The early nose offers hand-rolled tobacco, ginger, black pepper, and fragrant woodsmoke. Medicinal notes, brine, and lemon develop in time. Sweet peat smoke, tropical fruits, toffee, and aniseed on the palate, with smoked haddock and a suggestion of tar. Iodine, black pepper, and sea salt in the lengthy finish.
George T. Stagg Kentucky Straight (Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2020), 65.2%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $99
Bakery notes, orange blossom, allspice, dark berries, raspberry preserves, butterscotch, chocolate, leather, and cedar chest integrate superbly on the nose. The show continues on a very full-bodied palate packed with dark fruit, orange slices, brown sugar, almond, cinnamon, and an overlay of allspice. A deliciously thick, viscous finish goes on and on, completing this tour de force with flavors of chocolate-covered marshmallows, cinnamon, more allspice, old leather, tobacco, and polished oak.
King of Kentucky 14 year old Single Barrel Kentucky Straight 2020 Release (Barrel No. 3), 65.3%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $250
Intensely fruity to start, with dark cherries, blackberries, and raspberry coulis; there’s also dark chocolate, maple syrup, leather book bindings, and oolong tea, set over a background of baking spice. With water, brown sugar creeps in at the outer edges. Remarkable complexity on the palate: cooked dark fruit, dark chocolate ganache, tea leaf, roasted pecans, maple syrup, licorice, tobacco, and well-integrated spice. The flavor array is seemingly endless, and carries well into a lengthy, warming finish.
A complex nose of leather, cedar chest, black tea, cooked cherries, rich spice, and polished oak; water brings out bright citrus, green apple candy, and blackberry cobbler filling. Dark chocolate, cooked cherry, fresh ginger, licorice, black pepper, and nuts on the palate; spearmint, licorice, and tobacco appear once water is added. Extremely lengthy finish with licorice tea, caramel, dark chocolate, polished oak, and spearmint. You might want to tough it out at barrel proof, but water benefits this whiskey, and saves your taste buds.
Canadian Club Chronicles 43 year old The Speakeasy, 45%
Canadian | $330
The third in the Chronicles series offers a slightly closed nose that soon shows high esters, cinnamon, and eggnog, while hints of mint hide among old dry barn boards in a gorgeous, creamy palate. Mild caramels fade into peppery heat, restrained grassy herbs, and pulling tannins. Burley tobacco leaves replace Canadian Club’s signature dark fruits. Finishes long, hot, and vaguely dry.
Bushmills 28 year old The Rare Casks Cognac Cask (Release No. 1), 46.7%
Irish Single Malt | $500
The cognac-cask finish finesses the intensity and concentration of the lush fruity character of this whisky. A complex interplay of peach, apricot, apple, pineapple, lemon zest, thick-cut marmalade, oak, faint spices, and dried fruit on the nose. A thick velvety mouthfeel of sweet orange, grapefruit, and lime sweeps to a climax of peppercorn and clove, then it abates with dried apricot, papaya, and marzipan-wrapped Battenberg cake. Exceptional! (800 bottles) Collectibles
Rich and sweet aromas of toasted coconut, honey, ripe pear, green apple, and honeysuckle. The palate is resplendent in golden honey, creamy vanilla, tangy peels, and pepper, with the higher ABV pushing it on and on. Compared to Hedonism Quindecimus and The Muse, this is richer, with greater complexity, and the subtle interplay between the fruits is outstanding. Unforgettably good whisky. (2,226 bottles) Collectibles
Drawn from stocks aged at least 28 years, this magnificent blend begins with aromas of burning heather, toffee, nuts, cigar smoke, leather, raisins, broken orange pekoe tea leaves, fruit loaf, black licorice, allspice, and cinnamon. Truly classic Johnnie Walker with smooth, warming flavors of orange, brown sugar, barley sugar, and gentle harmonious spice, followed by dark toffee, vanilla pod, candied peel, sultana, prune juice, malt, and cocoa.
Wheated bourbons, which feature wheat rather than rye as their secondary grain to corn, have attracted legions of devotees in recent years despite being relatively few compared to their rye counterparts. “Wheaters” like Pappy Van Winkle have achieved rock star status, putting them out of reach for many of us. So when we taste a widely available wheated bourbon that displays the soft, sweet, fruity profile of the style, we take note.
Larceny Barrel Proof, our Whisky of the Year, delivers on wheated bourbon’s appeal and then some. Big and powerful, it enters the ring at 61.1% ABV, but it’s no lumbering heavyweight. It floats across the palate with stunning grace and subtlety, its wheated mashbill a delicate counterpoint to its formidable proof. It begins with a flurry of sweet bakery aromas: honey bun, angel food cake, and apple pie à la mode. The palate dazzles with notes of crème brûlée, chocolate, drizzled caramel, honey-roasted peanuts, and lashings of baking spice, followed by a lengthy finish loaded with cinnamon, more chocolate, and robust spice. Water helps unleash layers of these flavors, but Larceny Barrel Proof is amazingly enjoyable even at full proof—no easy thing for a whiskey this big.
The original Larceny Small Batch debuted in 2012 as the modern heir to owner Heaven Hill’s historic wheater, Old Fitzgerald. Following a few special appearances, this barrel-proof version launched to the general public in January 2020, offering wheated bourbon lovers an exceptional treat that’s also widely available—at a very affordable $50.
Larceny Barrel Proof is released in three batches annually, in January, May, and September. Each year, the releases are labeled with a code using a letter to indicate the sequence, and three digits indicating the month and year. This award goes to B520, but you’d be wise to give any of them a try. Number 1 in the 2020 Top 20
Until now, most Knob Creek has been bottled at 9 years of age or younger for good reason: There’s no guarantee that bourbon will taste good after a dozen years in the barrel—let alone great. This one is richly complex from the start: York Peppermint Pattie, raisins, baking spice, dark chocolate-covered cherries, iced tea, and tobacco barn appear on the nose, followed by a chewy, full palate laden with cinnamon, allspice, and ginger, and perfectly balanced with sweet berry cobbler, chocolate ganache, and caramel. The finish goes on and on. Add in a fair price and excellent availability as part of Knob Creek’s core lineup, and only one question remains: What are you waiting for? Number 2 in the 2020 Top 20
Blender Eboni Major makes her mark with this limited-edition whiskey that incorporates three distillates, all at least 9 years old. The multiple flavor profiles and ages converge to create a hyper-charged bourbon with layers of flavor. A lively nose offers raspberry, chocolate, mint, confectioners’ sugar, and candied pecans. The palate is bold, with flavors of cherry, spearmint, dark chocolate, nougat, pepper, and polished oak. More mint follows on the finish, along with bitter chocolate, dark berries, and spice. Each batch will have its own profile, and this incredible inaugural effort promises more greatness to come. Number 4 in the 2020 Top 20
Angel’s Envy Cask Strength Port Barrel-Finished (2020 Release), 60.2%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $200
Why do I get the feeling I’m about to tuck into dessert? Just-cooked berries with brown sugar crumble, marzipan, toasted coconut flakes, vanilla, and orange wedges on the nose. More fruit cobbler, brown sugar, sweet toasted nuts, Nutella, and rich spice on the palate, which turns from chewy to silky with water. The finish goes on for days, laden with red fruit, roasted nuts, dark chocolate, and well-integrated spice.
Spice and fresh herbs on the nose, yielding to lemon meringue pie, peach tart, whipped cream, and baking spice. Bakery notes of cherry pie and red berries get things going on the palate, followed by sweet notes of vanilla wafer and frosted yellow cupcake atop herbs and spice, all accentuated with water. A long finish of Boston cream pie, coconut ice cream, baking spice, zesty herbs, and cigar ash.
Four Gate 10 year old Tennessee Foundation Straight, 56.1%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $149
Distilled in Tennessee from a mashbill of 84% corn, 8% rye, and 8% malted barley. Licorice, candied melon, breakfast cereal, cream soda, vanilla ice cream, and strawberry tart on the nose. A rich palate offers balanced spice, banana, cherry cola, strawberries and cream, chocolate, and baking spice. The finish is smooth, with light earthiness, tobacco leaf, and fragrant oak, followed by brown sugar, coconut, chocolate, and spice at the back.
Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch (2020 Release), 55.7%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $150
This year’s barrel-strength release, comprised of several aged bourbons, offers bakery shop notes on the nose, along with vanillin, fragrant orange, soft spice, new leather, and drying tannins. The mouthfeel is soft and viscous, with emerging flavors of candied orange slices, allspice, black pepper, and scents of aged oak. The finish is notably smooth, as sweeter notes of tiramisu and cola are deftly balanced with an overlay of spice and dusty oak.
Sweet grain-driven aromas dominate the nose: blueberry pancakes with maple syrup, orange marmalade on toast, honey-roasted peanuts, toasted coconut, brown sugar, and cherry cordial candies. The palate is equally expressive, chewy with peanuts and roasted pecans, milk chocolate, orange, cinnamon, ginger, white pepper, and big chunky oak, which turns mouthwatering on the lengthy, peppery, nutty finish. Though a proof this high can get unwieldy, it never shows a hair out of place.
Lucky Seven 12 year old The Proprietor Single Barrel Kentucky Straight (Barrel No. 7), 59.15%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $129
Initially tight on the nose, the gentle vanilla and delicate spice are draped in leather and dusty oak floorboards. Maturity is present on the palate as well, not only in the full body, but also in the form of intense vanilla and citrus furniture polish, like orange oil. At the same time, it’s quite lively, as a burst of dark fruits, cassis, and licorice rises from the depths before the drying oak finish.
Sweet notes of grape jelly, cherry pie, orange peel, and brown sugar balance on the nose against mature whiskey aromas of earth, leather, and antique closet. A powerful palate is driven by rich dark-chocolate fudge, blackberry tart, almond, tangerine slices, raisin bread, and spiced oak. A lengthy finish offers leather and spice, cinnamon, chocolate-covered blueberries, strawberries, cocoa, and oak. Water makes the flavors of this powerhouse even more impressive.
Sazerac 18 year old Kentucky Straight (Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2020), 45%
Rye Whiskey | $99
Pure panache: roasted cinnamon, allspice berries, baking chocolate, dried cherries, grape jelly, and polished oak on the nose; with time, aromas of nougat and almond. More chewy dried cherries and grape fruit leather on the palate, along with zippy cinnamon, paprika, black pepper, and a hint of mint. Dark chocolate, tobacco, and plenty of oak add support, especially after water is added. More dark fruit and dark chocolate on the finish, as well as persistent oak that swerves, pleasantly, into leather.
Little Book Chapter 4: Lessons Honored (2020 Release), 61.4%
American Whiskey | $125
A lively, expressive nose greets with sweet notes of corn muffin, grape jelly, cinnamon sugar, maple syrup, cherry candy, and balanced oak. The palate offers rich notes of sweet almond, vanilla ice cream, blackberry tart, dark chocolate, coconut flakes, loads of baking spice, and balanced, rich oak. Excellent length and balance on a finish of dark chocolate, tobacco leaf, espresso, and more spice and oak. Great sipping, with water or without.
Mars Komagatake Limited Edition (2020 Release), 50%
Japanese Single Malt | $220
Prunes, forest honey, vanilla seeds, dark chocolate cookies, and Brazil nut, with hints of chocolate orange and ground pepper: I’m hooked. Cocoa, Whoppers, baked orange, jellied peel, jumpy peppery spices, tamarind bark, and milk chocolate pralines on the palate, and chocolate, stewed fruits, and walnut once the strength dies down. This is the complete package, and a prime contender as one of the year’s tastiest new Japanese whiskies.
