The Exclusive Malts 13 year old 2002 (cask #20021), 54.2%
Irish | $135
This 13 year old malt from central Ireland is an uncommon foray into the Irish whiskey space for the Exclusive Malts Collection. Pure malt is the focus of the nose which supports that malt with tart green apple. On the palate this whiskey is a stunning mix of lush, sweet honey, salt, malt, green apple, and ginger spice. The balance and integration are nothing short of perfect. A long malty finish caps off one of the best Irish whiskeys I’ve had. (U.S. only)
The Last Drop (distilled at Lochside) 1972 (cask 346), 44%
Grain Scotch Whisky | $3108
A remarkable beauty from the Angus town of Montrose. The elegant nose shows a dram at peace with itself; golden syrup, hay bales, ground hazelnut, liquid honey, French baguette, High Mountain oolong, and rubbed spice blends. Refreshing palate of honey, toffee, citrus, honeycomb wax, and a profusion of sweet vanilla. Rich, sweet oak and deep pepper notes to finish. Truly a sublime and venerable grain. (106 bottles) £2,400
Yamazaki Mizunara Cask 18 year old (2017 Edition), 48%
Japanese | $1,000
When whisky lovers talk about the grandeur of Japanese whisky, the enlightenment they desire can be found within this bottle. A refined luxury evocative of toasted marshmallow, sweet incense, butter-soft caramels, oak spices, and ground cinnamon. All the hallmarks of mizunara are here. Concentrated sweet citrus, so intensely fruity on the palate; the mouthfeel is rapturously silky with touches of mango, dried apricot, and gentle but resilient spices.
Wow! After the wonderful 12 year old cask strength, Redbreast does it again. This is a different beast altogether, but it is a stunner. This is Roger Waters doing The Wall: over the top, unsubtle, and totally entertaining. There’s lots going on: fermenting apples, juicy oils, spice, and dark cherry and berry fruits zip and fizz over the palate, the wood influence is sublime. I'm comfortably numb.
A rich amber color and elegantly oxidized notes greet you. There are luscious old fruits—pineapple, dried peach, apricot—and puffs of coal-like smokiness. In time, sweet spices (cumin especially) emerge. Superbly balanced. The palate, while fragile, still has real sweetness alongside a lick of treacle. It can take a drop of water, allowing richer, darker fruits to emerge. The finish is powerful, long, and resonant. Superb, not over-wooded, and a fair price for such a rarity. £1,995
Though aged in virgin American oak, it’s distillery character that’s in charge here; a fully expressive Yoichi. Rich, mysterious, layered, mixing rich fruit compote with scented coastal smoke (ozone, tar, soot) alongside masses of vetiver and cigar humidor. The palate is oily and immense, with fluxing layers of sweet fruit, oily peat, salt, and ink; camphor, flax seed, and in among the smoke, apple mint. Long, insanely complex, and jaw-droppingly good. This will go down as a classic. €185
The Macallan 29 year old 1976 Vintage (Cask #11354), 45.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $1,500
Classic sherry cask-aged Macallan. Antique amber with hints of ruby. Thickly textured, complex, and quite deep, with notes of toffee, ripe pit fruit, raisin, apple pie, dried spice (cinnamon, clove, ginger, and mint), and a wisp of smoke. An exceptional, multi-faceted Macallan!
Irish Distillers has already released two 90+ pot still whiskeys this year, but this is the knockout blow, an immense take on the wonderful Redbreast. The nose gives little away, all damp autumn leaves and fermenting forest fruit, but on the palate it's a fireworks display, a colorful mix of apple and pear, berries, vine fruits, chocolate liqueur, and oily pureed fruit. It's coming to the States soon, and rumor has it there's more to follow. But this will do. I can't think if I've ever tasted a better Irish whiskey. €75
The Dalmore is one of a handful of whiskies that seem to be able to age in the cask for many decades and still improve. This one is incredibly viscous on the nose and palate (and very heavy on the tongue), with chewy toffee and old pot still rum. The classic Dalmore marmalade note shines throughout, along with vanilla cream, an array of dried spices (especially cinnamon and evergreen), juicy oak, forest bedding, rancio, old armagnac, polished leather, tobacco, maple syrup, dark chocolate, almond macaroon, and subtle espresso. Long, mouth-coating finish. The flavors evolve like waves lapping on the palate -- especially the interplay with the oak. I can’t drink this whisky slowly enough. A rare experience for the lucky few who can afford it. (Price is per 100ml.)
Dun Bheagan (distilled at Springbank), Cask No. 1704, 35 year old, 1970 vintage, 50.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $300.00
Quite fresh and appetizing for a 35 year old whisky, but not too surprising for a Springbank. Notes of creamy vanilla, burnt caramel, coconut custard, brine, and a hint of anise. Complex, vibrant, and well-balanced. Reminds me why I love those old Springers. Devotees will not be disappointed. A stunning whisky! (Exclusive to Astor Wines and Spirits.)
Compass Box The Peat Monster 10th Anniversary Special Cask Strength Bottling, 54.7%
Blended Scotch Whisky | $120
As you’d expect, solid peat is the first thing out of the glass, but this isn’t just a peat beast. Underneath are honey, dried fruit, and malt. The palate is all about balance, with honeyed malt, raisin, and oak spice all complementing smoky peat. A lush mouthfeel makes you forget it’s cask strength. A pure love note in a glass from Compass Box to Park Avenue Liquor. (Park Avenue Liquor only)
Crown Royal has always been a very stylish, silky smooth whisky. This bottling adds a new dimension in flavor and texture with its cognac cask finishing. A velvety smooth whisky with notes of creamy vanilla, butterscotch, nougat, dried fruit, and gentle spice are well-defined and nicely balanced. Gently sweet, fruity finish. Crown Royal’s best effort to date.
Redbreast Cask Strength 12 year old (Batch B1/17), 58.6%
Irish Single Pot Still | $80
The latest release pits plum, damson, fruitcake, and rosehip against wild, untamed pot still spices straining at the leash. Clove vociferously trumps raisin as the mouth-drawing power is realized; spices deflect off the tongue’s surface like sparks off an anvil. As its grip slackens, the fruit ripens, bruising slightly, yet sweetening deliciously, and vanilla pod, toasted stave, and cinnamon bark emerge. I swear you feel more Irish with every sip. Editors’ Choice
Highland Park, Cask #13308, 1973 vintage, 33 year old, 54.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $280.00
Dark and decadent. Notes of old pot still rum, roasted nuts, chocolate fudge, burnished leather, Dundee cake, tobacco, and a hint of damp peat. When I drink this, I feel like I’m sitting in the study of a stately Scottish mansion contemplating a fine, aged Cuban cigar. Royalty in a glass. (Bottled for Binny’s Beverage Depot)
Cask #3145 is the lighter in color, and the sweet notes that balance the smoke and seaweed are not as deeply caramelized as Cask #3542. I’m tasting hints of shortbread and caramel, which show through the peat smoke, tobacco, toasted nuts, firm spice notes (cinnamon, clove, and mint), and lingering brine. Very complex. Price listed includes the entire Double Barrel 1974 Vintage set.
At this strength, it’s almost like getting two whiskeys for the price of one. A great value, considering its age. (It’s not identified on the label, but was distilled in 1993.) Try to find a great 18 year old, cask-strength single malt scotch for this price. Very mature — with a good dose of oak — but not excessively so. Notes of toffee, tobacco, dark molasses, roasted nuts, dried vanilla, leather, and a hint of dusty corn. Dry on the finish, with lingering leather and tobacco.
Midleton Very Rare 30th Anniversary Pearl Edition, 53.1%
Irish Blended Whiskey | $6354
A marriage of a single cask of grain from 1981 with a cask of pot still from 1984 to celebrate 30 years of Midleton Very Rare, the job undertaken masterfully by Barry Crockett and Brian Nation. The expressive nose is redolent of polished antique violin, warm gingerbread, the herbal tinges pricked by spices. Delicate honey, rich vanilla, toasty oak, and tendrils of cinnamon segue into a dry, spicy conclusion. La Peregrina of Irish whiskey. Ain’t she a beauty? (117 bottles) €6,000
The flavors evolve on the nose and palate, with peat kiln smoke, fresh asphalt, damp earth warehouses, morning-after campfire ash, and old boat dock contrasting nicely with toffee apple, crème caramel, delicate raspberry preserve, and dried citrus. Long, smoky, spicy, briny, seaweed, dirty martini-tinged finish. This whisky comes from a combination of both sherry and bourbon casks, and the marriage works. I also like that it retains some of its youthful brashness, while showing the depth that maturity affords a whisky. A delicious, well-balanced, old-fashioned Laphroaig.(Reviewing this whisky gave me an excuse to open a “fresh” bottle of its predecessor, the 30 year old, and here are my thoughts. The 30 year old is softer, mellower, drier, and more debonair. The 25 year old is bolder, more youthful, more dynamic, richer, and sweeter — bottling at cask strength really helps here. Both whiskies are very nice, but quite different in personality.)
Floor 5 of the Kavalan warehouse is packed with their best sherry casks. The story begins with sultana, Brazil nut, vanilla pod, dates, and chocolate macaroons. The palate has ripe fruit, cherry, date, coffee, candied orange, chocolate, mocha, fruit pastilles, and some pepper, ending with bitter coffee notes. Cutting the strength provokes more citrus, though it reverts back to mocha eventually. Outstanding whisky and definitely the best of the bunch. (499 bottles)
A limited-release vatting of triple distilled, bourbon cask-matured spirit distilled in 1994 and 1996. This immersive and intense whiskey has waves of honey and fruit sweetness, floral and herbal notes, melting butter on fruit scones, macaroon bar, vanilla pod, candied grapefruit peel, and faint wood spices. Sharp orange, kumquat, and lime flavors mingle with honey, vanilla fudge, and barley sugar. Spices peak and retreat ahead of a sweet finish.
Just 160 bottles of 1972 Brora are available through UK World of Whiskies and World Duty Free Group stores. The oldest bottling of Brora to date was distilled using heavily-peated malt. A big hit of oily peat on the early nose, with malt, dried fruit, and black pepper. Mildly medicinal. The palate yields bonfire ash, licorice, honey, more pepper, and well-integrated oak. The finish is long, with peat smoke, plain chocolate, and tannins lingering in harmony. Complex and rewarding. £7,000
This is the first time I’ve been up for reviews here so I had a game plan: play it cool, mark tightly, let everyone know I’m hard to please. Then they gave me this, the whisky equivalent to front row tickets to Neil Young on his current Twisted Road tour: not just a chance to get up close and personal with an old favorite, but to do so with an old favorite who’s on fire. Laphroaig’s owners are intent on ensuring a big peaty engine for any new release, but this is a monster by anyone’s standards. It’s essentially Quarter Cask finished in oloroso sherry casks, so in addition to the intense charcoal smoke attack there are rich fruity notes; blackcurrant and berries. It’s an evening barbecue whisky. Grill that fish until it’s blackened and crispy, drizzle on lemon, and as the smoke rears up in protest, sip this. Big, moody, broody, fruity, and rich: what’s not to love? (Travel Retail and some European specialist retailers)
This limited-edition rye from Knob Creek beat the odds to rise to number two by flexing its muscle to impress tasters from both the U.S. and the UK. Superlatives were in good supply: intense, massively chewy, huge, very bold, aggressive. This 9 year old, unfiltered, cask-strength bottling simply presents heaps of flavor for a fair price. Caramel-drizzled flan, charred marshmallow, and honey-roasted peanut aromas lead to mouth-filling flavors of tropical fruits, citrus oil, and peach nectar. Lemony bright with cinnamon and peppery spice galore, it’s surprisingly drinkable at proof, but water really unpacks the flavors. Number 2 in the 2018 Top 20
Launched in 2003, Uigeadail remains one of Ardbeg’s core offerings. Matured in a mix of sherry and bourbon barrels and bottled at cask strength. Peppery peat, warm tar, coffee grounds, machine oil, and black pepper on the nose. The palate is complex and rich, offering orange segments sprinkled with sea salt, dark chocolate, malt, and ever-present sweet peat. Nicely balanced. Lengthy in the finish, with smoky caramel.
Highland Park, 34 year old, 1971 vintage (Cask #8363), 53%
Single Malt Scotch | $325.00
Rummy molasses and toffee sweetness intertwine with roasted nuts and bright, juicy fruit. Suggestions of fig, lavender, leather, and tobacco throughout, with a hint of peat and polished oak on the finish. Not quite as refined as the Highland Park 18 year old, but it makes up for this with its dynamic personality. A delicious ultra-mature, sherry cask-aged whisky. (A Binny’s Beverage Depot exclusive.)
Highland Park, Cask #7957, 1977 vintage, 29 year old, 48.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $300.00
A delicious, well-balanced, ultra-matured expression of Highland Park. Toffee apples, molasses, and vanilla fudge provide a sweet foundation, with evolving notes of dark chocolate, dry spicy oak, tobacco, subtle smoke, and lingering brine on the finish. Nicely done. (Bottled for Old Oaks Cigar & Wine Company)
Highland Park, 32 year old, 1973 Vintage, Cask #8375, 41.3%
Single Malt Scotch | $350.00
An essay in elegance. Silky and soft in texture, and very clean. Notes of peaches and cream, vanilla wafer, soft honey and fruit gum drops. Subtler notes of tropical fruit (pineapple, lemon, coconut), demerara sugar, heather, and anise. Polished oak adds structure and contrast, with a very elegant finish. Hard to believe this whisky is 32 years old. It's lighter and more elegant than the equally splendid Highland Park 30 year old, which I rated a 94 in the last issue. (Bottled exclusively for Park Avenue Liquors.)
Very spicy and complex, with incredible depth. Once again, this 30-plus year old whisky proves the aging ability of Balvenie. Still quite vibrant and invigorating for such maturity. The classic Balvenie honey note is there, but more reserved, along with graham cracker, vanilla wafer, citrus peel, raspberry (red and black), nectarine, and polished oak. Long, spicy finish. Another outstanding Balvenie Vintage Cask. Although, I look at the price and remember how shocked I was when the Balvenie vintages were selling for $400.
Cask #3524 is darker, with notes of sticky toffee pudding and chewy caramel that firmly support the polished leather, cigar box, roasted chestnut, smoked seaweed, tar, dark chocolate, and, on the finish, espresso. A meditative whisky. Price listed includes entire Double Barrel 1974 Vintage set.
This is the pick of the bunch, the whisky equivalent of Fountains of Wayne; an effervescent dessert whisky, which from the first aroma to the final finish is a consistent mix of vanilla, coconut, and overripe banana, sprinkled with icing sugar and cinnamon.
Single cask Aberfeldy bottlings are very few and far between, and this is a stunner! After hogshead maturation the whisky ultimately underwent a period of finishing in an ex-sherry cask prior to bottling. The nose offers sultanas, raisins, and hot chocolate. Developing vanilla and a hint of over-ripe bananas. Finally, burnt sugar and caramel. Insinuating and syrupy on the palate, with apricots, dried fruits, honey, and sherry. Gently spicy and warming, with licorice in the notably long finish. £115
Chivas Regal 18 year old Ultimate Cask Collection First Fill French Oak Finish, 48%
Blended Scotch Whisky | $120
An auld alliance renewed, this gorgeous whisky packs spicy aromas of peppercorn, star anise, and cardamom seeds, mingling with toffee squares, plum jam, dunnage earth, and dried sprigs of heather. Rich fruitcake, jellied fruit, and bramble, then spices course through the mouth: chili heat, black pepper, and raw ginger. Final phase has chocolate praline, growing milky, nutty, and soothing. Exceptional lengthy finish with reignited spices. Chivas 18 goes electric. (Travel Retail exclusive)
This is the bomb. Savory and lightly meaty, but sweetened by plum sauce; there’s even some strawberry around the fringes. You could see how with another 30 years this would end up like the ’54. Elegant yet powerful, there’s sandalwood incense, marmalade, even a little dried mango. The distillery’s density is balanced by this fruit. Lush with supple tannins and at its best neat. From a refill butt, this is an exemplary sherried malt. £230
Cask strength Lot No. 40 has been in production at Hiram Walker Distillery for over 75 years for use as flavoring whisky. Finally in bottle, this is more than regular Lot No. 40 amped up. New notes of halva, pansies, blistering spices, tropical fruits, minty candy canes, and peanut skins are layered over the lilacs, rye bread, dark fruits, and slatey rye of its 43% standard release. Long, glowering finish.
Some whiskeys have already peaked at a quarter-century, but this one, distilled in Indiana and finished in sercial madeira casks, is at its apex. Caramel-covered peanuts, candied orange, fresh-baked bread, Toblerone, cinnamon ginger snaps, blueberry cobbler, black tea, and plenty of oak on the nose. The palate is supple and elegant, with peanut brittle, cherry cordial, milk chocolate, blueberry, horehound candy, cola, white pepper, ginger, roasted pecans, and refined oak. Leave plenty of time to enjoy the finish, with its subtle white pepper and dark fruit undertones.
That Boutique-y Whisky Company (distilled at Glenturret) 35 year old, 48%
Single Malt Scotch | $173
Sherry cask matured in its entirety, this rich, southern Highland beauty exudes a perfume of deep orange, sweet cherry, plum, nutty fruitcake, and pleasant oak. Beautifully balanced, it showcases sweet orange, red fruits, baked Victoria plum, and brown sugar, while ginger and pepper sparkle across the tongue. Honey and stewed fruits mollify the throat. An absolute joy.
Murray McDavid (distilled at Springbank) 1965, 34 year old, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $200.00
Antique amber color. Ripe, fallen fruit aromas laced with coconut, marshmallow, and almonds. The sherry cask influence is very prominent on the nose, but the Springbank "brine" character still manages to fight through. Full bodied, with a soothing texture. Huge flavors with great balance and depth, consisting of exotic fruits, complex wood spices, brine, and coconut. Long, lingering satisfying finish.
Duncan Taylor (distilled at Strathisla), 35 year old, Cask #7009, 45.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $240.00
Aromatically fruity and quite full, with wonderful depth on the nose and palate. The fruit (golden raisins, apricot, red licorice, papaya) is balanced by restrained honey, vanilla, and fennel. The whisky is always dry but never excessively so. A delicious, ultra-mature whisky.
Chivas Regal 18 year old Ultimate Cask Collection First Fill Japanese Oak Finish, 48%
Blended Scotch Whisky | $130
A blast of exotic spices, followed by sweet oak, juicy tangerines, bosc pear, sandalwood, petitgrain oil, and vanilla seeds; it’s that junction of oak and spices where the mizunara has worked its magic. The palate is medium in weight with caramel, hazelnut, and a collision of orange and active spices, with the mizunara continuing to influence the flavor of the finish. The cooperage may be arduous but it’s worth it. (Global Travel Retail)
Antique amber color. Thick, mature aromas of toffee, leather, candied fruit, and mint. The aromas are tightly bound at cask strength but open up with a bit of water to reveal spicy wood resins and a hint of tobacco. Thick, almost chewy in texture. Its flavors are similar to its aroma (and nicely balanced), with the sweeter notes (toffee, candied fruit) up front and the drier, more spicy notes (mint, wood resins, leather) beginning in the middle and continuing to its finish. A lovely balance of flavors and not one bit too old or woody.
The Dalmore 1973 Vintage Gonzalez Byass Sherry Cask Finish, 42%
Single Malt Scotch | $250
A thick, lush whisky. Notes of honey-drenched citrus, orange marmalade, chewy toffee and almonds, peppered with that classic coastal brine freshness and background spice I have come to love in Dalmore. Long, contemplative finish. This whisky packs plenty of freshness and liveliness for 30 years on oak and is a pure joy to drink.
Vanilla, honey, and caramel accented by baking spices and dark fruits on a complex nose. Water opens up a blisteringly spicy palate, revealing gorgeous clean grains, dusty rye, and citrus hints hidden underneath. Not as floral as earlier iterations, and with fewer typical sour rye notes. Baking spices dominate the vanilla-sweet palate, which finishes with sweet peppery spiciness. Perfect for cask-strength fanatics with patience and an eyedropper. C$100
This dark dram is distilled from malted and unmalted rice along the Kuma river in Hitoyoshi. The nose is redolent of stewed prunes, raisins, plum wine, and walnut, with a palate of treacle, molasses, burnt sugar, licorice, prune, dark fruits, mocha, praline, and nuttier elements. Skillfully, it never veers into bitterness. This should rock the boat for those who love a huge sherried-style whisky. (506 bottles)
Rich and intense nose, with paradise cake, honey, dried apple, plum, and crème d’abricot. The mouthfeel is dry, nutty, and fruity, with a silky consistency. The cask strength is more noticeable here, but as it dissipates, there is some late complexity of plum skin and coffee bean with wave after effortless wave of flavor lasting for minutes on end. Finish is hot and nutty, with moist coffee grains. (499 bottles)
Teeling 34 year old Vintage Reserve Single Malt, 40.9%
Irish Single Malt | $5,000
Sheer nectar, dripping with honeyed delights: baklava, maple syrup, syropiasta, vanilla spun sugar, malt wrapped in gentle oak, and a notion of Szechuan pepper. The mouthfeel is flowing and silken, radiating flavors of golden syrup, tangerine, peppercorn, vanilla, light oak, and nougat. As the flavor crests, the sweetness is evocative of Château D’Yquem. This decadent piece of Irish history originated as a Teeling family cask distilled in 1983. (U.S. exclusive, 43 bottles)
OK, confession time. This remains one of my favorite whiskies ever, a classic example of what long, slow aging in a refill cask can do for a whisky — increase its unctuous nature, bring out butterscotch, ginseng, honey, deepen the orchard fruits, and release a dazzling spiciness on the tongue. It has balance, it has finesse, and there’s not much left. £155(Not available in the U.S.)
Dark amber in hue, this shows immediate mature elegance with great sweetness — think of spiced honey or mead. There are some light notes of pecan pie and all the while that thread of the sod. Glenfarclas can never fully escape its dark roots. There’s dried peach and fruit leather, toffee, and, with water, biscuits dunked in tea. The palate is autumnal and soft — fruit compote and peppermint. This is what you want from fully mature Glenfarclas at its peak. (U.S. exclusive).
An impressive single cask bottling of Glenfiddich. It really shows the natural potential of this distillery. Nothing fancy here, just the pure elegance of Glenfiddich. Notes of shortbread, demerara sugar, and white chocolate, spiced with toasted nuts, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Very clean and polished.
Antique copper color, with some streaks of gold. A complex array of dried fruit on the nose, peppered with dried spice, orange marmalade, dark chocolate, and wood shavings. On the palate, the immediate impact is once again marmalade, followed briefly by bramble before drier notes of dark chocolate, wood shavings, anise, and subtle smoke emerge. Dry and spicy on the finish, but never austere. A delicious, contemplative 40 year old Highland Park that has aged gracefully.
This is a permanent addition to the range. Out of curiosity, I tasted it next to the other great Highland Parks (the 30 year old and several very good single cask bottlings over 30 years old). This whisky is in the same league as the others. Its only down side is that it’s a lot more expensive than the others.
