Very similar to last year’s release. Well rounded, with a gently sweet foundation (toffee, vanilla taffy), pleasant spice (cinnamon, mocha, soft evergreen), date, glazed citrus, bramble, and a gentle finish for a rye. A classic ultra-aged rye whiskey.
From one barrel, and only sold in one location, but well worth the effort to procure a bottle. Nutty toffee, pecan pie, apricot, berried jam, and nougat, peppered with cinnamon, mint, cocoa, and tobacco. Warming, with polished leather and dried spice on the finish. Seamless, richly textured, and impeccably balanced. (Exclusive to the Bourbon Heritage Center at the Heaven Hill distillery in Bardstown, KY.)
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
No age statement, but distilled in 1998. The only wheated recipe bourbon in the 2011 Antique Collection, and a very good one at that. Higher in strength than last year’s offering (which was 63.3%), but very similar (and equally as impressive). The most elegant and smoothest of this collection, with layered sweetness (honey, caramel, marzipan, maple syrup), fig, blackberry preserve, hint of green tea, and just the right amount of spice for balance (nutmeg, cinnamon, cocoa).
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.
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
This 1978 vintage release from The Dalmore has been ‘finished’ for two years in Matusalem sherry casks from Gonzalez Byass, following 29 years in American white oak. Just 477 bottles are available. Freshly-ground coffee, marzipan, dark berries, and rich sherry on the smooth nose, with milk chocolate and Jaffa oranges. Smokier with water. Citrus fruits and more milk chocolate on the rich, full palate, plus roasted almonds. Long and juicy in the finish, with aniseed and fruit pastilles.
The most underrated of the five in the 2011 collection, but this year’s release (like last year’s) is very lovely bourbon. Perhaps just a bit softer than last year, but with a similar profile: very even keeled and nicely balanced, with sweet notes (vanilla, toffee, añejo rum) peppered with soft orchard fruit and spice (cocoa, cinnamon, nutmeg, hint of mint), polished oak, and subtle tobacco.
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.
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
Parker’s Heritage Collection Barrel Finished 10 year old, 50%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $80.00
Heaven Hill’s first wood-finished bourbon. Finished for several months in cognac casks (reminiscent of Beam’s Distillers’ Masterpiece offering around a decade ago), which show nicely without dominating. Very silky and smooth in texture. Notes of graham cracker, dark fleshy fruit (ripe grape, blackberry brandy), light toffee, maple syrup on pancakes, and creamy vanilla. Great balance, distinctive, and perilously drinkable for 100 proof.
Adelphi (distilled at BenRiach) 34 year old 1977 Vintage, 48.8%
Single Malt Scotch | $283
Sweet and sherried, with plenty of sugar and toffee, moving into plums and thick chestnut honey. Give it time, however, and a haunting note of dried mango and guava emerges, followed by amontillado-style nuttiness and then beeswax polish. All in all, just what you want from a gently-aged BenRiach. The palate may seem initially grippy, but there’s such a massing of fruits that it copes well. Keep neat for maximum impact. Superb. £180
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
Gordon & MacPhail 41 year old 1970 (distilled at Macallan), 43%
Single Malt Scotch | $700
On more familiar ground with this G&M bottling of one of Speyside’s most iconic single malts, this is Macallan in full-on sherried form. Highly aromatic with powdered clove, hints of incense and fig, behind which is cacao, Bolivar cigar, and molasses. The palate has immediate smoke and surprisingly gentle tannins — the inherent oiliness of the spirit keeping any grip at bay. Very long, leathery, prune-like (think armagnac), and dense. A classic after-dinner mouth-filler.
The first 10 year old distilled by the current owners back in 2001. Lovely marriage of both bourbon and sherry casks, and quite fresh, with a maturity resembling a 12 year old, rather than 10. Smooth on the palate and very drinkable, with creamy vanilla, honeycomb, banana bread, bright lemon, melon (honeydew, cantaloupe), tangerine, candied ginger, and delicate brine. With all the Bruichladdich razzle-dazzle over the past decade, we can embrace this unpretentiously delicious Laddie with open arms.
The initial release in Glenglassaugh’s new ‘The Chosen Few’ range has been picked by customer accounts manager Ronnie Routledge. It was distilled in 1976 and matured in an ex-sherry butt that yielded 654 bottles. Initially, an aroma of Black Twist tobacco and treacle, with sweeter and more floral notes following on. Significant honey influence. Mouth-coating, with sweet sherry and tropical fruits, plus developing honey and spice notes. Oak, toast, and dark chocolate in the lingering, lively finish. £300
So how brave can you be? Would you take one of the world's most iconic blends and risk messing with it? If you've got a whisky maker as good as Jim Beveridge, then why not? This picks up from the regular JW Black and its signature Caol Ila smoke and peat heart and then adds to it, doing exactly what it says on the tin. But the clever part of this is upping the apple, orange, and fruit content too. Great.
Duncan Taylor Peerless (distilled at Glenrothes) 1969 41 year old, 44.2%
Single Malt Scotch | $330.00
Immediately you can tell this is a complex, old, mature whisky — that hint of rancio is there, but there’s more of a beeswax character than on the Adelphi bottling (below), along with the peachiness that often appears in old drams. This is balanced by light coconut, even a hint of grist. The waxiness seen on the nose allows it to cling to the tongue, while the fruits become jellied. Benefits from a drop of water, allowing lemon and vanilla to show. £210