Barrell Cask Strength Blend of Straight Bourbons (Batch 025), 56.7%,
Bourbon/Tennessee | $90
This basks in beautiful baking spices—clove, nutmeg, and cinnamon—with toasty oak and candle wax hinting at its maturity. The palate is wonderfully dense with fruit, including flavors of marmalade, strawberry jam, and bright tropical fruits, woven with more spice. Even with water the richness and viscosity stand tall, as more caramel and butterscotch emerge. The spellbinding finish is long, sweet, and nutty. Editors' Choice
A blend of eight whiskies including Oban, Brora, Cambus, and Lagavulin, producing a sweet yet complex dram that may surprise regular Blue Label drinkers. The nose has peach, marmalade, brown sugar sprinkled on caramel, fine pepper, soft peatiness, oiled wood, and campfire smokiness. The sugary palate yields toffee apple, fudge, vanilla, dried fruit, peach, and gentle spice, then fiery smoke, pepper, cocoa, milky coffee, and chocolate. Legendary indeed.
Teeling Vintage Reserve Collection 37 year old, 41.3%
Irish Single Malt | $8530
Distilled in 1983, the nose emanates lemon peel, blooming gorse, gooseberry, mint imperials, butter biscuits, sanded oak, florist shop, salted caramel, and violins lying in red velvet cases. Nimble and juicy on the palate, it’s an odyssey through lemon, lychee, and tangy peels, with the acidity of gooseberry riffing off caramels before honeydew, vanilla, and buttery fresh banana mingle in its final throes while it evanesces from the palate.€7,000
Blackadder 32 year old 1988 (Distilled at Invergordon), 51.5%
Single Grain Scotch | $240
An intense syrupy nose of fermenting fruit, with honey, ripe plum, grape, Braeburn apple, passion fruit, pineapple, and taffy, with flashes of cinnamon and snuff. Lush, weighty sweetness to taste, with honey, vanilla, mandarin, baked apricot, peach, molten caramel, oak, baked apple, and bananas in custard. What a find! As Blackadder celebrates 25 years in business, this will banish any doubts you have about grain whisky’s flavor. (273 bottles, 60 for U.S.)—
Blackadder 32 year old 1988 (Distilled at Invergordon), 51.5%
Single Grain Scotch | $240
An intense syrupy nose of fermenting fruit, with honey, ripe plum, grape, Braeburn apple, passion fruit, pineapple, and taffy, with flashes of cinnamon and snuff. Lush, weighty sweetness to taste, with honey, vanilla, mandarin, baked apricot, peach, molten caramel, oak, baked apple, and bananas in custard. What a find! As Blackadder celebrates 25 years in business, this will banish any doubts you have about grain whisky’s flavor. (273 bottles, 60 for U.S.)—
The most muscular whiskeys can sometimes feel like bullies, attempting to subdue your palate, but this one shows its strength without aggression. Deeply sweet and nutty on the nose, with pralines, butterscotch, and maple syrup, along with candied orange peel and cherry juice. The palate has a strong backbone of spice—ginger, chiles, and black pepper—while generous oak fills out the frame, and over all of it, dark fruit flavors drip: boysenberry syrup, cherry juice, and blackberry jam. The lengthy finish sprinkles a bit of tobacco and a generous amount of cocoa powder.
Single Malts of Scotland 14 year old An Orkney Distillery Single Cask (Distilled in 2006; Cask No. 45), 60.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $145
Let this whisky glide into your glass without hesitation: aromas of poached pear, hazelnuts, honey, marmalade, and ginger jam turn bright and fresh with water. The oleaginous palate is waxy in both texture and flavor, slick with candied citrus and subtle spice that builds into a resonant crescendo. That spice wave meets with savory hazelnut, tobacco, and leathery oak on the finish, lasting for minutes without slackening. (300 bottles; U.S. exclusive)
Single Malts of Scotland 23 year old Imperial Single Cask (Distilled in 1997; Cask No. 2798), 45.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $335
Spirit, not cask, drives this whisky’s character, with bright notes of lemon and lime, green apple candy, guava, vanilla, and ginger nut cookies creating an inviting and zesty nose. More lemon and lime, plus tangerine, on the palate, along with lively spices—ginger, white pepper, and cinnamon—toasted almonds, baking chocolate, and leather. With water, the profile flips as spices turn savory and chocolate and nuts take on a sweeter tone; the transformation is unexpected, but lovely. Tobacco, coffee bean, and leathery oak on the finish. (144 bottles; U.S. exclusive)
Amrut Aatma Single Cask Single Malt (Cask No. 661), 56.5%
Indian Whisky | $165
Fragrant, exotic spices permeate the nose, like a perfumy incense shot through with sandalwood; there’s also black currant, cooked plums, crushed raspberries, dark chocolate, and pineapple. The intensity of the nose builds on the palate, as rich flavors of lime zest, mango, raspberry jam, and dark chocolate swirl with the pull of oak tannins. The finish loses none of the tension between spirit and cask, balancing the dueling richesse of dark chocolate-covered pineapple and polished oak. (90 bottles; U.S. exclusive)
Benriach is a sleeper of a single malt, but that’s about to change. Part of a 2020 relaunch of its core line, this grabbed our attention with its sophistication, breadth of flavors, and lovely refinement. Much of the credit surely goes to master blender Rachel Barrie for creating a smoky whisky that both peat lovers and the peat-wary can enjoy. Rather than medicinal intensity, the peat is redolent of gentle, sweetly smoky fruits that integrate seamlessly with notes of vanilla, toasted almond, chocolate, blueberry, and bacon. It beckons like the wafting smoke of a warming autumn bonfire, then welcomes with its lush and velvety embrace. Number 3 in the 2020 Top 20
Rare Breed bourbon enjoys notoriety as a great value, and this new rye stands shoulder to shoulder with it. A gift for Wild Turkey fans from master distillers Jimmy and Eddie Russell, it’s not chill-filtered, making it even more full-bodied and rich. Zesty aromas of mint, eucalyptus, pine, and cedar chest mingle with sliced orange, candied strawberry, and sweet pecans on the nose, and that profile carries over into the nutty, spiced, herbaceous, and citrus-sweet flavors of the palate. With water the full spectrum of flavors—and the harmonious interplay of grain and barrel—reveal themselves, leaving an unforgettable impression of perfectly controlled power. Number 5 in the 2020 Top 20
The youthful age statement may take many scotch drinkers by surprise, but don’t let double-digit bias prevent you from enjoying this exciting yet easy-drinking peat bomb. Salt water and seaweed, smoke and sweet peat tussle on the nose, while vanilla, fresh berries, and ample nuttiness spread out and take hold. The structured, balanced palate is creamy, nutty, and spiced, showcasing brown-sugar bacon, smoked salt, milk chocolate, pepper, and well-integrated oak, all wrapped up like a cigar with flakes of ash and sustained smoke. This precocious youngster shows more complexity than some whiskies twice its age, making it a remarkable find. Number 6 in the 2020 Top 20
Elijah Craig always impresses with value, but until now has been confined to bourbon. This foray into rye whiskey sticks close to Elijah Craig’s bourbon roots by using only the minimum-required 51% rye in its formulation; however, it does achieve a nice departure in flavor. Aromas include butterscotch, caramel-nut clusters, and peppery spice. The spice ramps up on the palate, carried forward by the full body, hearty proof, and mouth-coating texture, as cherry cola, baking chocolate, and darker fruits emerge. Priced a notch below comparable peers, this rye delivers powerful flavors that feel excitingly untamed, and will impress bourbon and rye lovers alike. Number 7 in the 2020 Top 20
Apples, pound cake, treacle, almond nougat, and vanilla aromas set up the palate’s inherent sweetness, but pay attention to the note of oyster shell minerality and wafting woodsmoke, so well integrated as to be hardly noticeable—at least until you take a sip. Sweet smoke drifts over toasted almond, Golden Delicious apple, cinnamon, and Swiss Miss hot cocoa, all sprinkled with smoked salt. It finishes with grilled apple and flavored tobacco, the smoke persistent but never ashy, and a silky texture that’s as gentle as a caress.(Individual reviewer rating: 92)
Aberfeldy 18 year old French Red Wine Cask-Finished (Batch 2920), 43%
Single Malt Scotch | $120
Creamy on the nose, with malt, toasted cereal, white pepper, nutmeg, and, ultimately, mulled wine. A substantial mouthfeel, with honey, slightly smoky red wine notes, raspberry jam, and fruit spice. The finish is long, with spicy dark chocolate and warm spices that really linger. (Individual reviewer rating: 90)
Generous and complex on all fronts: The nose is rich with marzipan, sweet oranges, milk chocolate, pistachio ice cream, and shortbread, while the palate leans more toward savory flavors of toasted nuts, dark chocolate, leathery oak, and a bit of tobacco. But it retains the rich sweetness of its namesake, with marmalade, figs, and warming ginger and nutmeg. Like the best desserts, the lengthy finish leaves one wanting more—and with so much to unpack here, that’s a wonderful thing.
Lagavulin 12 year old (Diageo Special Releases 2020), 56.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $164
Sweet woodsmoke, peat embers, Jaffa oranges, new leather, sea salt, and cigarette smoke on the nose. Orange carries over onto the robust palate, with quite pronounced smokiness, black pepper, and dark chocolate. Long and peppery in the finish, with lingering smoke and brine.
Talisker 8 year old (Diageo Special Releases 2020), 57.9%
Single Malt Scotch | $119
The youngest of the 2020 Special Releases. Warm tar, farmyard, charcuterie, and faint iodine on the fruity nose. Peppery stewed fruits and gentle woodsmoke on the voluptuous palate. Very prickly in the long finish, with fruit-and-nut dark chocolate and chile paste. An intriguing and attractive take on Talisker.
A blend of straight bourbons 12 to 17 years old created by Kentucky Owl co-founder Dixon Dedman for the 100th anniversary of Prohibition. The nose is fragrant and gentle, with confectioners’ sugar, vanilla custard, nougat, marzipan, strawberry jam, leather, and light spice. Caramel and raisin bread coat the palate, accented by cinnamon, toasted almond, chocolate, chicory, and savory spice. A lengthy finish of chocolate and espresso, ending with a burst of spice.
Maker’s Mark 2020 Limited Release Stave Profile SE4 x PR5 Kentucky Straight, 55.4%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $60
The second in Maker’s wood finishing series benefits from the addition of virgin toasted American oak (PR5) and virgin French oak (SE4) staves. The nose is chewy and sweet with caramel, manuka honey, milk chocolate, and wintergreen. The wood influence is right out in front, with plenty of toasty oak and cedar pencil sprinkled with sweet vanilla and caramelized sugars. The lively palate serves up candied nuts and heaps of taffy-like vanilla sweetness, coupled with some mature varnish.
Old Fitzgerald 14 year old Bottled in Bond (Fall 2020 Release), 50%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $140
Oak-forward and earthy, the nose is dominated by dark cigar wrapper, leather, grain bin, and dry autumn leaves, with overripe peaches and plenty of toasted pecan and walnut lurking just beneath. The palate is full-bodied and chewy, yet displays the softness you’d expect from such a well-aged wheater, as the flavor marries alluring caramel-and-maple sweetness with mixed nuts to achieve perfect balance.