Exclusive Malts Speyside 25 year old 1989 Cask #3,942, 48.8%
Single Malt Scotch | $200
Exclusive Malts doesn't disclose the source distillery, which doesn't matter when you’ve got a whisky that’s a gem. Apple cider defines the nose and is complemented by ginger and iris. On the palate this whisky is lush but well balanced, with honeyed apple cider, gingerbread cookie, and baked apple. In the center of all this is rancio. Ginger spice and baked apple define the finish, which is long and flavorful. Great balance, integration, and flavor. What more can you ask for? (U.S. only)
Laphroaig 10 year old Cask Strength (Batch 010), 58%
Single Malt Scotch | $70
Bottling at cask strength, with only ‘barrier filtering’ to remove particles of char, rather than the standard chill-filtration process, gives the whisky greater integrity, with heightened aromas and flavors, and a satisfyingly sinewy mouthfeel not found in the standard 10 year old. Classic ‘burning hospital’ notes feature on the nose, along with peaty malt, vanilla, lemon, and brine. Charcuterie and cocoa powder add to the effect on the palate, before phenolic, medicinal, and sweet malt notes bring things to a close. A must-have Laphroaig that represents a big step up in intensity. Number 7 in the 2018 Top 20
France has quietly been making some exciting whiskies, and keeping most to itself. Fortunately, Warenghem Distillery in Brittany exports a number of single malts, which it has been making for over two decades. This whisky, matured initially in local oak and finished in first-fill sherry casks, has perfumy aromas that lift up its malt-forward character. Spicy and floral, with flavors of citrus, cherry, raspberry-jam cookie, salted nuts, and savory tobacco, it is delicate with a satisfying creamy texture. This is a reformulation of the previously available Double Maturation utilizing new cask techniques advised by the late Dr. Jim Swan. Number 6 in the 2018 Top 20
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)
Port Ellen 1978 35 year old (Diageo Special Release 2014), 56.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $3300
Scarcity and the secondary market have driven prices up, so either buddy-up to a rich guy, or club together to try this. Greater levels of cask interaction have added an extra dimension to a whisky that is often skeletal. The smoke’s in the background, as salted cashew, peppermint, tansy, furniture polish, and smoked meats take center stage. The palate is slowly expanding and smoked, with some chocolate and wax. Finally, a Port Ellen that is truly, classically mature. A killer. (2,964 bottles)
Finished in first-fill sherry casks for two years. My feeling on any whisky finished in a different cask is this: it should give as much to the flavor profile as it takes away. In this instance, I feel it has, and more. It’s not as nimble as younger versions, but the sherry, along with the extra aging, contributes a silky texture and a richer, fuller dimension to the whisky. I can still detect some of the peach, vanilla, tropical fruit, and honeyed malt I enjoy in younger expressions, but its key flavor components are toffee, honey-dipped citrus, red licorice, chocolate-covered almonds, and fig, along with dried spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, mint tea) that emerges on the palate and peaks on the finish. The flavors are seamless and elegantly balanced.
A beguiling nose of raisins, dried figs, hazelnuts, white chocolate, brown sugar, and candied ginger, with a rich meatiness that calls to mind braised pork with stewed plums. The palate sings with classic sherry flavors: figs, almonds, hazelnuts, dark chocolate, white pepper, orange peel, and a lithe minerality. As might be expected given the ABV, water may be added with impunity. From an undisclosed Highland distillery, matured in a modified solera system and finished in a PX cask. (464 bottles; U.S. only)
John Walker & Sons Private Collection 2016 Edition, 43%
Blended Scotch Whisky | $850
Here’s your private audience with the inestimable Mr. Beveridge. After contemplating impeccably selected aged liquids from the big five Distillers Company Limited (DCL) grain distilleries, he’s ready. Three vattings representing cask character, distillery character, and Highland single malt were combined in the final blend. Fresh layers of lemon and honey mingle with wood smoke. A seductive soft and creamy palate, saturated with fudge and delicate vanilla fuse together in a study of honeyed perfection. A fine indulgence. The best yet. (8,888 bottles)
Historically used for blending, Tamdhu flies under the radar of many scotch aficionados. But this underappreciated Speyside whisky compares well with more famous sherry bombs by offering a sweet, savory, slightly funky depth. At first sniff, Tamdhu seems like it might knock you out with one blow—but this gentle giant is a lover, not a fighter. Viscous and meaty, this cask-strength stunner reveals dried fruit, dark chocolate ganache, ginger spice, and saline minerality, thundering softly into a long finish. Ian Macleod Distillers revived Tamdhu, and their pledge to bring Rosebank back to life excites us to rediscover more top-quality whisky with a distinct identity. Number 8 in the 2017 Top 20
Laphroaig 10 year old Cask Strength (Batch 010), 58%
Single Malt Scotch | $70
A turbocharged version of the formidable standard 10 year old, Cask Strength varies in ABV from batch to batch. Tar and antiseptic hit the nose immediately, along with peat smoke, malt, newsprint, and new leather. There’s also lemon, vanilla, and brine. The sinewy palate mirrors the nose, adding charcuterie and cocoa powder. Predictably medicinal and phenolic in the very long finish, with balancing sweet malt.
Initially aged in bourbon barrels before being transferred into quarter casks, and ultimately oloroso sherry butts. The sherry influence adds an additional dimension to the quarter-cask style, hence an oily nose of dates, vanilla, tropical fruits, and bonfire smoke. The palate is drier than might be expected, with Laphroaig iodine, barbecued meats, muted sherry, and peat smoke. The finish comprises dried fruits and lots of oak.
Dun Beghan Magilligan Irish Whiskey, 14 year old, 1992 vintage, 46%
Irish | $100.00
Finished in a rum cask. Very creamy, with a soothing sweetness. Notes of vanilla, demerara sugar, nougat, and subtle tropical fruit (coconut, pineapple, mango) coat the palate. All this is balanced nicely by resinous oak and a peppering of dried spices that linger on the finish. The rum finish, along with the 46% bottling strength, adds backbone and flair. One of the best whiskeys to come out of Cooley. (A Park Avenue Liquor exclusive.)
Highland Park, Cask #691, 1983 vintage, 23 year old, 59.8%
Single Malt Scotch | $150.00
Very sophisticated and subtly complex. Perhaps the lightest-colored of the bunch. Fresh, appetizing brine and spice (cinnamon, vanilla, white pepper, and clove) on a bed of soft honey and creamy vanilla, with just a hint of fruit. The notes are bright, clean, and tight. Spicy, briny finish. A beautifully delicate Highland Park. (Bottled for Green’s)
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)
The Tyrconnell 10 year old Madeira Cask Finish, 46%
Irish | $80
Complex on the nose, and the flavors just dance on the palate. This whiskey is bright, cleanly malty, and quite fruity with a tropical accent -- peach, mango, cantaloupe, sultana, and caramelized pineapple. Balanced by notes of honey, vanilla cream, and soft coconut. The best Cooley whiskey I have ever tasted!
The confectionary nose of flan and crème caramel comes draped over lovely grainy aromas of warm porridge and pastry crust. Vinous notes of cherry/berry fruit emerge, along with toasted almonds and floral aromas. On the palate, there is berry coulis, Creamsicle stick, French burnt peanut candies, and warm banana. Overall, this demonstrates both nice maturity and lovely balance of sweetness and spice, with a finish of cinnamon-sprinkled apple pie.
Millstone is made by Zuidam, a Dutch spirits and liquor company that prides itself on never cutting corners and in using the very finest ingredients. There are hundreds of European distilleries making spirit, but few this good. Its malt and rye whiskies have always been special, but this is Premier League, a world class sherried 12 year old that matches many sherried Scotch whiskies flavor to flavor. That's a first for Europe. €60
The Kavalan flag is unfurling fast. The whiskies are making it Stateside, and they're improving from a very high base. A couple of degrees stronger than previously, this is far richer than any wine cask-matured whisky has a right to be. This is huge, with a tropical nose of mango, melon, and papaya, and a hint of dustiness. The palate is astounding. Rich, sweet, and rounded, it coats the mouth with an intense mixture tempered by burnt toffee and cocoa. Stunning.
Distilled in 1988 and finished for an unspecified period in port casks after lengthy maturation in bourbon barrels. Floral, perfumed, and very enticing on the nose. Vanilla fudge, cocktail cherries, polished oak, and gentle spices. Soft and sweet on the palate, with vanilla, overripe orange, cinnamon, and milky coffee. Long and slightly peppery on the finish, with persistent drying fruitiness. Complex and extremely accomplished.
Dripping with caramel and tingling with spice, this is a blockbuster whiskey that delivers across a spectrum of flavors. Maple syrup, sugar in the raw, and caramel-drizzled flan highlight the aroma, while the palate turns fruity and tropical with the sweet drive of peach nectar, grilled fruits, and pineapple upside-down cake. At the same time, it’s lemony bright, warmly spiced, tremendously rich, and oh-so-good! Pour on the water and enjoy the ride!
The newest offering from the impressive Balvenie vintage cask line. Honey, caramel custard, and Seville orange notes, with evolving -- and increasingly noticeable -- dried spice, oak resin, and leather that integrates well with the sweet, fruity notes. Incredible depth and complexity. The Balvenie vintage reputation remains intact.
The Balvenie 30 year old 1973 Vintage (Cask #9219)
Single Malt Scotch | $400
The last Balvenie Vintage whisky I tasted that was this old was the exceptional 1966 Vintage. This new vintage has some big shoes (or should I say bottles?) to fill, so how does it stand up to the 1966 Vintage? This 1973 Vintage is equally as impressive. In contrast to the massive, evolving, sherry-influenced 30 year old reviewed below, this one shows more subtlety and finesse. It is also a very clean and polished affair-signs of an obviously excellent cask. A honeyed, malty foundation incorporates notes of dried fruit (orange, lemon), complex spice (vanilla, cinnamon, sandalwood), and subtle herbs. Very contemplative.
This is what I wish the standard Maker’s Mark would be: more mature, spicier, more complex, and with a richer finish. Caramel kissed with honey provides a base for marzipan, cotton candy, cinnamon, clove, and a balancing leather dryness on the finish.
The nose offers canned peach halves in syrup, peat smoke, and brine. Oily in the mouth, with sweet orchard fruits, followed by a medicinal note, pepper, and dry spices. Plain chocolate and a hint of chili in the long finish, with a final touch of coal dust. (U.S. exclusive; 115 bottles)
The youngster in the 2011 Antique Collection. One taste and its relative youth is confirmed. (But no worries; it’s mature enough to enjoy neat or with some water (and would be a killer in cocktails). This is rye whiskey in its most vibrant, masculine, and purest form. Bold spice (fresh evergreen, warming cinnamon), honey-coated orchard fruit, golden raisin, caramel, and brandy with a crisp, clean finish. The American equivalent to a young, cask-strength, smoky Islay whisky.
Bottled to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of Canadian Club whisky. An amazingly fresh and vibrant whisky given its age and delicateness. I feared that, given how light in body traditional Canadian whiskies are, this whisky would be old, tired, and show too much oak (which was true for Crown Royal’s ultra-premium offering, XR). But this isn’t the case. There’s an excellent balance of silky caramel, vanilla icing, dried spice (cinnamon, spearmint), and berried fruit, along with more subtle notes of toffee apple, corn oil, and soft dried oak on the finish. Not as luxurious as Crown Royal’s Cask No. 16, but it shines with its polish and purity.
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
A sherry-cask Lagavulin, this immediately shows a rich, mellow power with a touch of potter’s wheel, but it needs water to bring out sandalwood, beach bonfire, kombu, Lapsang Souchong, and bog myrtle. The palate is where it shows itself fully; resinous and thick, unctuous even, with that scented pine/juniper tea note shifting into paprika-rubbed ham, membrillo, currants, blackberry. I’ve a feeling that this period will be seen as Lagavulin’s golden age. £99
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society Pigs in Plaster 14 year old (#4.1980), 59.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $140
This single cask, distilled at Highland Park, is an excellent example of why distilleries sell off certain casks. On the nose it’s Highland Park's signature sherry and peat, but on the palate it's a beast. Monster peat smoke surfs on a lush layer of berry and malt. This builds to a peak with smoke, salt, and oak spice, bolstered by the high proof. A smoky, dry finish rounds off a monster whisky, different from Highland Park's style, but very interesting. (Julio’s Liquors only)
Bruichladdich Legacy III, 35 year old, 1968 vintage, 40.7%
Single Malt Scotch | $430.00
This gem is soft and seductive in personality. It is also very clean and still quite fresh for its age-obviously aged in an excellent cask. You'll find a bed of gentle sweetness, reminding me of coconut cream and vanilla mousse. A mélange of fruit (melon, black raspberries, strawberries) marries perfectly with the sweetness. Fresh brine notes and licorice root emerge on the palate and become more prominent towards the finish. This Legacy III is more polished and rounded, and not as tired or woody when compared to the recent 40 year old bottling. And the 40 year old, at $2,200 a pop, is also about five times more expensive.
For those interested in transparency, the detail Box releases about each bottling is staggering; e.g. 5% of this whisky was matured in medium-toasted Hungarian virgin oak. This one is for Islay fans, showing more peat than smoke; nutty, and replete with barley notes. Approachable at cask strength: melon, bright citrus, tropical fruits, burnt orange, and plenty of pepper. We hear the first U.S. release from Box is imminent. (8,291 bottles) 743 SEK
Matured exclusively in sherry-seasoned first-fill European oak casks and bottled at cask strength. The nose yields figs, soft smoke, cinnamon, sugarcane, and rich fruitcake. The palate is succulent and confident, with creamy sweet sherry, dried fruits, coffee, and woodsmoke. Long and drying in the finish, with flecks of char. Highland Park doing what it does best. (28,000 bottles)
Marmalade, almond, and cinnamon buns, this is a grand interpretation of rich and dry fruit, with an extra layer of lush fruit from the cognac cask. It is thoroughly integrated and the cognac is respectful of the scotch. The palate is luxurious with rich, dark fruits and toffee, velvety smooth, with the cognac fruit encircling the blend, and wood spice on the finish. The perfect dram for frosty winter nights.
The Exclusive Malts 22 year old (distilled at Laphroaig) 1990 vintage (Cask #10866), 47.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $250
Clean and complex, showing a matured, somewhat restrained personality for Laphroaig: less medicinal, but more rounded. Tar, pencil shavings, anise, honeyed citrus, Spanish olive brine, and a hint of seaweed and white pepper on a bed of creamy vanilla, caramel, and light nougat. Lingering, satisfying finish. Frustrated by a dearth of 20-plus year old distillery-bottled Laphroaigs? Look no further. Delicious!
Belle Meade Cask Strength Reserve (Batch No. 5), 56.8%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $60
Oak, corn sweetness, and tropical fruit collide in this powerful bourbon that suggests grilled pineapple and charred corn on the cob. It handles the proof well, but be prepared for a no-holds-barred tongue lashing of licorice, bitter citrus pith, and oak, before a heaping spoonful of butterscotch pudding quells the heat. Reveals even more flavor with water—blueberry muffin, clove-studded orange, and cedar shingle.
Stalk & Barrel cask strength 100% rye whisky takes rye into innovative new flavor territory. Rye spices, rose water, vanilla, earthy tones, and dark rye bread on first nosing are all typical of rye. However, once it broadens into linen, oilcloth, linseed oil, high fruity esters, malt, and breakfast cereal (Weetabix?) it’s all wonderfully original. A real honey barrel. Dang!
Gordon & MacPhail (distilled at Tomintoul) cask 644 1967 vintage 40 year old, 49.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $260
A deep, mature Tomintoul that manages to retain the elegance and drinkability found in younger Tomintoul whiskies. Roasted nuts, lush fruit, suggestions of cherry brandy and orange marmalade layered with rich fudge, toffee, and maple syrup. Soothing finish. Tomintoul can be a simple whisky at a younger age, but this one has matured into a beautifully complex dram. (Bottled for Park Avenue Liquors.)
Kavalan is Taiwanese whisky from the King Car Company, and the progress its whiskeys are making is truly remarkable. With humidity roughly the same as Speyside — high — but the temperature more than 20° Fahrenheit higher, maturation is on fast forward. This is just 4 years old, but it’s a monster mix of kumquat liqueur, tropical fruit, blackcurrant, and strawberry and cream candy. Later on some eastern spices, especially turmeric, bring it all back home. Remarkable. €70 Currently not available in the U.S.
Edradour Port Wood Finish, 1983 Vintage, Cask #04/0544, 52.9%
Single Malt Scotch | $195.00
One of the first wood finishing efforts under Edradour’s new management. Very creamy in texture, with notes of sticky toffee, vanilla fudge, fruit cake, raisin, and burnt almonds. All this sits on a bed of dry, minty, resinous oak. The flavors dovetail nicely, with a soothing, satisfying finish. The port wood finishing adds complexity without dominating.
From whisky connoisseur David Stirk's Exclusive Malts Single Cask Cask Strength range, this is a blend made with 80% malt, and it shows. This is a beauty. It's also a ‘traffic light’ whisky, with the sort of whisky rancio associated with the oldest whiskies up front, peaches and cream and pureed fruit in the center, and changing to oaky spiciness late on. Whisky with body, depth, and balance, which morph seamlessly. Very good indeed.
This blend of Scotch whisky and Virginia Distilling’s own-make whisky is finished in cider casks for 8 to 20 months, and has layers of flavor. There’s light peat, campfire, and fragrant meadow on the nose, along with sweeter notes of vanilla coulis, applesauce, marzipan, pears, and cinnamon-spiced almonds. The palate offers polished oak, clementine, grilled apple, and almond pudding. A lengthy finish adds brown sugar, grilled fruit, dark chocolate, espresso, and white pepper.
Damson jam, herbal undertones, banana leaf, scallions, and clean, fresh oak notes. Burst of red fruit; raspberry, strawberry, rosehip, and sherry with lips tingling from the PX spices, citrus enters the fray, then chewy butter toffees. Wonderful complexity and flavor trajectory, it rounds off on a strawberry note. It is great to find a heavyweight whisky that is perfectly approachable at cask strength. The finish stays juicy, with vibrant spices. (502 bottles)
Kavalan Ex-Bourbon Cask Strength Single Cask, 57.8%
Taiwanese Whisky | $175
Delicately complex. Dried vanilla, pineapple, toasted coconut, tangerine, and cream. A kiss of honey and polished oak on the finish. Quite lovely and very versatile; it would make a delicious pre-dinner dram. (Julio’s Liquors and Loch & K(e)y exclusive)
Glann ar Mor is a rising star in the world of whisky, one of three very impressive distilleries in the Brittany region in Northern France, and this new single malt, fresh from the cask at the back end of September, is its finest release yet. A mixture of soft tinned fruits, especially sweet pears in syrup, sweet vanilla ice cream, and a delicate but assertive earthy underbed make this an utter delight. Magnifique. €57
A stunning effort, with honey, sunflower seeds, zested orange, toasted flapjacks, nectarine, kiwi, and lime, with the citrus opening up with water. Superb to see a delicious, drinkable cask-strength whiskey showing off its flavors this well: honey, citrus, sweet toffee, vanilla pod, and a spice blast of pepper before a soft, flowing fruitiness is enveloped by ground ginger. Clove, peppercorn, and fresh ginger make for an epic finish. (5,175 bottles)
This has a seductive nose of mango, kiwi, dried tropical fruits, rich oak, silky caramels, and milk chocolate-covered cranberries. The dynamics of this cask-strength whisky play out handsomely, with an opening gambit of warm berry fruits, peaking with emphatic spices, and ending with a reflective phase of butter toffee, mocha, and Ovaltine. A dash of water encourages clove-studded orange flavors and preserves the long spicy finish.
Domaine des Hautes Glaces 100% Organic Rye (Cask #79), 53.1%
French Whisky | $90
Explore the layers of this malted rye. It is herbaceous and minerally throughout, with aromas of licorice, chamomile, ginger, tarragon, incense, cooked pears, bread dough, cinnamon, and soil. The flavors express grain, minerals, and earth—tarragon, licorice, peppercorn, roasted peaches, walnut shells, and assertive but not overpowering oak. This young whisky’s flavors are from the field, fermenter, and still, not the barrel. Unique, complex, and exciting. (450 bottles)
The dark chestnut liquid results from maturation in bourbon and port casks, and it has an equally enticing nose: squishy prunes, dried fig, blackcurrant, sour cherry, apple tarts, and nutmeg. The concentration of fruit on the palate circulates around dark cherry, red apple, and raspberry flavors. Then vanilla, caramel, and milk chocolate flood the mouth and everything turns deliciously gooey. Go on, give in to your urges. (240 bottles for the U.S.)
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!
Virginia Distillery Co. Cider Cask Finished (Batch 3), 46%
Craft Whiskey | $65
Autumn in a glass: dried apples, earthy leaves, marzipan, grilled pears, and white pepper mingle with lemon-herb tea, saline, and a whiff of incense. Malty, with a pleasant oiliness, the palate showcases lemon peel, juicy clementine, poached pears, grilled apples, chamomile, salt water taffy, and a delicate, perfumed savoriness—almonds in rice pilaf. Complex and balanced, with a lengthy oak finish. Virginia Distillery Co. combines its own single malt with blended malt from the Highlands of Scotland. Batch 2 of Cider Cask Finished scored 90 points, indicating strong consistency. Number 13 in the 2018 Top 20
Belle Meade Cask Strength Reserve (Batch No. 5), 56.8%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $60
Swirls with the smells of a county fair—candy apples, peanuts, caramel, spiced cookies, and old barn boards, redolent with maturity and complexity. More childhood favorites appear on the palate: cinnamon Red Hots, grape soda, blackberry candy, chocolate-covered caramels, candy apple, and roasted corn, with lush oak rounding out into a peppery finish of cherry cola and roasted pecans. Given the barrel proof, this takes water well. Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery bottles the Belle Meade line of bourbons, sourced from MGP Distillery. Each batch of Cask Strength Reserve averages around 1,000 bottles; ABV varies between 55% and 60%. Number 10 in the 2018 Top 20
Douglas Laing Old Particular (distilled at Cambus) 25 year old 1991, 62%
Single Grain Whisky | $80
A single cask from a refill hoggie, this bursts with vanilla fudge, cracked peppercorn, wood shavings, and apple strudel. Incredibly fruity, with mouth-watering gummy bears, tangy orange, and dried pineapple, evolving from sweet fruits through to banana chews. Diluting down from its considerable cask strength only pumps up the juiciness. To conclude, a long, creamy finish like a banana shake. Evidently, terrific cask selection at work. (K&L Wines exclusive, 246 bottles)
Duncan Taylor (distilled at Glen Grant), Cask #3480, 37 year old, 51.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $336.00
I am amazed by how many old, sherried Glen Grant whiskies have been released to the market in the past ten years. (Did the distillery owners at the time also own sherry bodegas, or what?) Anyway, some of these have been dark, decadent, and delicious, and I’ll put this whisky in that category. Chestnut colored, with lush fruit, treacle, dark chocolate, leather, tobacco, roasted walnuts, and cherry cough syrup. A complex, well-structured whisky.
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.
Signatory (distilled at Glenrothes), 30 year old, 1973, 50%
Single Malt Scotch | $220.00
Glenrothes is one of those Speyside whiskies which matures very gracefully. Recent distillery bottlings (i.e. the 1979 and 1972 vintages) prove this point. This Signatory bottling also demonstrates that Glenrothes has the ability to get older and better. In this offering, the palate-coating, sticky caramel, syrupy maltiness of the whisky is rescued by firm, bold dry oak spice and lush fruit. Delicious toffee and roasted nuts longer on the finish. The 30 years in oak gives this whisky great depth, and bottling the whisky at natural cask strength ensures that the whisky is not cut off at the knees. A soothing post-prandial affair.
Sun-bleached driftwood, iodine, curry spices, and hot asphalt, with a highly charged, aromatic smokiness: a combination of peat kiln and crackling moorland blaze. There is serenity too, with soft cream, ripe citrus, and key lime pie. Thick and glossy, it’s an intense, mouth-puckering, cask-strength prospect. Chocolate, cinnamon, and mint collide with a barrage of clove and barrel char. Booming spices reverberate in the grip of an extremely long finish. £155
The original Big Peat was a mix of smoky Islay malts and was already up there with the very best competition in the category, even though many of the others were bottled at cask strength. I scored it at 90. Now it’s back to play in the big boys' pool with a killer cask strength whisky of its own. This is to whisky what AC/DC is to heavy rock: old school, predictable, but great and exactly what fans want.
