Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition Al Young’s 50th Anniversary (2017 Release), 54.49%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $150
A caramel-laden fruit bouquet, followed by unending vanilla, leather, tobacco, cotton candy, marshmallow, quince, cinnamon, hints of juniper, and wildflowers. Then, brown sugar butter and maple syrup over buttermilk pancakes, Cracker Jack, raw honey, bittersweet chocolate, and hints of pecan shell. Extremely long finish with a fried apple pie note. An incredibly complex and intense, must-have sipper. Perfection.
Teeling Vintage Reserve Collection 24 year old, 46%
Irish | $499
Wow—the nose is spellbinding. An exuberant mix of heavy fruit and deep sweetness: crème brûlée, vanilla pod, fruit syrups, sticky jam tarts, and apricot stone. Silken mouthfeel, with orange flan and brown sugar, growing increasingly tangy, with peppery spice rippling over the tongue and hints of smoke at the end. Oak char and marzipan fruits on the finish. The bar has been set high for Irish whiskey this year. (5,000 bottles)
The Last Drop (distilled at Lochside) 1972 (Cask No. 346), 44%
Single Grain Scotch | $3108
A remarkable beauty from the Angus town of Montrose. The elegant nose shows a dram at peace with itself; golden syrup, hay bales, ground hazelnut, liquid honey, French baguette, High Mountain oolong, and rubbed spice blends. Refreshing palate of honey, toffee, citrus, honeycomb wax, and a profusion of sweet vanilla. Rich, sweet oak and deep pepper notes to finish. Truly a sublime and venerable grain. (106 bottles) £2,400
Method and Madness Single Pot Still Whisky Finished in French Chestnut, 46%
Irish Single Pot Still | $77
The thicker, air-dried staves of Castanea sativa have a lower density and greater porosity than American oak. The different wood breakdown products enhance the pot still style, bringing confectionery sweetness, dark prunes, and effusive lighter spices. It rolls out a thick red carpet of sweet spice, cinnamon, and clove, with more pot still weight than oak tannins. Move over Redbreast; my pick from this crazy, experimental Irish Distillers range.€69
Here, a perfect harmony delivers crème brûlée, butterscotch, fruit, cinnamon, and rising cornbread. Right away complexity sets in, delivering salted baked almonds, cashews, dried apricot, pistachio gelato, Nutter Butters, salted caramel popcorn, rye toast with brown sugar butter, and sugarcane. Somehow, a drop of water makes it even more complex, amplifying the butterscotch and presenting cinnamon-soaked roasted pecans and almonds. Pure bliss; a must-sip.
Crown Royal Noble Collection Wine Barrel Finished, 40.5%
Canadian | $60
The first expression of the Crown Royal Noble Collection was our Canadian Whisky of the Year in 2016 and this one outdoes the original. This release features the standard Crown Royal Fine De Luxe finished in cabernet sauvignon barrels. To an already complex blend of vanilla, delicate flowers, and fruits, add canned peach syrup, pears, and white plums, with smoldering pepper and grape skin tannins on the finish.
Part of the core range from GlenDronach, Parliament has been aged in a mix of oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherry casks and is non-chill filtered. Quite sweet sherry on the nose, with fresh leather, nutty peach notes, cloves, and pepper. Rich sherried fruits on the full palate, with more pepper, ginger, and plain chocolate. The finish is long, with licorice and oak tannins. Not to be rushed!
TLD’s sixth release captivates with dark caramel, Brazil nut, polished oak, cacao, scorched earth, grilled field mushroom, and roasted coffee bean aromas. To sip is to submit to a discombobulating whirl of cherry and jellied black fruits replete with old sherry characteristics, replaced by an unctuous, oily base, torn asunder by seething spices of clove, pepper, and star anise. Ever-changing. Muted exit of dulled spice, browning apple, and eucalyptus. (898 bottles)
You are missing a trick if you don’t snap up these small batch blended malts when you see them. Savory beef juices, black fruits, particularly black currant, loose Keemun tea, and dense oak characteristics. Sweet baked orange with notable alcohols initially, then tangy with caramelized brown sugar, butterscotch, dark rum, Brazil nut, pepper, cacao, and black currant puree. With water, it tastes deliciously of chocolate. A serious heavyweight whisky.