Parker’s Heritage 10 year old Heavy Char Kentucky Straight, 60%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $120
Sweet, almost candied notes pervade the nose: brown sugar, maraschino cherries, Cherry Coke, strawberry Twizzlers, peanuts, and baking spice. Candied dark fruit leads the palate, with semi-sweet chocolate and nuts behind it; spice starts out soft and builds into the finish, where it blooms into harmony with full-bodied oak, coffee bean, and baking chocolate. Delicious with or without water.
A limited-edition release of Boxergrail, Rabbit Hole’s 95% rye, aged 6 years and bottled at barrel proof. Powdered sugar, glazed donuts, candied nuts, cherry, blackberry, and vanilla custard punctuate the nose. A rich, spiced palate offers notes of grape jelly and allspice, while water unlocks semi-sweet chocolate, licorice, honey-coated almonds, and toasted oak. A long finish anchored by balanced oak offers raspberry tart, baking spice, maple syrup, and tiramisu.
Thomas H. Handy Kentucky Straight (Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2020), 64.5%
Rye Whiskey | $99
The nose has vanilla galore, along with nuts, milk chocolate, cooked cherries, orange oil, cinnamon, and iced tea; water highlights the grain to great effect. Chewy and textured in the mouth, with plenty of chocolate, peanuts, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger, and cayenne pepper, plus lively orange zest. It finishes lengthy and satisfying: dark chocolate and that orange zest integrating seamlessly with cinnamon, brown sugar, and polished oak.
This commendable Irish peated malt has a nose of apple, clove, bonfire smoke, pepper, thick butterscotch sauce, panna cotta, and sweet floral notes. The smoke settles down to a glowing log fire, with a fine layer of spice and a twist of citrus peel oils. Sauternes influence cultivates an exemplary combination of sweetness and spice, yielding a mouth-drenching combination of red apple, tangy orange marmalade, peppery spices, and brown sugar. (6,000 bottles for U.S.)
Gentle aromatic peat smoke, straw, ruddy red apples, and soft sponge puddings. There’s a dry spicy edge to the peat smoke that makes it really quite exquisite. Apples browning in sugar, iced chocolate cake, and luxuriously creamy, it becomes oily with a lengthy phase of active spicy pepper, oak, and smoke, though the creaminess returns if you give it long enough. A smoky aftertaste, with malt and cocoa powder.
This second batch was sherry matured before a 27–month sakura cask finish; it’s intricate and contemplative. Cherry lozenge, caramelized sugar, black currant, strawberries with cream on puff pastry, rose petal, vanilla icing, apricot, coriander seed, and white pepper, though the aromas can be quite fleeting. The palate glides through gentle honey, strawberry, tingling spices, caramel, stone fruit, light cherry, and hints of red apple. Utterly charming: the Hello Kitty of whiskies. (1,062 bottles)
WhistlePig 17 year old The Boss Hog VII: Magellan’s Atlantic (Barrel No. 13), 52.6%
Rye Whiskey | $500
This rye, finished in virgin Spanish oak and Brazilian teakwood barrels, has a delicious nose, full of vanilla extract, fresh-baked dough, cinnamon, and nougat. It’s consistent on the palate, balancing the sweetness of marshmallow and vanilla frosting with licorice tea, mint, and toasted oak. More toasted oak, cinnamon, and brown sugar on the finish, tinged with bitter black tea. Collectibles
A whisky with amazing natural colors and the aromas turned up to 11; polished red apples, mixed peels, currant, clove, peppercorn, and crinkly dried red chiles. Sweet raspberry fudge initially, then the mouth-drawing high alcohol bites, sending it spiraling through clove, plum skins, baked fruit crumble, cookies, charred oak, nutty toffee, black cherry, and coffee grounds. Some single cask whisky can be a rollercoaster: this is the whole theme park! (282 bottles)—
Jacob’s Pardon 15 year old Single Barrel American Whiskey (No. 23), 70.9%
American Whiskey | $200
Remarkably easy drinking considering its hyper-charged proof, with an equally pronounced profile of balanced sweetness. The nose exudes caramel sauce, blackberry compote, cherry, maple syrup, semi-sweet chocolate, and vanillin, with earthy notes of warehouse floor and barrel char. The palate offers chocolate mousse, rice pudding, and cooked figs, leading to a long finish of cooked plums, dark berry tart, and chocolate-covered marshmallows. Rich, viscous, and loaded with balanced sweet flavors
Barrell New Year Blend of Straight Bourbons (2021 Edition), 56.95%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $90
Peanut lovers, pour yourself a glass of this: It’s multi-dimensional where legumes are concerned. Peanut shells, spiced peanuts, dry-roasted peanuts—they’re all here, interspersed with fresh mint, cinnamon, iced tea, and tobacco barn. There are tingly spices—black pepper and dried chiles—on the palate, along with black tea and peppermint. The mouthwatering finish is generously oaky, with persistent spice and nuts.
Grape Kool-Aid, cherry cola, blueberries, tea leaf, walnuts, ginger, and polished oak lead the nose and carry into the chewy, full palate. This whiskey shows its maturity with well-integrated spice, semi-sweet chocolate, Concord grape jelly, and roasted nuts, all in sync with undulating oak. Warmth builds into the finish as cooked dark fruits and dark chocolate melt slowly away to reveal black pepper and ginger on a bed of polished oak.
Among this year’s strong field of new single pot still releases, Kilbeggan bottled a gem of an Irish whiskey that sparkled brighter than them all. The already historic whiskey style achieves a powerful air of authenticity. First it’s distilled in the oldest working pot still in Ireland, and the 19th-century Locke family recipe incorporates 2.5% oats, a common addition at the time. Melon, candied peel, nutmeg, cinnamon, and honeysuckle aromas cascade into a palate made especially lush and creamy from the oats, with citrus peel, apricot, and roasted hazelnut flavors leading to a mellow, rounded finish, adeptly exhibiting a crisp articulation of pot still spiciness throughout. Number 8 in the 2020 Top 20
The much-beloved Peat Monster was recently given a new recipe designed to create greater depth and elegance. The peat influence, while still omnipresent, is now more subtle. On the nose it’s gentle and fragrant, wafting over candied citrus, lemon-frosted cake, and raspberry, along with classic peated undertones of charcoal and iodine. The palate is creamy in texture, with pleasant notes of brine, seashells, ashiness, and a floral peat influence that swirls gently around rich vanilla, tropical hints of lime, smoked meats, and generous spice. The finish offers bitter chocolate, lemon hard candy, and a bang of spice and smoke. Number 9 in the 2020 Top 20
Aberfeldy 18 year old French Red Wine Cask-Finished (Batch 2920), 43%
Single Malt Scotch | $120
Aging scotch in a secondary cask is tricky, and tinkering with a whisky that has already achieved 18 years of age is even riskier. This well-matured Aberfeldy spent its final months in red wine casks from Bordeaux under the bold vision and deft hand of malt master Stephanie Macleod. As a result, it soars above its station. Never intrusive, the red wine finish suggests Fig Newtons and dried cherries, building upon Aberfeldy’s classic honey-vanilla profile to evoke strawberry shortcake and flavors of jam and clotted cream on a fresh-baked scone. A complex, mature, and moreish whisky at an excellent price. Number 10 in the 2020 Top 20
There’s something for everyone in this whisky, whose citrus brightness acts as a deft foil for darker earthy notes, showcasing the Highland distillery’s range. Lemon, orange marmalade, dried fig, golden raisin, milk chocolate, and a touch of leather on the nose; then more marmalade, chocolate, toasted nuts, cinnamon, and lemon pepper on the creamy, viscous palate. Still fresh with citrus, the finish slowly gives way to savory tobacco, leather, cocoa powder, and coffee bean. Subtle, nuanced, and perfectly balanced: a sleeper hit. Number 11 in the 2020 Top 20
This veteran rye never managed to ascend from the bottom shelf. Perhaps a new generation of enthusiasts couldn’t get behind the staid name, or found the price too low to believe. But having persevered for over two centuries, Old Overholt’s time has come. This new version (indicated by its red cap) eliminates chill-filtering, resulting in greater flavor and depth. Aromas of Christmas spice cake, cinnamon, apple, and toasted grain lead to a mouthful of berry fruit, with seductive allspice, cacao, and walnut notes. What’s old is new again! Number 12 in the 2020 Top 20
Glenmorangie has been growing its own barley for years, but this U.S. exclusive marks the first release produced entirely from its estate-grown grain. Honeysuckle and jasmine waft over lemon curd and shortbread on the nose, while bright aromas of blueberry and lime stand out. The palate is malty and full: shortbread with tumbling fresh blueberries, toasted almonds, and gingery spice. It’s silky, rounded, and seamless into the finish, and beautifully transformed by a drop of water. Number 13 in the 2020 Top 20
The iconic producer of lush sherried malts delivers again. Employing the same technique of marrying whiskies aged in sherry-seasoned casks of both American and European oak that landed the 12 year old in our 2017 Top 20 has resulted in a truly decadent dram—richly nutty and fruity, with dried apples, cherries, and prunes. The palate is wonderfully luscious, supple, and chewy, delivering mouth-coating waves of fruit that remain for minutes on end, before a long farewell of lingering, warming spice. Impressive and irresistibly good. Number 16 in the 2020 Top 20
Gordon & MacPhail 125th Anniversary 1972 (Distilled at Coleburn; Cask No. 3511), 62.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $2500
Perfumed on the nose, with fresh-cut flowers, canned peaches in syrup, butterscotch, and white chocolate. More canned peaches, orange peel, apple crumble, hazelnuts, and heather honey on the palate. The finish is long and peppery. Remarkably vibrant for its age. (363 bottles, 38 for U.S.)
This 29 year old expression was matured in six oloroso sherry casks before a final period of finishing in Pedro Ximénez casks. The nose yields black currant juice spilled onto old leather, then cigar boxes along with plump sultanas soaked in sherry. Voluptuous and silky on the palate, with rich sherry, dates, walnuts, and black treacle. Tingling spices, molasses, and licorice in the lengthy, satisfying finish. (3,052 bottles)
The nose opens with relatively light sweet woodsmoke, then red apples, sherry, iodine, sea salt, and lively spices emerge. Spicy citrus fruits, toffee, and more sweet smoke on the palate. The finish carries citrus fruits, with sherry, spice, and peat smoke. (12,400 bottles, 1,440 for U.S.)
There’s no color added, so that striking red hue comes entirely from the ruby port cask that makes up 50% of this whisky’s maturation program—and that cask shows up in full force, flavor-wise. Vinous aromas of red fruits, plum, blueberry, and pomegranate penetrate the charcoal peat of the nose. Zingy spice—ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, and fresh chile—undergirds berries, salty and ashy peat, and dark chocolate on the silky palate, and the finish is mouth-puckering, with salt water and oak, fading gently. (1,266 bottles)
Comparatively speaking, this is a little monster for peat-loving monster hunters. Lemon, attractive florals, pine forests, and gentle peat smoke. Sweet flavors cascade through honey, lemon, candied peel, and vanilla fudge, heading toward sweet cinnamon, chocolate, clove, and a dry finish of oak and straw bundles. The neat touch here was filling cask-strength Peat Monster into custom French oak casks. A very fine blend indeed. (8,328 bottles, 3,900 for U.S.)
