Distilled from 90% rye grain and 10% rye malt, Lot No. 40 boldly mingles the galvanizing piquancy of distilled rye grain with the soaring floral fragrance of malted rye, and a fruitiness born of age. It begins with hard, dusty, earthy rye, and sour rye bread, followed by a trio of baking spices: cloves, nutmeg, and blistering ginger. A farm-tinged sourness fades into citrus fruit with velvet tannins. (Canada only)C$40
A whopping three-quarters of the spirit put in these casks was taken by greedy angels. It has a big waft of crystallized pineapple, tropical fruits, and spiky spice on the nose. On the palate, red licorice, syrupy jellied fruits, some mandarin, cherry lozenge, and tinned strawberries, and the same menthol rancio you’d kill for in a 30 year old scotch. This is Amrut's oldest-ever whisky; it's as rare as hen's teeth…and just 8 years old. Awesome.
From the distillery that received last year’s World Whisky award comes another contender for the title in 2013. This is called 100 because it’s 100 percent rye distilled in pot stills, 100 proof, and 100 months old (a bit over eight years). It’s big, and perfectly balanced between honey and fruit, sparkling distinctive raunchy spice, and a dash of ginger biscuits. This is rye to die for. Superb. €53
Surprise, surprise. This is like the school's best pitcher, who then steps onto the football team and throws for a game-winning touchdown. This is a whole new side to Kavalan. Remember Faith No More doing “Easy”? Having out-sherried and out-bourboned us with kickass rock-n-roll whisky, Kavalan goes for gentle and croony, with vanilla and honey. The coup de grace? Apple pie and cream morph into licorice and menthol. Exquisite.
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
Whoosh! Jack Teeling’s first golden arrow is this weird and wacky whiskey. Have you ever heard Jane's Addiction? This is to conventional whiskey what that band was to conventional rock. Finished in Sauternes casks, it's like nothing you've tasted from Ireland. All the Irish characteristics are there, but they're bent and twisted and put together in a new and exhilarating order. I wasn't sure at first. Now I'm begging for a refill just to make sure it all really happened.
This vintage expression from Jura has been matured in three first-fill bourbon casks and then finished for one year in a ruby port pipe. Just 498 bottles have been released. Apricots, pineapple, caramel, butterscotch, sultanas, and white chocolate on the nose. The palate is warm and spicy, with subtle pine and citrus fruits, along with coconut and a hint of peat. Long in the finish with more vanilla before dried fruits and oak kick in. The delicate peat remains.
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
The folks at Angel’s Envy once again push the envelope with this 95% rye whiskey finished in Caribbean rum casks. Vibrant, spicy rye notes (cinnamon and mint) are tamed by rich maple syrup, graham cracker crust, nutty toffee, candy floss, subtle tropical fruit, and creamy vanilla. Warm, spicy, rummy finish. This is a mood whiskey—not one I would drink every day—but the flavors marry nicely and the sweetness tames this high-testosterone rye whiskey. Bonus points for uniqueness. Editor's Choice
WHACK! The spicy smack of the nose sends me to check the mashbill; sure enough, this is 38% rye. The nose fumes with youthful zest: cinnamon, bright mint, sun-warmed green grass. Pour some on the palate for more explosive entertainment; sweet cinnamon red-hots burst, corn pops, and the oak burns on into the rye-high finish. This is one excitable boy of a bourbon, and it’s got me humming along. Impressive.
The Real McCoy! It's said that during Prohibition Bill McCoy serviced the better speakeasies with proper Cutty Sark; hence the name. If this is a recreation of what they might have been drinking back then, you can see why they kept fighting over it. This is another bold, earthy, smoky blend with oily, industrial notes. There's crabapple, smoke, bitter lemon, grapefruit, and even black currant. It would seem blended whisky is where it's at right now! Great stuff.
The mark of a good distillery is consistently producing 85 points-plus whiskies, and with this batch Kavalan's going into double digits. If the distillery has a weakness, it's that sometimes it overstates its case and makes even the Aussies look subtle and nuanced. Not here. This is a delicious dessert whisky, with vanilla and toffee in abundance and some sugar candy. But having made its case, it steps back and is surprisingly gentle. Kavalan with subtlety? Scary!
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)
Diageo has introduced this new no age statement variant of Talisker single malt. The name reflects the distiller’s aspiration to enhance the maritime notes in this expression. Refill and rejuvenated casks have both contributed to its maturation. The nose is youthful but rounded, with brine, burning wood embers, vanilla, and honey. Sweet and spicy on the palate, with cranberries and black currants, while peat smoke is always present, plus black pepper. The finish lingers, with walnuts and fruity peat. £40
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 first conventional release from this fledgling company. Irish whiskey's equivalent to a seemingly frothy sweet pop song, which on closer inspection has barbed and cutting lyrics. It's a sweet Irish blend and seems like it. But it has a high malt content, is packed with flavor, and it easily justifies its price. It's creamy and rich with toffee notes, there's some tropical fruit and delicious rum-and-raisin milk chocolate. Not too cloying despite the sweetness, either.
This veteran Balblair was distilled on February 7, 1969 using barley malted on site and coal-fired stills. Just 999 bottles have been released. Opens with slight saltiness on the nose, almost ozone, then lemons and pine, and finally, vanilla fudge. Overt citrus notes on the palate, with aniseed, some oak, brittle toffee, and a smokiness not found in younger Balblairs. The finish is long and discreetly spicy, notably cinnamon and black pepper.
These days the mighty Mortlach is a known quantity, but Diageo’s two other meaty sites—Benrinnes and Dailuaine—remain in the shadows. This is big, boisterous, and sherried, but there’s less of the gravy-browning elements you get from the other two; at Dailuaine it is fruit that is promoted alongside Seville orange, treacle, and the inevitable raisin and date. There are nods to PX sherry as well. Every bit as good as Mortlach. £43