There have been some legendary Bowmores from the mid-60s and this is every bit their equal. All of them share a remarkable aroma of tropical fruit, which here moves into hallucinatory intensity: guava, mango, peach, pineapple, grapefruit. There’s a very light touch of peat smoke, more a memory of Islay than the reality. Concentrated; even at low strength the palate is silky, heady, and haunting, and lasts forever in the dry glass. A legend is born. (Eight bottles only for the U.S.) Editor's Choice.
If you want proof that blended malts can be world class, you'll find it in any bottle of Blue Hanger. Lovingly created by Berry Bros. whisky maker Doug McIvor, every release has been exceptional. Even by the series’ own high standards, this sixth release surpasses itself. The nose is fresh, clean, and citrusy, with wafts of sherry. But there are smoky hints, too. And it's that peaty, earthy note on the palate that gives this release a new dimension, enriching the fruity Speyside sweetness at the whisky's core. The age and quality of the malt asserts itself throughout. This really is stunning stuff. £68
A combination of three sherry butts and seven bourbon casks. This is a complex, dynamic whisky, loaded with lush, layered ripe fruit (red berries, tropical fruit, honeyed apricot, raisin), toffee, oak resin, polished leather, and well-defined spice notes (cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, clove). Long, warming finish. (Exclusive to the U.S.)
Four Roses Limited Edition Single Barrel (2012 Release), 54.3%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $95
Elegant, clean, and peppered with dried spice notes throughout (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice). Additional notes of barrel char, vanilla wafer, summer fruits, caramel corn, maple syrup, and candied almond add complexity. Begins sweet, but dries out nicely on the finish, inviting another sip. Very nice!
The hits just keep on coming for Glenfarclas. Here we see it not only with enormous age but in relaxed mode in terms of oak. You can tell it’s old: the leathery waxiness and exotic fruits of whisky rancio; you can tell it’s Glenfarclas because of the ever-present earthiness, but both are intensified into a new aromatic realm: gentlemen’s barbershop, rowan berry, and images of an old bonfire next to a gingerbread house. Mysterious, subtle, and highly complex. £5,995
This Blue Hanger has sherry and fruit on the nose, but it's all reined in. Then the palate is big, rich, complex, and fruity, and late oakiness from some 30 year-plus malt in the mix brings the perfect finale. £61
A first-fill sherry cask bottling (one cask, exclusive to North America). Some of the old Glenglassaugh whiskies can be very delicious, and this is one of them. It's very clean, lush, and fruity (bramble, citrus, golden raisin), with a kiss of honey, toffee, and soft spice. Elegantly sherried; it’s never cloying. A very nice whisky from a quality cask that tastes more like 21 or 25 years old than 37. (I mean this in a good way.)
In my opinion Cutty Sark 25 year old is one of the great blends, so a new version was always going to be a big ask. This one comes with a lot of packaging, so is it a victory for style over substance? Not at all. This is all about big flavors; burnt orange, juicy raisin, and dark chocolate; rich oak and exotic spice. A treat, and worthy of its heritage. But at that price—and bearing in mind it's a limited edition—are you going to open it?
Initially filled into an ex-bourbon cask, then transferred into a Gonzales Byass oloroso ‘Matusalem’ sherry butt in 2005 for four years, before a final two years in a freshly-emptied bourbon barrel. The nose is initially floral, with overripe Seville oranges, figs, ginger, and cocoa powder. Peaches and almonds on the palate, before dark fruits and salted nuts appear. Drying oak is held at bay, and the final note is fat and figgy. Cask number 14; 233 bottles.
The Macallan Masters of Photography 1989 (Release 3, Cask #12251), 56.6%
Single Malt Scotch | $2,750
Dark mahogany with ruby glints and a green rim. Lots of highly-polished oak as we move out of the woods and into a silent country estate. Wax polish and masses of whisky rancio. Sherry-soaked oak, dry leaves, currants, and ripe blackberry. Highly concentrated, but the fruits push their way through only lightly-resisting tannins. There’s a hint of smoke and Seville orange bitterness on the finish. My pick of the quartet. Excellent. 285 bottles.
Vanilla and oak nose, with a creamy layer of mint that warns you: Rye Ahead. And what a sweet rye wave it is, rolling in with green mint and grass, more bourbony oak and vanilla, lively spice on the top (with enough heat to keep it bold), and a finish that brings everything together. Beautifully integrated, and not overly woody, a tribute to the blending art of Canadian distillers.
This expression of The Dalmore Constellation spent its entire 33 years of maturation in an ex-bourbon cask, with no additional finishing. The result is a nose of ripe peaches and pears, honey, and vanilla. Full-bodied, rich, sweet, elegant, yet substantial on the palate, with pineapples and fudge. Oak and aniseed slowly build, but the wood is held at bay. Long and warming in the finish, with soft spices. Barely drying. Cask number 594; 199 bottles.
Willett Single Barrel Cask No. 2504 9 year old, 56.6%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $65.00
Very graceful, with a nice balance of youth and maturity. Gently sweet notes of toffee, fig, nougat, and maple syrup, spiked with cinnamon and vanilla. Dark berried fruit and a hint of coconut round out the palate. Perilously more-ish bourbon with a very easy-going demeanor. (A Park Avenue Liquor exclusive.)
This contains hops and isn't matured for at least 3 years, so in Europe it can't be classed as whisky, but it's positive proof that some of the experimentation so widespread among American craft distillers is finding its way to Europe. This might be flabby and sappy, but it's sweet and utterly charming, and there is ginger, menthol, and glacé cherry in the mix. But most of all there's tinned pear, and I LOVE tinned pear. Excellently made, too. My new guilty pleasure. £33
It's not made clear which Islay malts are included in this blended malt, but whoever's responsible for this has brought the big guns. This successfully pulls off an intense one-two, with hard hitting Islay peat and brine on the one hand, and some rich sweetness on the other, making for a mouth-coatingly rich and intense whisky. The malts pack down together like a rugby scrum and combine with impressive intensity. €36
Caol Ila 12 year old Feis Ile bottling 2012, 60.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $133.00
Often overshadowed by other noisier neighbors, it is time to reconsider Caol Ila—and this is a fine place to start. Coming from a refill cask it has a nose of sweet crab, ham with cider glaze, and teasing maritime smoke. The palate mixes salt taffy with top-end peppery olive oil, allowing the flavors to cover the palate while the smoke rumbles along constantly before a salt-laden finish. Superlative balance. Find one of those 620 bottles! £85
Let it be known that from now on, June 2nd will be Ardbeg Day. That’s fine by me, as annually we can enjoy delights such as this bold expression that belts you in the nose with coal tar and soot before bay rum emerges, lightening slightly into lime and hot green bracken. The palate is oily, sweet, and very deep. A growly bugger that lurches toward the shore and then spins back to the laurel bushes inland. 13,000 bottles.
A belated addition to Diageo’s Special Releases range for 2011, this offering is from the now-demolished distillery in Stonehaven, which closed in 1985. Just 1,500 bottles are available, and maturation has taken place in American oak refill casks filled in 1970. Resin, malt, nutmeg, and wood polish on the nose, with developing vanilla and brittle toffee. Full in the mouth, slightly oily, and notably fruity, with heather and cinnamon notes. Pepper and bitter orange in the long finish. £525