Douglas Laing Old Particular (distilled at Carsebridge) 33 year old 1982, 45.4%
Single Grain Scotch | $100
You little beauty! Maple syrup, pecan, sliced peach, and vanilla-laden bread-and-butter pudding. Soft baked-apple tart, smooth sticky toffee pudding, red apples, oozing with caramels and a fine layer of spice. The mouthfeel is silky, rounded, and effortlessly elegant. Finish of walnut, clove, and marron glacé. Douglas Laing has brought out some amazing grains lately, but this is better than ever. (K&L Wines exclusive, 233 bottles
When earth meets sweet in whiskey, it’s a beautiful thing. Here, soil tilled deep, fresh-cut grass, and mushrooms meet leather and dark chocolate, followed by dill, oregano, and oak. Caramel and vanilla explode over a heavy dose of cinnamon. There’s more: apple fritters, spice, and saltwater taffy tingle the palate until the long finish introduces, for the first time, a hint of doughy pie crust. A must-have.
John Walker & Sons Private Collection 2017 Edition, 46.8%
Blended Scotch Whisky | $815
Closer to the heart of JW than its predecessors, Mastery of Oak follows a methodically complicated maturation and blending regime. American oak characteristics, singed cedar spills, damson jam, stewed apple, and rhubarb laced with peppery spice, nutmeg, and clove. A dichotomy of flavors: toffee apple and rhubarb become piquant, verging on sour, with a parallel strand of honey and Caramac. Short finish of the last vestiges of fruit and spice. (5,588 bottles, U.S. Travel Retail)
Douglas Laing Old Particular (distilled at Cambus) 25 year old 1991, 62%
Single Grain Scotch | $80
A single cask from a refill hoggie, this bursts with vanilla fudge, cracked peppercorn, wood shavings, and apple strudel. Incredibly fruity, with mouth-watering gummy bears, tangy orange, and dried pineapple, evolving from sweet fruits through to banana chews. Diluting down from its considerable cask strength only pumps up the juiciness. To conclude, a long, creamy finish like a banana shake. Evidently, terrific cask selection at work. (K&L Wines exclusive, 246 bottles)
Exclusive Malts (distilled at Cameronbridge) 1984 33 year old, 51.2%
Single Grain Scotch | $225
Top notes of hay, honey, and caramel over a spicy core pulsating with pepper, rye, spiced Quaker Oats, and freshly planed wood. An epic battle ensues: round after round of citrus vs. spice, both growing stronger as they slug it out; jabs of sweetness meet a chastisingly nippy right hook, until, eventually exhausted, both protagonists drop their guard. Dry crackling spice and sugared almonds run through a mighty long finish.
Duncan Taylor Rare Auld (distilled at Girvan) 1974 40 year old, 53.7%
Single Grain Scotch | $450
This is an assured release, one not trying to be anything other than beautiful old grain whisky. Caramel, aged oak, rose petals, and dried heather twigs, with touches of sweetness. The palate has a lovely substantial feel to it, the strength quite apparent, with soft sweet toffees, fleeting citrus and grapefruit, then aniseed tugging at your tongue. The finish is a gum-numbing, sweet decay of fading oaky memories. (78 bottles)
A combination of 7 to 12 year old ryed bourbons finished in cabernet sauvignon barrels, it’s a caramel lover’s delight. You’ll find fruit in several forms: cherry, blackberry, black currant juice, and strawberry-rhubarb jam. Vanilla lurks throughout, followed by buttered cinnamon popcorn, apple pie filling, nutmeg, and caramel-drizzled bread pudding. Each pronounced note combines for a savory ride to a long, lasting, and delightful finish. A necessity for barrel-finish fans.
At 6 years, 4 months, and 6 days, this is beautiful. Honey, cinnamon, and marzipan are the opening trifecta, preparing you for roasted-nut wonders: almond, walnut, and pecan. Then it’s complex crème brûlée, balsamic vinaigrette, salted caramel, molasses, maple syrup, and hints of toasted pine nuts, leather, and anise. With an eyedropper of water, it becomes a caramel bomb. In both cases, long finishes await, with hints of caramel.
Straight bourbon and rye whiskeys aged from 10 to 14 years, this nicely balances its dry oak, almost cedary, aromas with bourbon sweetness and a rye finish. The initial hit of orange peel, caramel, and vanilla flan yields to a spicy finish of lemon zest, peppercorns, and ginger.
