting bitterness.
Traces of burnt caramel add interest to an otherwise simple, overly sweet palate. A triumvirate of alcohol, chocolate toffee, and pepper. A slight bitterness is more distracting than pleasing or refreshing. Reminiscent of Aunt Jemima pancake syrup, Sailboat is just too sweet to sip solo, but adding ginger ale increases the complexity, as spirit and sweetness mingle with ginger and carbonation. It would benefit from a bit more wood. A very inexpensive whisky, though not a bargain. $20 CAD