Kirkland 20 year old Sherry Cask Finish Speyside, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $58
No doubt about the sherry finish here: Toblerone, brown sugar, raisins, Fig Newtons, and hazelnuts on the nose, along with a hint of sulfur. The palate is oak-driven and chocolaty, with dried figs, raisins, cherries, blueberries, candied ginger, cloves, black pepper, and almonds. A supple, moreish finish with dark chocolate and lengthy polished oak. From the same undisclosed distillery as Kirkland’s 18 year old. (Costco)
At 29 years old this single cask is one of the best releases to date from the Perthshire distillery. The nose offers geraniums, honey, almonds, and toasted brioche, while the palate is creamy with vanilla, heather, a fresh menthol note, and green apples. Long and nutty in the finish, with black pepper. Drying only slightly, and spicy to the end—predominantly ginger. Beautifully balanced. (170 bottles) £295
Highland Park, Cask #8998, 1974 vintage, 31 year old, 45.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $438.00
Antique gold, relatively light in color compared to the rest of the Highland Parks reviewed here. Nicely rounded on the nose and palate, and surprisingly youthful for such maturity. Mouth-coating texture. Quite fruity -- especially with some water -- with notes of honey-drenched citrus, sultana, key lime pie, and melon. Caramel and bitter chocolate notes emerge, with the chocolate and a wisp of smoke lingering on the finish. I could drink this all day and never tire of it. (Bottled for Virginia ABC)
Following last year’s release of The Dark, this parallel 17 year old cask-strength expression was matured in refill American oak. The nose yields vanilla, oats, ripe pears, and mild wood-fire embers. Supple and initially sweet on the palate, with icing sugar, tangerines, and developing darker, spicier notes. Lengthy in the finish, with spicy cedar oil. Proof that Highland Park doesn’t need sherry casks to be good. (4,500 bottles for U.S.)
Grand MacNish Double Matured 13 year old Rum Cask Finish, 43%
Blended Irish Whiskey | $45
Mango, candied orange peel, coriander seed, creamy vanilla, and exotic spices on the nose of this aged blend finished in sweet rum barrels from Trinidad, Jamaica, and Nicaragua. A bright and sunny whisky, it’s full-bodied and moreish, led by tropical fruit flavors of dried papaya, mango, melon, honey, butterscotch, and zesty orange, all framed by gentle spices. Sweet drams are made of this, who am I to disagree?
Well, the name's spot on because at that price it definitely brought tears to this writer's eyes. What a shame, because the liquid is eye-watering, too, a stunning big bruiser of a whiskey that coats the mouth as berry and green fruits battle it out with oak, spice, and grain oils — the whiskey equivalent to one of singer Sinead O'Connor's rants — powerful, impressive, a little bitter and twisted, utterly unforgettable, and unmistakably Irish. €135
The Tyrconnell, 10 year old, Port Cask Finish, 46%
Irish | $80.00
Deeper, thicker, and more lush than the Madeira Cask Finish reviewed above. Notes of strawberry preserve, caramel apple, nougat, sponge cake, and a hint of chocolate cream pie. All these sweet, richly textured flavors without being cloying. Nicely done.
A rich luxurious whisky finished in cognac casks, as was the crisper, brighter Cask No. 16 that it replaces. This is the cedary, leathery, tobacco-ish sipping whisky of the private club. Simple toffee and the cherry essence of Beaujolais nouveau evolve into ripe red apples and heavy, dusky, dark fruit with candied citrus peel, bitter almond skins, and hints of oak. Sizzling gingery spice and white pepper linger over textured sandalwood. Defined by its heavy, creamy body.
Adelphi (distilled at Linkwood) 1984 26 year old, 57.6%
Single Malt Scotch | $148.00
There are light oaked notes to start, along with Oolong tea and very subtle smoke. These then shift into a mix of cedar and scented blossom. Classic, layered elegance with the cask offering support, not dominance. The fruits have that slightly eerie quality of decay, while the palate is deep and juicy. This is an exemplary, subtle, old whisky with delicate rancio (it’s a little cognac-like), which is given a boost of extra life with a small drop of water. £94
Gordon & MacPhail (distilled at Strathisla), 1963, 40%
Single Malt Scotch | $275.00
Some of these old G&M Strathisla whiskies are quite lovely, and this is one of them. It’s gently sherried, soothingly oily in texture, and complex, with notes of maple syrup, candied fruit, plum, roasted nuts, polished leather, and old oak, along with some damp earth, coffee bean, cinnamon, mint, and subtle, teasing kiln smoke. It’s soft, rounded, and still holds up nicely for a 44 year old whisky. If you like old, sherried Speysiders that aren’t overly oaked or sherried, you’ll like this one. If only it was bottled at 43% or 46% (or at natural cask strength, if it was less than 43%). It would give the whisky a little more backbone, and I might have bumped my rating up to the mid-90s.
A first-fill sherry cask bottling (one cask, exclusive to North America). Some of the old Glenglassaugh whiskies can be very delicious, and this is one of them. It's very clean, lush, and fruity (bramble, citrus, golden raisin), with a kiss of honey, toffee, and soft spice. Elegantly sherried; it’s never cloying. A very nice whisky from a quality cask that tastes more like 21 or 25 years old than 37. (I mean this in a good way.)
Amber with gold streaks. Its aroma and flavor is fresh, powerful, and medicinal, with notes of peat smoke, band-aids, tar, rich toffee, seaweed, and brine. Thick in body, with an almost molasses-like viscosity.
From this first-fill bourbon cask emerge light, delicate, aromatic fruits: think white peach, poached pear, and lychee with creamed coconut, nutmeg-spiced latte, Simnel cake, Chinese five-spice, and richer apple notes. A seemingly chaste dram that begins with honey, egg-washed brioche, stewed pears, and slender pink rhubarb before innocence is lost as sweet bursts of fruit explode, while dark vanilla, clove, rum and raisin, chocolate, and rye divert the action. Dried apple with Christmas spices marks the finish. (186 bottles, The Whisky Exchange only) £245
First you think you love Redbreast, and then they go and release a triple-distilled single pot still sherry single cask from 1999. Coffee beans, chocolate buttons, nougat, wet leather jackets, macaroon, and black bananas. A sweet sherry baptism of fresh fig fruit and dark toffee, with blackened char wriggling delightfully under the tongue. Thick and oily, a savory tone surfaces, closed by coffee and heavy clove. Chicory coffee and licorice finish. Epic: extroverted northern cardinal to the chirpy European robin. (576 bottles, The Whisky Exchange only) £180
Ballantine’s 21 year old Signature Oak Edition, 40%
Blended Scotch Whisky | $140
Sandy Hyslop has excelled at solely blending European oak sherry cask whiskies here. A dry, spicy nose to relish: rum-raisin ice cream, wafer biscuits, fennel seeds, roasted coriander, seasoned oak, and dense fruitcake. After the Cinnamon Toast Crunch and toffee sweetness disrobe, a riot of spices cavorts across the tastebuds, bedding down to a flavor of spiced, chocolate-covered toffee bars. For cigar lovers, this demands a fine, robust smoke. (Travel Retail exclusive)
Chivas Regal 18 year old Ultimate Cask Collection First Fill American Oak Finish, 48%
Blended Scotch Whisky | $120
And you thought all Chivas Regal 18 year old was the same. Luscious toffee, cinnamon, nutmeg, chocolate praline, dry grasses, hazelnut, and just a lift of lime and peppermint. The palate has fudge-like sweetness, caramel, walnut cake, murmuring spices, orange peel, and toffee banana. Water unlocks watermelon and a fruitier side to its character. The spices push hard through the finish as the toffee flavors relinquish their grip.
Try this in your next Manhattan. Heather honey sweetness, Belgian waffles, cinnamon, rye spices, creamy vanilla, peppercorn, and dried porcini emerge after the 6-month rye cask finishing period. Sweet caramel oozes over the tongue, Highland toffee and Orkney fudge hold the spices in check. Banana candy and deep citrus acknowledge the Dufftown single malt component. The most accomplished Blender’s Batch to date. Emma Walker has nailed it. (Travel Retail exclusive)
A special bottling to celebrate a major distillery expansion in 2010. So nice to see this whisky bottled at cask strength and not chill-filtered. Silky smooth, velvety texture. Creamy sweet foundation of vanilla fudge and caramel-coated almond. Plenty of fruit, too (golden raisin, honeyed peach, ripe nectarine, hint of banana bread). Richly textured, good weight (but not cloying), and the flavors combine seamlessly. A celebratory whisky indeed.
BenRiach Pedro Ximinez Finish 1995 Vintage (Cask 7165), 52.3%
Single Malt Scotch | $95
This is the heavily peated expression of BenRiach. (BenRiach does not differentiate their peated expressions with a different name, as Springbank does with Longrow, or Tobermory with Ledaig.) It’s also finished with the dark, lush “PX” sherry. Both influences are very evident, with the deep, heavy, earthy, smoky notes complemented by dark, fleshy, dried fruit. I think the two different influences marry very nicely here and I really enjoy drinking it. (Bottling at cask strength is a bonus!)
Aged in a refill American oak cask. Quite lively for its age, and the oak (surprisingly and happily) plays a supporting role rather than dominating. Creamy and mouth-coating, with vanilla wafer, coconut cream pie, caramel, nougat, and bright fruit (sultana, apricot, tangerine, and pineapple in syrup). Soothing finish. A very nice whisky. (Not available in the U.S.)£450
D&M (Distilled at Scapa), 19 year old, 1989 Vintage, 52.7%
Single Malt Scotch | $150.00
This single cask bottling of Scapa is a beauty! Brilliant gold color. Clean and fresh on the nose and palate, with complex bright fruit (peach, tangerine, golden delicious apple, honeydew melon, pineapple), spice (cinnamon, vanilla, subtle cocoa), appetizing brine, and beach pebbles, all on a bed of creamy, squeaky-clean honeyed malt. Dynamic, appetizing, briny, dried spice finish. A delicious, superbly balanced whisky that makes a great aperitif, but I could drink this any time. (Bottled exclusively for D&M Aficionado’s Club.)
Quite earthy, with orris root, burlap, and dunnage warehouse notes. Distinctly meaty—Bovril (beef stock)—then cedary. This untamed edge—think Mortlach or Benrinnes—dominates the palate, but the cask (a refill butt) isn’t overstating its presence. There’s espresso on the finish. Here’s Glenfarclas taking a ramble on the wild side. If your preference is for more robust styles, then look no further. £345
I’ve yet to taste any Hyde whiskey that I haven’t loved, and this may be their best yet. A wave of soft, sweet caramel and toffee, light vanilla, fresh apricot, zesty citrus, rum notes, and an agreeable mix of aromatic spices. Buttery soft mouthfeel with butterscotch sweetness, banana custard, vanilla, and gentle spices. Very approachable and dessert-like, the spices becoming slightly more assertive than the sweetness on the finish.
Mahogany color. Medium to full in body, and rich. Aroma and flavors are very reminiscent of the "Black Bowmore" releases: burnt fruit, roasted nuts, fruit cake, polished leather, wood resin, and just a teasing of smoke. There is a harmonious balance between the dry oak spices and the sweet, fruity oloroso sherry notes. Soothing finish.
Style: Islay single malt Scotch whisky. Price: Approx. $1,500. Only 300 bottles, available this fall at specialty retailers nationwide.
This whisky was distilled around the same time-and is very similar in flavor profile-as the legendary "Black Bowmore" whiskies released several years ago. Comparing this release with the Black Bowmore is only natural. Having tried this whisky next to the previous Black Bowmores, I can happily say that this whisky is as good as they are (although a lot more expensive). While the original Black Bowmore whiskies are a little bigger and fuller in body (especially towards the finish), this new 1964 Vintage is a tad softer, sweeter, more rounded, and more seductive. This is a very contemplative whisky-the more attention you devote to it, the more pleasure it gives you.
Deep amber color with crimson hues. Incredibly rich aromas of fruitcake, toffee, dates, roasted nuts, with a hint of cocoa powder and other spices. Rich and thick in body. On the palate, there are evolving notes of chewy toffee, ripe fruit (oranges, golden raisons), chocolate covered nuts, multigrain toast, and polished oak. Long, soothing finish.
Aberfeldy Single Cask (Cask No. 5) 16 year old, 57.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $250
From a sherry cask. Bright and lively. Quite fruity, with notes of golden raisin, pineapple, nectarine, and tangerine. The fruit is balanced by honeyed malt and light caramel. A dusting of vanilla, cinnamon, and hint of cocoa, with black licorice on the finish. Lush and mouth-coating. The best of the Aberfeldy whiskies I’ve tasted to date. (New Hampshire only)
Glengoyne 35 year old has been aged in sherry casks and just 500 decanters have been released. The nose offers sweet sherry, maraschino cherries, honey, sponge cake, marzipan, and soft fudge, turning to caramel in time, with a whiff of worn leather. Slick in the mouth, with spicy dried fruit, and more marzipan and cherries. Long in the finish with plain chocolate cherry liqueur; still spicy. Finally a buttery, bourbon-like note. No negative cask connotations in this well-balanced after-dinner dram.
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)
Aged in new French oak casks, with long-toasted heads. Deliciously creamy, sweet, toasty profile with coconut cream, toasted marshmallow, toffee pudding, and honeyed vanilla. Gentle spice notes (especially clove) and hints of fruit dance on the palate. Very soothing. (Bottled for Park Avenue Liquors.)
First things first — congratulations to the Grants of Glenfarclas on attaining their 175th anniversary. To celebrate, they have vatted together a cask from 1952 with one each from the following five decades — and released it at an exceptionally reasonable price! The nose has a lift of struck match immediately followed by cedar, pomegranate, blackberry jam, and Seville orange. There’s a thick caramel toffee sweetness to the palate alongside the classic ’Farclas depth where dried, but sweet, fruits repose. Recommended. £80 (Dave Broom) (Value Pick)
This 2016 release in its ceramic flagon entices you with lemon, soft fruits, honey, digestive biscuits, and taffy candy. It’s dense and weighty; oozing with flavors of barley sugar, caramel, sweet oak, and some mature orange peel characteristics underpinned with ginger and pepper. Profoundly long, sweet finish pricked with bitter orange and spice. One of those great drams that you can happily imbibe at cask strength without dilution. (2,000 bottles)
Six different cask finishes were used for this bottling. Fudge, resin, tropical fruit, Seville oranges, and milk chocolate on the nose. Supple and smooth on the palate; complex, with red berries, orange rind, cream, cinnamon, and ginger. Long in the finish, with nougat, pepper, and dark berry fruits.
Another hard to get Indian whisky, but further proof that the category isn't a one-trick pony. This single cask release is the second from the John Distilleries and a significant step upward. An altogether more complex whisky with an earthy, prickly peat at one level, and a rich pureed pear heart with orange fruit and berries. The combination is quite gorgeous and with a little water you get whisky's answer to a summertime flower show. Impressive stuff. £60
Powerful, lush, and boldly spicy. A mouth-coating, invigorating rye whiskey with chewy toffee, fig cake, and candied fruit penetrated by thumping mint, warming cinnamon, and clove, ultimately revealing more subtle notes of allspice, coconut, and nutmeg. Long, delicious finish. An amazingly vibrant whiskey that lets you know you’re alive. The American whiskey equivalent of a young, cask-strength Islay single malt scotch or an imperial IPA
A marriage of two casks of Caol Ila (25 and 29 years old) and one cask of Imperial (14 years old). Penetratingly smoky, visceral, rooty, and even mean-tempered at times, ultimately being soothed by creamy vanilla and thick malt. It’s peppered with licorice stick, dark chocolate, campfire charcoal, subtle olive brine, and teasing berried fruit. Long, clinging finish. The flavors are nicely integrated and complex. Well done! (A limited release.)
More polished and sophisticated than the comparably sweet and lush Lagavulin 21 year old also reviewed here. The pedro ximinez cask finish certainly gives as much as it takes away when compared to the benchmark 16 year old. An array of complex ripe fruit, interwoven with notes of pot still rum, toffee, tar, seaweed, and brine on the finish. It seems logical to marry this big, smoky Islay whisky with an equally big, sweet, fruity sherry. In this case, the marriage works wonderfully.
St. George's Chapter 7 Rum Finish 2011 edition, 46%
Single Malt English Whisky | $104.00
Any lingering doubts that English whisky means business are dispelled by this whisky masterclass. This is a New Orleans show band of a whisky, bursting with vibrancy and happy, celebratory notes. The cask is all over this, with rum and raisin, milk chocolate, and mocha contributing to an all-round sweet treat. Not too sweet, though; and the malt at the center of this sings. £65
Matured in a sherry cask. Lush, with glazed citrus, caramelized peach, chewy toffee, roasted nuts, and subtle pine needles. The sherry is a driving force throughout this whisky, but it’s obviously from a very clean, polished European oak cask. Very delicious, with a long, satiating finish. Quite impressive for such a young whisky. My favorite of the bunch. (534 bottles) £300
The Balvenie Single Barrel 15 year old (Cask #7266), 47.8%
Single Malt Scotch | $62
One of the finest Balvenie 15 year olds I’ve tasted. The flavors are clean, well defined, confident, and beautifully balanced. Full malty foundation (with some ripe barley thrown in). Soft, creamy vanilla, honeycomb, bright fruit (orange, nectarine, lemon peel, hints of pineapple), with emerging dried vanilla, coconut, oak resin, and subtle anise. Polished oak finish. It doesn’t have the depth that the classic older Balvenies have shown in the past, but what it does have, it has in spades. Beautiful! (A Julio’s Liquors exclusive.)
Dark, chestnut-copper color suggests a sherry cask, and one nosing confirms it. A very multi-faceted whisky-the sherry is quite profound, but there’s a lot going on in addition to the sherry. Deep, succulent, and chewy on the palate, with fig cake, raisins, old rum, tobacco, pencil shavings, and almond fudge. Quite a mouthful!
This blends bourbon and oloroso cask-matured elements drawn from every style of Irish whiskey. A mouthwatering dram with warm, creamy toffee, ripening yellow banana, wood spices, toasted coconut, spiced stewed apple, and cinnamon sticks. A delicious sip reveals a smooth medley of malt, chocolate, gentle spices, Brazil nut, and dried fruit, which sidles into a long finish of chocolate-covered raisins and deep, resonating spice. No reservations; this is special.
Every so often, whether by blind luck or meticulous searching, a brilliant cask turns up. Fruit pastilles, peaches in syrup, caramelized apples, freshly baked bread, and lemons weeping juice, supported by the smoke from the glowing red fringes of burning newspaper. Lemon and grapefruit acidity in the mouth, developing creaminess, vanilla, and more tropical fruit characteristics, with some slightly bitter char surfacing after a minute. Candied grapefruit follows into the finish as the smoke rolls in. Rather glorious. (The Whisky Exchange only) £165
This dark, walnut-colored dram delivers the fabulous first-fill sherry cask characteristics we love: raisin, mixed peel, fruitcake, marzipan, Brazil nut, jellied fruits, and nutmeg. So wonderfully thick and chewy that you need to resist the temptation to pick up a knife and fork. It imparts dark weighty fruit, blackened oak, cooked apple, and a twister of peppery turmoil. Add water liberally to unlock figs, dates, and plums.
Precious few distillers outside of Japan are resourceful and determined enough to lay their hands on virgin mizunara oak to cooper their own finishing puncheons, let alone allow you to experience its flavors at such a reasonable price. Stone fruit, Quaker oats, comb honey, and sandalwood aromas are followed by ripe melon and tropical fruit flavors trailed by cocoa. Fragrant spices contribute to a sublime balance, with spicy chocolate, coffee grounds, and menthol to finish. This is a rare gem among Irish whiskeys. Number 18 in the 2018 Top 20
Powerful and rich to begin with. Some raisin syrup backed with clean, apple-like acidity adding some freshness. This swells into a deep but refined musky apple/pear note with some black fruits behind. Highly complex, but full of distillery character. Water brings out a note like freshly-applied varnish. The palate is smooth, gentle, and deep. A classic mature Linkwood with all of the distillery character on show in perfect alliance with the cask.
This archetypal midnight dram enthralls with aromas of cedar wood humidor, blossom honey, hazelnut, vanilla pod, treacle cake, and maple syrup. Dry as leaves, save for some floaty florals. It’s less weighty than some whiskies at this age, with a balanced show of cinnamon, cocoa, berry fruits, dried grapefruit, hard peel, wood spices, dark toffee, and oak. A finish of dark vanilla, oak, spice, and leather make for a fine digestif. (782 bottles)
The oldest of the fifteen expressions in Batch 16 of GlenDronach’s single cask release program, this cask-strength offering has been matured for 26 years in a Pedro Ximénez sherry puncheon. The nose yields fresh-from-the-oven Christmas cake, cherries, nutmeg, and sweet leather. Viscous on the palate, with dark sherry, raisins, plain chocolate, tangy orange, and caramel. Prickly chili and dates in the long finish. (546 bottles) £310
The Coronation (distilled at Glenfarclas) 1953, 51.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $9,500
Only 60 bottles have been released from this 60 year old first-fill sherry cask. Amazingly, the nose is not dominated by wood, but is mature and concentrated with the aroma of rain-moistened tweed, tropical fruit, blonde tobacco, cedar, and chanterelle mushroom. This elegantly faded, sepia-tinted impression continues on the tongue: fine-boned, mossy, clean, and slowly drying. A classic example of oxidation, not woodiness, allowing freshness to be retained. Amazing. (The Whisky Exchange exclusive.) £6,000
Douglas Laing Extra Old Particular (distilled at Mortlach) 22 year old, 57.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $280
Deep amber. Generous sweet sherried nose; very ripe, with dried orchard fruits, chestnut puree, and indeed chestnut honey, then a little touch of meat and a pungency akin to Guyanan pot still rum. Sumptuous. As it opens there’s a fluxing mix of sticky toffee, game, pomegranate, and dried red fruits. The palate is deeply savory, with floor polish and cooked plums, finishing with fragrant pepper. The cask has a huge say in things, but the spirit copes. Excellent. £191
Lombard Jewels of Scotland (distilled at Springbank) 21 year old 1991 Cask No. 172, 49.7%
Single Malt Scotch | $375
Aged in a bourbon hogshead, allowing the distillery character to shine through. Fresh, lively and inviting (especially for its age), with a complex array of tropical and summer fruit, peppered with brine, vanilla, and a hint of baker’s chocolate. An oily texture adds weight. Dry, deliciously appetizing finish. An excellent aperitif whisky, but enjoyable anytime. (D & M Wines and Liquors exclusive.)
This bottling is from the oldest cask owned by Tullibardine distillery, a sherry quarter cask (#341). An initial whiff of Cointreau on the nose, then vanilla develops, with marzipan, white pepper, linseed, and old hessian. Finally, musty sherry. A silky mouthfeel, with drier sherry, black currants, dark spices, and plain chocolate. Extraordinarily lingering, with orange wine gums and spicy licorice. Despite 50 years of maturation in a relatively small sherry cask, a whisky of great depth and quality has emerged. £16,000
Very elegant and refined. Obviously this whisky was aged in a pristine sherry cask. The flavors are quite clean and well-defined. Gently sweet and fruity, with golden raisin, candy apple, and red raspberry jam. There’s delicate pineapple, dried cherry, coconut, and vanilla too, with a polished oak finish. A very classy Glenfiddich. Not as bold and spicy as last year’s 1976 vintage (which I had a hand in selecting but, ironically, don’t like as much). This new vintage approaches the caliber of the 1973 Vintage release from two years ago which I still think is the best one in recent years.
This expression is aged for approximately 5 years in bourbon barrels before spending a final few months in quarter casks. Characteristic tar, engine oil, and ashy peat on the nose. Oily and full on the palate, with sweet grain notes, cinnamon, seaweed, hot peat, and black pepper. The finish is long and powerful, with persistent peat and chili, plus a sprinkling of sea salt.
This is what the standard Bushmills Malt 10 year old should taste like. A classic Irish whiskey nose. Deliciously sweet creamy notes of vanilla, marshmallow, honey, powdered sugar, and polished oak. Faint tropical fruit notes emerge from time to time. Very clean on the palate, with a dry, bourbon-like finish. Those extra few years in wood, along with being non-chill-filtered, add richness, depth, and complexity.