Matured in a mixture of first-fill American sherry hogsheads and refill sherry butts, this is rich and fragrant on the nose, with dark berries and marzipan, then glacé cherries and wood polish. The palate is voluptuous with spicy dark fruit, Christmas cake, vanilla, milk chocolate, and a hint of dark rum. Dried fruits in the finish, with raisins, aniseed, and soft oak. Finally, plain chocolate. Superb! £375
At 29 years old this single cask is one of the best releases to date from the Perthshire distillery. The nose offers geraniums, honey, almonds, and toasted brioche, while the palate is creamy with vanilla, heather, a fresh menthol note, and green apples. Long and nutty in the finish, with black pepper. Drying only slightly, and spicy to the end—predominantly ginger. Beautifully balanced. (170 bottles) £295
The third batch in this series comprises twelve sherry butts distilled between 1989 and 1992, eleven American oak hogsheads from 1989, and eight refill American oak butts distilled in 1992 and 1993. Rich sherry, honey, and malt notes on the nose, with figs and citrus peel. Silky on the palate, with Jaffa oranges, raisins, ginger, and plain chocolate. Licorice, sherry, and spicy oak in the very long finish. (8,850 bottles)
As ever, the composition of Black Art is a closely guarded secret, and this is distiller Adam Hannett’s first such assembly. Rich aromas of fig, succulent autumn berries, sherry, cream, and malt feature on the complex, floral nose. Viscous on the palate, which opens dry, with developing berry fruits and spicy oak, plus dried fruits and candied peel. Long and drying in the finish, with plum and peppery oak.
Inhale deeply and this bestows a sense of serenity; morning dew on clipped lawns strewn with spent fireworks and strands of honey mingled with subtle, elegant smoke. Blender Maureen Robinson’s light, well-balanced creation ushers in gentle honey and growing sweetness, before billowing puffs of smoke grow dominant. Charred peaks of a lemon meringue pie, iced coffee, and milk chocolate follow, leaving a catch of smoke in the aftertaste. Quite a charmer.
This archetypal midnight dram enthralls with aromas of cedar wood humidor, blossom honey, hazelnut, vanilla pod, treacle cake, and maple syrup. Dry as leaves, save for some floaty florals. It’s less weighty than some whiskies at this age, with a balanced show of cinnamon, cocoa, berry fruits, dried grapefruit, hard peel, wood spices, dark toffee, and oak. A finish of dark vanilla, oak, spice, and leather make for a fine digestif. (782 bottles)
At 6 years old it’s hard to believe this could get any better with more time in the barrel. It begins with an explosion of honey, warm graham crackers, cinnamon, nutmeg, and marzipan. Then it’s saddle leather, pumice, caramel-covered popcorn, and jalapeño-and-peach jam spread over a flat tamale. More baking spices develop as the whiskey finishes long with a lovely salted-caramel note.
Jasmin Haider-Stadler is the second-generation distiller at Austria’s most-visited distillery. The distillery is particularly noted for its rye whiskies and this is their best seller, made from 60% rye and 40% malted barley. The nose has nutmeg and cinnamon spices, milk chocolate, and dark fruits. An ever-changing spectrum of flavors delights the palate: vanilla, crisp cinnamon, dusty cocoa, hot chocolate, pepper, and bramble jelly. Any keen importers reading this? €47
This offers a slightly oily nose, with orchard fruits, vanilla, cocoa powder, nutmeg, cucumber sprinkled with white pepper, and very subtle smoke. Powerful flavors of peppery fruit and malt on the palate, with honey, butterscotch, milk chocolate, cinnamon, and mellow oak. The finish is lengthy and redolent of toffee apples.
Aged in a mix of bourbon and sherry casks; the nose is initially relatively reticent, slightly earthy, with a hint of drinking chocolate, emerging sherry notes, and subtle orange. Toffee, more chocolate, and spicy dried fruits on the relatively full-bodied palate. Long in the finish, with wood spices.
Quantities of Optic and Oxbridge barley varieties were grown on eight Islay family farms during 2009, and the following year this grain was distilled, then matured in bourbon and French wine casks. The nose offers ginger, melon, malt, sweet (lit) pipe tobacco, freshly baled straw, resin, vanilla, and spice. Chewy in the mouth; oily, with toffee spices and youthful oak notes. The finish features oysters with lemon squeezed over them.
Part of anCnoc’s Peaty Collection, Cutter has been distilled from malt peated to 20.5 ppm. The result is a dram with a nose of ashy peat and medicine cabinets, backed by vanilla and canned apricots. Rich peat on the palate, with citrus fruit and crème brûlée. The slightly oily finish is long and bonfire-like.
This veteran expression from Deanston Distillery was matured in refill bourbon casks before spending no fewer than 10 years in oloroso sherry butts. Rose petals, fresh pineapple, clotted cream, cinnamon, and dusty oak on the enticing nose. Unctuous in the mouth, with apple pie, cinnamon, hazelnuts, and ginger. Drying slowly to pleasing fruity, tannic notes. Extremely long finish, with a persistent citric tang. (Less than 500 bottles globally)
This whiskey’s mashbill includes both rye and wheat. (Most bourbons contain one or the other, and usually it’s rye.) The sweet, inviting mellowness of the wheat is there; so is the spicy zing of the rye. Look for creamy caramel and soft vanilla peppered with fresh mint and warming cinnamon. Firm oak grip on the finish, with lingering spice. Dynamic and invigorating.