Angel’s Envy Mizunara Oak Cask-Finished Kentucky Straight, 48.9%
Blended Scotch Whisky | $350
A very pretty and delicate whiskey that becomes more beguiling with each sniff. Following the initial peanut, vanilla, and caramel notes, it slowly reveals incense, dried pineapple, and stone fruits sprinkled with spice. The palate is generously sweet, with peach tea and soft wood tannins lending lovely texture, before a finish of zesty citrus, tobacco leaf, and exotic spice. Finished for two years in new charred mizunara oak.
From Bardstown Bourbon Co.’s very creative Collaborative Series—this one finished in oloroso sherry casks used by Louisville’s Copper & Kings to age its brandy. Mocha, oak char, roasted coffee beans, grilled herbs, leather, orange peel, and dried raspberries on the nose. The palate melds baked apple, more herbs, grilled meats, and pleasant oak. Raspberry and orange ride atop a bed of spice, bitter chocolate, and coffee to the finish.
Eagle Rare 17 year old Kentucky Straight (Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2020), 50.5%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $99
A delightful mélange of flavors on the nose—new leather, orange peel, angel food cake, orange Creamsicle, cooked peaches, sweetened ice tea, dark chocolate, nutmeg, and allspice. A well-structured, full-bodied palate starts with earthy notes of warehouse and then lets fly with flavors of blackberry tart, nutmeg, pepper, and semi-sweet chocolate. A lighter but superbly balanced finish adds more dark chocolate, roasted pecans, cherry, tobacco, pepper, and beautifully integrated oak.
Old Forester Birthday Bourbon Kentucky Straight (2020 Release), 49%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $130
The 20th release of Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, from 95 barrels filled in 2010 and aged 10 years. Light earthiness, dried herbs, and leather on the nose, with notes of black cherry and mint. The palate is surprisingly delicate, but rich with flavors of apple, blackberry, dark chocolate cake, mocha, butterscotch, and aged oak. More earthiness mixes with spice on the finish, followed by buttered pecans, chocolate syrup, caramel, and balanced oak.
An effusive nose, with aromatic notes that become almost incense-like—cardamom, cedar, pine resin—as well as sweet berry notes, lemon, milk chocolate, and graham cracker. The palate is fresh and intense; breathe out mint on the exhale. Licorice tea, cacao, horehound candy, and plenty of oak are carried by the chewy, full texture. Peppery mint, oak char, baking chocolate, and pine on the fairly lengthy finish. Sprightly, original, and exciting.
Balcones Rum Cask-Finished Texas (Batch R20-1), 62%
Single Malt American Whiskey | $80
Don’t try to be macho and slug this without water; you’ll miss out on its best characteristics. Totally neat, it’s quite good, but constrained by the numbing alcohol. Add some water and unlock flavors that continue to develop: tropical fruit, cinnamon stick, dark chocolate, and caramel on the nose, and more fruit, nuts, eucalyptus, and bitter herbs on the palate. It has a juicy, mouthwatering character with water, capped off by the well-integrated finish of charred oak, roasted pineapple, eucalyptus, and coffee beans.
Perfumed with orange blossoms and dripping with nectar, the nose also has watermelon, pistachio pudding, coconut, vanilla bean, and apple-scented tobacco; new aromas reveal themselves with every sniff. Tropical fruit mingles with dried chiles, cocoa powder, coffee bean, barrel char, cinnamon, and jalapeños on the palate. The finish has good length, highlighting chile-chocolate, coffee bean, charred oak, and grilled pineapple. Warming and complex, with good development, though it never feels heavy.
Distilled from a mash of 90% rye, matured in new and once-used barrels, and masterfully blended to produce a bold, spicy, complex whisky with aromas of vanilla, baking spices, and butterscotch. Crown Royal’s classic minty, piney palate melds gloriously with gingery heat and sweet clove oil cushioned by ripe cherries, fruit cocktail, and soft milk chocolate. Sugar and spice on the medium-long finish blanket barrel notes and fresh lumber.
Egan’s 17 year old Legacy Reserve III Cadillac Cask-Finished, 46%
Irish Single Malt | $200
The golden-sweet wine finish works like a sunbeam from heaven. The nose basks in summer meadow flowers, sweet honey, light citrus, lemon curd, and vanilla. It’s finely structured on the palate, with apricot pastries, runny honey, sugar-coated orange, peach cobbler, candied peel, and the lightest of spices. These Legacy bottlings are pretty special, but this beguiling whiskey is really one to fall for. (1,000 bottles)
This phenomenal debut is one of the best new single pot still whiskeys around. Caramel, brioche, satsuma, dried apricot, aromatic spices, canned pears, and spiced apple peelings. The palate is creamy, lively, and fruity with pear, apple, dried citrus, lime, fresh plum, and toasted coconut, accompanied by a formidable pot still spiciness. With the inclusion of Irish barra oats and the balance of sherry and bourbon characteristics, this is masterful. (Individual reviewer rating: 93)
It’s the 100th anniversary of the marriage of Masataka and Rita Taketsuru, and there’s plenty to celebrate, with sweet red apples and soft pear on the nose, plus festive spices, peppercorn, cinnamon stick, warmed apple slices, apricot, lemon zest, and lightly charred oak. Creamy, with cooked fruit dipped in sweet syrup, vanilla, toffee apple, and honey, with just a prickle of spices swimming against the weight of the fruit.
Drink this the next time you want a mug of hot chocolate by a roaring peat fire. Whole lemon, earthy chocolaty peat notes, gentle ashy smoke, mocha, and Nutella on the nose, with some deeper sooty charcoal notes. After a 32-month finish in Islay casks, this carries plenty of weight, with flavors of chocolate brownie, dates, cocoa powder, and light ground pepper that intensifies into a riot of smokin’ hot peppercorns. (1,242 bottles)
Heavily peated to 50 ppm, the nose greets you with lemon sponge cake, maritime notes, smoked bacon rind, and aromatic smoke, opening up blue-gray peat-fire smoke, light toffee, fire-blackened driftwood, clove, and peppercorn. Silky soft, with lemon, vanilla, fresh apple, and honey, plus pepper ground over caramel and peach. The palate runs clean and pure: Picture a peat lover behind the wheel of an electric car.
The longer you leave this, the smokier it gets; earthy peat, heavy smoke, hints of bacon fat and steaming asphalt, with blossom honey, vanilla fudge, and lemonade. Dense flavors of honey, vanilla, caramel, sweet satsuma, Jelly Tots, and lime Fruit Pastilles, with mild ginger, pepper, and clove, as smoke builds in the throat. Molten caramel and lemon peel finish, scorched by peat smoke. A magnificent use of Islay casks.
Highland Park Cask Strength (Release No. 1), 63.3%
Single Malt Scotch | $90
This first cask-strength expression in Highland Park’s core range was matured predominantly in sherry-seasoned American oak. Honey, bonfire smoke, orange peel, and a suggestion of treacle on the nose. Sweet and smoky on the palate, with toffee and orchard fruits turning more citric in time. The finish yields sweet spices, more honey, dark chocolate, black pepper, and bonfire embers. Classic Highland Park—turned up to 11! Editors' Choice
Burning straw, berries, and allspice, but the smoke from the double- and triple-distilled peated malts beckons you in deeper, adding peppery barbecued meats, tree bark, and earthiness. The delicious palate brings stewed apple, currants, conference pear, raisin turnover, and brown sugar. Peat smoke infiltrates stealthily, leaving a finish of dried strawberries and pepper. This is a superb nightcap dram, and a great champion for smoky Irish blends. Editors' Choice
This spicy concoction, inspired by John Walker’s original Old Highland Whisky, has a nose of marzipan, candied peel, raisin, marmalade, aromatic spices, pepper, and ginger loaf, with a trace of cool smoke and peppermint. The strength and pepperiness give this plenty of clout, with a flavor unique among Johnnie Walker whiskies: brown sugar, hazelnut, royal icing on wedding cake, nuts, pepper, clove, peat, and blackened fruitcake.
A wonderful balance of red wine and malt notes on this Australian shiraz finish: black currant, cooked apple, blackberry, After Eight mints, black tea, chocolate praline, cherry compote, and dark toffee. Malty, with soft fruits and strawberry jam flavors, then cinnamon, blackberry, dark toffee, clove, pepper, and oak char, with the brighter red summer fruits kept in reserve until the final stages. (9,000 bottles)€140
Barrell Private Release Hermann J. Wiemer Noble Select Josef Vineyard Riesling Barrel-Finished Kentucky Whiskey (Blend No. CH37), 57.11%
American Whiskey | $110
A curious character of tart fruit pervades this whiskey with an unusual finishing cask, starting with underripe blackberries on the nose; there’s also citrus, vanilla, jasmine, orange blossom, almonds in the shell, and a scattering of dried herbs. Tart and citric on the palate—lemon juice, underripe berries, Granny Smith apples, red plums—yet a dark richness of coffee bean, bitter chocolate, and oak offer a pleasing juxtaposition. The lengthy finish retains the interplay of tart fruit and richness until the final exhale.
The reticent nose reveals little at first, but eventually a few aromas emerge: vanilla, licorice tea, furniture polish, and a slightly tart note, like gooseberry or kumquat. That’s borne out with the palate’s tart and citric character, showcasing plum, pear, lemon, gooseberry, and kumquat, with an herbal tinge, toasted oak, and a hint of almond. The finish is mouthwatering—almost mouth-puckering—and continues the tart fruit theme. This is an odd but intriguing whiskey, showing great consistency and novelty.