Grand MacNish Double Matured 15 year old Sherry Cask Finish, 43%
Blended Scotch Whisky | $55
Rather luxurious aromas of orange peel, walnut, stewed fruits, fleshy plum, peach pit, sherry fruit, gentle oak, and wood spices. Spiced marmalade, dark Seville orange, plum, vanilla, and plump raisin; this lays down a rich blanket of flavor, though it’s slit open by a piercing blade of spice. I like the subtlety of the sherry influence and the mouth-coating finish of orange peel, ginger, and spice.
Rock Town Single Barrel Reserve Rye (Barrel 22), 57.9%
Craft Whiskey | $60
Cask-strength rye made from Arkansas-grown grain, aged 26 months. Must be a small barrel; it’s quite dark. Nose of crushed rye grain, well-polished oak furniture, and moist rye bread. Swift and certain in the mouth: dense, chewy flavors of rye bread, sweet and full and bitter, crackling with oak spice, and drawing to a sizzling finish. I do like a small distiller whiskey that knows where it’s going. Very impressive.
Each cask of this nicely packaged malt is selected by the distiller, and so there is considerable variation between batches. This one is a step up from last year's releases. It's slightly weaker, but the nose has firmed up into a delightful mix of fresh juicy grape and a spicy dustiness. Tastewise this takes an amazing journey from plummy, sweet fruit up front to a slow dominance of dry sherry at the end. The finish is longer than before. Excellent.
Another first fill sherry butt, giving its typical reddish-brown hue. This runs more into the clove, cassia, and allspice area than just dried fruit. While maturity is obvious, and there’s even a hint of dunnage/leatheriness, it is the concentrated fruit sweetness that surprises here. The distillery has fought back against the cask, and while still crepuscular in nature, there is a rich, concentrated, and mellow glow at its heart. £345
A great discussion whiskey for a themed tasting, this has a comforting nose of vanilla, malt, barley sugar, and creamed-coconut macaroons, with hints of nutmeg and grated chocolate. The palate brings fruity satsuma, barley sugar, and an explosion of pepper, ginger, and licorice. The tangy citrus subsides, replaced by ground almond and stewed rhubarb. Dry heat and hot pepper finish that makes you feel like you could breathe fire. (Cask no. 504; 278 bottles)
Staff members at Dalmore selected this distillery-exclusive bottling, which has been drawn from American white oak cask number 446, and bottled at cask strength. The out-turn comprises 450 bottles. Refined, polished oak on the nose. Honey, marzipan, caramel, and vanilla. Fragrant, with old leather and over-ripe oranges when water is added. Warm leather, apricots, orange marmalade, cocoa powder, and developing spice on the palate. A long, spicy, citric finish. Finally, licorice. £150
The whisky begins sweet and creamy, with notes of vanilla, honey, and ripe malt (reminiscent of a malting floor). Then the Laphroaig signature peat smoke, seaweed, tar, and medicinal notes emerge. Bottling at 48% and without chill-filtering keeps the whisky from being dulled down. A whisky that is very dynamic. Nicely done.
The Macallan Masters of Photography 3rd release 1989 (Cask #12251), 56.6%
Single Malt Scotch | $2,750
Dark mahogany with ruby glints and a green rim. Lots of highly-polished oak as we move out of the woods and into a silent country estate. Wax polish and masses of whisky rancio. Sherry-soaked oak, dry leaves, currants, and ripe blackberry. Highly concentrated, but the fruits push their way through only lightly-resisting tannins. There’s a hint of smoke and Seville orange bitterness on the finish. My pick of the quartet. Excellent. 285 bottles.
This expression was distilled from Optic barley grown and malted (to 20ppm) at Kilchoman and matured in a mix of bourbon and sherry casks. A whiff of smoke, lemon curd, vanilla, and allspice on the nose. Supple in the mouth, with baked apples, sherry, and fruity peat. Spicy dark chocolate and nutty oak on the finish. Richer and more rounded than previous editions, thanks to sherry cask influence.
Initially filled into an ex-bourbon cask, then transferred into a Gonzales Byass oloroso ‘Matusalem’ sherry butt in 2005 for four years, before a final two years in a freshly-emptied bourbon barrel. The nose is initially floral, with overripe Seville oranges, figs, ginger, and cocoa powder. Peaches and almonds on the palate, before dark fruits and salted nuts appear. Drying oak is held at bay, and the final note is fat and figgy. Cask number 14; 233 bottles.
The Tyrconnell 10 year old Sherry Cask Finish, 46%
Irish Single Malt | $75
On the nose there are warm, grassy tones wrapped in a blanket of sherry, apple, and sultanas, with a tickle of fine white pepper, lemongrass, scented balms, and poppy seed cake. In the mouth there is apple, cherry, and honey nougat, backed by richer sherry fruits. The flavor develops steadily, with late additions of pepper coinciding with a confluence of sweetness and sherry notes. Baked apple sweetness on the finish.
This begins with a big scoop of banana pudding, or maybe it’s banana cream pie, since there is a lively dusting of cinnamon and nutmeg. Pretty floral notes, sweet Jordan almonds, and apple candies are well integrated with oak. What it lacks in deep complexity it makes up for with vibrancy, joie de vivre, and sheer drinking pleasure that revels in a satisfyingly long finish.
It’s like Mom’s apple pie in a glass. This whiskey was distilled at Cooley and spent 14 years in bourbon, then 2 years extra maturation in an 80 year old Palo Contado sherry cask from Bodegas Emilio Hidalgo. Brown sugar, baked apples, warmed almonds, chocolate jimmies, nutmeg, vanilla, and cardamom. Sherry flavors caress, with apple, spun sugar, candied peel, sultanas, stone fruits, and the fruitiness of Scharffen Berger bars. Gracefully wanes, meditating on the red and black fruits. (711 bottles) €250
Hyde No. 5 The Áras Cask Burgundy Cask Finish, 46%
Single Grain Irish Whiskey | $48
Triple distilled in Coffey stills and aged for over 6 years, the black grape, blackberry, dry-roasted spices, and cocoa demonstrate how the 6-month finish was well-judged. A wonderful mouthfeel, the wine notes chasing the vanilla sweetness, fudge, gentle spices, and creamy custard tarts before a finish of chocolate and spiced dark fruit. This is so good, I had to check the bottle to confirm this was grain whiskey. (5,000 bottles)
Duncan Taylor (distilled at Bowmore), Cask #85013, 22 year, 1982 vintage, 58.9%
Single Malt Scotch | $100.00
A very clean, elegant Bowmore with a naked beauty that shows its Islay roots. You’ll find fresh brine and seaweed on a bed of honeyed malt and soft vanilla cream. Subtle berries, citrus, and melon fruit add a complex fruit dimension. Fresh, appetizing finish. Nicely done! (Exclusive to The Party Source.)
Vanilla, dark chocolate, pepper, ground ginger, hard candy, floral blooms, Parma Violets, and dried apple sing from this oloroso sherry butt-finished blend of 18 year old triple-distilled single malt and 8 year old single grain. Syrupy fruit textures with flavors of apricot conserve, the European oak finds harmony with the orchard fruits, gingerbread, and pepper. Mouth-coating, lingering finish of oak and dried banana. (5,000 bottles)
A celebration of Nikka’s 80th anniversary, and, in the spirit of the founding principles of Masataka Taketsuru, it’s a blend. The oldest cask here is Yoichi from 1945, there’s also a Miyagikyo from 1969. Only 900 bottles have been made. Huge whisky rancio, delicate smoke, light varnish, wax, hints of incense, and while rich, there is still remarkably fresh tropical fruit. Tasted blind, it could easily be mistaken for a Grand Champagne Cognac. Amazing length and purity. Sophisticated. €3,600
After several years off the market, this welcome return from Mackmyra was composed from a mixture of cask types, including Swedish oak, and matured underground in the Bodås mine. Floral notes, honey, citrus, vanilla, and pears poached in cream, with balancing tartness from gooseberry and grapefruit. A delicious summer whisky with sweet lemon biscuits, clementine, apricot, vanilla fudge, and active spices which mellow to expose banana, honeydew melon, and a finish of bitter lemon and mixed peel. (4,800 bottles)
You want and expect rich and peaty malt from Lagavulin and you get it here in droves, though not in the most obvious way. This version is somewhere between the cask strength 12 year old and the Distiller’s Edition, rather than the standard 16 year old, but it’s an absolute peach and a treat for lovers of this distillery. The nose is constrained and shy at first, with lychee and kiwi fruit offering a sweet and gentle carpet to coastal peaty notes. The palate is big, rich, full, and peppered, with sharp apple and citrus fruits. It benefits from water, too, as there’s a delightful swell of fruit, chili, peat, and soft licorice. As with all great Lagavulins, the tarry peatiness lingers longest in the finish.
Bursting with hawthorn, red currant, cherry, pomegranate, baked sugar sweetness, roasted spices, cardamom, dark honey, and plum pudding. This pot still whiskey from 1985 is mouth drawing with fruit flesh and skins, tasting of stewed fruits, baked orange, apple, and pomegranate, with a very fine shimmer of spices that sparkles on the tongue. Adding to their canon of single cask Redbreast releases, this is absolutely smashing. €500
Saturated with tropical fruits, banana, butterscotch, barley sweetness, marzipan, creamed coconut, and a fine thread of spice after the 8 month finishing period in dark Caribbean rum casks. This is a huge vehicle for flavor: silky and thick mouthfeel with sweet citrus, honey, mango, guava, passion fruit, Seville orange, and a sting of bitterness to keep your taste buds on their toes. Spice is merely a bit-part player.
A single cask from the distillery’s peated “Port Charlotte” line of whiskies. Well behaved for such youth. Nice honeyed malt and soft caramel base with good viscosity as a bed for tarry peat, licorice stick, freshly-ground pepper, and cocoa, along with a kiss of sauternes, delicate pit fruit, smoked seaweed, and a lingering coastal accent. Long, warming finish. (Park Avenue Liquor exclusive)
Brown-Forman deployed a triple-cask finishing process on mature sourced whiskeys, involving virgin oak, refill, and sherry casks. A lovely fruity complexity ensues, with blackberry, apple-toffee notes, malt, vanilla, and sherry influences. Butterscotch with nutty undertones, herbal notes verging toward spicy, and hints of dried apple, red berries, and a touch of leather roll into the finish. You want complexity, intrigue, and flavor for thirty bucks? Look no further.
Gordon & MacPhail (distilled at Glen Grant), 1966, 41 year old, 49.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $512.00
There have been a lot of old, heavily sherried, independently bottled Glen Grant whiskies on the market over the past several years. This one appears to be from a refill sherry cask, as its influence is more subtle. It has aged well, showing no excessive oak, but plenty of fruit (summer fruits, dried citrus, stewed fruits, tangerine, golden raisin), balanced by polished oak, grape skin, and subtle dark chocolate. Distinctively pleasing. Don’t add too much water, though, as it breaks down. (A Kensington Wine Market exclusive.) $500 (CAD)
The third release in Macallan’s annual Edition series—which focuses on aspects of cask influence—was matured in a mix of European and American oak casks. Figs and apricot jam, vanilla, Jaffa oranges, and cinnamon on the nose. The palate is silky and offers a big citrus fruit hit, Bit-O-Honey, then creamy milk chocolate. Milk chocolate persists through the long, fruity finish, with attendant sweet oak.
Old Malt Cask (distilled at Port Ellen), 25 year old, 54.7%
Single Malt Scotch | $256.00
These Port Ellen whiskies are becoming increasingly rare since the distillery closed down for good in 1983. This is a very good example of an old-fashioned Islay whisky: never heavy, but with lots of kick. There’s plenty of wet leaf, bonfire smoke, coal tar, and some earthy, damp kiln notes and brine. But you’ll discover a lovely honeyed maltiness for balance, along with tangerine, dirty martini, and cocoa for complexity. Smoky, briny finish. There will be a time when some of us will tell the next generation of whisky drinkers about the joys of Port Ellen. Mare sure you’re one of those telling the story, not listening to it. (Exclusive to Kensington Wine Market.) $250 (Canadian)
Fully matured in mizunara oak on land and sea, this has tangy orange, ground ginger, fennel seed, cedar, and incense, though it seems a little more tightly wound than the standard strength whisky. Juicy orange, quick firecracker spices, and more toffee sweetness; it becomes heavy and thick, flaunting high alcohol, then turns creamier with marzipan, orange Jell-O, and singed oak spices.
A limited edition cask strength blend of four single casks by Alasdair Day released to mark 100 years since the last entry in their blender’s historic cellar book. The nose has warm caramel, whole orange, and a dry, grassy, and gristy note. Rich orange envelops the mouth with golden caramel, shortbread, and underlying spices of ginger and pepper. Takes water well and retains its character; lots to like here.
There’s personality galore in this blend of 10 year old Indiana whiskey finished in cabernet sauvignon casks and 11 year old Tennessee bourbon finished in rum casks and port pipes. Caramel, honeycomb candy, See’s molasses chips, peanuts, graham crackers, cola, mature oak, and a little dill on the nose. The palate is chewy, with dried cherries, grape soda, root beer candy, roasted walnuts, dark chocolate, black pepper, ginger, graham cracker, cinnamon cookie, and lush leathery oak. Good development, if you have the patience to linger.
Matured in first-fill oloroso sherry casks, this is 20% peated whisky from 1997 and 80% fruitier whisky distilled in 2001. Earthy on the early nose, with bonfire smoke, vanilla, raisins, and prunes. The palate opens with sweet fruit notes and medium-dry sherry, giving way to nutmeg, brine, and peat. The finish features plain chocolate, bitter lemons, and a hint of smoky chili. £85
Clyde May’s Cask Strength Alabama Style 10 year old Whiskey, 57%
American Whiskey (Unspecified) | $100
The nose offers aromas of fragrant oak, baked apple, caramel, clove, cinnamon, bananas, and creamy vanilla, set against an herbal back note of tarragon. The palate offers cigar box, slate, chocolate, caramel, and chili pepper. Water coaxes fruit notes of blackberry, lemon, and cherry, as well as chocolate-nut cake. A long finish has notes of tobacco, warm chocolate syrup, and toasted almonds. Rich, layered, complex, and eminently pleasurable.
Dogfish Head Alternate Takes Vol. 1: Whiskey Finished in Rum Casks, 45%
American Whiskey (Unspecified) | $45
An intriguing first release from one of craft beer’s most inventive producers. Like many whiskeys made by brewers, this one’s charm is in its deceptive simplicity that reveals successively complex character with every sip. The rum-cask finish is evident throughout: caramel-banana sundae, marzipan, and pistachio pudding on the nose, along with rose petals, meringue, and a touch of suntan lotion. The palate has fresh banana, rose water, pistachio kheer, almonds, lemon, and lime sherbet. Oak asserts itself on the perfumy, elegant finish.
Rich and rounded vanilla, baking spices, caramel, and cast iron-baked cornbread straight from the oven. Hints of smoke, dried apricot, fresh-cut grass, and tilled earth. Then, raw honey, marzipan, raisins, and sweet oats, followed by baking spices for a medium to long finish. It’s very nice and needs no dilution to open up. Think of this as a high-proof sipper.
Signatory (distilled at Bunnahabhain), Cask #2540, 27 year old, 1978 vintage, 54.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $200.00
Very fragrant on the nose, and thick on the palate. The flavors are chock full of thick chewy toffee, chocolate fudge, roasted nuts, burnt raisin, black currant, and spiced oak. There’s a hint of salt and Earl Grey tea on the finish. Very dynamic.
William Grant Rare Cask Reserves Blended Reserve 26 year old, 42%
Blended Malt Scotch Whisky | $399
William Grant & Sons will be releasing a series of Ghosted Reserves in the years ahead, drawing on their remaining stock from closed distilleries. Here, Brian Kinsman has used whisky from Ladyburn and Inverleven to create a nose of zesty key lime pie, peach, butter mintoes, and sweet oak. It is truly moreish, with creamy, malty flavors of sweet mandarin, marzipan, and strawberry with a chalky mouthfeel of candy sticks that lingers through the finish. Exceptionally good whisky. (6,000 bottles)
Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection: The Glenlivet Decades 1963, 40.6%
Single Malt Scotch | $1,230
A quintet of releases showing examples of The Glenlivet from five decades, issued to support The Glenlivet Generations 70 year old bottling. All are available individually or in a limited edition set (50 only) for £2,850; these bottlings are not currently available in the U.S. A first-fill American oak hoggie was the receptacle for the representative from the 1960s. The cask has provided an extremely relaxed environment for maturation to take place, with a return of the pineapple (grilled on a barbecue this time), along with linden blossom, cream, green jasmine tea, and mint. The effect is like a grown up 1991. The maturity kicks in on the palate — thick and slow with some sandalwood alongside honeysuckle. Gentle and clean, and again not one to dilute. £750
Two years ago I included this at a London whisky and music festival for 1,000 cool and trendy young music fans. This was the star of the show. When it says “peated,” it means sooty, charcoal-like church incense, with smoked meats and salami. It's intense, unforgettable, and not unlike a big smoky Swiss cheese. Up there with Balcones and Corsair, IMHO (that’s “In My Humble Opinion.” I'm down with the kids, you see). €55
This latest vintage release from Glen Garioch is a cask strength 25 year old. It follows on from previous ‘small-batch’ 1978, 1990, 1991, and 1994 vintages. Peaches and ginger on the nose, with fudge and a wisp of smoke. Mildly herbal. Full-bodied, rich, and sweet in the mouth. Fresh fruit and violet creams. Finally a slightly earthy, peaty note. The finish is long and gently smoky. Robust, yet refined.
Classic Cask, 13 year old, 1991 Vintage, Batch GL-109, 45.4%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $60.00
A remarkably balanced bourbon. Evolving notes of maple, vanilla, mint, dried fruit, coconut, and polished oak with a hint of leather on the finish. Very clean and drinkable too-especially for a 13 year old bourbon. Only 726 bottles were produced, but it’s worth tracking down one of the remaining bottles.
The Angel’s Envy Cask Strength port cask finished bourbon has developed a cult following, and it’s easy to see why. Jumping out are marshmallow, caramel, vanilla, roasted nuts, with a hint of cardamom, coffee, and nutmeg, but true beauty lies in the pronounced pumpkin pie, dark chocolate, raw pine nut, caramel, and sweet maltiness. I’d love for this whiskey to finish longer, but it does give a hint of nutmeg toward the end. Sourced whiskey.
Navazos Palazzi Overseas Malt Single Sherry Cask, 52.5%
Spanish Whisky | $104
Although distilled in Scotland, this completed its maturation in Spain; it’s not scotch, but it is very tasty. Cocoa powder, melted milk chocolate, ground hazelnut, vanilla pod, snuff, and allspice go full tilt at cask strength. Chocolate fondant pudding, baked fruit, cocoa, malt, dried fig, black pepper, and black fruits operate with a dark, tangy edge that ignites the tongue. This has been bottled at a perfect strength. (900 bottles for U.S.)
Duncan Taylor (distilled at Tamdhu), Cask # 7313, 34 year old, 1969 vintage, 40.2%
Single Malt Scotch | $250.00
A whisky that defies its age. It is remarkably clean and fresh, with no suggestion of excessive oak. Fragrant aroma, with notes of vanilla, coconut, honeyed malt, cereal grain, and linseed. Similar follow through on the palate, with a texture that is soft, lightly oily, and soothing. Clean finish. One of the best Tamdhu whiskies I’ve tasted.
If you didn’t know what it was, you’d swear this was an old and venerable big sherried whisky, and it takes some accepting that it’s still a kitten. The clues are there: hints of immature green fruit and reedy barley, and the finish is sweet and soft, with none of the astringency of an old wood-influenced malt. But it tastes wonderful: rich, sweet, and grapey, with gooey plums and juicy raisins. A sprinkling of pepper dust reins everything in perfectly. €155 Currently not available in the U.S.
This just makes me happy. The nose brims with pure blossom honey, a dose of vanilla, whole peach, butter toffee, and an uplifting floral bouquet. A soothingly sweet and syrupy smooth concoction; this light-bodied whiskey of honey, caramel, and toffee feels like it should be dispensed with kindness in regular doses from a medicine spoon. The epitome of uncomplicated, easy-drinking, bourbon cask-matured whiskey.
Penderyn Bourbon single cask, cask strength, 61.2%
Welsh Whisky | $430.00
The unusual distilling process and some maturation in Madeira casks has given standard Penderyn a liqueur-like, perfumey quality many whisky fans don’t care for. This is a single bourbon cask bottling of the 11th cask the distillery ever filled, to mark its 10th anniversary, and is less cloying, less feminine, and more gutsy than the standard version. It’s also very palatable and of excellent quality. Some will make it to America, but the price tag will deter all but the most passionate.
Bainbridge Battle Point Two Islands Islay Cask Finished Wheat, 43%
Craft Whiskey | $80
This wheat whiskey from Bainbridge Island in Washington State is finished 8 to12 months in barrels that previously held Islay Scotch whisky for 10 to 12 years. The nose offers cedar, beach bonfire smoke, and kelp, along with roasted pineapple, apples, and pepper. There’s more smoke, sea, and salinity on the palate, as well as meatier flavors of grilled sausage and leather, and the finish shows sweeter notes of caramel, walnut, and chocolate.
Clove-spiked orange, melon, pomegranate, cherry lozenge, and aniseed. Cherry, Strawberry Laces, growing spiciness, ginger, pepper, almost effervescent fruit jamminess. Later, citrus peel, vanilla. Finish has vanilla bitterness and fresh green herbal tones. Water keeps the fruit but boosts those spices on the finish. (532 bottles)
Initially, it’s extremely perfume-like, with floral notes often found in fragrances. Then the fruit completely takes over: banana, blueberry, plums, cherry, apple, pear, and quince. Of these, the banana lingers until chocolate and vanilla enter the picture, followed by hints of green pepper and graham cracker. Then, boom, baking spices launch into a lovely medium to long finish.
Signatory (distilled at Port Ellen), 1982 vintage, 26 year old (Cask # 1202), 54.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $275.00
Port Ellen, for sure! Very old-fashioned in nature: intertwined notes of tarry rope, coal soot, rooty peat, toffee, dark chocolate, and walnuts, spiked with coffee bean, anise, cracked peppercorn, and a hint of ginger. Dry, smoky, long, slightly austere finish. This Port Ellen is a bit moody (maybe even has an attitude problem), but I’m not complaining.
Belgian whisky maker Etienne Boullion takes help and advice from Bruichladdich distiller Jim McEwan, and it shows. Now the owner of the old Caperdonich stills and set for major expansion, Belgian Owl is literally on the move. Let's hope it retains the greatness of this malt. This is the distillery's best offering yet: a sweet, rich, vanilla-laced fruity dessert whisky that is both refreshing and very more-ish. Alcoholic tinned fruits, particularly pear.
Writers’ Tears Copper Pot Deau XO Cognac Cask Finish, 46%
Irish Blended Whiskey | $60
Toffee apple, nutmeg, sanded oak, and plenty of feisty spices behind the nose. The flavor is more refined with greater complexity; not overly sweet or fruity, but a smooth-as-satin mouthfeel with shades of pear, caramel covered in white chocolate, nuts, pleasant pot still spiciness, rich toffee, cocoa, and red chili. The cognac cask influence is gentle and works well, and it concludes with a hazelnut butter finish.
Sherry butt once more, but this is much more relaxed in its attentions — think Montgomery Clift seducing Elizabeth Taylor rather than De Niro chatting up Liza Minelli. Sweetness is the key here, gentle and slightly caramelized, with touches of molasses-like concentration and even a whiff of the top of a crème brûlée. The palate surprises with its continued freshness; apple and the distillery’s distinctive earthy richness. Great balance.£382
The youngest of this Family Cask selection shows Glenfarclas in a surprisingly citric light, with plenty of citrus peels — tangerine, marmalade, and orange syrup, as well as sultana, suede, wax polish (surprising in a youngish dram), and chocolate — a recurring theme here. It is almost as if all the more lifted elements in each of the previous casks have here united. Mature, but highly expressive, and a great starter. £172
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
Adelphi (distilled at Macallan) 14 year old 1997, 51.6%
Single Malt Scotch | $117
Here is Macallan in full-blown masculine mode. Initially it seems tight and (sherry) cask driven, but soon you are taken into a winter kitchen with scents of venison, and appropriate rowanberry edges adding a sweet and sour fruitiness. That wild berry note is given another nudge by a whiff of burning juniper. The palate shows it to be thick with a quivering mass of black fruits, and a finish of molasses and licorice. A feast. £75
A decade of aging in an oloroso cask has bestowed aromas of stewed plum, prune, throat lozenges, and thick fronds inside a tropical palm house, while still executing the same dreamily serene Kikori character. Age has enhanced the mouthfeel of this rice whisky, serving up a smooth, clean palate of tart orange, damson, and plum sweetness, with a complex twist of spice and drying orange peel on the finish. (312 bottles for U.S.)
