Midleton Very Rare 30th Anniversary Pearl Edition, 53.1%
Blended Irish Whiskey | $6,354
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
Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve (Lot 1867D), 40%
Canadian | $50
If you worried what would happen when Forty Creek ran out of Canadian oak barrels, you will be pleased to know John Hall found more local oak trees and had new barrels made; this time in Canada. This tightly integrated dram is rich in woody maple syrup, with raisins, almonds, and vanilla ice cream that softens a peppery glow. Silkier than the original, slightly restrained, and ever so quaffable. A longish, pithy finish begs another sip. Still a classic. Editor's Choice.
Mackillop’s Choice (distilled at Mortlach) 1991, 56.6%
Single Malt Scotch | $290
Full gold. Weighty, but not oppressed by wood. Full, rich rancio aroma, which brings to mind an ancient cognac. It is rich and powerful, but has great finesse and perfect balance: cooked fruit, some spice, a lot of waxiness, licorice…and then the distillery’s signature meatiness. The palate starts sweetly with ripe old autumn fruits, and soft tannins. This has everything you want from a mature whisky, and from Mortlach, with added elegance. Highly recommended. £198
Fifty years on, the standard Canadian Club becomes very complex and in-your-face delicious. Barley sugar sweetness blossoms into creamy caramel in a dark, heavy, full-bodied whisky with cinnamon, hot chewing tobacco, and sizzling spice. Acetone, dry wood, and peaches on the nose give way to musty perfumed sandalwood and fresh crisp oak, with glowing embers in the throat. Floral, sweet, and a bit nutty, it finishes slowly in leather and furniture polish. (Australia only) A$164
Handpicked from over 100 casks, this is a belter! Puréed prune, dunnage, black licorice, clove, coffee bean, and raisin-studded chocolate. It’s like scorched earth after a wildfire. There is a syrupy, dark rum-like sweetness, a medley of cinnamon, cocoa, raisin, and vanilla essence. Water flushes out some gentle smoke and adds smoothness, but by god, it’s wonderful neat. The best yet from Spirit of Hven. (294 bottles) 975 SEK
Oh, hello there. Meaning hand in hand in two languages, this Redbreast was solely matured in Galician oak seasoned with oloroso for 2 years at the Páez Morilla bodega in Jerez. A slightly closed nose of eucalyptus, menthol, and apple pre-empts a rich, fruity, cherry bomb of dark sugars, strawberry laces, morello, and clove. The fabulous pot still character ends on a sliver of mint as the fruit gently dulls. (2,000 bottlesexclusively for The Stillhouse, Midleton’s single pot still club) €65
The fifth release in Diageo’s Orphan Barrel series (and the youngest of the releases so far). Distilled at the “new” Bernheim distillery and, once again, matured most recently in Stitzel-Weller warehouses. Complex flavors are well-integrated, with lovely spice notes (cinnamon, vanilla, mint, nutmeg), nougat, caramel, and subtle fruit. Long, satisfying finish. Not as distinctive as some previous Orphan Barrel releases, but more rounded and balanced. Nicely done!
Finished in wet, freshly dumped bourbon barrels, Double Barrel shows strong bourbonesque vanilla and a slippery, almost syrupy lushness. This latest batch is even creamier than the early ones made by John Hall himself. After a deceptively simple start, a mouth-filling toffee sweetness broadens into ripe tropical fruits with fleeting under-notes reminiscent of earthy dragonfruit. Hot, peppery flares punctuate the soft fruitiness as it moves to the fore and the creamy mouthfeel subsides.
Originally blended, then recasked into fresh bourbon wood three decades ago, the nose of ripened peaches, cooked pear, pecan nuts, menthol, clove, and vanilla make for a compelling combination. A surprising lift of red summer fruits as this bright whisky sashays around the mouth, the complexity measured out in installments; plum sauce, toasted oak, coffee bean, gingersnaps, clove, licorice, and hints of savory juices. It dances on and on with the whirling wood spices in no hurry whatsoever. (592 bottles)
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
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
Disgorge bourbon quarter-casks after 3 years and fill them into sixteen virgin American oak 40-liter casks that have been made from air-seasoned wood, medium toasted then charred, and what do you get? Maple syrup, pecan pie nuttiness, piercing vanilla, fluffy cotton candy, and the char note of the dome of a well-fired fruitcake. The palate chews through nut brittle, butterscotch, praline, nutmeg, baked banana, and active wood spices, with the sweetness of a good bourbon. Respect. (700 bottles) 889 SEK
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
The barrel staves used to age this whiskey dried outside in the open for 13 months. The oak influence is certainly evident—both from the cured oak staves and from the fact that the whiskey is 17 years old—but never overpowers. Plentiful spice notes (especially cinnamon and vanilla) are tamed by lovely sweetness (toffee, dates, nougat) and energized by bright fruit. Long, dry, warming finish. One of the better Taylors.
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)
Virgin Irish oak-finished Midleton single pot still whiskeys aged from 15 to 22 years take pot still into exciting new territory. The native pot still spiciness is enveloped by chocolate-covered honeycomb, toasty oak, spotty bananas, and a barista’s coffee scoop, though a dash of water picks out lemongrass and rubbed mint. A silky smooth mouthfeel of succulent fruits is shaken down with cocoa powder. Black currant squares up as heavy pot incarnate. Clove-spiked stewed apple weighs into a lengthy finish.
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)
Douglas Laing Old Particular (distilled at Glenrothes) 17 year old, 48.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $117
Light gold. A beautiful oxidized note, with soft fruitcake, steamed pudding, a little hint of overripe fruits, and sweet spices. As it opens, there’s barley sugar sweets, then custard tart with nutmeg, clover honey, and marzipan. Complex, in other words. Water shows how well-layered it is. It starts sweetly in the mouth with a thick, honeyed texture, which becomes more delicate with water. Elegant, long, and a great example of mature ’Rothes. £80