Jacob's Pardon 15 year old Single Barrel American Whiskey (No. 37), 69.75%
American Whiskey | $200
Distilled above 80% ABV from 99% corn and aged in used barrels, this qualifies as light whiskey. Expressive nose of butterscotch, brown sugar, vanilla, coconut cream, candied pecan, and maple syrup on hot pancakes. Gripped by its proof from the first sip, you may find your mouth puckering from tannins and tingling with heat, but the sweet flavors of dark caramel, maple syrup, and candied nuts offer softening balance. Generous watering is highly recommended; you won’t miss a single flavor, but your tongue will recover more quickly from the high-octane ABV. (106 bottles)
Proof and Wood 25 year old 100 Seasons American Light Whiskey, 51.15%
American Whiskey | $350
The nose is sweet with vanilla cupcake, crushed almonds, pecan sandies, Granny Smith apples, and Chinese coconut jelly. There’s a rancio element that pervades through the palate and finish—a bit like toasted oak, brown sugar, and even mothballs—that gives the whiskey gravitas to counterbalance the marshmallow and lemon bar flavors. Mellow and sweet, it has a lengthy finish that displays gentle finesse. (500 bottles)
Single Malts of Scotland 10 year old Aird Mhor Single Cask (Distilled in 2009; Cask No. 707921), 59.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $100
The nose has expressive peat with mineral and herbal, rather than smoky, characteristics; there’s also orange oil, fresh ginger, and chalk. Water brings out blueberries and blackberries. Nutty and roasted flavors dominate the palate, with mouthwatering oak, black pepper, and coffee bean, sprinkled with orange oil, shoulder to shoulder with the peat. It finishes with savory ashy char: a whisky for the great outdoors. (216 bottles; U.S. exclusive)
After decades of consolidation, Ireland is experiencing a craft whiskey renaissance. Founded in 2014, The Shed Distillery delivers the first whiskey from the western province of Connacht in over a century. Polished creamy sweetness and aromatic spices herald this striking dram, which has been triple-distilled and then matured in first-fill bourbon and oloroso sherry casks. Aromas of caramel, brioche, satsuma, and dried apricot draw you in, ushering in a luscious palate of pear, apple, and freewheeling spices bolstered by dried citrus, lime, and toasted coconut. Number 14 in the 2020 Top 20
Triple-distilled in Dublin, Teeling’s debut single pot still expression is distinctive in its unusual 50:50 mashbill of malted to unmalted barley, adding an element of virgin American oak to deliver a charismatic quality and texture. The nose is reminiscent of cinnamon breakfast cereal, with delicate touches of melon and white grape, but it’s the vibrancy of the cinnamon, nutmeg, and pepper at this perfect proof that most impresses, taking a decisive lead over the soft stone and orchard fruit and glossy caramel flavors. Number 15 in the 2020 Top 20
Malted rye is a rarity in whiskey, and at 60% of the mashbill here, this earns high marks for originality. The nose has lively notes of chili powder, pepper, and paprika, along with licorice, pfeffernüsse, candied dark berries, orange peel, and spearmint. The palate begins gently enough, then whips into a spice storm of chile peppers and spicy cooked meats, with flavors of roasted pecan, dark chocolate, blackberry jam, more orange peel, and rich oak, before a finish of dried oranges, vanilla syrup, and well-integrated spice. Number 18 in the 2020 Top 20
Pittyvaich 30 year old (Diageo Special Releases 2020), 50.8%
Single Malt Scotch | $525
The oily nose yields intense tropical fruits, vanilla, nougat, and pine. Rich peach notes on the full palate, with a light sprinkling of white pepper, and hazelnuts dipped in milk chocolate. Spicy in the medium-lengthfinish. Matured in first-fill bourbon barrels. (7,056 bottles)
Dalwhinnie 30 year old (Diageo Special Releases 2020), 51.9%
Single Malt Scotch | $722
Pipe tobacco, white pepper, and a mildly herbal note on the nose, with emerging vanilla, green berries, and ginger. Full-bodied in the mouth, supple and creamy, with orchard fruits and more white pepper. Drying in the very long finish, with chile, light tannins, and dark chocolate. (6,978 bottles)
The nose is rich, with new leather, sultanas, dates, furniture polish, ginger, Jaffa oranges, and cloves. Silky on the palate, mandarin oranges with cream, developing toffee, milky coffee, and milk chocolate. The long finish offers nougat, dark chocolate, licorice, and light spices.
An enigmatic and quiet whiskey, whose subtle complexity begs for your attention. The nose is minty and fresh with pine, balanced by earthy clay, matcha, green almonds, milk chocolate, and spice. Dry and a bit earthy on the palate, which has texture without heaviness; mint, walnuts, dark fruit, cola, root beer, and black pepper create a savory-sweet effect, leading into the well-paced finish.
Oak & Eden Round Prairie Jamestown Revival Riff, 57.5%
Rye Whiskey | $80
Don’t shy away from tasting this at proof, at least at first; it’s a gentle giant, whose savory character is well-served by the high alcohol. Cooked cherries, blackberry jam, iced tea, tobacco barn, and dark chocolate on the nose. It’s chewy and char-forward on the palate, showcasing dark-roast coffee, cooked cherries and blackberries, polished oak, dark chocolate, black pepper, dried chile, and a well-woven char note. Savory and lengthy to finish, with coffee, baking chocolate, and persistent white pepper.
The savory and spice qualities here are really captivating, as spicy Slim Jim converges with Christmas cake, mulled wine with spices, plum pudding, anise cookies, and quinine. The palate suggests sherry, with its heaps of dried fruits, brandied cherries, and star anise. Despite the decadent fruit, it’s not too far afield for any whiskey lover, with drying tannins and added character from finishing in cherry brandy, vermouth, and bitters barrels.
Orange blossom, tropical notes of lime, pineapple, and guava, as well as fruitcake, powdered sugar, maple syrup, and balanced oak on the nose. More tropical notes and powdered sugar follow on the palate, along with hot chocolate, roasted nuts, grain notes, pepper, and barrel char. Light tropical flavors return on a long finish interwoven with chocolate, tobacco, and barrel notes. Unconventional and intensely racy, with an intriguing, complex interplay of diverse flavors.
J. Rieger & Co. Monogram Oloroso Bota (2020 Edition), 52.5%
American Whiskey | $100
Form a line, sherry lovers: This blend of 10 year old corn and 5 and 11 year old ryes is driven by its finishing casks, like many single malt scotches. Though the nose is reticent and hints at the luxe flavors, the palate is a sherry bomb: brown sugar, semi-sweet chocolate, raisins, hazelnuts, nougat, and figs, with sprinklings of spice and subtle saline. Drying tannin and mouth-puckering saltiness on the finish, with raisins and chocolate. The sherry is the point here, but it integrates splendidly with the muscular whiskey. (1,887 bottles)
Finely nuanced grain whiskey showing the light sweetness of honey on toast and golden syrup, with wood spices, peanut, and oak shavings. Rich mouthfeel with an enduring intensity of flavors of glazed fruits, vanilla, and citrus peel oils, with the new Spanish oak making a significant contribution through oak flavors, wood spices, crunchy oat cookies, and pecans in caramel. Those sweet toffee flavors will keep you coming back for more.
This is so delicious that it makes you want to slip into the glass and join it. Coffee bean, orange peel, and fruit-forward dark chocolate bars, then chocolate ganache, cocoa powder, black cherry, and peppercorn. Wheat whiskey makes up 50% of the blend, and it tastes of chocolate orange and milky coffee, with a crashing wave of pepper and ginger spices. Vibrant dark fruits persist with a creamy chocolate finish. (3,000 bottles for U.S.)
Distilled at Mars Shinshu, but matured in the Mars Tsunuki aging cellar, this charms with fresh fruity notes of raspberry, apple, and pear, with banana loaf, baking spices, lemon zest, and seasoned oak. The opening flavors of vanilla fudge and warm fruits are submersed by a vigorous peppery incursion, though there’s pear, chocolate, malt, and vanilla pod flavors once that settles. I recommend experimenting to pinpoint your preferred dilution.
Ohishi 10 year old Brandy Cask-Finished (2020 Release), 43.7%
Japanese Rice Whisky | $80
Fully matured in cognac casks for 10 to 13 years, the nose initially has vanilla sugar, dried banana, lemon and lime hard candies, then pineapple chunks, lemon zest, pink peppercorns, and hints of pine floor polish. In contrast, the scrumptious palate is like a plate of homemade cookies, with praline, milk chocolate, dark fruits, caramel sauce, vanilla custard, and chocolate brownies, ending with a dry finish of lightly spiced cookie dough. (2,109 bottles)
This seasonal whisky’s name translates to “happy hunting” and evokes the Swedish love of foraging for berries in the forest. The complex recipe involves a component whisky filled into a variety of casks seasoned with Grythyttan Vin’s lingonberry and blueberry wine. Fragrant nose, with soft white fruits, grasses, and root ginger, with flavors of blueberry, honey, dried peel, and a fireworks extravaganza of spices before a cashew and hazelnut finish. SEK599
Blackadder 9 year old Raw Cask Smoking Islay, 59.4%
Blended Malt Scotch Whisky | $150
You looking for adventure, my friend? Follow me. Enveloped in sweet aromatic smoke, this wraps you in a headlock, enabling smoke to snake into your nostrils and blow out both ears. Blistering smoky precision, with shredded lemon peel, île flottante, toffee, jasmine, and cinnamon bark. A palate of lemon meringue pie, vanilla, light toffee, and pepper conceals its true strength. For hedonists: Rowdy, with a chance of peat for all. (278 bottles, 90 for U.S.)—
The sweet, mineral, herbal smoke of this whiskey is a rare treat, calling up memories of the shells of grilled oysters, smudging a bundle of sage, and lightly charring marshmallows over a campfire. Subtly smoky on the palate, well-woven with sweet confectionary notes of meringue, candy cigarettes, and powdered dried lemon zest. It finishes mild and still sweet, vanilla and coconut on the final breath. Curious, unique, and delightful.
Single Malts of Scotland 10 year old Clynelish Single Cask (Distilled in 2010; Cask No. 700051), 57.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $130
Fruit and grain drive this solid sipper, with aromas of banana, cantaloupe, almond paste, and lemon-ginger tea to start. In the mouth, it’s rounded and full, showing zingy lemon, biscuity malt, cooked bananas, and milk chocolate. Water brings out brighter fruit flavors: strawberry, lemon, and green apple hard candies. The finish comes full circle, with bananas, lemon, almonds, and vanilla. (216 bottles; U.S. exclusive)
Single Malts of Scotland 20 year old Ardbeg Single Cask (Distilled in 2001; Cask No. 1-93), 51.8%
Single Malt Scotch | $600
At first whiff, the nose is classic Islay peat: kelp and kippers, with the rubbery pop of new vinyl couch cushions. Add a little water, and fresh lemon and grapefruit burst from the glass: a welcome surprise. The oily palate highlights both—abundant saline peat and zippy citrus—with a tingle of white pepper that lingers in the nose well into the finish, which also has roasted walnuts, nori, ash, and oak. (192 bottles; U.S. exclusive)
As American single malt ascends, Balcones shows its leadership with this triumphant offering. It’s bursting with tropical fruits—kiwi, mango, guava, jackfruit—buttressed by undercurrents of cinnamon, dried chiles, blueberry muffins, and nuts. Those juicy ripe fruits remain intense on the palate, two-stepping with cocoa powder, barrel char, roasted pecans, and black pepper; the dance sweeps into a lengthy finish of grilled pineapple, mocha, and tobacco, tapering off into bitter chocolate and oak. Balcones is putting both American single malt and the state of Texas on the map. Number 17 in the 2020 Top 20
This new, higher proof Iwai (pronounced EE-why) was designed for cocktails; however, it’s supple and more than capable as a neat sipper too, with pleasing aromas of honey, ripening pear, barley, exotic woods, and citrus. The palate of honey sweetness, sugar cubes, vanilla, pear, apricot, and spice bows out with honey, breakfast cereal, nougat, and white chocolate. It’s a delicious and unusual whisky from Japan, less aligned with the country’s scotch-like tradition of malts and blends and more similar to bourbon, being made mostly from corn. Number 19 in the 2020 Top 20
Gordon & MacPhail 125th Anniversary 1975 (Glencraig, Distilled at Glenburgie; Cask No. 9686), 54.2%
Single Malt Scotch | $2500
Glencraig was the name given to the single malt made using Lomond stills at Glenburgie Distillery. The nose leads with linseed oil, then coconut, malt, dark chocolate fondant, and tiramisu. Oily on the palate, with sweet orange, cocoa powder, and ginger. The finish dries very slowly to dark chocolate and light wood spices. (110 bottles, 12 for U.S.)
Mortlach 21 year old (Diageo Special Releases 2020), 56.9%
Single Malt Scotch | $755
Aged in a mix of Pedro Ximénez and oloroso sherry-seasoned casks, this has a peppery, slightly savory nose, offering boiled sweets and dried fruits. The palate is voluptuous, with sherry, dates, caramel, dark spices, and oak tannins. Licorice and a suggestion of chile in the ultimately drying, lengthy, slightly meaty finish.(7,692 bottles)
This is a new recipe, replacing the old 12 year old. Rounded and warming on the nose, with stewed fruits, orange peel, and a hint of lime. Voluptuous in the mouth, with honey, milky coffee, figs, and dried fruit. Black currants, licorice, and lively spices in the finish. A really satisfying, well-structured dram.