Knob Creek 25th Anniversary Single Barrel (barreled 2/11/2004), 60.9%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $130
When the caramel train comes, it rarely returns after such strong earthy notes of roots, hay, and soil. It’s the same story in the next round: first, pan-fried sweet potatoes and parsnips dominate; caramel returns with vanilla, allspice, and white pepper. Then the odd but welcomed combo of campfire-smoked marshmallows and gingersnaps just before a long caramel finish. Very unique.
Michter’s 10 year old Single Barrel Rye (Barrel #17A34), 46.4%
Rye Whiskey | $150
On the nose, a tapestry of candied fruit, dark caramel, and molasses. Then it’s herbs, ocean air, oak, fruit, roasted peanuts, pecan pie, and pie crust in the oven. Nuanced vanilla appears, but prominent black licorice, leather, burnt pumpkin bread, and tobacco dominate toward the end. A decently long finish gives a strong hint of bread pudding. This is definitely not your typical rye, but it sure is tasty.
Barrell 11 year old American Whiskey (Batch 004), 60.3%
Miscellaneous | $65
A blend of whiskeys finished in rum and rye barrels, it’s molasses-forward with quick introductions of clove, vanilla, flowers, and strawberry. Green apple and ginger cookies appear before a burst of caramel chew, herbs, and chewing tobacco. At times fascinating for its rye, bourbon, and rum qualities, albeit a little hot, it’s a must-pour for a spirits lover.
Like an old confectionery shop, with fruit Life Savers, marshmallow, pear drops, coconut oil, and cherry notes. Ideal for those with a sweet tooth, it doles out tangy citrus, lemon peel, strawberry bubble gum, then evens out with a creamier mouthfeel and more red fruits; red currant and cranberry. Tangy and moreish once you weather the sugar rush, concluding with a lengthy finish of ripe fruits after a spicy flare.
The bright, sunny welcome of the rum cask greets you as you raise the glass to your nose. Honeycomb, golden syrup, fresh bread, and dry, powdered-spice aromas. The satin smooth palate boasts sweet melon and honey, developing caramel and orange oils, with a tail that turns slightly nutty. Worth a comparative tasting against Teeling Small Batch, this is an Irish whiskey to take you through the summer.
The latest batch of cask strength GlenDronach should make Aberlour a’bunadh look to its laurels. It is matured in a combination of Pedro Ximenez and oloroso sherry casks. The nose is quite perfumed, with sweet sherry, figs, nutmeg, satsumas, and candied peel. Voluptuous in the mouth, with early bright fruit notes, cinder toffee, and caramel, followed by darker sherry and raisin notes. Lightly peppery and tannic, with plain chocolate. £55
Gordon & MacPhail Cask Strength 2005 (distilled at Caol Ila), 57.3%
Single Malt Scotch | $100
Aged in first-fill sherry butts, this cask strength vintage from Gordon & MacPhail features a nose which opens with savory ginger, becoming more fragrant, plus vanilla, fudge, and warm leather. Oily in the mouth, with ripe cherries, sweet spices, pipe tobacco, and new leather. Nutty and slightly earthy. Citrus fruit, dry spicy peat, and black pepper in the finish.
Some of the first peated spirit produced in the late 1990s at Tobermory Distillery has gone into this bottling, which has been finished in marsala wine casks. The nose yields earthy malt, new leather, printer’s ink, and a final fragrant note. Big, bright flavors of orchard fruits and sweet peat on the palate, plus black pepper and dessert wine. Ashy peat, burnt oak, and lingering pepperiness in the finish.
This blend has style. Coils of red apple peel, ripe orange, cherry blossom florals, freshly split oak, and dry, gentle spices, like running a wet finger around an old spice jar. It’s juicy and thick, with festive satsumas, some bright sharpness, and acidic citrus overcome by juicy sweetness, marmalade flavors, and walnut. The refined finish has a tangle of spice, orange peel, honey, and just a whiff of struck match.
Maraschino cherries, red currant, oak bark, and wet slate on the nose after 6 months of finishing. Light, clean opening with cherry and strawberry; a little fig and raisin bring depth. Hints of clove and aniseed dart about, then more oak swells up, though the red fruity sweetness stays in control. A smooth finish of fruit chews, with those spices burning brightly deep in the back of the throat. (769 bottles)
Think southern kitchen: cornbread, sorghum, and brown sugar. Then it blossoms into a more traditional spice-forward American whiskey, with caramel, vanilla, baking spices, black pepper, habañero, and jalapeño honey. Toward the end, subtle herbs appear just before a long and spicy finish.