The legacy of the cask’s history imparts more smoke than peat. It hasn’t overpowered the spirit, but the whisky is light enough to be put in the shade, with singeing smoke, coal dust, vanilla, and asphalt. Sweet rice, vanilla, honey, and warm spices of ginger root and black peppercorn, before a late arrival of peat. Milk chocolate, burnt driftwood, toffee, and a little residual pepper on the finish. (636 bottles)
An effusive offering of dark fruits: cranberry, blueberry, and black currant. This is a beautiful marriage of the spirit and the port cask finishing, showing applesauce, aged oak, macaroons, and dry aromatic spices. Black currant holds sway on the tongue, yielding to caramel, ground ginger, a second burst of juicy blueberry, with a hot finish evoking strips of dried tropical fruit and flashes of ground pepper. Rewarding and flavorsome.
This is one of a trio from Chivas Bros., who every year release limited editions of 500 ml cask strength bottlings from a selection of its estates. These are predominantly only for sale on site or by mail order through www.maltwhiskydistilleries.com.
My pick of this batch. Strathisla’s a small, traditional distillery whose make is mostly pressed into service for the Chivas Regal blends. It’s a hard to pin down malt, and it’s this elusive character that shows here: firm then soft, fragrant then deep. The nose is intense and spicy with wax, nougat, chocolate, hazelnut, and fresh-opened banana. The palate is explosive with real presence and power, whose firm core is softened by honey and poached fruits. Complex is the word. £37
West Cork Glengarriff Series Peat Charred Cask, 43%
Irish Single Malt | $45
In one of the year’s most intriguing experimental techniques, Glengarriff treats new barrels with burning peat to imbue a fine veneer of smoke over the surface of the vessel’s virgin oak staves. A final finishing in these smoked barrels imparts the captivating pleasure of chocolate brownie, campfire smoke, and sweet cocoa aromas that yield to a pleasantly oily, rounded whiskey with citrus, Jolly Rancher hard candy, chocolate cake, spices, and coffee notes, with a finish of festive spices. Ambitious work, fresh from the frontiers of flavor. Number 19 in the 2018 Top 20
Aged exclusively in first-fill bourbon casks and bottled unfiltered and at natural cask strength. This takes the usually subtle Glenlivet and makes it more vibrant, amplifying its flavors while accentuating the bourbon oak. Tight notes of honeyed malt, vanilla bean, toasted oak, bright fruit, and nuts, are peppered with more subtle floral and spice notes. Dry, spicy finish. A Glenlivet with pizzazz.
This third single cask release was distilled in 2002 and spent two-thirds of its maturation in oloroso after 4 years in bourbon wood. The nose brings cranberry, bramble, smoked meats over a pit fire, stewed apple, Worcestershire sauce, and damp sphagnum. The taste is silky, displaying an array of citrus and red berry fruits. It’s amazingly gentle and tender given the strength. Water brings cider apples, ginger, and spices with a finish of bubblegum and boiled mint candies. €90
Ian MacLeod’s first release of Tamdhu was a belter. Now, finally, it’s been joined by this high-strength NAS. There’s no hint of the high strength on the nose, which is all caramel toffee and shortbread, backed with sultana-like sherry cask influence. The palate is the same: nut, dark fruits, and date. Hugely approachable. With water, it’s a matter of…chocolate? Maltesers! All you want in a sherried whisky, and it won’t burn a hole in your wallet either. £60
Crown Royal Noble Collection Wine Barrel Finished, 40.5%
Canadian | $60
Until recently, Crown Royal, Canada’s best-selling whisky, took a conservative approach to limited-edition releases. The annual Noble Collection is a promising taste of the innovation underway at the Gimli, Manitoba distillery, which includes experiments with single grain wheat whisky, single malts, and more. This first venture into cask finishing uses Cabernet Sauvignon barrels. It is still Crown Royal, but on top of the bourbonesque vanillas and woody notes, rich red fruits jump from the glass. A new direction that moves Crown Royal into the realm of big, beautiful whiskies. Number 18 in the 2017 Top 20
Glenmorangie Margaux Cask Finish 18 year old 1987 Vintage, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $450
Waves of fruit (apple pie, orange marmalade, sultana, ripe pineapple), accented with notes of dark chocolate, roasted nuts, and spice (cinnamon, vanilla, ginger, evergreen), particularly on the finish. (In the past, I’ve thought that a couple of these limited edition Glemorangie wood finishes were a little overdone with the finishing, but not this one).
Two oaks are better than one in this single malt, which marries whiskies matured in sherry-seasoned casks of both American and European oak. The sherry imparts aromas of raisins, figs, hazelnuts, blanched almonds, candied orange peel, and leather. A backbone of vanilla sweetness on the palate supports layers of ginger and white pepper, dark chocolate, leather, raisins, toasted hazelnuts, and orange oil. This Macallan joins the core line between the Sherry Oak and Fine Oak ranges. Warming and rich without being syrupy, it doubles up on accessibility with its balance and remarkably affordable price for its quality and age. Number 17 in the 2017 Top 20
Scotch Malt Whisky Society Berber Whiskey With a Hint of Smoke 53.199 12 year old, 57.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $130
Much of Caol Ila’s malt goes into Johnnie Walker blends, so it’s a rare treat to see a cask strength offering. This release is Caol Ila on steroids, featuring a deeply smoky and meaty nose with bacon, campfire, leather, sea salt, and iodine. On the palate, the smoky fire continues to burn with intense smoke and salt combined with sweet honey malt. An extremely long finish will have you exhaling smoke long after the dram is gone. (Julio’s Liquors only)
The English Single Cask Rum Cask (No. 0471), 57.8%
World Whisky | $156
A heavily peated whisky finished in a single rum cask. Very smoky with a lot of heat, but a balanced depth. Quite meaty on the palate. Heather honey, supple leather, English peppercorn sauce, and salted vanilla wafers, with incense hanging in the air. Charred apple skins and red berry fruit keep this from being out of balance. Boysenberry, lavender, and smoke on the finish. Very forceful, but complex and intriguing. If beefeaters didn’t already have a drink, they’d probably drink this. (360 bottles; U.S. only)
Exclusive Malts 2006 (distilled at Linkwood) 11 year old, 58.2%
Single Malt Scotch | $100
The nose is pleasingly floral, with soft spice, malt, heather in bloom, and even a suggestion of violets. Well textured on the palate, oily and nutty, with tropical fruits, honey, milk chocolate, vanilla, and malt. The finish is lengthy, with a hint of citrus and warming spices. (Cask no. 69; 287 bottles)
Thor is the first in Highland Park’s new cask strength Valhalla Collection, with a fresh expression inspired by the Nordic gods due to be released annually over the next four years. Ginger, sherry, Christmas spices, wood smoke, vanilla, and a hint of lemon on the complex, confident nose. Notably spicy in the mouth, with peaches, clotted cream, sherry, and more smoke. Long in the finish, with lots of ginger, a little aniseed, and finally, spicy peat.
The Exclusive Malts (distilled at Glen Garioch) 20 year old 1994 (cask #15), 56.6%
Single Malt Scotch | $160
An old-style whisky that harkens back to a time when Scotland wasn’t sliced and diced by region, but defined by style. This is meaty with a capital M, with a rich, oily, deep character. On the palate it’s big and beautiful, with salt, oyster shell, honey, roasted green pepper, smoke, dried fruit, beef jerky, leather, and oak. Earthy peat smoke dances throughout, giving support but never stealing focus. This is about as masculine as Highland whisky gets. (U.S. only)
Kirkland 18 year old Sherry Cask Finish Speyside, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $54
Another Kirkland with evident sherry: raisins, figs, sugared almonds, leather, and pistachio-studded chocolate show up in full force, along with a note of rancio indicating its age. Additional flavors of nougat, orange oil, candied violets, and ginger swish into a full, rounded finish that settles in for a lengthy stay. This comes from the same undisclosed distillery as Kirkland’s 20 year old. (Costco)
WhistlePig The Boss Hog 12 year old Single Barrel, 67%
Rye Whiskey | $150
Brighter, bigger, and cleaner than its 10 year old stablemate (sty mate?), The Boss Hog squeals delightedly with spring flowers, fall fruit stands, heavy spicy cloves, and delicate esters. The alcohol tickles your nose but is soft on the palate, where fresh-baked rye bread mingles with dusty rye flour and Werther’s caramels. Fruity currents rise over sweet hot chocolate before the sweet spiciness returns for a long, slow fade. Great cask-strength whiskey with no need for water.
This limited edition was distilled in 2004 and aged in eleven first-fill bourbon barrels. Warm lemon juice, rock pools, new tweed, and new leather, plus peat smoke and charcuterie on the nose. The palate is robust, sweet, and fruity, with spicy orange, vanilla, caramel, and earthy peat. Long in the finish, with light tannins and peat coated with stewed fruits. (420 bottles for U.S.)
Like an old confectionery shop, with fruit Life Savers, marshmallow, pear drops, coconut oil, and cherry notes. Ideal for those with a sweet tooth, it doles out tangy citrus, lemon peel, strawberry bubble gum, then evens out with a creamier mouthfeel and more red fruits; red currant and cranberry. Tangy and moreish once you weather the sugar rush, concluding with a lengthy finish of ripe fruits after a spicy flare.
An array of flowers and fruits tumbles from the glass: lilacs, orange blossom, lemon oil, raspberry, blueberry, shelled walnuts, and a hint of licorice. Very light-bodied, but with entrancing candied citrus peel, bubble gum, and strawberry candy flavors, along with sherry cask notes of walnut, hazelnut, milk chocolate, raisin, and ginger. Sweet oak and berries on the finish, which is light but lengthy. (Total Wine & More)
The bright, sunny welcome of the rum cask greets you as you raise the glass to your nose. Honeycomb, golden syrup, fresh bread, and dry, powdered-spice aromas. The satin smooth palate boasts sweet melon and honey, developing caramel and orange oils, with a tail that turns slightly nutty. Worth a comparative tasting against Teeling Small Batch, this is an Irish whiskey to take you through the summer.
Like previous releases in the Cask Strength series, this was matured in a mix of oloroso and Pedro Ximénez sherry casks. The nose offers honey, soft sherry, eucalyptus, and cherry blossom. Supple and sugary on the very approachable palate, with nutty toffee, dark sherry, and dark chocolate-coated cherry liqueurs. Long and spicy, with ripe plums in the finish.
Similar to Laphroaig Quarter Cask, but also finished in oloroso sherry casks. Fruit and smoke: fleshy red berries, red licorice, toffee, ripe barley, coal tar, sun-baked seaweed, peat smoke, and a hint of coffee grounds. Tarry finish. I rated the Quarter Cask a 91, and I think this whisky is similar in quality. If you like sherry-influenced whiskies, then go for the Triple Wood. If not, then consider the Quarter Cask. (Travel Retail and European exclusive)
The latest batch of cask strength GlenDronach should make Aberlour a’bunadh look to its laurels. It is matured in a combination of Pedro Ximenez and oloroso sherry casks. The nose is quite perfumed, with sweet sherry, figs, nutmeg, satsumas, and candied peel. Voluptuous in the mouth, with early bright fruit notes, cinder toffee, and caramel, followed by darker sherry and raisin notes. Lightly peppery and tannic, with plain chocolate. £55
As if this cheeky devil from Douglas Laing wasn’t good enough already! Strawberry napoleon, mint leaves rubbed between finger and thumb, runny honey, fresh peach, and wood whittled on the back porch. The sweet orange starts gossamer light, then it hits the gas: the citrus becomes more tangy, touching blood orange, fizzy sweeties become taffy candy, then sherbet. Eventually pacified, it becomes milky and sweet, with milk chocolate melting on the tongue. A creamy finish like a mother’s embrace. £50
Mossburn Signature Casks Series Speyside Blended Malt, 46%
Blended Malt Scotch Whisky | $40
This is clever. Using Mossburn Cask Bill #2, the whisky has been finished in first-fill oloroso sherry butts with heavily toasted virgin American oak heads. The nose is intense: sweet barley, fresh oak, vanilla, pear, fresh apple, orange peel, and dry wood spices. Silky texture, with citrus, barley, coriander seed, pepper, aniseed, and clove, offering further waves of creamy vanilla, fruit Life Savers, and soft malty notes.
Berry Brothers & Rudd (distilled at Glen Grant) 1972 37 year old, 51.8%
Single Malt Scotch | $289.00
This is quite different from the Adelphi Glen Grant bottling (below), being more cask-driven, but Glen Grant’s clean fruitiness remains, although transformed by age. Its apples are baked, with some added caramelized juices thrown in; we see apricot alongside dried lemon peel, and light, sweet spice. The waxiness here is akin to leather oil, while the oak has sufficient grip to give structure. In time, there are hints of the cellar — burlap and wet earth. Delicious, and best neat. £184
Henry McKenna Single Barrel 10 year old (cask #4535811), 50%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $32
At 10 years old and 50% ABV, you’d expect this whiskey to pack a power punch, and while it does present solid oak and beautiful cinnamon spice, it does so with great finesse. This barrel of Henry McKenna is a great showcase of many classic bourbon notes: caramel, cinnamon, oak, orange, clove, and kettle corn. The flavors are well integrated, balanced, and backed by a wonderfully lush undertone. A solid finish that cools slightly caps off a textbook affable whiskey. (Drink Up New York only)
Irish whiskey and rum aren't a common combination, but Bushmills makes a strong case for it with a 19 year old whiskey finished in a rum cask. The rum's influence is clearly present on the nose, with brown sugar that supports Bushmills’ toasted malt. On the palate the rum's dark molasses complements Bushmills’ chocolate malty goodness. Everything balances out in the mid-palate with the addition of oak, which carries through to a semi-dry finish. Superb integration of unlikely cask mates. (Park Avenue Liquor only)
Amber color, with gold hues. Soft, subtly seductive aromas of creamy vanilla, crème brulee, tropical fruit, oak, and a hint of mint. Light to medium in body-silky in texture at first, then becoming and firm. On the palate, the whisky starts out gently sweet, with creamy vanilla and honeyed malt. Subtle tropical fruit notes arrive mid palate. The whisky then begins to dry out fairly rapidly (this is a 36 year old Lowland after all), as dry resinous notes of vanilla, mint, and herbs reveal themselves. The whisky finishes dry, with notes of soft leather. The way the owners of Auchentoshan and Glen Garioch are handling vintage bottlings now is that specialty retailer orders an entire cask and sells it exclusively. This one is a Sam's exclusive. It's older than the previous, widely distributed 1966 bottling and less expensive too! You wouldn't expect a triple distilled Lowland whisky to age so gracefully. Auchentoshan is an exception to the rule. It has acquired the depth and maturity from extensive aging, yet it still manages to maintain its distillery character and Lowland gentility. Only on the dry finish does it really show its age. But that's a small price to pay for an otherwise very good single cask whisky at a very reasonable price for 36 years old.
Penderyn quotes a respected writer on its website, saying that no one does port-influenced whisky better. This bottling certainly makes the claim. It was a single cask, but there have been others equally as impressive, and there will be more. This is brash, colorful, unsubtle, and a bit daft — so was comedian Tommy Cooper — but still unforgettable and easy to fall in love with. 256 bottles. £146
Exclusive Malts (distilled at Glen Elgin) 21 year old, 50.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $160
This single cask bottling was distilled in December 1995 and matured in a refill hogshead (#258). Warm, sweet biscuit notes on the nose, plus almonds and tangerines. Substantial on the palate, with vanilla fudge and Jaffa orange. Softly spicy, with developing licorice. Long in the finish, with spicy licorice, plain chocolate, and light tannins. (258 bottles)
GlenDronach 1990 vintage 20 year old Oloroso (cask 2621), 57.9%
Single Malt Scotch | $125
If every fan of sherried whisky has a favorite GlenDronach then this is a long way down the road to being mine. It has a dusty dried orange peel, powdery, and perfumey nose, a soft and sweet round palate with a dark chocolate, tangerine, and pink grapefruit heart, and a balanced and gentle finish. This was probably once a hollerin’ maned lion of a malt, but it’s grown old gracefully and it now purrs and growls beautifully. £80
Spicier and darker than their blend, this delivers heather honey, banana peel, cashew, pepper, ground coriander, and bay leaf. Quite light-bodied and delicate to begin with, but the Cognac cask adds fruitiness and greater complexity. Sugary sweet, with tingly spices, honey, cracked black pepper, clove-studded oranges, and tangy marmalade. A finish of bitter orange, pepper, and fondant cream makes this a worthy addition to the Cognac cask revival.
West Cork Glengarriff Series Peat Charred Cask, 43%
Irish Single Malt | $45
An innovative approach to flavoring casks by charring the staves with burning peat, this whiskey develops a smoldering nose of dark chocolate brownies, dry wood smoke, and cocoa sweetness. The impact of the peat is confined to the nose, but it tastes pleasantly oily, with tangy citrus, Jolly Rancher hard candy, chocolate cake, spices, fizzy candies, and coffee notes. The finish of nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, and dried peel rounds off an extremely tasty whiskey. (4,800 bottles)
Matured in bone-dry Alberta, where the angels quenched their thirst with water, not alcohol, and the strength steadily climbed over the 35 years spent in wood. Butterscotch, but no inkling of spirit, yet blistering heat on the palate. Surprisingly smooth, though your tongue simply glows. Water adds complexity: dry grain, fresh denim, dust, peaches, green apples, sweet woodiness, and a long blazing finish. Pretty spectacular. (Taiwan only) NT$22,310
Yes, 23 years is a long time to age bourbon. And yes, there’s plenty of oak influence. But there’s an underlying sweetness that balances the oak spice (with this particular cask; others may vary). Chewy in texture, with toffee, dates, fig cake (with nuts), barrel char, tobacco, leather, and a dusting of cocoa.
Here Jim Swan has taken the bold step of double maturing an already quick maturing spirit, but it works. Blueberries and rich oak are to the fore, while Kavalan’s cherry accents act as the link between spirit and Port. Think rosehips and crème de mures. Thick and liquorous. List price is approximate.
Mesquite-smoked New Mexico single malt. Rich and beefy on the nose: charred brisket, salted meat, tangerines, dark wood, brine, and white smoke. The palate is powerful, oak-forward without being astringent, and very spicy. Walnut, cayenne pepper, and grilled citrus balance out the meaty, oaky flavors. Saddle leather, cherries, and even more smoke on the finish. Tangy, salty, spicy, and malty. A truly compelling American single malt with great structure.
Caol Ila 12 year old Feis Ile bottling 2012, 60.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $133.00
Often overshadowed by other noisier neighbors, it is time to reconsider Caol Ila—and this is a fine place to start. Coming from a refill cask it has a nose of sweet crab, ham with cider glaze, and teasing maritime smoke. The palate mixes salt taffy with top-end peppery olive oil, allowing the flavors to cover the palate while the smoke rumbles along constantly before a salt-laden finish. Superlative balance. Find one of those 620 bottles! £85
Virginia Distillery Co. Cider Cask Finished Virginia-Highland (Batch 2), 46%
Craft Whiskey | $65
Malty and biscuity aromas mingle seamlessly with vanilla, plums, raisins, and chocolate-covered bananas. The Highland scotch in the blend asserts itself with dry graininess and a floral character bordering on potpourri, but is well-balanced with cooked plum and pear, chocolate, ginger, and Fig Newton. Nuttiness and a bit of ash round out a pleasantly bitter-sweet finish that shows impressive length.
BenRiach 30 year old 1976 vintage (Cask #4469), 55.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $400
Beautifully clean and polished on the palate -- it still allows BenRiach’s other flavors to shine through. Ripe, complex tropical fruit notes meld with delicate honey and suggestions of shortbread cookies and toasted coconut. Teasing peat and smoke surfaces from time to time. This whisky is a lot of fun to drink. (800 bottles total; 120 for the U.S.)
A. D. Rattray (distilled at Bowmore), 18 year old (Cask #2075), 53.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $100.00
The fruit (orange marmalade, tangerine, fresh pineapple) is nearly as dominant as the leafy smoke. Sweet notes of nutty caramel, honeyed barley, toffee, and nougat round out the palate. Ginger, cinnamon, telicherry pepper, tobacco, and ash play a supporting role. Lingering fruity, smoky finish. For those who like sherried Islay whiskies.
Quite fragrant, with a thick, oily texture. Sweet notes (vanilla, sticky toffee), ripe barley, earthy peat, licorice root, and a hint of melon and citrus. Very clean and characterful. A lot of fun to drink. Nicely done! I can’t imagine a 14 year old Glen Garioch tasting any better than this. (A Julio’s Liquor Exclusive)
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
Hugely herbal from the start: coriander seed, licorice, dill, and black tea aromas, with some grape and blueberry jam, lemon, and oak. Sweet fruit tempers the herbaceous and mineral palate; layers of cooked berry, Coca-Cola, cherries, lemon oil, and peanuts create a silky, rounded profile, all tied up with generous oak. Finished in Black Bird Cider Works hard cider casks.
Old Line Cask Strength American Single Malt (Batch 1M), 60%
Single Malt American Whiskey | $70
Sweet and lightly smoky on the nose: toasted marshmallow, campfire logs, Sugar Babies, dried orange rind, Nilla Wafer, smoked almonds, and rich hot chocolate. Without water, the proof shows itself, but add a few drops and what was a dry brush fire is now smoked chili-chocolate, cinnamon, black pepper, orange oil, almonds, and a little bacon. Ashy and sweet on the finish, with chili heat, orange, nuts, and chocolate. Potentially divisive in its profile, but its powerful character is undeniable.
This expression of The Dalmore Constellation spent its entire 33 years of maturation in an ex-bourbon cask, with no additional finishing. The result is a nose of ripe peaches and pears, honey, and vanilla. Full-bodied, rich, sweet, elegant, yet substantial on the palate, with pineapples and fudge. Oak and aniseed slowly build, but the wood is held at bay. Long and warming in the finish, with soft spices. Barely drying. Cask number 594; 199 bottles.
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
The oldest Ardmore I have tasted. Smartly bottled at cask strength and not chill-filtered. (The entry level Ardmore “Traditional” is at the opposite end of the age spectrum, tasting quite youthful.) My initial concern with this 30 year old was: would the wood dominate the lovely floral, smoky notes I enjoy so much with Ardmore? The wood is certainly present, but the smoke still comes through. There’s a gently layered sweetness that complements the smoke (toffee, deep caramel, subtle honey), licorice root, bourbon barrel char, coffee grounds, and high cocoa chocolate, with subtle dried citrus and a suggestion of floral soap. Dry finish, with more bourbon barrel char and licorice root. Considering that Ardmore has historically been a blending malt, most of the stocks right now are much younger. This is a rare treat. It’s a wee bit thin in body and a little on the dry side from 30 years on wood for me to rate it in the mid 90s, but it’s still a very enjoyable whisky.
This is not a single-cask bottling like other recent wine-finished releases, but the casks they selected are very good ones. Lovely antique amber color. The Madeira dovetails beautifully with the malt and oak, and it has matured nicely for a whisky less than ten years old. Lush notes of orange marmalade, raspberry tart, and panforte, all wrapped up in rich toffee and a dusting of nutmeg, cinnamon, and cocoa. A dry, resinous, spicy, tactile finish adds balance, complexity, and additional dimension. Smartly bottled at a higher strength. Some of these wine-finished Arran whiskies are impressive. This is one of them.