Gordon & MacPhail 125th Anniversary 1979 (Mosstowie, Distilled at Miltonduff; Cask No. 20323), 49.8%
Single Malt Scotch | $2500
Mosstowie was the name given to single malt produced on Lomond stills at Miltonduff Distillery. Butterscotch, ripening peaches, ripe plums, and a hint of lime on the nose. The palate is viscous, with red berries, peach, and vanilla. Drying steadily in the finish, with aniseed, black pepper, and, finally, black tea.(164 bottles, 16 for U.S.)
Bruichladdich Octomore 10 year old (2020 Release), 54.3%
Single Malt Scotch | $235
Malted to 208 ppm and matured in a mix of virgin oak and first- and second-fill bourbon and Tennessee whiskey barrels. The nose is fragrant, with pepper, iodine, intense peat smoke, and lemon peel. Juicy orchard fruits and more smoke on the palate, with treacle, caramel, and spice. Black tea, licorice, lingering woody peat, and chile in the finish.
This is a spicy prospect, with pepper, lemon bonbons, and dense peat smoke, though the toffee and sweet lemon are well-balanced against the smoke. Sweet lemon meringue pie, candied peel, and a twin assault of smoke and clove-led spices on the palate, though the sweetness mounts a fight back. Great crescendo of flavor as Big Peat tries to show he is the perfect house guest for the holidays. (900 bottles for U.S.)
Made from a mashbill of 95% rye and 5% malted barley, and aged at least 3 years. The nose is freshly sweet, with notes of orange tea, orange peel, nectarine, licorice, dark chocolate, leather, and dried flowers. A creamy palate offers marmalade, fruitcake, baking spice, and barrel char. The finish is light but lengthy, with bursts of dark fruit tart, black currant, and vanilla bean. Excellent complexity for a whiskey this young.
Wiser’s 22 year old Cask Strength Port Cask-Finished, 59.7%
Canadian | $90
Very aromatic with fruit leather, red fruit, mild caramel, hints of oak, and slight nose prickle. A lush, sweet, fruity palate restrained by peach pits, earthy tones, and mild oakiness develops hints of spent shotgun shells that could sometimes be found in very old sherried malts. A pleasing glow turns hot and peppery before gradually fading into unusually enjoyable rich red grape skins. Long, complex, and well-balanced.
Dried cherry, orange peel, and red fruits on the nose complemented by aromatic spices, toffee, hazelnut, plum jam, polished wood, macaroons, and a little oak toastiness. It’s thick and mouth coating, with toffee, fig, nutty chocolate, pepper, oak char, bitter cacao, and dark cherry. The blend has a 35% malt content and spent a minimum finishing period of a year in oloroso sherry hogsheads.
The Whistler is emerging as a standout Irish whiskey for the quality of its flavors. After a 15-month finish in Château du Breuil calvados casks, look for aromas of caramel apple clafoutis, pressed cider apples, and layers of honey, vanilla, ground spice, and floral top notes. Green apple, honey, barley, and vanilla ride a tide of peppery spices, leaving light brown sugar, apple cereal bars, and a long, spicy finish. (3,000 bottles for U.S.)
Sliabh Liag is the first legal whiskey distillery in Co. Donegal in over 175 years, and though the blends are sourced, this latest iteration is a big step up in quality. Soft fruit, strong barley notes, and graham cracker aromas, with supporting grain notes, stone fruits, vanilla, and orange blossom. The palate is soft and graceful, offering orange fondant, apricot, peach, nectarine, ground ginger, citrus peel, and green apple.
Aromas of ripe peach, barley, dry spices, waxy green leaves, baked citrus, scorched earth, and dried flowers on Hombo Shuzo’s debut whisky from Mars Tsunuki Distillery, produced in the 2016–2017 season. Sipping reveals sweet orange, chocolate, and clove, though the spices are straining at the leash and the high-strength alcohol can KO unwary taste buds. Dilute and the fruits shine beautifully while the spices are kept in check. (9,984 bottles)
The well-balanced nose is terrific, with jasmine-scented candles, banana, peach pit, Banoffee pie, and polished oak, becoming lush and fruity with blackberry, green apple, and fragrant spices. In the swirl of aromas, there’s harmony. Light bodied with satsuma segments, cotton candy, milk and cookies, dried fruits, and fruity candy toward the end. The low filling strength may be the cause of less influence of the mizunara cask over the 24-month finish. (2,004 bottles)
Ohishi 8 year old Sherry Cask-Finished (2020 Release), 42.1%
Japanese Rice Whisky | $80
Fantastically nutty sherry notes, like a good amontillado, with aromas of cooking apple, plum, pecan pie, pencil shavings, and wood spices. The sherry cask adds depth, flair, subtlety, and expressiveness to both the nose and palate. To taste, there is orange peel, nuts, crystallized grapefruit peel, fresh plum, clove, and pepper. The sweet light flavors keep it aloft as more base notes help to fill it out. (4,090 bottles)
Blended from imported whiskies along with Chichibu, the component whiskies in blue label are at least 10 years old, but often much older. The aromas tease with barley sugar, smoked venison, aromatic pan-roasted spices, peppercorn, and smoked paprika. Pepper and root ginger pummel sweet orange flavors of sherbet and Creamsicle. The citrus sweetness sees off the hefty spices, leaving the mouth awash with creamy orange peel notes and tropical fruits.
M&H Elements Red Wine Cask-Finished Single Malt, 46%
World Whisky | $70
Cherry, cranberry, strawberry, raspberry sorbet, plum skin, juicy sultana, sweet barley notes, and a smudge of fine spices indicate the influence of the Israeli red wine casks. The palate is fruity but not sweet, with red grape, pepper, malt, vinous notes, and ascendant peppery oak spices, then a dry finish of vanilla cream, raspberry cordial, and spices. Delicious, but after the first sip, further flavor shifts are subtle.
Hudson Bright Lights, Big Bourbon New York Straight, 46%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $40
Distilled from 95% New York-grown corn and 5% malted barley. Vanilla ice cream, milk chocolate, orange zest, ginger snaps, fresh flowers, leather, and allspice on the nose. The mouthfeel is light, with notes of herbs, orange slices, vanilla, cinnamon, chocolate, almonds, and brown sugar. A smooth, spicy finish brings on a finale of orange tart, ginger, dried almonds, and a pleasant cereal note. Light but well spiced, with depth and balance. Best Value
Fukano 12 year old Single Cask (Cask No. 55), 41.8%
Japanese Rice Whisky | $120
Disgorged from a 440-liter new oak cask, this is like a spiced blueberry muffin. The aromas evolve before your very nose; spicy punch, dried conifer cone, dark toffee, cola candy, strawberry laces, baked plum, banana skin, and ground pepper. A light palate, mouth-drawing at times, with pastry, butter croissant, and dried raspberry, developing richer fruits and sweetness, with toffee, black fruits, chewed leather, and base notes of pepper. (420 bottles)—
With a heart of Glenburgie, its bourbon barrel finish delivers a heady hit of vanilla, red apples, and brown sugar sweetness on the nose, with support from baked hazelnut cookies and ground black pepper. Toffee apple, pear, vanilla, salted caramel, and a gentle pepperiness dissipate to reveal caramel, heather honey, pecan pie, cocoa, and dark chocolate. Try this with orange or cocoa bitters in your next Old Fashioned. £28
Dhavall Ghandhi’s latest one-off creation uses casks that held colheita (single vintage aged tawny port). Fragrant and appealing, with spices, apple jelly, pink Turkish delight, plums, warm coffee grounds, Seville orange peel, forest honey, and cedar boxes. Flavors of cherry, toffee, pepper, clove, and an early surge of high alcohol, it develops a creamy mouthfeel with cranberry, sultana, and sweet cinnamon buns, finishing with leather, tobacco, and prune juice. £65
Dark and mysterious, with prune juice, leather boots, aniseed, Brazil nut, and tobacco. There’s oloroso and PX influence on the palate, with prune, dried fig, baked orange, dark muscovado, chocolate-covered toffee, and hazelnut, with a finish of cocoa and smoky espresso notes. It nearly has the body and texture to sustain these heavy-duty flavors, but it’s a bit like a skinny kid in a leather jacket trying to act tough. £48
The nose indicates the partial base of whiskey distilled from beer (it’s blended with straight rye) right away, with citrusy pine aromas, as well as brown sugar, milk chocolate, almond nougat, and peanut brittle. The palate has a mineral quality, dry with chamomile and tobacco, but remains true to the lemon and pine essence that the nose outlines. There’s also dark-roast coffee, chocolate, black pepper, and tea leaf. Medium-length on the finish, with consistent lemon, chocolate, coffee, and oak flavors. (900 bottles)
Tomer Goren, head distiller at Milk & Honey Distillery in Tel Aviv, excels at warm climate single malt production under the intensity of the Mediterranean sun. His ethos is beautifully captured within this kosher-certified flagship bottling, matured in bourbon and shaved, toasted, and re-charred casks. It exudes a nose of golden syrup, vanilla, marshmallow, jasmine, dried apple, nutmeg, cinnamon, and pepper. Flavorful and juicy, the palate has satisfying depth, with caramel, vanilla, shortbread, honey, and orange, daubed with vivaciously spicy black pepper. Number 20 in the 2020 Top 20
Cragganmore 20 year old (Diageo Special Releases 2020), 55.8%
Single Malt Scotch | $171
Cream, vanilla, and fresh orange juice feature on the early nose, followed by a slightly herbal note. Ultimately sweet and floral, with nougat. Luscious sweet orange notes on the palate, with toasted cereal, before dry wood spices appear. The finish is relatively long and nutty, with a sprinkling of pepper.
Distilled in 2014 from barley grown at Octomore Farm, with a peating level of 194 ppm, and aged 5 years in barrels from Buffalo Trace, Heaven Hill, Jack Daniel, and Jim Beam. There’s a maritime note and prickly ginger on the nose, with a bit of smoke and a hint of cloves. Sinuous on the palate, with sweet cereal, big spicy peat, and dark chocolate. The long finish yields ashy peat and chocolate-covered ginger. (18,000 bottles)
This breezy, coastal dram revels in aromas of lemon, pine needle, ozone, clotted cream, lavender, rock pools, and light peat smoke, though there’s no smoking Tommy gun. A good-weight dram with bitter lemon, royal icing, vanilla, and toffee, plus assertive pepper, oak char, and burnt sugar that pummel away like a street fighter, finally calming to an olive oil finish. This is a proper Islay whisky, if you dare. (U.S. Exclusive; 2,000 bottles).
Bright and citrusy, this is a big handful of orange gumdrops, mandarin slices in syrup, and curaçao, laced with lemon oil and baking spice. On the palate, there is more fruit—grapefruit and melon—that comes wrapped in soft spices with the alluring flavors of root beer barrels and sassafras leaf. A medium-bodied whiskey that strikes a fine balance.
The Hokkaido Akkeshi Distillery started in 2016, and with access to local peat, it has designs on a distinctive Islay style. This high-strength expression is lightly peated and shows molten caramel, crushed spices, campfire smoke, dried coconut strips, peppercorn, and rice cakes. Toffee, cooked apple, and marmalade on first sip, it’s tangy with mango, canned peaches, dried papaya, and a streak of clove and pepper.
