Pappy Van Winkle 15 year old Family Reserve, 53.5%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $100
Sometime recently, the source of this whiskey changed from the now defunct Stitzel-Weller distillery to Buffalo Trace. No matter. This whiskey is still the best of the Van Winkle line. It’s crisp, clean, vibrant, impeccably balanced, and nicely matured. Complex fruit (bramble, candied citrus), caramel, coconut custard, maple syrup, fresh spice (vanilla, warming cinnamon, nutmeg, a dusting of cocoa powder) on a bed of nougat. Outstanding! (Editor's Choice)
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.
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.
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).
Bright gold. Amazingly fresh fruits and quince, slowly evolving into mango, blueberry, and a jammy tayberry note. At the same time, exotic spices like cardamom begin to build, particularly when the surface is broken with a drop of water, while vanilla pod notes develop. In the mouth, the grain smooths all the elements, giving an unctuous feel. There’s just sufficient oakiness to give structure and any smoke is far in the distance. A triumph of the blender’s art. £100,000
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
Gordon & MacPhail (distilled at Glen Grant) 60 year old, 42.3%
Single Malt Scotch | $12000.00
Rich gold. Superb mature nose with subtle whisky rancio, mixing fragrant mango with a little mint, rosewater, and waxiness; there’s even some custard and a whiff of woodsmoke before sandalwood brings back the exotic edge. The palate is delicate with an amazingly fresh acidity that becomes herbal (basil and tarragon). It’s late summer, when there’s a sense of the year turning, and you allow fond memories to gently wash over you. £7,800
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
Duncan Taylor (distilled at Royal Lochnagar) 23 year old 1986, 46.3%
Single Malt Scotch | $200.00
Soft, soothing, and gentle. Layered fruit (bright orchard fruit, honeyed melon, kiwi, pineapple), polished oak, and hay, subtly spiced with vanilla bean, milk chocolate, evergreen, and cotton candy. Bottled at peak maturity. Very more-ish, too! (A Park Avenue Liquor exclusive.)
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.
This is the distillery's flagship brand and it's up there with anything New World whisky has to offer. The nose is subtle, with plum and peach; on the palate there are chewy orange and other citrus notes, honey, coconut, and caramel. The finish is sweet and rounded. A delicate and sophisticated whisky that reflects the rise and rise of this distillery. A$88
Colonel E.H. Taylor Jr. Warehouse C Tornado Surviving, 50%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $70
The third Taylor release, and the gentlest, most even-keeled of the three. Black raspberry, mulberry, maple syrup, oak resin, dates, soft leather, and spice (mint, cinnamon, clove, vanilla) round out the palate. Very drinkable for 100 proof, and with plenty of character.
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
Another that should need no introduction. The thing to look for in Talisker, as with all smoky whiskies, is sweetness that gives the requisite balance to the drying effect of smoke. Underneath Talisker’s smoke, which ain't as all-pervading as Lagavulin, is a sweet pear-like quality. When young there are notes of the land: heather, moor, sweet seaweed, and a finish that has a distinctive cracked black pepper hit.
Penderyn will miss distiller Gillian MacDonald, who has gone to work at Glenmorangie, because it has been moving up the gears of late. This is a traveling circus of a whisky, with all sorts of oral treats to keep you entertained. It's not for the faint-hearted. There are rich stewed fruits, baked apple, blueberries, and spirit-soaked black and red berries all delivered with a power punch. Great. £30
Bright sparks, these Jameson guys. This takes all the worldwide quality and balance of the standard bottle and adds a large dollop of pot still whiskey, providing plummy, rich fruits to the mix. They may have also upped the effects of oak, too, so there's an extra depth to the whiskey. Fans of the brand will love it, and pot still whiskey fans will appreciate an affordable full-flavored blend. (Value Pick)
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
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.