Although the youngest of the range, this has still spent 24 years in a refill butt. The nose is highly concentrated, with freshly-sharpened pencils and black cherry. There’s also some tobacco and then an earthy, armagnac-esque pruniness. Water brings out a resinous element, supple leather, and fruit syrups, allowing it to retain complexity. The driest of the range with the most obvious grip; for lovers of big, sherried, malts. £225
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
That Boutique-y Whisky Company (distilled at North British) 27 year old, 56.3%
Grain Scotch Whisky | $51
This slippery little rogue exudes sweet popcorn, lemon peel, summer florals, linseed, and Quaker Oats pillows adrift in a sea of butterscotch sauce. Rather tasty; the cask strength alcohol rips through the juicy mandarin and toffee opening, overcoming an active peppery middle section, then relinquishing its grip to leave herbal notes, corn, and fudge. Reverberating lengthy toffee and spice finish. Water brings out more cereal notes and soft orange.
Sweet honey daubed on ripe plums, an abundance of barley notes, black cherry, and a smattering of exotic spices. Juicy notes of cherry, plum, peach, and strawberry, with undertones of peppery spice. The flavor fills out with lovely malty notes, Quaker Oats, and vanilla. The port cask has really complemented the Bushmills character, and this second edition in the Steamship collection is the best in the series to date. (£99; Global Travel Retail only)
A harmonious marriage of fruit and spice. More balanced than last year’s sweet Rum Cask release. In fact, this is one of the most deftly-balanced whiskies I’ve tasted this year. Bramble, ripe nectarine, caramel apple, honeyed vanilla, and golden raisin, spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg. Soft (for Balvenie), lingering, warm, dried spice finish.
A rarely-seen cult whisky made by distilling a 100% malted barley mash in a Coffey still and, in this expression, then aged in a remade hogshead. This is firm and complex on the nose with vanilla pod, crème caramel, and ripe banana. The palate manages to balance the silky depths and unctuous flow with nutmeg and a light cereal grip. Grain, malt, or something else? Who cares? Just seek it out. €155
Despite the vintage statement, this is 13 year old single pot still matured in first-fill bourbon. Apparently, it was MIA for eight years before being bottled. Peeled apples, crackerbread, Quaker oats, ripening pears, cappuccino sprinkles, and lightly toasted spices make for a well-composed and inviting prospect. Enveloping and oily with tarte aux pommes, fruit polos, allspice, and ground ginger. After a brief effervescent fizzle, it expands to become creamier and the spices carry on long after you have swallowed. €350
A blend of straight bourbons at least 15 years old. A fragrant, complex nose of oak, baking spice, cherry pie, cooked pears, and bitter lemon, with underlying notes of cigar box and dunnage house floor. The palate is creamy and sweet, offering caramel, chocolate frosting, coconut shavings, a fruity note of sweet raspberry, and chili pepper. A finish of tobacco leaf, dark chocolate, and more spiciness as a final note.
The trend for finishing Irish whiskey in beer barrels now connects Skibbereen and Castle Island Brewing Co. in Massachusetts, creating this breezy dram with aromas of lemon curd, shortbread, vanilla frosting, and dry spices, with plenty of coastal character. Melon, blossom honey, and peach on the palate, before a real creaminess develops, smudged by gentle spices. The later phase has toffee oozing from lemon bonbons, vanilla cake mix, and more fruity richness. (3,900 bottles)
This straddles the existing Sherry Oak and Fine Oak ranges by being a mix of spirit matured in both European and American oak sherry casks. Earthy sherry and old leather on the nose, with toffee, polished oak, and cherry blossom. Medium to full-bodied, with sherry, orange, cocoa, nutty vanilla, and developing wood spices on the honeyed palate. The finish is creamy, with insistent spices, cocoa, and tangy oak.
This Bowmore has been finished in sherry casks, but without allowing the exuberance of the cask to overwhelm the dram. Instead, there’s concentrated stone fruits, lifted smoke, dried mint, dark chocolate, bitter orange peels, and some smoke. There’s a teasing hint on the tongue of tropical fruits, then a deepening mix of plump dried figs and sultana. Long, layered, with the smoke seamlessly involved, adding accents rather than fogging up proceedings. (Whisky Shop chain only) £70
This limited release was aged in seven cask types—both American and European oak in a variety of sizes—from four Spanish bodegas: Vasyma, Diego Martin, Jose Miguel Martin, and Tevasa. Citrus fruits, ginger, black pepper, light smoke, and rubbery leather on the nose. Ultimately, carnations. The palate is rich, nutty, and sweet, with malt, toffee, sticky sherry, maraschino cherries, milk chocolate, and gentle spice. Long in the finish, with spices and creamy cocoa.
This is from Dutch distiller Zuidam and it's the third exceptional bottling in a row. The PX here refers to the Pedro Ximenez cask used in maturation and this is almost liqueur-like, with plummy fruits, gooseberry, damson jam, and overripe plum. But there's lots going on here on top, with a dusting of cocoa, some perfumey notes, and a sniff of pepper. The jam keeps fighting back though, and there's apricot in there at the end. €75
Jameson Bow Street 18 year old Cask Strength, 55.3%
Blended Irish Whiskey | $200
This whiskey finishes its maturation at Bow St., Dublin, the first time this former distillery site has been involved in any whiskey production since 1975. A beautiful balance between toffee, spice, and oak, this has aromas of concentrated citrus, polished oak tables, caramels, and nut brittle. A supremely smooth concoction of dark nutty toffee, vanilla, pepper, clove, and oak. The strength is epic. Fabulous, rewarding special occasion stuff.
The Balvenie DCS Compendium 1st Chapter 1968 46 year old (Cask# 7293), 45.9%
Single Malt Scotch | $27,620
The oldest of the set shows a shift into a sense of calm and quietude. The dried blossoms of youth are there, still with a little color to them, while a curl of smoke also comes through. Then, out of nowhere, a sudden eruption of tropical fruits, a flaring in the dying light. There’s no oakiness, just a distillery, framed, gently receding. A remarkable dram. It’s almost shameful to discuss cost! £19,000
Willett Single Barrel Cask No. 2504 9 year old, 56.6%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $65.00
Very graceful, with a nice balance of youth and maturity. Gently sweet notes of toffee, fig, nougat, and maple syrup, spiked with cinnamon and vanilla. Dark berried fruit and a hint of coconut round out the palate. Perilously more-ish bourbon with a very easy-going demeanor. (A Park Avenue Liquor exclusive.)
Credit to Glengoyne for coming up with something different. There are just 100 bottles of this malt available this year, with a further 100 or so released each Christmas from the same cask each year until 2014, effectively offering malt enthusiasts the chance to plot a work in progress. Better still, this first effort is one of the best releases ever to come out of the distillery.
The name is spot on; it really is Christmas in a glass, with the almost feminine aromas of rosewater, flowers, candy stick, and fruit giving way to a huge sherry note on the palate. Dark chocolate, cherry, orange, and chili notes combine to offer up a bold and full malt. Some special bottlings from Glengoyne have been over-oaky or marred by sulfur, but not this one. This is clean, pure, and classy. Can’t wait to see where it goes next.
Blue iris, dried chilies, and fresh linen; the corn is sweet and fat, and the aromas integrate more harmoniously than the White and Black expressions. Fresh and fruity, orange marmalade, honey oozing into maple syrup, developing more complexity as the smooth layers shift to accommodate the growing pepper and chili heat ahead of a spicy honey finish. For a 10 month old single cask whiskey, this is remarkably impressive.
This is like a blast from the past, with much in common with the sherried Cask Strength of old, and a welcome treat for any fan of the big, sherried Macallans. All the red berry and blood orange notes are present on the nose, along with cocoa and a dusty smokiness. The palate is full, velvety and chewy, with Christmas cake, oranges, and some nuttiness. Nutmeg and cinnamon fill out the mouth feel, before a long and classic sherried finish.
Signatory (distilled at Brora), 24 year old, 1981 vintage, Cask # 06/656, 60.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $225.00
The distillery closed in 1983, and was replaced by the Clynelish distillery across the street. Classic Brora. Fresh, and exuberant for a 25 year old whisky. Briny, with citrus zest, fruit gum drops, dynamic spices, and a hint of seaweed and smoke. Appetizing finish. All the flavors are well-integrated, and the whisky is very clean. If you don’t have a Brora yet, get this one before it’s gone.
Glenglassaugh has altered its policy of offering single cask expressions of its 40 year old, and replaced these with a vatting of casks to provide an ongoing release program, offered at cask strength and without chill filtration. The nose is pleasingly complex, with ginger, honey, milk chocolate, icing sugar, sherry, plums, and new leather. Resinous on the palate, with pineapple and brittle toffee, then black coffee and aniseed. A spicy oakiness ultimately develops. Drying steadily in the finish, with licorice and oak tannins. £1,200
Douglas Laing Provenance (distilled at Glenrothes) 10 year old, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $104
Deep amber. Big, resinous, and almost heathery, with significant cask influence for a decade-old dram. The aroma is like a cobbler’s workshop: oils, leather, grease, polish, and then licorice. On the palate, there’s the prune notes of armagnac, the sweetness and cedar flavors of old rum, and very Rothes-esque spiciness. Water, just a drop, lightens it a little, allowing the underlying sweetness to show. Not cask dominated, just bottled at exactly the right moment. Recommended. £68
Douglas of Drumlanrig (distilled at Caol Ila), Cask #6616, 1985 vintage, 25 year old, 53.9%
Single Malt Scotch | $150.00
Soft and gentle (for Caol Ila, that is), thanks to the 25 years of aging. Plenty of creamy vanilla and honey to go with the malty foundation, along with coal tar, licorice root, and olive, with a hint of brine, juniper, unsweetened dark chocolate, and tobacco (cigars in a humidor?). Very nice. (A Julio’s Liquors exclusive.)
A’bunadh is matured entirely in Spanish oak oloroso butts, non-chill filtered, and bottled at cask strength. This edition is very rich, with dark berry notes on the nose, hazelnuts, caramel, cinnamon, and orange fondant creams. The palate is full and supple, with polished oak, honey, new leather, raisins, prunes, and a hint of cloves. Very long in the finish, with plain chocolate, black pepper, fruity spices, and oak.
As Arran continues on its trajectory toward introducing an 18 year old expression, just 9,000 bottles of sherry cask-matured 17 year old have been released. Bottled at 46%, it has not been chill filtered. Sweet and fruity on the nose, with ripe pineapples, green apples, malt, and a hint of licorice. Luscious and nicely-textured on the palate. Lots of orchard fruits, sherry, and soft toffee. Mild spice and hedgerow fruitiness in the slightly drying, lengthy finish.
This includes whisky distilled in 2006, 2007, and 2008, and matured in a mixture of bourbon, oloroso, and virgin oak casks. Honey, apple blossom, ginger, and nutmeg on the nose, which then exhibits damp tweed, and finally, hot butter. Sweet on the full palate, with milk chocolate, honey, ripe peaches, almonds, vanilla, and caramel. Quite long in the finish, with zesty apple notes.
Released in February 2015, this cask strength expression of 17 year old Springbank has been entirely matured in sherry casks. 9,120 bottles are available globally. The nose offers sea spray, blood orange, ginger, and discreet sherry. Finally, some peat. The sherry really makes its presence felt on the palate, which is full and slightly oily, with rich fruitcake flavors, soft toffee, coffee, and ripe cherries. The finish is lengthy, slightly peaty, with more sherry, treacle toffee, and trademark Springbank ozone.
Provenance (distilled at Port Ellen), 21 year old, 1982 vintage, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $195.00
One of the last remaining vintages from an Islay distillery which will be missed dearly. This is obviously from a sherry cask, and the peat smoke, sherry, and oak-aging is married nicely here. It a brooding Port Ellen. Notes of peat fires, fig, kippers, toffee, vanilla, and dry oak take turns entertaining the palate. Considering its age, it isn’t excessively oaked, and the Port Ellen character still shines through. If you’re going to track down a bottle of Port Ellen before they get really difficult to find, this one is worth serious consideration.
That Boutique-y Whisky Company (distilled at Glenrothes) 20 year old, 52.4%
Single Grain Scotch | $140
A delightful whisky with a nose of honey, nectarine, fresh apple, sandalwood, strands of lime, and sweet florals. Sipping unlocks flavors of apple pastries and orange peel, before a powder keg of spices explodes on the tip of the tongue. The aftermath has melting fudge, baked orange, and finishes with hot chili nuts. This hits the trademark flavors of Glenrothes, but the cask strength helps to champion the spices. (Batch 6; 430 bottles)
The Whisky Exchange (distilled at Bunnahabhain) 16 year old, 55.6%
Single Malt Scotch | $114
Smoky! Can you get dessert seaweed? Because that’s what this smells of. Candied ginger notes alongside a distinct salinity—think winkles—and in time a hint of verjus, even lanolin with water. The palate shows balanced smoke, paprika, then white pepper. The best smoky Bunna’ I’ve come across, showing maturity, balance, and no rubberiness. In time, there’s notes of old (refill) sherry cask. Released for the 2014 London Whisky Show but still commercially available. £75
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.
Bunnahabhain 2008 Mòine Bordeaux Red Wine Cask Matured, 58.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $95
Bunnahabhain has been marketing batches of peated spirit under the Mòine banner since 2004, and this example is the first to have been fully matured in Bordeaux red wine casks. Damp peat, sweet antiseptic, and subtle raspberry aromas. Lots of red berry notes on the palate, backed by milky coffee, peat, and vanilla. Black pepper and berry fruits in the smoky finish.
Compass Box The Peat Monster Cask Strength Magnum, 57.3%
Blended Scotch Whisky | $188
Dry peats tossed on a driftwood fire with coastal aromas of sun-scorched seaweed beside high tide rock pools comprise this refined dram. A momentary glimpse of lighter lemon, lime, and pineapple is quickly snuffed out by the full strength assault. It’s like pulling the pin on a grenade. There’s a dense barrage of peat moss, worn leather, and cocoa at the death. Ride through it to glory. Possibly the highest ABV that Compass Box has ever given us. £120
A limited edition of 2000 bottles. Thick and syrupy on the palate, accentuated with vanilla and shortbread. You’ll also find pleasing peaches & cream, zingy citrus fruit, along with a hint of nuts, spice, and a pinch of salt on the palate. A nice addition to the 14 year old distillery bottling. Kudos for bottling it at cask strength.
Exclusive Malts (distilled at Royal Brackla) 2006 11 year old, 58.2%
Single Malt Scotch | $100
Distilled in 2006, this was filled into a virgin French oak cask (#310865) and bottled at cask strength after 11 years. Peaches and apricots on the early nose, with a hint of cloves. Ultimately very floral, with vanilla fudge. The palate yields zesty orchard fruits, malt, and ginger. Remaining fruity in the long finish, with black pepper and juicy oak. (286 bottles)
The Exclusive Malts (distilled at Invergordon) 30 year old 1984 (cask #8005), 52.3%
Single Grain Whisky | $220
A rare old single grain whisky from Scotland’s most northern grain distillery. The nose brings together varnished oak, clove, dried orange peel, and molasses. On the palate, an unexpectedly lush mouthfeel supports a flavorful combination of citrus, molasses, and varnished oak. This single grain has depth and character that’s completely uncommon to the category, tasting a lot more like an aged rum. A long, acidic, slightly sour, dry, and spicy finish rounds out a unique and intriguing whisky. (U.S. only)
Part of Distell’s Malt Collection, this 19 year old offering of Tobermory Distillery’s peated spirit was finished in Pedro Ximénez sherry casks for an unspecified period. The nose yields smoky caramel, raisins, and coal soot. Full-bodied, with blackcurrant, toffee, hot asphalt, and black pepper. Black pepper, peat, and chewy oak in the medium-length finish.
After 10 years maturing in bourbon casks, this expression from the 2018 Distell Malt Collection was then aged for a further 2 years in fino sherry hogsheads. The nose offers white wine, sultanas, ginger, and cocoa powder, plus white chocolate and tangerines. The palate is full, with sweet orchard fruits, ginger, and cinnamon, balanced by dry sherry. The finish is medium in length, with black pepper and cocoa. (1,710 bottles)
Blender Aimée Gibson’s experimental batch 7 is designed as a sherry finished Black Label. Beautifully smoky, with dried fruits, charred oak, wood spices, vanilla, cocoa, and bonfire smoke. Toffee flavors, with thick smoke, red fruits, orange, raisin, oak spice, gingerbread, marshmallow, strawberry jam, and dark marmalade. Dry finish with bitter peels, dark chocolate, and some feisty spices. In comparison, regular Black Label is silkier, more integrated, and more peppery. (Global Travel Retail only)
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.
Prune, fig, dried cranberry, malt loaf, flame-grilled peach, a squirt of barbecued meat juices, and dry spices including coriander seed and red chili flakes highlight the PX cask aging of this triple-distilled malt. Big flavors in a good, full bodied dram with juicy red fruits, ruby grapefruit, caramelized orange, milk chocolate, with a thin line of spices and a short chocolate brownie finish.
Even with a refill sherry cask, bright fruit is the main theme to this whisky: strawberry-rhubarb pie, red raspberry preserve, red currant. But there’s honeyed malt for balance, along with suggestions of
coconut macaroon, marzipan, brine, and glazed ginger to keep things interesting. Distinctive. (U.S. exclusive)
The Exclusive Malts 8 year old (distilled at Laphroaig) 2005 vintage (Cask #484), 55.9%
Single Malt Scotch | $85
This whisky shows no signs of immaturity considering its age. Indeed, enjoying Laphroaig young and at a higher strength is the best way to appreciate the distillery’s true character. Very medicinal and “closed up” neat, but comes alive with a splash of water. Powerful notes of tar, charcoal, smoked seaweed, and licorice root, mercifully tamed by ripe barley and honeyed malt laced with vanilla. Warm, smoky, charred oak finish. (U.S. only)
It’s a crying shame that this great distillery is so rarely seen. Here, a bourbon cask has reduced the meatiness and amplified the fruity component, but these are fruits with depth and power, allied to dried flowers. The mango-like sweetness is reduced to syrup; there’s light plum jam and some old paper. Sweet on the tongue, with crystallized ginger, apricot, and a finish of spice, and the strange sweetness of licorice root. (The Whisky Exchange only.) £84
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 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)
At cask strength this Clynelish represents House Tyrell. Split green wood followed by marshmallows on the floral nose; increasingly sweet, with a hint of cloves. The palate immediately offers classic Clynelish waxiness, with tropical fruits, honey, and subtle smoke. Licorice, black pepper, and citrus fruits in the medium to long finish.
Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection (distilled at Old Pulteney), cask #06/125, 1994 vintage, 45%
Single Malt Scotch | $100.00
Finished in sauternes wood. I really love how the appetizing notes of Pulteney marry with the sweet notes of the sauternes wine cask. Light-medium in body, but good viscosity. Fresh brine throughout, with honey-drenched melon fruit, pineapple in syrup, citrus, and a hint of cotton candy and lightly toasted marshmallow. A delicious marriage of two high-caliber drinks categories.
Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, Glenora distillery has certainly hit its stride. This clean, grassy 21 year old tastes like nothing so much as a top Speyside scotch. Fresh hay notes and a slightly effervescent spiciness give the feel, but not the taste, of hot black licorice. Barrel notes begin to show in the middle, resolving into a long, peppery, pithy finish. Barrel selected by Mike Brisebois for Casker’s whisky club. Good stuff, Glenora! (Distillery only)
Brenne is from the Cognac region of France and is becoming an American success story, having been launched stateside by Allison Patel, but little known elsewhere. After 6 years in French oak, 2 years in a Cognac barrel, and reduced by the local water to 40%, the result is a delicate, almost floral, eucalyptus and rosewater delight, with honeycomb and sweet spice. Very different from a standard malt, but very good all the same.
A cask strength expression of Kornog showing great maturity, yet born from Glann ar Mor’s small pot stills and condensed through the coils of their worm tubs. The smoke is beguiling; sweet and aromatic with tokens of vanilla and an underlying faceful of Atlantic sea spray. It is sweet, fruit-led—especially mango—though the alcohol never dominates, more like a sunburst through a cloud. The finish is moreish, returning to the salt, which only makes you thirsty for another pour. €95
Duncan Taylor 'Rarest of the Rare' Glencraig (distilled at Glenburgie), Cask #2926, 30 year old, 1974 vintage, 42.0%
Single Malt Scotch | $245.00
Soothing vanilla cream, with additional notes of spice cake, coconut marshmallow, tiramisu, fresh cut grass, and a hint of evergreen. A true "comfort" whisky. Just don’t add any water, because it will fall flat. This whisky is great just the way it is.
Tullamore D.E.W. XO Caribbean Rum Cask Finish, 43%
Irish Blended Whiskey | $26
Rum-finishing specialists William Grant & Sons add to Ireland’s league of existing rum-finished whiskeys. The lush tropical fruit complexity is abundant with mango, passion fruit, dried papaya, and green apple on the nose. Red apple flavors dominate with Demerara sugariness, dried strawberry, egg custard, and toffee chews, before drifting off into sweeter, fruitier territory. Short finish with a shot of sweet nutmeg.
Gordon & MacPhail Cask Strength 2005 (distilled at Caol Ila), 57.3%
Single Malt Scotch | $100
Aged in first-fill sherry butts, this cask strength vintage from Gordon & MacPhail features a nose which opens with savory ginger, becoming more fragrant, plus vanilla, fudge, and warm leather. Oily in the mouth, with ripe cherries, sweet spices, pipe tobacco, and new leather. Nutty and slightly earthy. Citrus fruit, dry spicy peat, and black pepper in the finish.
Irish blends come in many different combinations, but this tongue sizzler is malt and pot still whiskey only. Let the high alcohol blow off the glass to find spring blossoms, pot still spices, honey sweetness, tangerine, macadamia nut, peppercorn, star anise, and fennel seed. A rounded spiced-orange note, assertive spices, then toffee, nut, oak, and herbal tones with a finish of nippy clove and citrus peel. Dilute to taste. (3,516 bottles)
The Irishman Founder’s Reserve Caribbean Cask Finish Small Batch 2018, 46%
Irish Blended Whiskey | $60
An interesting experiment in single cask finishing involved transferring the whiskey into St Lucia rum casks for 6 months. This has dried papaya, apricot, barley notes, hints of sherry, and robust pot still spices. Vanilla fudge sweetness, bountiful tropical flavors of passion fruit, mango, papaya—though never overtly sweet—it still has plenty of spiciness, with later traces of chocolate, café mocha, and nut butters. (380 bottles)
Finished (extra-matured, as they are now saying) in Sauternes casks. This expression replaces the Madeira wood finish. Beautiful sweet notes of honeycomb, sultana, apple pie, and white chocolate balanced by peach, coconut, and pineapple. Gentle background spice. The Sauternes cask adds extra weight and viscosity. The sweetness is not cloying, nor does it dominate the flavor profile. A good demonstration of the benefits of wood finishing.
Amber in color and again some fresh fruitiness, this time mixed with a little cereal. The same dry grass you get on the 1981, but here there’s a nutty, biscuity edge above that meaty solidity. The palate shows slight oiliness and roasted red pepper, that changes into blackberry as it opens. Needs roughly the same amount of water to open fully, which also brings out chamois leather and then barley sugar sweets. Clean but rich — that’s Glenfarclas. (A U.S. exclusive.)
A cask strength, single cask bottling available through one UK outlet, this is still worthy of inclusion because it's further proof that India and Asia have the potential to produce world-class malts. This is just 3 years old but it's blemish-free and packed with flavor. Orange, lemon, and berries battle it out with jasmine, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and although my sample is marked 'unpeated' and a fully peated version is planned for 2013, there's still some earthiness at the core. Very good indeed. £60
A vatting of different ages of Glenfiddich (the youngest being 14 years old) aged in American oak, then married in virgin American oak casks on which folk from the States had written their hopes and dreams…Awww! Deliciously fruity and clean, it’s all pear juice, crème brûlée, fudge, cool mint, and dessert apple. With water, there’s dusty cinnamon, kiwi, and milk chocolate. The oak acts as a smoothing base for this fruitiness. A lovely idea and a lovely whisky.
