Magnificently powerful and intense. Caramels, dried peats, elegant cigar smoke, seeds scraped from vanilla beans, brand new pencils, peppercorn, coriander seeds, and star anise make for a deeply satisfying nosing experience. Silky caramels, bountiful fruits of ripe peach, stewed apple, orange pith, and pervasive smoke with elements of burnt tobacco. An abiding finish of smoke, dry spices, and banoffee pie sweetness. Close to perfection. Editor's Choice
Yamazaki Mizunara Cask 18 year old (2017 Edition), 48%
Japanese Whisky | $1,000
When whisky lovers talk about the grandeur of Japanese whisky, the enlightenment they desire can be found within this bottle. A refined luxury evocative of toasted marshmallow, sweet incense, butter-soft caramels, oak spices, and ground cinnamon. All the hallmarks of mizunara are here. Concentrated sweet citrus, so intensely fruity on the palate; the mouthfeel is rapturously silky with touches of mango, dried apricot, and gentle but resilient spices.
Season 2 of Dair Ghaelach sees the action switch to six Irish oaks felled in a County Kilkenny bluebell forest. The balance of spice, toasted oak, and sweetness on the nose from tree one is singularly good, though clementine and grapefruit peel also clamor for attention. The acidity of the citrus collides with crunchy pot still spices, and grapefruit evolves into the most delicious ripe mango flavor. Simply heavenly.
This expression was matured in a European oak oloroso sherry butt. Overtly sherried, with figs, sultanas, cinnamon, and old warm leather on the nose. Finally, fragrant, with milk chocolate-coated Turkish delight. The Turkish delight carries over to the palate, before the chocolate darkens to plain, with raisins, smoked ham, and cloves in the long finish. Remarkably, almost no tannic oak. Textbook stuff.
This sings a tune of balance, with caramel, coconut, chocolate, barrel char, and campfire smoke harmonizing at the opening. Next comes an amazingly complex series of herbal notes: dill, oregano, and thyme. That’s when cinnamon bread, coffee, and crème brûlée take over; each note super concentrated and rounded. The long finish presents a hint of cinnamon. This is a must-have sipper. (450 bottles)
The nose has honey, caramelized apples, Pixy Stix, pears in cream, faint pepper, ground coriander, and salty driftwood. It’s teeth-coating with golden syrup sugariness, the silky texture meting out pears, apples, sweet barley notes, and crunchy spices, before a vanilla phase gives way to black pepper, licorice, and smoke. Mouth-numbing finish of long-active spices over vanilla. (7,908 bottles)
The first thing you notice is the elegant fragrance of lychee, spring blossoms, lily, rosewater, and raspberry meringue. Deeper in, grassy notes with star fruit, kumquat, and kaffir lime leaves. The flavors offer perfection in their simplicity: silky honey, soft spices, crystalized pineapple, barley sugar, lemon, and orange. On the finish, the spices chatter on and on as the sweet citrus and honey fade in and out. One to cherish.
It packs a beautiful nose, with arcs of chocolate, vanilla wafer, cherry, caramelized brown sugar, baked pears, crème brûlée being torched, and coconut. These notes become concentrated and are complemented by cola, tobacco, spice, toffee, and pepper. Then hazelnut and vanilla coat the mouth, sitting there for a couple of minutes until the end—a supremely long finish. What complexity!
When complex spice meets complex caramel, it makes for a wonderful American whiskey experience. That’s exactly what happens here with a cadre of baking spices over fruit, such as cinnamon baked apples, nutmeg sprinkled over pears, and peaches dusted with clove, followed by butterscotch, vanilla custard, and crème brûlée. The balanced and brilliant finish stays true to its complexity.
Aged in a European oak oloroso sherry hogshead. Orange marmalade and lanolin on the nose, with caramel and candle wax dripped onto old leather. Full-bodied, with slightly bitter orange notes, plus nutmeg and aniseed on the palate. The orange theme persists into the finish as dried-out Jaffa segments, plus edgy oak tannins. A highly individualistic Balvenie.
Aged for a quarter century and finished in Royal Brackla casks? Count me in. The nose is highly attractive; a rich maltiness unfolds with vanilla oak, flapjacks, whole almonds, and gentle background spices. Smooth caramels, chocolate orange, and a cappuccino note create a thick, weighty blend that melts gracefully into pools of darker chocolate. The mouth-coating finish has plain chocolate, dry oak, and coffee. Brilliant liquid: smoothness personified.
This year’s edition contains some of the oldest whiskey they’ve ever put into Very Rare. A pronounced spicy nose, with sweet barley, dried apple, crisp grains, sweet baklava, and squishy cubes of rose-scented Turkish delight. In the mouth, it’s incredibly smooth and glossy; quite honeyed, subtle soft fruits, raspberry, apple, mixed peel, butterscotch, baked orange, and a hearty spice core. A creamy finish, where the spices outlast the fruit.
This 32 year old bottling was aged in twelve bourbon barrels and re-casked into fresh bourbon wood in 2009. It offers a nose of canned peaches, dates, marzipan, and a hint of milky coffee. Rich fruit flavors lead on the palate: peach, pineapple, and mango, with vanilla and nutty oak. Slowly drying in the finish, with warming spices. Sometimes good bourbon casks are all you need. (3,000 bottles)
Matured in one-third first-fill European oak sherry butts and two-thirds refill sherry butts. Rich sherry notes on the nose, with vanilla, sultanas, raisins, cherry blossom, and a hint of new leather. Initially, smooth and very sweet orchard fruits on the palate, with cherry liqueur turning to black tea and fennel. Drying very slowly in the lingering finish, with spicy oak. (6,000 bottles)
Rosewater, almond extract, dark cherries, roasted almonds, and caramelized sugar start this truly splendid aromatic whiskey. Marzipan, pecan pie, chocolate Moon Pie, Bavarian cream, butterscotch, and fried dough with powdered sugar follow. This remarkable whiskey finishes long and strong with more fried dough.
This was initially matured in American oak bourbon barrels, then spent 7 years in 30 year old Matusalem sherry butts before 2 years of finishing in first-fill bourbon casks. The nose yields orange marmalade, wood resin, toasted brioche, and cocktail cherries. Apricot fruitiness on the early palate, then vanilla, ginger, and treacle. The finish is medium in length, with orange peel, fennel, and gentle spices. (750 bottles)
Oh boy! Rising rolls, cakes baking in the oven, whipped cream, icing, citrus, and chocolate fill the nose. Then the palate confirms this tapestry of goodness with vanilla cake batter, brown-sugar butter over yeast rolls, caramel icing, and cinnamon sprinkles. If not for a backbone of beautiful spices layered in between, this whiskey stands as a confectionery delight. As it is, the velvety structure, concentrated notes, and long spicy finish make it a must-have sipper.
Imagine stepping inside a tropical palm house: herbs, florals, and waxy foliage. Fresh zingy hops, lemongrass stalks, caramel, and strawberry bubble gum. Palate is soft, with lychee, melon, and white grape supported by spices before it melts into creamy panna cotta and ends with citrus, burnt sugar, and herbal stems. Finish is spicy, saturating, with dark-sugar sweetness. Try this Bavarian whisky from vintage chestnut grappa casks; it’s really interesting.