Boone County Distilling Eighteen 33 10 year old, 45.4%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $53
First it’s oak and leather, then spices of a different sort dominate, such as anise, fennel, and caraway. Then, the usual suspects in a bourbon of this age: caramel, vanilla, leather, oak, nutmeg, and slight hints of off-the-beaten-path notes: black pepper and sage. After a lovely medium-to-long finish with a strong note of toasted pecan, this is, for sure, a good, though not great sipping whiskey.
Tipperary Boutique Knockmealdowns 10 year old, 47%
Irish | $100
Cinnamon, dusty cocoa, rich toffee, and sultana on the nose. The mouthfeel is leaner, with more cocoa and savory ham notes, sweet popcorn, cinnamon, and thin slivers of chocolate, all shot through with sweet stewed fruits. Water brings out a soft chocolate brownie before a lengthy finish.
What happened when Warenghem Distillery’s David Roussier finished some of his famous Breton whisky for 2 years in a Dartigalongue Armagnac cask from the oldest Bas Armagnac production house? Sweet apple, pear, vanilla, lemon peel, and marzipan appear. A drink that awakens intense citrus sensations of marmalade, mixed peel, lemon and orange segments, followed by a light snap of pepper, gooseberries, nectarine flesh, and a lemony finish with hints of oak.
Douglas Laing Queen of the Hebrides (distilled at Laphroaig) 18 year old, 50%
Single Malt Scotch | $181
The first expression in Douglas Laing’s new Old Particular Consortium of Cards Single Cask Scotch Whisky Collection was sourced from a single refill butt. The nose offers sweet peat, toffee bonbons, brine, beach tide lines, and antiseptic. Finally, a sooty chimney. The palate is zesty, with ashy peat, asphalt, chili, and citrus fruit. Dark chocolate, more soot, and extra chili in the very long finish. Quintessential Laphroaig! (665 bottles) £140
Matured in bourbon casks, this expression offers a sweet, pleasing nose of honey, icing sugar, toffee bonbons, and orange peel. Medium-bodied, with barley sugar, soft oak, nectarine, and lychee. Vanilla and a return of honey in the medium-length finish.
A proportion of the component whiskies has been matured in virgin Black Sea oak casks, while the rest has been aged in bourbon barrels. The nose is sweet, with warm cloves and soft peat; a hint of brine. When it comes to the palate—curious! Menthol and herbal notes, toasted oak, plain chocolate, sweet antiseptic. Mildly tannic in the finish, with subtle peaty spiciness. An herbal peat note lingers long.
Peated to 14.8 ppm, this expression from anCnoc’s Peaty Collection falls between Rutter and Cutter in terms of its phenolic level. Immediately smoky on the nose, with oily fudge and milky coffee. Well-balanced in the mouth, with rich flavors of peat, soft fruit, and vanilla, plus a hint of brine and iodine. The finish is lengthy, with peat embers, walnuts, and more iodine.
Like its Ledaig stablemate, this Tobermory is offered non-chill filtered at cask strength. Finishing occurred in manzanilla sherry casks. Orange marmalade, nutmeg, and developing vanilla on the nose. Full bodied, with a palate of citrus fruit and soft spices, aniseed, and developing tannins. Lingering in the finish, with spicy plain chocolate. Ultimately, the tannins fade and leave a fresh citric note.
The revival of Bladnoch Distillery in southwest Scotland continues, with the launch of 15 and 25 year old expressions to add to the NAS Samsara (reviewed winter 2016). Talia has been finished in new American oak casks. Sweet and floral on the nose, with violets, Jaffa orange, and fragrant fresh oak. Medium to full-bodied, with rich fruit notes, praline, malt, and finally, raisins and prunes. Dark oak in the long, mouth-drying finish.
Classic Cask 23 year old Caribbean Rum Barrels, 43%
Blended Scotch Whisky | $160
I’m reminded of leafy ferns in spring, sweet melon, green bananas, fresh cream, and a dusting of spice when I nose this blend. A light, green fruit taste of white grape and melon overlaid with runny toffee and banana, before the impression of thick fruit skins, becoming slightly tannic. Light spices and pepper follow with a finish of apple core and rich spice. (760 bottles)
When in doubt, the answer to any question is usually ‘more whisky.’ Here, peat smoke takes an upper hand over the sweet aromas of juicy orange and pear. The whisky begins icing-sugar sweet, settles to bubble gum, pear, apple, and malt, showing its impeccably balanced, finely textured character replete with strands of oak spices, gentle smoke, baked pastry, and vanilla custard. You can’t go wrong at this price.