A mercurial nose like many rice whiskies: pear, honeydew, chopped ginger, lemongrass, green herbal notes, wild garlic, white pepper, mineral elements, and seashells. Drawn from a combination of refill sherry, refill new oak, and one red wine cask, the aromas are matched by a dense palate of honey, herbal notes, melon, poached pear, ginger spice, lemongrass, pepper, vanilla, and lemon peel, with a tingly, spicy aftertaste. Definitely worth experiencing. (3,824 bottles)
Components range from 7 to 27 years old, the oldest distilled by the current 6th-generation master distiller’s own father. Pepper, allspice, baked peach, white pepper, vanilla fudge, pancake batter, and orange essence on the nose. Cocoa-dusted red fruits, a burst of spice, then sharp orange, soft fudge, and red apple. Complex and piquant: fermented fruits, chocolate brownie, and creamy coffee to finish. Born to be mild. (1,606 bottles)
This is the best of the range: It carries more weight and shows greater depth than Royal Oak Distillery’s other Buskers. An enticing nose of fresh conference pear, apple peels, baking spice, nutmeg, and a hint of smoked orange peel. Its well-rounded and smooth character carries flavors of toffee, apple, sultana, and vanilla essence, broadening out with chocolate ganache, active spices, milky coffee, caramel, and rich fruit. Best Value
Satsuma peel, aromatic florals, and a low level of aromatic spices, then fruit syrups and a hint of olive oil on the nose: It’s clean and bright, with plenty of sweetness. The citrus, toffee, and salted-caramel sweetness of the palate are disrupted by a shockwave of pepper, leaving tangy peels, hints of nuts, and sour gooseberry in its wake before a finish of citrus and sweet barley.
Waterford Single Farm Origin Dunbell Edition 1.1, 50%
Irish Single Malt | $95
Chocolate Crispy Thins, graham cracker, barley, peppercorn, aniseed, ground exotic spices, and cracker bread, but there’s also some perceptible glue-like young whisky notes. The flavors on the palate show the inherent promise of Waterford: barley sugar, oat granola, baked orange, and hefty spices, particularly aniseed, followed by unsweetened cooking chocolate melting under the spice. This develops into chocolate-covered Brazil nuts and a deep warming glow on the finish. (U.S. Exclusive; 6,000 bottles)
The Lakes The One Orange Wine Cask-Finished, 46.6%
English Blended Whisky | $65
Mandarin, breakfast pastries, lemon meringue pie, warm peach, sweet grapefruit halves, and a fine layer of spices on the nose make for an appealing introduction. Baked orange, sweet fudge, and pepper on first sip, with later development of grilled pineapple, vanilla, and dried mango. With its instantly likeable flavors, this is a great recruiting whisky for new drinkers, though the palate development has its limitations. £48
Tawny and ruby port casks have robed this whisky in fantastic colors, and on the nose, there are baked cherries, blueberry muffin, sloes, caramel, and mild spice notes to enjoy. The palate swirls with sweet caramel, cola candy, bitter orange, plum, damson, and peppercorn, before hitting its stride with creamy vanilla toffee, baked apple, and fruit syrup flavors, and ending with a satisfying return of spice on the finish.£48
Orange segments and grapefruit peel with a spritz of peel oils, accompanied by gentle spice, bakery notes, and fruit-flavored jelly candies. Vanilla, sweet orange, honey, grapefruit peel, peppery spice, and lavender, then baked orange with deeper honey tones. Their first bottling, called The One, in 2014 was poor: this isn’t. Master blender Dhavall Gandhi joined the distillery in 2016 and he has turned this into a terrific dram.£39
Blackadder 31 year old 1988 (Distilled at Cambus), 46.1%
Single Grain Scotch | $325
This spirit was laid down five years before the distillery closed and has a classic grain whisky nose of green herbs and spice, with notes of aromatic woods, tarragon, dune grasses, and plain popcorn. The mouthfeel is smooth, with evident strength, and flavors of honey, corn flakes, vanilla, granola bars, dried banana, golden syrup, crunchy oak cookies, sultana, and sesame oil, with a hot, dry, and slightly nutty finish. (232 bottles, 60 for U.S.)
This unpeated single malt updates and replaces the previous 10 year old. It presents tropical fruits, vanilla, honey, and ginger on the nose. Soft fruits, malt, and milk chocolate inhabit the creamy, well-balanced palate. Hazelnuts, drinking chocolate, and light spices surface in the medium-length finish, with just a wisp of smoke.
Cardhu 11 year old (Diageo Special Releases 2020), 56%
Single Malt Scotch | $111
The nose is lightly floral, with pears and ripe peaches, followed by red apple with a light sprinkling of white pepper. The palate is creamy and very sweet, with more orchard fruits and a little spice. The medium-length finish is slightly drying, with some lightly spiced oak
DS Tayman 12 year old Flam Wine Barrel-Finished (Distilled at Linkwood; Cask No. 180803325), 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $65
Kosher-certified and matured in a refill bourbon barrel, before finishing in a barrel from Israel’s Flam Winery. Sweet red wine, strawberries and cream, and spicy apple pie on the nose. The palate is voluptuous, with cocoa, Brazil nuts, and increasingly dry red wine. Dark-chocolate raspberry liqueur, oak, and black pepper in the long finish. (1,600 bottles)
Gordon & MacPhail 125th Anniversary 1984 (Distilled at Glenury Royal; Cask No. 2335), 49.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $2500
Royal Glenury was established in 1825 and closed in 1985. Salted butter on the early nose, Turkish delight, then dry nutty sherry. Very nutty on the palate, with figs and wine tannins. The lengthy finish reveals dates, bitter coffee, and black treacle. (397 bottles, 38 for U.S.)
The Singleton of Dufftown 17 year old (Diageo Special Releases 2020), 55.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $145
This is the first release of Singleton of Dufftown to be matured solely in refill American oak hogsheads. The nose is slightly earthy, with developing barley sugar and green fruits. The supple palate offers honey, sweet orange, walnuts, and soft spice. The finish is peppery, with crystallized ginger and a hint of dark chocolate.
DS Tayman 10 year old Flam Wine Barrel-Finished (Distilled at Caol Ila), 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $65
This kosher-certified single cask was matured in a refill bourbon barrel before finishing in a wine barrel from Israel’s Flam Winery. The nose opens with barbecue smoke and new leather, then rosé wine, salt, and ginger cookies emerge. The nutty palate features woodsmoke, cocoa, instant coffee, stewed fruits, and more salt. The finish is long, with coffee, dry red wine, and prickly oak. (400 bottles)
Made with barley malted to 139.6 ppm, distilled in 2014, and matured 5 years in first-fill Jim Beam, Jack Daniel, and Heaven Hill casks. Citrus fruit and unripe bananas on the nose, and in time, clean pine notes. Vanilla, salted caramel, chewy orange, and prickly woodsmoke on the palate. Lively, prickly, prominent peat, a suggestion of honey, and more citrus fruit in the lengthy finish. (30,000 bottles)
The nose is perfumed, with citrus fruit, ginger, wood spice, and nutty toffee. Green apples, more nuts, coconut, vanilla, and cocoa powder on the palate. Milk chocolate and soft spices in the medium-length, mildly herbal finish.
Initially reticent on the nose, with time this reveals gooey caramel, pralines, Hershey’s milk chocolate, and a touch of charred mint leaves. It’s chewy and occasionally sharp on the palate, with oodles of roasted nuts, polished oak, mint, peppery spice, dark chocolate, licorice, tobacco ash, and char. The medium-length finish holds tingling white pepper, unsweetened chocolate, and more polished oak.
The unusual use of millet as the secondary grain for this bourbon creates an utterly unexpected flavor profile, closer to the familiar notes of rye. It works well, but the blind drinker may be taken unawares. Freshness dominates the nose, with balsam bough, spruce branches, mint toothpaste, and Pine-Sol, and it pervades the palate too, which is green and peppy with arugula, spearmint, pine, black pepper, and lemon. The finish shows bitter oak but remains persistently piney and fresh.
Licorice, charcoal smoke, cured tobacco, black pepper, pencil eraser, and bicycle tires on the nose—but don’t be put off, those are attractive notes in a whiskey that’s making sooty phenols one of its central selling points. The palate is dry and peppery, with savory notes of mole sauce, roasted nuts, and coffee bean, along with peppermint and dry-roasted spices. It finishes with black pepper, bittersweet chocolate, more roasted nuts, and persistent char.
A Tennessee whiskey using wheat (instead of rye) as the flavoring grain. New leather, mint, dusty warehouse floor, pink pastilles, gingerbread, caramel, and dark fruits on the nose. Cinnamon up front on the palate, followed by brown sugar, chocolate, raspberry, vanilla wafers, allspice, and black pepper. The finish is lightly oaked, with creamy vanilla, more cinnamon, and allspice. A delicate but flavorful profile, with balanced sweetness and spice.
Though anchored in earthy and woodsy aromas of birch and soil, tropical fruits also burst forth from the glass: guava, kiwi, pineapple, mango, and jackfruit, ripe and ready to be enjoyed. They carry through to the palate, along with a touch of citrus, Cherry Coke syrup, roasted pecans, and ample spice, and are persistent into the mouth-coating finish, which counterbalances cloying flavors with charred nuts and oak.
Stranahan’s 10 year old Mountain Angel Colorado (Batch 001), 47.3%
Single Malt American Whiskey | $130
The nose is reticent and doesn’t yield much, but candied lemon peel, strawberry, grape soda, and jasmine perfume emerge. It’s super sweet and fruity on the palate, like a bag of Skittles; guava, pineapple, mango, kiwi, and cantaloupe shine, with a length of oak to temper the effusive brightness. The finish is fairly short, and overall a bit more muted than the palate suggests.
This smells like nothing so much as instant oatmeal of the maple and brown sugar variety—sweet cereal, buttressed by fresh-hewn oak, orange marmalade, and a sprinkling of cinnamon. The palate does well, given a bit of water and time to open up, revealing maple syrup, almond, milk chocolate, cinnamon, orange peel, and a hint of tobacco, as well as new wood. More tobacco, like the end of a cigar, on the finish, along with milk chocolate and persistent oak.
Method & Madness French Limousin Oak-Finished, 46%
Irish Single Malt | $75
Irish Distillers experimented with 14 year old single malt (sourced from elsewhere, as Midleton Distillery doesn’t make it), matured in bourbon barrels with a parcel finished in French oak. The nose is nutty, with granola, shortbread, pecans, and a smattering of ground pepper. Smooth flavors of ice cream cone, blossom honey, vanilla, ginger, pepper, and long-lasting spices. Toffee, roasted nuts, cinnamon, malt, and blackening spices carry from the late palate into the finish.
Red apples bob in a sea of pot still spice on the nose, with whole almond, strawberry tarts, and brown sugar lumps. This is smooth, light, and delicious, with grilled muffins, bourbon biscuits, spice, vanilla, and well-toasted granola, with a later development of plum and blackberry. Burnt sugar and more spice on the finish.