That Boutique-y Whisky Company Paul John (Batch 1), 55.5%
Indian Whisky | $129
Thick treacle, chocolate glaze, sooty fireplaces, spearmint, coal dust, roasted hazelnut, charcoal logs, and earthen warehouse floors make quite an impression. It’s shot through with mouth-puckering tart juiciness, plum, fig, and smoke, and though it becomes fatter and richer, the ashy core continues to blow until it finishes, leaving behind char and cocoa. Water provokes some juicy apple notes and sweetens the finish, but despite the ABV, you should experience this at cask strength. Ride the bull! (148 bottles) £89
Duncan Taylor (distilled at Bunnahabhain), cask #7020, 39 year old, 40.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $420.00
There have been several lovely older expressions of Bunnahabhain over the past decade, and this is one of them. The vanilla cream and toffee nuttiness is balanced perfectly by polished oak, bright fruit (apricot, sultana, cherry pits), and subtle anise. There’s a calming quality to this whisky that is very more-ish. All the maturity of an older whisky without the tired, dominating oak.
Virginia Distillery Co. Journey Cask Collection Hibernia 11 year old, 57%
Irish Single Malt | $125
It’s all about the candied fruit in this single malt sourced from an undisclosed Irish distillery: Skittles, grapefruit peel, gummy orange wedges, green apple candy, and Trix cereal on the nose, along with white pepper and ginger. A very sweet palate is well-served by its cask strength, showing clementine, grapefruit, guava, white pepper, and toasted grain. The finish holds nothing back, mixing salted pecans, leathery oak, and white pepper with citrus and grain. 216 bottles
Remember those remarkable 20+ year old BenRiachs that appeared when the distillery reopened which we thought were gone forever? Think again. This new and keenly priced arrival has sweet malt on the nose, followed by mango, orange blossom honey, and Portuguese custard tarts. It needs a little water to calm the alcohol and help to spread an already thick texture along the tongue. A sweetly spicy and creamy hit toward the end. Marked within its competitive set. £60
Brown rice, balsamic vinegar, hoisin sauce, spiced rhubarb, white pepper, and clove make this an intriguing and appetizing olfactory experience. The palate is fruitier, with dark citrus, stewed apple, star fruit, taffy candy, and orange Jell-O, drifting to light pepperiness and aniseed. A drying aftertaste homes in on orange peel, with some late spice contributions. Complex flavor combinations make this a great exploratory whisky for seasoned enthusiasts. (440 bottles)
The Maltman (distilled at Ben Nevis) 17 year old, 49.3%
Single Malt Scotch | $130
This 17 year old independent bottling of Ben Nevis has somewhat unusually been matured in a fino sherry cask, rather than the more common oloroso or PX. The nose offers initial milk chocolate notes, then a whiff of cold roast pork and oak. In time, strawberry and mango aromas appear. The mouthfeel is pleasingly full, decidedly gingery, with caramel and dry sherry. Spicy, mild sherry and raisins in a long, lively finish.
Maraschino cherries, red currant, oak bark, and wet slate on the nose after 6 months of finishing. Light, clean opening with cherry and strawberry; a little fig and raisin bring depth. Hints of clove and aniseed dart about, then more oak swells up, though the red fruity sweetness stays in control. A smooth finish of fruit chews, with those spices burning brightly deep in the back of the throat. (769 bottles)
Finished in a rum cask. Gently sweet (caramel, vanilla cream, kiss of honey), with balancing fruit (lime, kiwi, green grape) and spice (white pepper, brine). Youthful (but not immature). Invigorating briny finish. I don’t know what kind of rum cask was used, but it comes across more like sugar cane juice-based rhum agricole than the molasses-based rums. Very nice! (A Park Avenue Liquor exclusive.)
This cask strength, 29 year old 1982 expression in the Wemyss Malts range is the company’s first bottling of a single malt distilled at the Northern Highland distillery of Teaninich. Just 201 bottles have been released. The insistently fruity nose features overripe pears, heather in bloom, soft fudge, salted popcorn, cinnamon, and ginger. Soft and peachy on the palate, with darker spice notes, walnuts, and plain chocolate. The finish is lengthy, with more plain chocolate and some spiced oak. £110
The Whistler 7 year old Natural Cask Strength, 59%
Irish Single Malt | $77
This dials up the aromas so high it could freshen up a stadium. After a riot of bright fruits, paradise slice, nutmeg, cinnamon, dates, and raisin, the palate becomes awash with apple and rose hip, though the strength makes it a wild ride, the tongue is conquered into submission. Diluted, it shines with vanilla sponge cake, plum, malt, and spicy nutmeg. Beautiful whiskey, just needs to be pegged back a bit. €65
Exclusive Malts 2002 (distilled at Miltonduff) 14 year old, 54.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $140
The initial nose is herbaceous, with green apples, then brittle toffee. Developing Juicy Fruit gum flavors. The palate is straightforward, but full and pleasing, featuring pineapple, fudge, vanilla, and almonds. The finish is medium in length, nutty, with a hint of black pepper. (Cask no. 263; 176 bottles)
Single Cask Nation (distilled at Tormore) 21 year old, 49%
Single Malt Scotch | $165
This was distilled in February 1996, matured in a second-fill bourbon barrel, and bottled in April 2017. The nose yields nectarines, vanilla ice cream, fudge, and milk chocolate. Smooth and rounded on the palate, with ripe apples, toffee, walnuts, and ultimately, a hint of lemon, plus black pepper. Nutty and subtly spicy in the lengthy finish. (156 bottles)
GlenAllachie 10 year old Cask Strength (Batch 1), 57.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $80
This is the first batch of the only cask-strength bottling in the lineup and was matured in a combination of American oak, Pedro Ximénez, oloroso, and virgin oak casks. The nose offers gingersnap, melon, and cocoa powder, becoming floral in time. Bright fresh fruits on the palate, notably apricot and mango, with honey. Drying slowly, with a sprinkling of black pepper. (2,400 bottles for U.S.)
The (sadly mothballed) Karuizawa distillery is at the opposite extreme to Eigashima. Peated malt, small stills, and sherry casks give a single malt of uncompromising weight and solidity. Those of you who thought Japan was all about the ethereal and limpid, think again. In musical terms, if Eigashima is the Modern Jazz Quarter, then Karuizawa is late period Coltrane, or if you prefer, it’s Black Flag to Eigashima’s Carole King.
Anyhoo, did I mention this bottling (like all of this quartet from Number One Drinks) is green? Or at least has a color akin to tarnished silver? The note is all chicory and coffee, earthiness and cardamom - whisky reduced to some weird essence by long maturation. The effect is one of an old-fashioned cough medicine (with less laudanum).
The palate is explosive with masses of camphor, tar, licorice, and squid ink. This is Japanese whisky at its most extreme, and fainthearts should not venture here. Those with a taste for the big and the bold will love it, however. £130. Price in US dollars was converted at time of review.
Glengoyne 26 year old single cask #384 distilled 1987, 54.6%
Single Malt Scotch | $557
This 26 year old single cask Glengoyne was matured in a first-fill European oak sherry butt that yielded 339 bottles. It offers a nose of sultanas, figs, and vanilla, plus white pepper and a hint of linseed. Succulent in the mouth, the palate yields sweet sherry, honey, and contrasting lemon juice and pepper. The finish is lengthy, but dries rapidly, with lively pepper, oak tannins, and a final fatty note. £350
Rather than the customary bourbon cask, this was aged in refill European oak butts. The nose is delicate, with brittle toffee, vibrant orange, pineapple, and a hint of barley. Mellow and fruity on the palate, with apricots, soft toffee, and table salt. Gingery oak and cocoa in the lengthy, slightly minty finish.
Exclusive Malts (distilled at Ardmore) 14 year old 2000 Cask #233, 54.3%
Single Malt Scotch | $130
If you needed proof that Scotch whiskies don’t fit neatly into established categories, look no further than this marine style, peated Highland malt. Sea salt, oyster shells, and light smoke lead the nose, with hay and apricot underneath. In the entry, the flavors burst on the palate with sea salt, honey, malt, oak, and smoke. Peat smoke really builds in the mid-palate but manages not to lose the supporting flavors, although it becomes the real star of a long finish. (U.S. only)
A limited-edition (600 bottles), cask strength version of Angel’s Envy. More alcohol and more portwood influence than that standard release. Rich and lush in texture, with a sweet personality. Notes of ripe berried fruit, maple syrup, honeyed tangerine, vanilla, and background spice. Distinctive, with a soothing, velvety finish. I’d prefer less port influence, more aligned with the standard release, but it’s still a very enjoyable bourbon. Best after dinner, with a cigar.
A zeitgeist Johnnie Walker fine-tuned for the American palate, this blend has a moreish nose of cinnamon, cocoa, and the toasted coconut of macaroons, mingled with strands of smoke, dried walnut, nutmeg, and an array of spicy rye anchored by a concentrated line of vanilla. Lots of American oak at play here. It’s elegant, dry, and smooth with vanilla, cinnamon, coconut, and flashes of spice. It’s fabulous sipped straight up but keep walking to the finish. Value Pick.
The second Kilchoman to be fully matured in port casks, this expression is a vatting of 30 ruby port casks, filled in 2014. The nose offers milk chocolate sprinkled with white pepper, sweet red wine, and ultimately, smoky citrus fruit. Big red berry notes lead on the palate, followed by ginger and spicy peat. Tangy red currants and bonfire smoke in the relatively long finish. Impressive for its age. (10,000 bottles)
What happened when Warenghem Distillery’s David Roussier finished some of his famous Breton whisky for 2 years in a Dartigalongue Armagnac cask from the oldest Bas Armagnac production house? Sweet apple, pear, vanilla, lemon peel, and marzipan appear. A drink that awakens intense citrus sensations of marmalade, mixed peel, lemon and orange segments, followed by a light snap of pepper, gooseberries, nectarine flesh, and a lemony finish with hints of oak.
A new addition to the permanent Balvenie range. Lovely bright gold color. Layers of sweetness (the characteristic Balvenie honey, along with vanilla fudge, nougat, and rich toffee) peppered with dried spice and a hint of tropical fruit (papaya, guava, tangerine). Nice viscosity with good grip on the finish. I really like the balance and complexity of this whisky. A very solid effort and the price is right.
Bright gold color. Soft aromas and flavors of delicate honey, heather, subtle spice, tropical fruit, creamy vanilla, and malt. Nicely balanced throughout the palate and very clean-this whisky was aged in an excellent cask. There are no off flavor notes from the wood at all, nor is it too woody on the finish. Rather, it finishes soft, gentle, and clean.
Murray McDavid Mission IV (distilled at Highland Park), 1979 Vintage, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $210.00
Clean and fragrant on the nose, with aromas of dried heather, germinating barley, and white chocolate. Soft, sweet malt along with honeycomb, crème brulee, and a hint of fruit puree. The palate is soothingly malty, delivering what the aroma promised (first the sweet notes, then dried heather and spice), with a dry, polished oak finish. The extra aging adds depth, and the cask was obviously a good one, with no hint of being tired or old.
Yellow gold color. Fresh, floral aromas (reminiscent of a spring garden), creamy vanilla, honey, heather, subtle fruit, and a hint of toasted oak. Elegant and nicely balanced. Medium in body, but richly so. Richly flavored, too, and nicely balanced, with notes that echo the aromas. In fact, this is one of the most balanced whiskies I've had in quite a while. A hint of salt, spice, and seaweed on the finish linger on indefinitely. This whisky is a pure joy to drink and demonstrates why Highland Park is so highly regarded. The fact that it was aged in a bourbon cask allows this whisky's more subtle notes to be fully appreciated. Quite delicious!
Lark is on Australia’s frontline, but this is a hard sell. This is big bucks for untried whisky. No doubt though, this is history in the making. There’s a big cinnamon and nutmeg kick to this, and with water, a rootsy, sweet apple core and a menthol hit wrap themselves around flavors of crab apples and dates. It’s different, easy to like, and exciting. Australian whisky is on a roll. AUD220 (Not available in the U.S.)
This whisky is slowly making its way around the world, but it was worth the wait, as master blender Colin Scott’s use of mizunara oak makes for an impressively different nose from Chivas Regal 12 year old. Pecans, sandalwood, coriander seed, honeycomb, peanuts, and rich oak aromas herald a warming dram with fabulously developed orange zest and vanilla toffee flavors, before a more assertive finish of dark toffee and tenacious spices.
Douglas Laing Queen of the Hebrides (distilled at Laphroaig) 18 year old, 50%
Single Malt Scotch | $181
The first expression in Douglas Laing’s new Old Particular Consortium of Cards Single Cask Scotch Whisky Collection was sourced from a single refill butt. The nose offers sweet peat, toffee bonbons, brine, beach tide lines, and antiseptic. Finally, a sooty chimney. The palate is zesty, with ashy peat, asphalt, chili, and citrus fruit. Dark chocolate, more soot, and extra chili in the very long finish. Quintessential Laphroaig! (665 bottles) £140
Last year’s cask strength version was 55% and way too young. There is also a view that the early stages of maturation in port are not only inconsistent, but can be negatively wayward. No such problems here. This is no longer an ugly duckling but a young swan: rich fruitcake, fresh summer fruits, and a charcoal undercarpet that helps quash the overly sweet notes. This then is the world's most improved whisky. A$170
Mossburn Signature Casks Series Island Blended Malt, 46%
Blended Malt Scotch Whisky | $50
Smoke and spice and all things nice. With Mossburn Cask Bill #1, the blenders created a finishing cask using first-fill bourbon staves with heads of heavily toasted virgin European oak. Baked citrus with some fresh grapefruit sharpness, raw butternut squash, and a cool line in salty smoke. The palate riffs off wine gums, citrus, savory smoke, bitter roots, pepper, and clove, leaving a long, smoky finish.
Southern Coast Distillers is part of a new wave of distillers in Victoria, South Australia, and unlike many fledgling distilleries who bottle too early and learn their trade in public view, with blemished, linseed-sappy malt, this distillery has hit the ground running and is already making fabulous whisky. There isn't an off note here, and it combines lemon sherbet bonbons, honeyed vanilla, bitter dark chocolate, licorice, and some pepper. Delightful. A$110
Duncan Taylor (distilled at Mosstowie), cask #5814, 30 year old, 48.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $275.00
Part of the “Rarest of the Rare” collection. Mosstowie was a limited production using Lomond stills for a brief time at the Miltonduff distillery. Very pale in color for a 30 year old whisky, and creamy on the palate. A very clean whisky. Bright fruit (apricot, lemon, sultana) and vanilla are the main flavors, with more subtle grass and hay notes. Soothing finish.
Duncan Taylor (distilled at Glenlivet), cask #2831, 39 year old, 44.7%
Single Malt Scotch | $305.00
This whisky fits the profile of other extra-matured Glenlivet whiskies I’ve tasted. Notes of coconut and other assorted tropical fruit, old rum, caramel custard, shortbread cookies, vanilla malt, and a hint of cotton candy. This is all balanced by polished oak. A soothing, rather sweet whisky (which is quite surprising for its age).
First of two bottlings. The Old Hobart distillery used 100-liter sherry French oak quarter casks to create this beauty. Hediard fruit jellies (blackcurrant, quince, and mango), nutmeg, cassia, hot sand, and caramelized biscuits. The sherry gives a willowy soft opener, with tobacco, bitter plums, and Earl Grey tea bleeding out to dark toffees, espresso, and a Flemish biscuit note. Water produces a cappuccino finish. For the alcohol content, the pair are similarly priced, but this one offers greater rewards. £189
The initial Glenrothes 1995 was released in 2011. This edition comprises first-fill American oak casks seasoned with dry oloroso sherry. Significant sherry cask influence early on the nose, with a savory note, rich fruitcake, cherries, malt, and developing vanilla custard. Supple in the mouth, with honey, berry fruits, and citrus notes. Spicier in time. The finish dries slightly, with cinnamon and a sprinkling of black pepper.
Identifiably richer, fuller, and smokier on the nose when compared to other young Ardbegs. While still prominent, there’s slightly less brine and seaweed, more earthiness, tar, soot, espresso, tobacco, grass, and chocolate fudge. The same goes for the palate. It starts out like a “slightly more gutsy than normal” cask strength, young Ardbeg (e.g., Renaissance) and, if you go into this experience expecting to be totally blown away by peat, tar, and smoke, you might feel a bit under-challenged initially. But the peat eventually builds to a powerful, lava-like crescendo and you realize that this is no ordinary Ardbeg. The length of the finish is seemingly endless; bold and warming. Through all this, there’s a soft underbelly of ripe barley and a vanilla sweetness to balance at least some of the tar, heat, and smoke -- something I admire in many Ardbegs. Bottom line: It’s an interesting, entertaining, and eye-opening experience. I like how mature it tastes for a relatively young whisky. But, like a whisky that shows just a bit too much sherry or oak, I think the extra peat, to a degree, masks the subtle complexities I admire in some other, lesser-peated Ardbegs, which is the only thing keeping me from scoring this whisky in the 90s. All smoky whisky enthusiasts should endeavor to try this at least once.
Exclusive Regions Islay (undisclosed Islay single malt), 50%
Single Malt Scotch | $55
A non-chill filtered single cask bottling from The Creative Whisky Co. This is a classic ‘full-on’ yet well-balanced Islay, with a nose of sweet peat, lemongrass, iodine, and brine. Ultimately, a whiff of aromatic pipe tobacco. Sweet fruit notes on the palate, developing smoky peat, and barbecued meat. Long in the finish, with spicy licorice, chili, and peat embers.
West Cork Glengarriff Series Bog Oak Charred Cask, 43%
Irish Single Malt | $45
Irish bog oak can lie preserved under the turf for thousands of years. The whiskey’s nose is cool and clean, the smoke refined and rather elegant, with aromas of Brazil nut shells, fine Madagascan chocolate, and dark, unlacquered walking canes. Rich and sweet with chocolate orange, fiery spice, ginger cake, menthol, and root ginger, crumbling into bitter orange peel, bark, molasses, and coffee grounds. Finish of bitter roots and ginger. (4,800 bottles)
The third cask strength release and, like all Angel’s Envy bourbons, this one is finished in port barrels. When compared to the standard bottling, this cask strength release is packed with more of everything. It’s lush and palate-coating. Fruit forward too, with honey-coated cherries, sultana, ripe peach, pineapple in syrup, peppered with clove and vanilla, and wrapped in a silky smooth finish. This whiskey pushes the envelope of port finishing.
I tried this alongside the ‘legendary’ 2013 which, while good, remains too tannic for me. This though, has refinement and some complexity, with roasted tea, scented wood, resin, new brogues, and then the fruity Yamazaki undertow. In time you’ll get perfumed, incense-like sherried elements. It’s the finish where things take off into rose petal, strawberry, and Yamazaki’s pineapple signature. Water increases the tannin. Better than 2013, but still only for sherry bomb and tannin lovers.
Spicy rice crackers, plum sauce, bramble jelly, fragrant oriental spices, and the polished leather of new shoes from this single cask, sherry-matured rice whisky. The syrupy texture bursts with juicy red fruits, plum, red currant, pomegranate, and cooked peach, all bolstered by peppercorns and ground ginger. An enchanting harmony is struck between the fruits and the spice, though the finish is short, with sherry notes and spicy remnants. (660 bottles)
Colkegan Apple Brandy Cask Finished Single Malt, 46%
Craft Whiskey | $65
Soft and juicy aromas of ginger juice, apple tart, strawberry shortcake, and light, sweet smoke. Very aromatic, with lots of citrus, clove, and cinnamon. Orange Creamsicle on the palate, with a good deal of apple, poached pear, marmalade, and light smoke. Salted butter, gentle oak, and wispy smoke keep this in balance. A good harmony of flavors.
Having previously released bottlings that were fully matured in sauternes casks, Kilchoman has now launched one where initial maturation took place in bourbon barrels, followed by 5 months of finishing in sauternes hogsheads. Unpeeled Jaffa oranges on the initial nose, floral, with a whiff of iodine and earthy peat. Tangerines, milk chocolate, lively spices, and bitumen combine on the palate. The finish is long, smoky, and perpetually spicy.
Exclusive Malts (distilled at Linkwood) 14 year old 1999 Cask # 978, 55.8%
Single Malt Scotch | $105
From a Speyside distillery whose malt is more commonly found in blends. An enticing and complex nose balances sweet honey, acidic dried orange, rich walnut, and light smoke. On the palate these elements come together well with complexity and balance. Things get spicy in the mid-palate, with black pepper, salt, ginger, and a bump in smoke. A long finish rounds everything off, showcasing smoke and orange. Lots of character and flavor for an uncommon malt. (U.S. only)
Rye spice is the first thing on the nose: cinnamon-spiked hard candy, hot and juicy. Beautifully oily and bitter rye character slides across the tongue on a wave of sweet caramel and vanilla. Young, but in the eager intensity of rye, not the clumsy heat of bourbon. Rye shines here, from the first whiff to the last bitter curl on the tongue, and the wood deftly sweetens and soothes. Nicely done.
A lovely example of what not chill-filtering can do for a whisky. Meticulous cask selection also helps play a part here. Very straightforward on the surface (no surprises), but with vibrant, well-defined flavors and a comforting creamy texture on the palate. Bright fruit defines this whisky (lime, kiwi, ripe melon, sultana, fresh peach), accompanied by honeyed malt, heather, and a hint of spice and smoke. A fun whisky, suitable for many moods and occasions. (A Park Avenue Liquor exclusive.)
Signatory (distilled at Aberlour), 20 year old, 1990 vintage, (Cask No. 101777), 56.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $110.00
Matured in a bourbon hogshead. Floral nose. Soft, creamy, and elegant, with honeyed malt, custard, subtle butterscotch, and delicate fruit (orange, peach) peppered with spice (powdered vanilla, nutmeg). Well-balanced, gently dry, and easy drinking. A charming whisky (for a lazy Sunday afternoon, perhaps?)
BenRiach’s latest release was matured in a combination of four diverse cask types: bourbon, virgin oak, Pedro Ximénez sherry, and red wine. The nose offers tangerines, milk chocolate, and spicy vanilla. Peaches, Brazil nuts, raisins, dates, and more chocolate on the palate, with red berries in the background. The finish is medium in length, with cocoa powder and ginger. £125; Not available in the U.S.
Primary maturation took place in an ex-bourbon cask, then from 2006 in a cask sourced from the vineyard of Chateau Haut Marbuzet, previously used to hold Cabernet Sauvignon. A final three years were spent in a newly-emptied bourbon barrel. Gingerbread, summer berries, and fig rolls on the nose. Fudge and vanilla. Black cherries, raisins, lots of lively spice, and a red wine ‘edge’ in the mouth. Freshly-baked ginger cake in the long, spicy finish. Cask number 10; 223 bottles.
After initial maturation in American white oak, this 1991 expression was filled into a 15 year old Lepanto brandy cask from Gonzales Byass in May 2003, ultimately being re-racked into a fresh ‘distillery run’ bourbon barrel in August 2009. Caramel and white chocolate on the nose, malt, fudge, cinnamon, and nutmeg, then burnt treacle and hot brandy. Malt, sweet spice, almonds, bananas, and fudge on the palate. Spicy fruits in the lengthy Armagnac-like finish. Cask number 1; 233 bottles.
Although from a refill, the mahogany color suggests a short previous use. Some nose burn, with a mature edge of leather and dark chocolate. Here’s Glenfarclas in a darker guise, with raisin and a savory aspect; think roast pheasant and walnuts, lamb and mint sauce. The palate is big, thick, and sweet with lots of extract, but also Turkish delight, sultana, and prune. While sherried, it’s not in any way overcooked; the tannins are balanced, the sweetness massive. £625
Wayne Gretzky’s distillery makes serious whisky. A large, copper Vendome column and a Heriot-Watt graduate distiller make for some pretty fine spirit that will eventually fill Gretzky bottles. Sourced for now, this rich, round, and creamy whisky is finished in ice wine casks from Gretzky’s vineyards. Cinnamon-tinged ripe red apples and kiwifruit in sultana syrup, with baking spices and hot white pepper fading into mild barrel notes.