A rare beast of 100% malted barley mash distilled in a Coffey still. Dried grasses, butterscotch toffee, honey spread across hot toast, fresh green apples, custard creams, and peppercorns leap from the glass. From the sweet apple, lemon, orange, and honey, it fleshes out with toffee apple, sweet vanilla, and cinnamon stick, concluding with a little more grain character and spice on the finish. Delicious stuff!
Michter’s 10 year old Single Barrel Bourbon (Barrel #17B302), 47.2%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $120
Initially there’s a lot going on. Bakery confectionary meets spice rack, followed by dried oak, toasted oak, covered baked apples, canned peaches, and dried apricot. Then tobacco and leather strike before mouth-coating butterscotch and vanilla icing. Once these notes dissipate, lighter baked fruits and jams walk this into a medium finish. While good, this whiskey could have been great if it maintained its initial complexity.
Pendleton 20 year old Directors’ Reserve (2017 Release), 40%
Canadian | $125
Joining the core Pendleton lineup, with a new edition expected each September. Past releases of Director’s Reserve have been irregular, perhaps because a local rancher killed the buzz when he bought the entire first batch nearly a decade ago. A luxuriously creamy body coats your palate with mild vanilla, butterscotch, restrained white pepper, and nutty plum pudding. Pencil shavings punctuate a medium finish. Less complexity than its age predicts.
Fresh and approachable, with lemon curd, green apples, almond, and caramelized brown sugar. Sweet lemon and honey, icing sugar, and little twists of orange peel, then as it relaxes, nougat, nuttiness, Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal flavors, and more creaminess. The finish keeps a grip on the front of the mouth. This sip of Tipp will do me just fine until the family-run distillery is built at Ballindoney Farm.
This vintage Benromach has been finished in Sassicaia wine casks from the Bolgheri wine region of Italy after maturation in first-fill bourbon barrels. Red currants and warm peat, ginger, and vanilla on the nose. Initially, juicy fruit on the palate, but soon drier than expected from the nose. Dark berry fruits and subtle smoke develop. Relatively long in the finish, with gentle spices. Ultimately, sweeter soft fruit notes return. (8,000 bottles)
Gordon & MacPhail 10 year old (distilled at Glen Grant), 40%
Single Malt Scotch | $50
This expression of Glen Grant has been matured in refill bourbon casks and is arguably more characterful than the distiller’s own variant of the same age. Ripe orchard fruits on the nose, with honey and cinder toffee. The palate is light to medium in weight, offering more fresh fruit notes, vanilla, milk chocolate, and a hint of ginger. The nutty finish dries with just a hint of smoke.
Another expression from anCnoc’s first batch of Peaty Collection releases, this has the lowest phenolic level of the trio, at 11 ppm. Initial peatiness on the nose gives way to sliced pineapple, nougat, and spicy vanilla. Ripe apple, milk chocolate, and honey emerge out of soft peatiness on the palate. Old leather and a hint of spice in the medium-length finish.
Gordon & MacPhail Distillery Labels 10 year old (distilled at Scapa), 43%
Single Malt Scotch | $65
This expression from Scapa in Orkney was distilled in 2001 and matured in first-fill bourbon barrels. Tropical fruit and butterscotch on the sweet, light nose, with very slight smokiness on the early palate, along with spicy, milky cocoa, hazelnuts, and more tropical fruit. The finish is medium in length, with a hint of char. An easy-drinking, nicely balanced dram at a good price.
Samsara’s (reviewed winter 2016) younger sibling Adela presents an altogether different profile, having been matured in oloroso casks. Like Samsara, it has not been chill filtered. The nose is nutty, with quite dry sherry notes and prickly spice. Finally, fragrant toffee emerges. Very supple in the mouth, where the sherry becomes sweeter, along with black currants, licorice, and then black pepper. The finish is medium in length, dry, and peppery.
A charmingly sweet nose with Christmas cake, swollen raisin, dates, sticky toffee pudding, walnut, nutmeg, and gentle spices confirm the presence of the oloroso cask at work. An oily texture, with butterscotch, tangy peel, and mandarin, becoming darker and nutty, with sultana and plum skin shading into menthol and streaks of bitterness. Finally, Brazil nut, macadamia, and clove, with a hot, dry, nutty finish. (771 bottles)
Knob Creek 25th Anniversary Single Barrel (barreled 2/11/2004), 62.5%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $130
At first it’s a smorgasbord of cotton candy, vanilla, caramel, tapioca pudding, honey, and salted caramel. Then spice-bomb reality sets in with nutmeg, cinnamon, anise, and ginger. Finally, the spice gives way to caramel over cornbread, malt, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. The medium finish ends what was developing into a great whiskey; alas, much is to be desired.