With Ireland’s proud heritage of brewing, no wonder distillers are experimenting: The barrels used here come courtesy of Blacks of Kinsale. The nose is subtle and delivers a fresh spiciness, with warm bread on a bakery shelf, stacked American oak staves, and a characteristic green hoppiness. Honey sweetness, citrus peel, lime zest, cereal, pepper, and ginger, then some late dark berry notes and fig before peppery spices thunder through the finish. (9,400 bottles)
Kiwi, guava, and jackfruit aromas meld with generous malt, ginger, and cinnamon on the nose, and all carry into the palate, which is light-bodied but retains its intense flavor, as tropical fruit and toasted grain intersect with spice. Toasted nuts, sweet oak, a touch of leather, and persistent fruit into the finish. Water has an unbalancing effect, so add sparingly.
Peppercorns and aromatic spices ride over baked orange, toffee, and lemon peel. The spices are buzzing, like you’ve face-planted on a hornets’ nest, and it’s a blast: dry-roasted spice rubs, cumin, coriander seed, and some bitter blackened spice notes. In comparison, the palate feels like an anticlimax; mild and light, with lemon, honey, a Peppermint Pattie’s center, vanilla, fudge, and zested orange, with the spices reduced to a background hum. (7,077 bottles)
Baked oat cookie, walnut, allspice, and a hint of rosehip, though the aromas become quite spicy in time, crackling with ground ginger and pepper. The palate has a mouth-drawing, heavy texture and tastes joyously like a liquid toffee apple after two years in the port cask. Supported by flavors of cake mix, sultana, and gentle spices, it has a dry finish of fading fruit and chocolate cake. (1,490 bottles)
How wonderful it is to have this single grain whisky added to the Label 5 range of blends! A heavy waft of vanilla essence, toffee, toasted nuts, and wood spice, but there is a clear grain character, no mistake: chopped herbs, perfume notes, mint leaf, and a whiff of nail polish remover on the nose. Light-bodied and delicious, with toffee, nuts, coconut macaroon, maple syrup, ground hazelnut, and oak char, with a nutty toffee finish. Best Value
Waterford Single Farm Origin Rathclogh Edition 1.1, 50%
Irish Single Malt | $95
Orange and grapefruit aromas, with rosewater, vanilla cream, bergamot oil, and dry barley notes, though the nose also detects the high alcohol and some youthful notes. The flavor coalesces around clove and pepper, but en route there are sweet barley cereal notes, chocolate, and malt. After a prolonged swarm of spice, the finish has malted milk and old chocolate. (U.S. Exclusive; 13,000 bottles)
A replacement for the 10 year old Curiositas, this was aged in a combination of bourbon, Jamaican rum, and toasted virgin oak casks. The early nose yields light peat smoke, with hand-rolled tobacco, then tropical fruit and cigarette ash. On the palate there’s stone fruit, spices, vanilla, new leather, smoldering peat, and dark chocolate. The finish offers oak, black pepper, salt, and earthy peat.
The initial herbal, grainy, and slightly grassy nose betrays some youth here, but there is still a lot to like, as roasted nuts, floral aromas, and nicely integrated toasty oak come to the rescue. A medium-bodied palate delivers lots of sweetness that smacks of honey and pureed pears, remaining fresh and lively with gentle spice on the finish.
Lemon grove, bananas and cream, blackberry jam, coconut flakes, and brown sugar on the nose, with black tea and a chalky mineral back note. The palate is soft and round, with notes of whipped cream, cooked blueberries, gentle nuttiness, peppermint, and allspice. The finish is subtle in profile but has good length, offering pleasant spice, dark chocolate, red berries, and mellow oak. Balanced spice and lively fruit make for some pleasant sipping.
Roasted apples, cherry danish, walnuts, dark caramel, and grape jelly on the nose, with more bakery notes emerging after water is added; deep oak is prominent throughout. Tannic and chewy on the palate, which leans more bitter than sweet, with coffee beans and baking chocolate underscored by a savory ashy character. Water pulls out more dark fruit and takes the finish from rough to rounded.
FEW Immortal Rye Whiskey with Eight Immortals Tea, 46.5%
Flavored Whisky & Liqueurs | $45
FEW proofed its straight rye with oolong tea for this unusual whiskey specialty, and while the effect is subtle, it’s unmistakable. Dusty cloves and old cigar box, oolong tea leaves, bundled herbs, polished furniture, and a hint of blueberries and Concord grapes on the nose. The palate is dry and nutty, austere and spare: cocoa powder, herbal oak, licorice tea, mint, raw walnuts, and pecans. More walnuts, mint, licorice, dry oak, and black pepper on the finish.
Royal Oak Distillery’s flagship has a nose of ripe mango, dried apple rings, vanilla, and fine spice, with a curious additional note somewhere between pencil erasers and a tire repair kit. Its light-bodied frame showcases apple pie, sweet cream, caramel, gingerbread, custard, and vanilla. Although no prizes for guessing this is a blend of malt, grain, and single pot still whiskeys, it is refreshing and easy to drink.
Waterford Single Farm Origin Dunmore Edition 1.1, 50%
Irish Single Malt | $95
Quite spicy up front, with pepper, ginger, and a touch of burnt spice, with Quaker Oatmeal Squares, dunnage floors, hazelnut, and slightly sour herbal notes of basil and tarragon. There’s a robust surge of pepperiness on the palate after an initial show of dark toffee, chocolate, and Americano, then it wallows in clove, cacao nibs, leather, Brazil nut, and baked fruits. (U.S. Exclusive; 13,000 bottles)
The nose has plum flesh, sanded oak, allspice, and walnut shells, but it’s a little undemonstrative. The redemption comes with tasting. Here, lush sherry notes wash over the tongue in waves as it shows dark fruits, plum wine, toffee, fresh fig, sultana, tobacco leaf, walnut, and orange peel. Don’t overlook this whisky; just take a quick sniff, then luxuriate in the fine sherry cask flavors on your taste buds. (888 bottles)—
Candy apple and artificial fruit notes, like Kool-Aid powder, dominate the nose, which overall is fairly reticent. Semi-sweet chocolate, peanuts, orange oil, apple peels, white pepper, and cinnamon, as well as plenty of oak, on the simple palate. The finish is peppery, with plenty of oak and pops of orange. A few drops of water help this whiskey hang together.
Kooper Family Whiskey Sweetheart of the Rodeo Straight, 45%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $44
A sweet and fragrant nose, with orange blossom, confectioners’ sugar, coconut, vanilla, almond nougat, and a hint of tart green papaya. Sweetness is borne out by the palate’s milk chocolate and nougat, studded with orange peel, as well as vanilla pudding, brown sugar, raw pecans, and a hint of white pepper. More milk chocolate and vanilla on the short finish. Some winning qualities, though overall this whiskey feels a bit rushed.
SanTan Spirits Butcher Jones Cask-Strength Arizona Straight (Batch 9-2), 63.2%
Rye Whiskey | $75
Without water, most of the aromas and flavors are locked up, so taste neat and then add it generously. When you do, you’ll unveil toasted grain, nuts, apple peels, bran muffin, and vanilla on the nose, along with plenty of oak. The opened palate yields cinnamon and mint, dark chocolate shot through with orange flavor, toasted almonds, grain, and, again, plenty of oak. Warming and bittersweet on the finish, which has both coffee bean and cinnamon-pecan coffee cake: a winning combination.
Sweet and straightforward aromas of malt, cooked apple, butternut squash, vanilla, and pecans, sprinkled with dried flowers; water brings out lemon and grapefruit. Graham cracker and vanilla-sweetened pecan on the silky palate, along with gingery spice; again, water pulls citrus flavors to the fore. There’s more sweet malt, toasted oak, and chamomile tea on the finish.
Treat your nose to an education in young whisky and enjoy the flavors, as this is just 16 months old. Young and green aromas with citrus, fresh pear, young peapods, cress, pencil erasers, and the glue strips on manila envelopes; it’s unencumbered by sweetness or oak influence. Orange zest, chocolate, and sugary sherbet ride a shuddering wave of alcohol, from which Oreo cookies, mint, and Belgian chocolate cigarellos emerge.
Firestone & Robertson TX Experimental Series Rye, 63.07%
Rye Whiskey | $50
Full-bodied and dense with aroma and flavor, this benefits from a few drops of water to unlock notes that are buried under the proof. Mint toothpaste, allspice, and cinnamon dominate the nose until water reveals sugared almonds, milk chocolate, and vanilla. The palate is heavy on charred flavors—roasted nuts and grilled meat—that turn to sweet blackened marshmallow and coffee bean when water is added. Peppery charred oak with an undercurrent of cooling mint rounds out the finish.
Sweet, with a touch of saline on the nose: almond cream, lemon curd, fresh coconut, kumquat, and vanilla salt water taffy. The palate is soft and velvety, with apples and pears, toffee, a sprinkling of grapefruit and kumquat, and a touch of guava. Lingering sweetness on the finish, though it fades quickly. Water doesn’t do it any favors; taste this neat.
From Texas-based Treaty Oak Distilling, distilled from corn and wheat and aged 12 months. The relatively low ABV is by design, to make this a “sessionable” whiskey. Herbal on the nose, with lots of barrel influence. Light on the palate but full in texture, with notes of maple syrup, blueberry pie, cooked peaches, and new oak, followed by a spiced finish. The overall profile is light, but with sippable flavors.
Jacob’s Pardon 8 year old Small Batch American Whiskey (Batch 01), 48.6%
American Whiskey | $90
This first release in a series combines 15 year old light whiskey and 8 year old Tennessee whiskey. Vanilla cake, honeyed almonds, and butterscotch on the nose balance against notes of antique shop, dried leaves, and undertones of herbs and barrel char. A creamy palate brings flavors of spiced chocolate, baked cherries, honeyed almonds, and oak. Crème brûlée on the finish, with baked croissant, buttered almonds, spiced oak tannins, and candied orange.
Very light whiskey, with lemon, honey, dried pear slices, ground ginger, and cracked black peppercorn. Matured in marsala casks and bourbon barrels, it’s light-bodied with lemon, lime zest, cream, and vanilla, and slowly adds toffee, spice, and a touch of red fruits before golden syrup and spice run through the finish. Works better on the rocks and in Highballs than as a neat sipper.
Kooper Family Rye Blend of Straight Rye Whiskeys, 45%
Rye Whiskey | $60
Sweet citrus pervades throughout, starting with fresh orange and lime zest on the nose, as well as honey, cotton candy, coconut flakes, brown sugar, and a hint of bubble gum. Orange and lemon slices on the palate, along with a sprinkling of lime zest when water is added; toasted wood, cinnamon, and pops of fresh ginger add some excitement. The finish is short and a touch thin, retaining some gingery spice.
Sweet and simple from the start to finish, this whiskey shows best on the nose, with state-fair aromas of caramel corn, cotton candy, and bubble gum, as well as vanilla meringue and coconut cream pie. There’s a slightly harsh note on the palate, but it’s softened by vanilla, yellow cake with white frosting, and coconut. Very quick to finish.
Made from nixtamalized corn (a process that increases the grain’s nutritional value; it’s used when making masa for tortillas), double-distilled, and aged in new toasted and used oak casks. It’s unconventional, as most Mexican corn whiskeys are; the nose has caramel, stewed apples and pears, orange peel, candied almond, and pencil eraser. A bit papery and green on the palate, with Popsicle stick, dried apple rings, and toasted grain, finishing hot and short.
Unmistakable orange nose of marmalade and curaçao, dripping with sweet grape jam. Despite all the initial sweetness on the palate, it quickly turns hot without really finding a moment of balance. May find fans, but generally feels like a well-intentioned experiment that ended up much too heavy-handed. (3,000 bottles)—