10 High Scoring Whiskies in the Winter Buying Guide

10 High Scoring Whiskies in the Winter Buying Guide

December 27, 2022 –––––– Michael Capace, , , ,

Our Winter issue is always packed with high-scoring whiskies, as it's the time of year when we share our Top 20 list. We taste hundreds of new whiskies throughout the year, considering quality, affordability, accessibility, and x-factor. The result is a list with a wide range in style and price—a collection of exciting whiskies that boast high ABVs, inventive cask finishes, masterful blends, and so much more.

In addition to the Top 20, the Winter issue also features more than 130 whisky reviews. Scotch lovers will find standout releases from Compass Box, Octomore, and Royal Brackla, all scoring between 92 and 95 points. Fans of American whiskey have an 18 year old from Knob Creek and an armagnac-finished bourbon from Bardstown Bourbon Company to consider. World whisky has plenty to offer as well, with English distiller Cotswolds earning high marks, as do a pair of Japanese whiskies from Ichiro’s Malt and Kanosuke. As the year comes to a close, there is plenty of great whisky to taste, with these 10 leading the way in our Winter issue Buying Guide.

High Scores From Whisky Advocate's Winter Issue

Compass-Box-Ultramarine_600.jpgCompass Box The Extinct Blends Quartet: Ultramarine Blended Scotch
95 points, 51%, $375
Well-structured aromas with floral top notes, seasoned oak, vanilla, peat smoke, banana chip, and pecan bars. The interaction of oak, smoke, cigar, and deep-toned wood sugars makes this pretty special. Smooth to sip, with toffee, vanilla, citrus, bountiful fruits, smoke, and spice, burgeoning with burnt heather, toasted nuts, oak char, malty chocolate, coffee, and black fruits. Simply stunning blending. (Global release of 5,430 bottles)—Jonny McCormick

Chichibu-Double-Distilleries-high-res_600-0001.jpgIchiro's Malt Double Distilleries 2021 Chichibu x Komagatake Japanese Blended Malt
94 points, 53.5%, $400
A great deal of olfactory complexity, with aromas of sweet nectarine, clementine, and orchard fruits, plus fine black pepper, vanilla custard, banana peel, green melon, herbal touches, and grapefruit. Sweet and fruity, with apple, vanilla, creamy lemon, Satsuma, ginger, and pepper; it’s weighty with oak, toasted granola, and ground hazelnut. This collaboration, aged at Chichibu, truly packs in a lot of flavor. (10,200 bottles; 300 for U.S.)—Jonny McCormick

Octomore-118_1-PPM-12_3-Edition-Islay-Single-Malt-Scotch-Whiskey-600-0001.jpgOctomore 12.3 (118.1 PPM) Single Malt Scotch (Islay)
94 points, 62.1%, $260
The smoke emerges as soon as the whisky is poured into the glass, even at arm’s length. As it settles, notes of sweet lemon, sea spray, brine, and peat bonfire emerge. The palate is well-textured and the flavors are knit beautifully together, with more peat smoke and embers, vanilla cream, a hint of caramel, and dark chocolate, leading to a long finish of more lemon and vanilla as the peat mellows.—David Fleming

Cotswolds-Reserve_600.jpgCotswolds Reserve English Single Malt
93 points, 50%, $100
Made from floor-malted barley grown in the Cotswolds and aged in first-fill bourbon and STR red wine casks, this knocks it out of the park. Glacé cherry, sultana, baked apple, white chocolate, dried strawberry, and vanilla sponge aromas. It’s sweet and thick-textured, juicy, and drinkable, with flavors of cherry pie, plum, strawberry, fudge, vanilla, and gentle peppery spices, then a deep spicy finish of baked cherries. (1,200 bottles for the U.S.)—Jonny McCormick

kanosuke_2022LE-(1)_600-0001.jpgKanosuke 2022 Limited Edition Japanese Single Malt
93 points, 59%, $200
Distilled from unpeated malt from 2017-19, the nose has baked plum, walnut, baked apple, sultana, and black cherry, with hints of baked orange, cumin, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Substantial and weighty on the palate, with caramels, toffee, baked citrus, ripe plum, and black pepper, then the alcohols bubble up, bursting in slow motion with citrus, vanilla sweetness, and ginger. Master blender Yoshitsugu Komasa achieves a superb intensity of deliciousness here. (6,000 bottles)—Jonny McCormick

Knob-Creek-18-year-old.jpgKnob Creek 18 year old Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon
93 points, 50%, $170
Barrel char, tar, old leather, and tobacco hint at great age. It needs time to open up, but there is a lot going on. Peppermint and vanilla emerge, with marshmallow, maple syrup, and notes of lime and green banana. The palate is thick, offering cinnamon, chocolate, ripe banana, coconut, and candied orange, all leading to a rich finish. Mature, complex, and sometimes skirting to the edge of its maturity, but all turns out well.—David Fleming

Moonlight-Mayhem-Extended-Cut-Cask-Strength-Straight-Bourbon-Whiskey_600-0001.jpgMoonlight Mayhem Extended Cut Cask Strength Bourbon
93 points, 57.5%, $80
The nose is enticing, pulling you in with hazelnuts, powdered sugar, cinnamon doughnut, maple syrup, red berries, hot chocolate, and chocolate-covered Bing cherries. Those flavors follow on the palate, and chocolate becomes the real star here—rich cocoa powder and chocolate-dipped red berries lead the charge. A hot dash of cinnamon spice lingers pleasantly throughout. The finish is creamy and well-spiced and adds just a touch of leather to the mix.—Julia Higgins

Bardstown-chateau-de-Laubade_600.jpgBardstown Bourbon Company Chateau De Laubade Armagnac Cask Finished Bourbon (2022 Release)
92 points, 53.5%, $160
The nose is subtle and seductive; cream soda, angel food cake, tobacco leaves, candied orange, and an earthy hint of old leather. There is a lot to unpack, all of it skillfully arranged. On the palate, almond and vanilla, Ferrero Rocher, green apple, chocolate-covered cherries, raspberry jam, and cinnamon French toast. The finish is dry and fruity, with cocoa powder and vanilla icing. A beautiful union of spirit and finishing cask. Artfully made.—Ted Simmons

Heaven_s-Door-Aged-10-Years-Decade-Series-Straight-Bourbon-Whiskey_600-0001.jpgHeaven's Door 10 year old Decade Series Straight Bourbon
92 points, 50%, $100
A symphony of fruit on the nose, with raspberries, strawberry-banana milkshake, and dried pineapple wafting up from the glass. Stay awhile, and yogurt-covered raisins, cherries, and milk chocolate join the fray. The palate delivers even more chocolate—cocoa powder, chocolate-chip banana bread, and chocolate flourless cake—paired splendidly with baking spices and red fruit. More cinnamon follows on the finish, complemented by a zing of lemon and a delicious dash of cinnamon spice.—Julia Higgins

Royal_Brackla_Studio_21_Bottle_Pack_White_Final_70cl_600.jpgRoyal Brackla 21 year old Single Malt Scotch (Highland)
92 points, 46%, $600
A delicate, delicious nose of strawberries and cream and fresh pineapple, followed by deeper aromas of stewed apples, raisins, and bread pudding. The palate has a smooth texture with more of that fruit coming through, but it’s wonderfully balanced by a subtle funkiness, reminiscent of an old library or a musty attic. There’s fiery cinnamon spice on the finish, but it subsides elegantly into tobacco leaf and a puff of cigar smoke.—Julia Higgins

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