Lovely aromas of charred toast, nut bread, biscuits, fresh grain, rye spice, and some grassiness give way to a palate-coating sweetness, including malted milk balls, cocoa, and dark baking chocolate. The finish offers fine balance, with cherry fruit nicely matched with drying oak tannins and laced with sandalwood and spices. Vatted from 23 barrels, primarily bourbon and rye, though the malt component offers great backbone.
A showcase of the wide range of Talisker’s characteristics. Very sweet fruits, vanilla, new leather, and a hint of brine on the nose. Smooth on the palate, with smoky dark berries, lively spices, and crème brûlée. Dark chocolate and slightly bitter tannins feature in the finish, along with ginger and very mild chili. (Travel Retail exclusive)
Angela D’Orazio matured a third of the component whiskies in cherry-wine casks for this seasonal creation. Rather than cherries, the fruity aroma of the wine is more apparent on the nose, together with crushed root ginger, hawthorn, drying tobacco leaf, and beefsteak tomatoes. This thick-textured dram exudes cherry, strawberry, and vanilla fudge, drawing the mouth before a late phase of rum and raisin, aniseed, peppermint, and menthol. 598 SEK
Douglas Laing Old Particular (distilled at Port Dundas) 26 year old 1990, 51.9%
Single Grain Scotch | $80
Can it really be six years since the distillery closed and they demolished the chimney stack? This nose has a much stronger grain character than the other two Old Particular releases, so one to try before you buy. Beach driftwood and toasted spice aromas, with flavors of warm butterscotch, mandarin, and peach on a peppery base, shuffling into dried fruits and muscovado sugar before a spicy nougat finish. This is hardcore. (K&L Wines exclusive, 243 bottles)
Straw color and extremely light in aromatics, this whiskey starts earthy and goes spicy, with Hatch chili, allspice, and jalapeño cornbread leading the way. Then the sweeter side kicks in, with powdered sugar donuts, caramel chew, and vanilla latte coming through. Spice takes over toward the finish line in a hefty, medium finish. Perfect for cocktails. Price is per 375 ml.
Overlook the fact that this bottle is saddled with one of the most impenetrable closures known to mankind. Unperturbed, this blend flaunts its big toffee aromas, whole almond, and floral top notes. With light fudge and gentle orange influences, it is smooth and rounded, top loaded with spice and hazelnut at the front of the mouth. More grain character and roasted spices show through on the finish.
This adheres to the rules laid down by blender Keith Law. The nose yields mint toffees, cereal notes, butterscotch, and whole peppercorn. Juicy orange, with elements of burnt orange, dark toffees, and a pleasant balance of sweetness form the palate, followed by a wave of peppery spices and late dashes of dates and sultana. The finish has more peppery spice and peppermint. Obey the Law.
A toasty and spicier interpretation of an 18 year old blend. Toffee, salted pecans, Dundee cake, and sultana aromas. A beautiful, thick texture replete with ripe red fruits, cardamom, fennel, and star anise. Caramels drift past on a river of spice, wreathed in a fine layer of smoke, then oak, mixed nuts, and cracker bread. The fruity sweetness is momentary and fleeting, leaving the front of the mouth loaded with spice.
It begins innocently enough. Ripening strawberries, cotton candy, and fudge on the nose, but with an undertow of devil-may-care spiciness. Soft mandarin citrus, vanilla fudge, sponge cupcakes, and a decent wedge of malt form the core of the palate; the spice is disappointingly mild considering the potential of the first sniff. Sweet and syrupy finish. Still, solid enough to make your world better at the end of a hard day.
This blend delivers just enough peat turf to live up to the name, without alienating the peat phobics. A pleasant nose of chocolate hazelnut, pecan nut, dried tropical fruits, and gentle wood and peat smoke. Orange, toffee, banoffee pie, Kola Kubes, and a little spiciness. Plenty of flavor even if the mouthfeel is a little thin. A short finish with a spicy flare and a few lingering smoky embers. (Total Wine exclusive) Price per 1.75 liter
Delicate and flavorful chocolate, caramel, and dried fruit begin a delightful sipper that really becomes easy drinking, with hints of cola, cherry, and maple syrup. Then it’s the spice, specifically cinnamon and allspice, over a slight bitterness, like grapefruit rind, that suggests complexity awaits. But no, the short finish hurts its next-level consideration. Price is per 375 ml
Very aromatic and pretty, with floral lilac, violet, and rosewater notes that follow through on the palate like a grandmother’s kiss. The perfumed soap and sachet qualities are underscored by oaky contributions of vanilla and crème brûlée. Perhaps not for everyone, but this shows another thoroughly enjoyable side of rye whiskey.
