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
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.
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
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.
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.
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)
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!
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.
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
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)
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.
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)
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.
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
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)
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