Cut-open pomegranate, dried cranberry, and rose petals hint at the port cask influence on this whiskey. Brisket and roasted spice aromas of cumin, fennel, and coriander. Abundant red fruit flavors of cherry, redcurrant, and pomegranate are swept along on a wave of brown sugar sweetness, accompanied by flavors of gummy bear, root beer, clove, ginger, pepper, and aniseed. Sweet and spicy finish.
Last year saw the release of the Yamazaki “component” range, examples of the cask types that help make up its single malt releases. Now, Hakushu has joined in. The name doesn’t lie, this is very smoky, heathery, fragrant with orris-like dryness alongside Hakushu’s classic vegetal notes of elderflower, bamboo, and moorland grass. The palate shows praline, ripe lychee, and kiwi working alongside this mix of integrated smoke and clean focus. It also makes a fantastic Hiball.
Blended whiskies have taken a sexy turn for the better, and there have been some excellent attempts to innovate. Indeed, a gap has opened up between main label blends and this sort of thing, which is particularly brave because a world-class brand has let amateurs loose on it. That said, this is massive, with big earthy spice, peat, and sour fruits. There's some youthful sappiness in the mix, too, but it's not detrimental. Brave and impressive.
The Tyrconnell 15 year old Madeira Cask Finish, 46%
Irish Single Malt | $100
Honey, baklava, lemongrass, artichoke, vanilla, herbal stems, and Turkish delight make for a thought-provoking glass of whiskey. Sipping reveals a gentle, fruity delight; this is silky smooth and packed with dried fruits, mango, papaya, vanilla, light caramel, pleasant spices, and as it unwinds, it oozes honey and sweetness. As the honey and peppery spices fade on the finish, a hint of mint appears.
After 21 years in refill sherry, this whiskey was finished for 4 months in their preferred Mallorcan Ànima Negra barrels. Here, they achieve a sublime marriage of the sherry cask and finishing vessel, perfecting the aromas of fresh-sliced fig, sherry trifle, and crystalized pineapple. Tight and dense flavor, offering spangles, apricot jam, fragrant spices, raspberry, toffee, and maraschino cherry. Real quality and depth of character lasting through to the long, fruity finish of dates and stewed fruits. (328 bottles) €195
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
Amber-gold color. Exotic tropical fruit aromas (citrus, melon, coconut), with interwoven notes of almonds, pear, honey, and subtle peat smoke. Light to medium in body, and very delicate in nature. On the palate, the whisky begins sweet (especially honey), followed by a basket of exotic fruit and nuts similar to its aroma, becoming drier and distantly smoky on the finish. This Bowmore Fino Cask, a whisky which has aged very well indeed, is the first of three limited edition 1964 vintage Bowmore whiskies to be released over the next year. The two to follow in 2003 have been aged in bourbon oak and oloros sherry casks.
Berry Bros. & Rudd Classic Range Peated Cask Matured, 44.2%
Blended Scotch Whisky | $40
A pale blend with hidden depths of flavor and a sweet nose of honeyed pear, vanilla, Golden Delicious apples, taffy, and custard tarts, all overlaid with ashy smoke and drifting smoke trails from snuffed-out candles. Pear, apple, clove, and cracked black pepper meet butter toffee, vanilla, and nippy spices. It’s imbued with a pretty smoky flavor for a peated cask, and leaves a creamy aftertaste to savor. £32
Last Drop Distillers (distilled at Glen Garioch) 1967, 45.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $7000
This is the first single malt to be released by the Last Drop Distillers, and the Aberdeen-shire veteran is old-style, well-peated Glen Garioch. Unusually, it was matured in what the bottlers describe as “a bourbon-style remade hogshead cask.” Just 118 bottles are available globally. Fruity and herbal on the nose, with apples, marzipan, ginger, linseed, and a hint of camphor. Complex and distinctive. Surprisingly vibrant fruit notes fill the perfumed palate, with allspice, before it starts to become tannic. Ultimately very mouth-drying, with subtle smoke, and a fatty spice note at the very end.
Compared to classic Grouse, this has more caramel notes, additional sweetness, and a greater delivery of lemon, vanilla, toasted coconut, and finely shredded orange peel. It’s lightly structured, drier, and comes with less-pronounced spices. Sipping reveals sweet light citrus, smooth caramel, vanilla sponge, apricot, soft fruits, and chocolate macaroon bars, with a late development of spice. Sweet caramel hangs on the lips. This is an easygoing, feel-good whisky.
Poor old Auchroisk. Not only couldn’t anyone pronounce it correctly (it’s “Oth Rusk,” in case you’re interested), but in recent years it’s seen its Singleton prefix hijacked by other larger distilleries — Glendullan, Dufftown, Glen Ord — leaving it somewhat forgotten by malt mavens. Part of the old J&B stable, it continues to make a malty/nutty spirit, a style which is also somewhat out of favor in the world of single malts.
Maybe this bottling (in a rather spiffing retro pack) will redress the balance. The color is full gold, and though initially the nose shows the high bottling strength to the max, beneath the prickly heat is eucalyptus oil alongside those signature nutty/cereal notes. But here’s the difference; there’s sweetness, too: toffee and thick clover honey, even a touch of sawdust and pencil shavings before a drop of water brings out malted milk and powdered hazelnut. In other words, there’s plenty of distillery character, but good cask development.
In the mouth, when neat, the needling alcohol slightly numbs the tongue and the effect from start to finish is a bit fragmented. Add water, however (not too much), and there’s a soft, creamy effect across the tongue with praline, almond, and a dark chocolate note as well. Be careful with the water though, as you need to retain the zesty acidity on the finish.
If Cragganmore is sometimes overlooked, then what of this poor Lowlander whose qualities are consistently overlooked? Again, here we have a pale color suggesting use of refill casks, but whereas Cragganmore was reticent to the point of being mute, this is expressive and lively. The nose, with intense floral notes of lilac blossom, freesia, and chamomile, is a revelation. These are backed with a thick, unsalted butter note that suggests that the cask might not have been as quiet as first imagined. Give it time, and out come boiled sweets and a fresh green note, like a just-whittled stick. A hint of wheat chaff and fragrant grasses brings to mind lying in a summer meadow watching the dust motes dance in the sunshine. The mouth is sweet and lemon-accented with a pickup of a pleasant chalkiness on the nose that gives it the suggestion of a fino sherry or Vin Jaune. I like its energy, and feel that the addition of water reduces its vibrancy, so for drinking purposes I’d have a glass of ice cold water on the side. All in all impressive, with just a hint of soap on the finish taking it below the 90 mark.
Cask # 328 was filled at Glenturret on December 16, 1986 by stillmen Hugh Malloy and Chic Brock. After 28 years of maturation, it has yielded 240 bottles. It is exclusively available online at thefamousgrouse.com. Boiled fruit sweets, heather, hazelnuts, old oak, and musty bung-cloths on the nose, plus slight mint. The palate is rich and fruity, with honey, rum, vanilla fudge, and ginger root. Spicy milk chocolate and coconut in the lengthy finish, with non-intrusive oak. Classic Glenturret. £200
Bowmore Tempest (Second Release), 10 year old, 56%
Single Malt Scotch | $100.00
The first Tempest to be imported to the U.S. Aged exclusively in first-fill bourbon casks. With the bourbon cask, and relatively young age, you can really feel all the Islay love. Bracing, with plenty of sea character, along with honeyed vanilla, citrus, floral notes (especially lavender), rumbling peat smoke, tobacco, and resinous oak on the finish. A bit steep in price for a 10 year old, but very dynamic.
The Wemyss range — overseen by Susan Colville — has been quietly building a deserved reputation for being among the most consistently enjoyable single cask bottlings. This new example hails from the mighty Benrinnes distillery, but shows a milder side to its make — there is indeed ginger aplenty, along with cumin, crystallized fruit, and jellied peach, but behind is a deep earthy and slightly leathery note typical of ‘The Ben.’ It’s these bass notes that dominate on the richly chewy palate. Best neat. £51
That Boutique-y Whisky Company (distilled at Cragganmore) 26 year old, 50.2%
Single Malt Scotch | $220
Lemon and lime zest, stewed fruits drizzled in caramel, granola, butterscotch, and refined oak tones on the nose. The meatiness in Cragganmore’s new make spirit has long since mellowed in the cask. Light orange, vanilla, honey, and those nuggets of hard sherbet that spark up on the tongue. The second phase opens up toffee notes, wood spice, flapjacks, and ends with nougat and orange peel. (Batch 2; 130 bottles)
Port Cask is the third and final release in Bowmore’s Vintner’s Trilogy. It was matured for 13 years in bourbon barrels, then 14 years in port pipes. Woodsmoke and blackcurrant on the mildly medicinal nose, with developing sea salt and vanilla fudge. Smoky dried fruit on the palate, with a hint of brine. Old oak, antiseptic, and black pepper in the finish.
This 2014 bottling of Ben Nevis illustrates how good the single malt can be with robust sherry cask maturation. Distilled in June 1998, it was filled into a fresh sherry butt and matured for 15 years before 582 bottles were released. Raisins, prunes, old polished leather, and roasted meat on the nose. The body is full, with the palate offering succulent dark berries, dates, raisins, and plain chocolate. Long and spicy in the finish, with cloves and rum raisin-flavored dark chocolate. £92
This 9 year old Deanston spent almost 8 years in bourbon barrels before being transferred into French brandy butts for a final 2 years of aging. Cognac notes on the early nose, rich and spicy, with toffee, nutmeg, instant coffee, and rhubarb crumble. The palate is sweet, smooth, and buttery, with brandy, honey, and polished oak. The finish dries with licorice and chili warmth, then, finally, tangy dark berries. (3,432 bottles)
Whisky Advocate is moving out into the unknown, turning over the rocks and discovering beautiful and unfamiliar creatures like this one. In tiny distilleries in Switzerland, Sweden, and, er, Swansea, they're throwing the rule book up in the air and creating new whiskies based on how it falls. This has spent four years in a beer barrel and then a year in a port cask, and it's fabulous. Think licorice, aniseed, and cherry-flavored soda. Then add cream, fruit…and yowza! €35
This is 3 years old, Indiana distilled, and has a “ladle” of Maryland spring water added. It includes two rye mashbills—one high, one low—breaking the mold from similar Indiana-distilled ryes. For its youth and strength, it immediately and amazingly feels mature, showing rich caramel, spearmint, and earth. The momentum slows with subtle blueberry rye muffin, black pepper, and cardamom. It finishes medium with a hint of cornbread.
Mackillop's Choice (distilled at Caperdonich), 35 year old, 1968 Vintage, 43%
Single Malt Scotch | $165.00
Caperdonich is always a challenge to find. This one is aged in a sherry cask. One would fear that slumbering away for 35 years in a sherry cask would completely dominate this whisky’s profile. Not this whisky. As you would expect, it is nicely matured, but it is surprisingly clean and well rounded, too! Exotic notes of dried fruits, sultana, subtle (but viscous) honey, sandalwood, and a potpourri of spice (especially cinnamon, anise, ginger). Clean, subtly spicy finish. Slowly sip and savor its delicate pleasures.
A set of two 100% rye whiskeys, triple distilled in copper pot stills, with the difference between them being the type of barrels in which they were aged. One was matured in a new charred cask, while the other one was aged in a used cask. They are packaged in half-bottle sizes (375 ml) and sold as a set for $100.
Dark in color and deep on the palate. Plenty of weight, too. A base of caramel, with warming cinnamon, persistent mint, brandy-soaked apple, tobacco, polished leather, and oak grip on the finish.
The latest single cask expression of 1991 Glen Scotia from Wemyss Malts has been matured for 22 years in a sherry butt, which yielded 807 bottles. The nose provides sherry and cigar boxes, cherries, sultanas, raisins, orange peel, plum pudding, and finally warm leather. Full bodied, with sherry on the palate, plus brine, dried fruit, bitter coffee, and polished old, dark oak. Medium to long in the fruity finish, with salt, plain chocolate, and wood polish notes. £105
A sultry, earthy, fragrant whisky, with black cherry, currants, dunnage warehouses, sherry, ground ginger, dry oak, and chili flakes. Warm and enticing, this displays great structure: black cherry, sultana, and dried fig; a middle phase of cavorting spices that are soothed into a lengthy finish of spicy, rich dried fruits. Plenty of sherry character makes this a delicious find, but it would be interesting to try a less cask-driven expression. (900 bottles for U.S.)
For starters, this new addition to the lineup has a delicious nose of baked Alaska, cotton candy, vanilla, and creamy fudge, along with well-developed notes of toasted oak from the virgin casks. A smooth blend of caramel, banana, peach, green fruits, and hazelnut. It grows increasingly tangy in the mouth, before softening to leave lively peppery spices and toffee to conclude this affordable everyday sipper. (Global Travel Retail)
Bog oak is oak preserved in Irish peat bogs for 5,000 years, and for this whiskey, cask heads made of it are used for maturation. The whiskey is 3 year old Turf Mor, only a year older, then mixed with some older whiskeys, and it's intriguing. This has all the oily, burning dust, smoky notes of a standard Connemara, but the rubbery youthfulness of Turf Mor is gone, and this is sweet, with orange notes, and a long, peaty, sweet finish. € 250
This blend of double distilled single malt and grain has bourbon cask and American oak written all over it. The allure of spice, vanilla cream, cedar sticks, malt, cinnamon, and banana chips draws you in. Burning brown sugar sweetness and vanilla toffee meet the snappy acidity from orange, lime, and pineapple goaded by pepper and cardamom bystanders. Undoubtedly a great session whiskey, so throw away the cork.
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
Virginia Distillery Company Brewers Batch (Batch 001), 46%
Craft Whiskey | $65
Delicate, floral, sweet, and reminiscent of a Lowland malt with its Creamsicle nose. Flavors of papaya, bright citrus, and green tea are nicely balanced with the perfect touch of smoke on the pleasingly oily palate, while the long finish smacks of baked apples, cocoa, and minerality. Wonderfully balanced and moreish, this is a happy marriage of Scotch whisky and Virginia single malt whiskey finished in a cask that previously held Wee Heavy style beer. (1,500 bottles)
A single cask, cask strength 16 year old malt from the demolished Willowbank distillery to celebrate the New Zealand All Blacks World Cup victory, and further evidence that New Zealand is back on track. This is whisky hitting its stride. Creamy and honeyed with a cracked lemon pepper undercoat, it's fresh, and very drinkable, with a delightful sugar and spice combo running through it. Oak only really makes an appearance in the finale. NZ$229
Matured in a bourbon cask. Cardhu has always been a pleasant, but uninspiring, whisky to me. This is one of the best Cardhu whiskies I’ve tasted -- richer and more distinctive. (At this price, it had better be!) It’s clean and tight, with orange, tangerine, lemon gumdrops, ginger, delicate honey, butterscotch, and vanilla, with a dusting of powdered sugar. Straightforward, pleasing finish. (252 bottles) £250
Jim Beam Distiller’s Masterpiece Sherry Cask Finished, 50%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $200
“Extra-aged” bourbon finished in Pedro Ximénezsherry casks. The third Distiller’s Masterpiece release, the previous two being over a decade ago. The PX sherry is certainly evident, with its lush, dark fruit (raisin, prune, ripe plum), marmalade, and
layered dark sugars (toffee, molasses, maple syrup). A peppering of spices (cinnamon, allspice, vanilla) and dry, resinous oak round out the palate. Certainly a mood whiskey. Perhaps with a cigar after dinner? (distillery only)
This is more reassuringly tawny than the standard strength, and the alcohol strength oozes out of the glass. The nose is cleaner and fresher than the standard, with maraschino cherry, freeze-dried raspberries, white chocolate, and tamarind pulp. Neat sips showcase rich dark fruits of blackcurrant, black cherry, and dense chew bars. A dash of water amplifies the sweet fruits with heavenly, dusty aromatics and red, fleshy fruits. Yours for a pretty penny. £189
Mackillop's Choice (distilled at Glen Ord), 21 year old, 1983 vintage, 43%
Single Malt Scotch | $100.00
Lush and fruity-the sherry cask aging is obvious-and it is balanced beautifully by the dry, spicy oak notes. Through all this, there’s inviting notes of ginger, raisin, and a whiff of peat. One of the best Glen Ord whiskies I’ve tasted.
A 23 year old single malt from 1991 finished in French oak Ànima Negra casks from Mallorca, producing a dark, ruby colored whiskey. Rich and earthy: raisins, treacle, strawberry Jell-O, sawdust on dunnage floors, gingerbread, and traces of peppermint. Early creaminess is swept aside by intensely fruity waves of blackberry, blueberry, strawberry, grapefruit, and Seville orange that draw the mouth. Sweet Jaffa cake centers emerge later. Soft, never boisterous, and finishes with dry heat and fig paste (334 bottles). €325
The first single cask release of GlenDronach for the U.S. by the new owners, and a nice one at that. Silky in texture, polished, and clean on the palate, with light toffee, treacle, cherry bonbon, orange-soaked date nut cake, and chocolate-covered raisin. Never cloying, like some heavily-sherried whiskies can be. Silky, soothing finish. Surprisingly soft and youthful for its age. (A Park Avenue Liquor exclusive.)
Tomintoul 12 year old Oloroso Sherry Cask Finish, 40%
Single Malt Scotch | $70
The subtle sherry adds an additional level of complexity when compared to the standard 10 year old, taking Tomintoul to a new level. Rich and creamy, with well-balanced notes of toffee, vanilla fudge, toasted nuts, and elegant fruit. A surprisingly delicious whisky for 12 years old.
Springbank 12 year old Cask Strength 2014 release, 52.3%
Single Malt Scotch | $76
This is the seventh batch of 12 year old cask strength Springbank to appear, being bottled early in 2014. Some of the component whisky was matured in oloroso sherry casks. The nose blends maritime notes with Christmas cake fruits, vanilla pods, and overt sherry. Viscous in the mouth, with cowsheds and soft peat smoke, plus spice, caramel, and a hint of sweet sherry. The no-holds-barred finish presents a big blast of smoke, root ginger, and freshly-dug peat. £45
Like its Ledaig stablemate, this Tobermory is offered non-chill filtered at cask strength. Finishing occurred in manzanilla sherry casks. Orange marmalade, nutmeg, and developing vanilla on the nose. Full bodied, with a palate of citrus fruit and soft spices, aniseed, and developing tannins. Lingering in the finish, with spicy plain chocolate. Ultimately, the tannins fade and leave a fresh citric note.
If you are a scotch drinker contemplating your first Japanese rice whisky purchase, this is the one. Dates, Christmas cake, glazed gammon, red cherry, and muted roasted spices show the quality of the cask. Raspberry coulis and cranberry make for a juicy palate that evolves into caramel, fudge, chili, and pepper. Spices rule the finish, the fruit fading quickly. A great introduction to Fukano single casks. (527 bottles)
Paul John is taking its entry into the world of single malt very seriously, and very slowly but surely. After two single cask offerings to find its range, Brilliance and Edited are its first general releases. Brilliance is unpeated and is a delight: rich, full, young but not immature, and with lime and citrus Starburst chews, sweet candy, and some icing sugar, it trips across the palate. Conclusive proof that Amrut isn’t the only Indian game in town.
One for the fruit fiends: honeyed apricots, tart kumquats, candied pineapple, dried kiwi, and layered spices—ginger, cardamom, licorice—on the nose. More candied fruit, grape soda, bubble gum, dried apricot, and kiwi flood the palate, along with licorice and earthy spice on the finish. Add water liberally—the high proof conceals some of the most entrancing flavors.
Classic Cask 23 year old Caribbean Rum Barrels, 43%
Blended Scotch Whisky | $160
I’m reminded of leafy ferns in spring, sweet melon, green bananas, fresh cream, and a dusting of spice when I nose this blend. A light, green fruit taste of white grape and melon overlaid with runny toffee and banana, before the impression of thick fruit skins, becoming slightly tannic. Light spices and pepper follow with a finish of apple core and rich spice. (760 bottles)
Glenglassaugh has launched its first cask-finished whiskies, matured for an unspecified period in first- fill American oak casks before finishing for up to 2 years in secondary casks. This is the pick of the quartet of expressions, with a nose of fragrant, fruity smoke, hand-rolling tobacco, and new leather. Red berry fruits and woodsmoke feature on the palate, while the finish offers gentle peat smoke, cinnamon, and black pepper. £60
Berry Bros & Rudd The Classic Range Sherry Cask Matured, 44.2%
Blended Malt Scotch Whisky | $41
This is rich in cask characters, with baked orange, pronounced nutmeg notes, mace, peppercorn, and petrichor. The opening flavors of dark orange and syrupy caramel swerve headlong into pepper, root ginger, allspice, and nippy clove. Despite appearances, this is not awash with sherry-dominated fruitiness, but the finish is long, with spice-led dried fruits. £32
A round of single cask Springers matured completely (not finished) in various wine casks for the U.S. market. All four are solid efforts — it’s really a matter of personal preference. A general comment: most of the single cask releases are matured in some sort of wine or rum cask. While this is nice, I would love to see several single cask, cask strength, and fully-matured ex-bourbon barrel bottlings offered for a change.
The freshest of the bunch, chock full of Springbank character. Light and lively. Floral, with plenty of fruit (green grapes, kiwi, apple tart) on a bed of honeyed malt. Nuttiness and brine emerge toward the finish, and linger.
Douglas Laing Directors’ Cut (distilled at Rosebank) 21 year old cask #10146, 53.8%
Single Malt Scotch | $676
This example of Rosebank was distilled in March 1992, a year before the distillery’s closure, and bottled in December 2013. The cask yielded 141 bottles. The nose is light and mildly floral, with ripe pears, honey, and vanilla. Firm and fruity on the surprisingly full palate, with a sprinkling of white pepper, plus summer berries and caramel. Tropical fruit, soft spices, and benign oak in the finish, with a final flourish of licorice. £400
Signatory (distilled at Glenlivet) 25 year old 1980 vintage (Cask #13735), 53.9%
Single Malt Scotch | $160
Very fragrant. Spicy too, with notes of honeyed vanilla, peaches in cream, butterscotch, cinnamon, licorice (red and black), light nuttiness, and toasted oak on the finish. Nice mouthfeel, well-balanced, and quite rich for such an elegant whisky.
Distilled in 2004, this 11 year old sherry cask-matured expression from Glengyle in Campbeltown is one of two final releases under the Work in Progress banner. 6,000 bottles have been released. Fragrant wood fires, fruity old leather, damp tweed, sherry, malt, and autumn berries on the nose. The palate is oily, rich, and rounded, with zesty spice, then peaches in syrup and sweet smokiness. The spices persist. The finish is long and warming with chili, licorice, and worn leather.
Mackillop’s Choice (distilled at Glenlivet) 1977 vintage 30 year old (Cask #19786), 43%
Single Malt Scotch | $180
Once again Lorne Mackillop demonstrates his talent for selecting whiskies with beautiful balance. This time it’s with a well-aged Glenlivet. Sure, it shows many of the notes that I often find in Glenlivet (Speyside elegance, peachy vanilla, tropical fruit, floral and honeyed-malt notes), but I’m also picking up more subtle notes: dark chocolate, licorice root, dark fruit, perhaps even charcoal (especially on the finish), making the whisky a bit more complex and curiously attractive.
Arran Premium Sherry Single Cask (Cask 1979), 51.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $130
Isle of Arran distillers is now offering exclusive bottlings in the U.S. along the same lines as those already available in the UK, starting with 16 year old single cask, cask strength variants. Arran Premium Sherry Single Cask #1979 displays milk chocolate, vanilla, new leather, wood polish, and butterscotch on the nose. More vanilla in time. The palate is richly sherried, with espresso, fruit loaf, nutmeg, and old wood. Lively spices persist in the lingering, leathery finish.