Bright and lively, with violets, plenty of fresh oak, and traces of mint and pine, leading to a palate of butterscotch, bright citrus, warming spice, and sweet vanilla with drying and dusty cocoa. There is a glimmer of youth, expected given that 20% of this blend is their own distillery-made rye, aged less than 2 years. It’s an exciting glimpse of what’s to come, but the younger rye does little to enhance the great stuff they’ve been sourcing.
Distilled and aged in Indiana, it’s herbal, floral, and slightly fruity, with a hint of cherry syrup. Resounding dried apricot and peach cobbler are followed by concentrated caramel and vanilla, creating a very pleasing and easy-drinking whiskey. Although not complex nor with a strong finish, it’s perfectly balanced by intense notes. Perfect for cocktails or table whiskey.
At 95% rye and 5% malted barley, it’s initially an herbal and floral bomb, with slight hints of earth and rising bread dough. Then cinnamon, and lots of it, over nutmeg, baked apples, clove, ginger, and molasses. An explosion of cracked black pepper dominates toward the medium finish with a slight hint of baked pear. Tasty as a summer sipper or cocktail base.
Limited by its obvious youth on the nose, but the fresh herb chiffonade character offers intrigue, with distinct sage coupled with some chamomile notes. The palate is a step in the right direction, with dark berries, spices, vanilla, and charred marshmallows, although somewhat light bodied and supple in texture. Young, but sweet and honest.
There is a rich and robust distillate lurking under all that oak, with chewy maple candies, chocolate-covered cherries, and rhum agricole intensity. The astringent oak does no favors for the heat of this 100-proof whiskey, but with its lingering dark chocolate and char it’s still a bold and tasty rye.
Just 6 months in a port pipe have dressed this whiskey with aromas of Kola Kubes, savory spices, and meat juices, plus the whiff of a damp dog licking your face. Palate of cherry lips, golden delicious apple, and a peppery bite, it careens toward plum, bitter fruit skins, and a medicinal ending of aniseed-laced cough syrup. Like young vintage port, this still has more than a few sharp edges.
Prune juice and some fresh cream on the nose. The sticky palate delivers flavors of apple juice, tangerine, and gooseberry. The spices get popping, growing peppery, but despite the ripe fruits, it could benefit from more sweetness. The long spicy finish is redolent of aniseed throat lozenges. It would have been fascinating to taste the unfinished whiskey or a version after a longer sherry finish.
Pale gold in color. Generous oak imparts honeycomb, white chocolate, vanilla custard, and some mint notes that hint of a delicate, pretty bourbon. The palate is a bit deeper, displaying chocolate, berry fruit, and Bit-O-Honey candy; quite confectionary with sweet marshmallow fluff. A pleasing and interesting whiskey worth trying, but feels just a bit disjointed.
Very oaky, with a nose of fresh sawdust, but beneath lurk deep maple sweetness, pralines, and cherry cough drop. The palate is chewy, sweet, and nutty, with pleasing caramel and butterscotch, but is hurt by some peculiar varnish and furniture polish notes. Finishes with cherry, leather, and more oak.
The rye spice on the nose is big, broad, and aromatic, with allspice and clove in the mix, but there are some distillation issues, with a slight rubber-tire note of feints. Rich and viscous on the palate, it’s slightly hot, but shows really lovely spice and toasted nuts, turning oak-dominated on the finish.
An unusual style, made from 100% wheat. Hints of stone fruit, brown apples, and molasses come cloaked in earthy aromas of saddle leather, woodpile, and husky grain. Shows well for its age, and quite smooth, but the oak dominates and aromas seem dulled, with vanilla, oak bitterness, and dark chocolate on the finish.
Aromas hint at a bitterly astringent, almost burnt sugar smell, like green walnut hulls. While the body is full and rich, it’s simply too hot and young to make for pleasant drinking. The finish is long and spicy, but needs more time to mellow.
It’s 68% corn, 18% wheat, and 14% malted barley finished in a sherry barrel. First there’s an assortment of wood, from tree to toasted oak, followed by roasted walnuts, leather, and marshmallow. Grapefruit rind and a bitterness appear, followed by more woody notes and hints of vanilla. It never strikes the desired balance, finishing short with a hint of hazelnut.
With a mashbill of 70% corn, 10% malted wheat, 10% malted barley, and 10% honey malted barley, youth is evident, as ripe grains and wood initially dominate. Pepper, cherry, and raw clover honey appear mid-palate over wheat bread and creamed corn. A surprisingly medium-to-long finish gives a hint of caramel, suggesting more time in the barrel would create a better pour.