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97 points

Bowmore 46 year old (distilled 1964), 42.9%

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.

Reviewed by: (Fall 2012)

96 points

Glenfarclas Family Casks 1954 (Cask #1260), 47.2%

A rich amber color and elegantly oxidized notes greet you. There are luscious old fruits—pineapple, dried peach, apricot—and puffs of coal-like smokiness. In time, sweet spices (cumin especially) emerge. Superbly balanced. The palate, while fragile, still has real sweetness alongside a lick of treacle. It can take a drop of water, allowing richer, darker fruits to emerge. The finish is powerful, long, and resonant. Superb, not over-wooded, and a fair price for such a rarity. £1,995

Reviewed by: (Fall 2014)

96 points

Yoichi 1988 single cask, 62%

Though aged in virgin American oak, it’s distillery character that’s in charge here; a fully expressive Yoichi. Rich, mysterious, layered, mixing rich fruit compote with scented coastal smoke (ozone, tar, soot) alongside masses of vetiver and cigar humidor. The palate is oily and immense, with fluxing layers of sweet fruit, oily peat, salt, and ink; camphor, flax seed, and in among the smoke, apple mint. Long, insanely complex, and jaw-droppingly good. This will go down as a classic. €185

Reviewed by: (Winter 2013)

95 points

Bowmore 50 year old (distilled 1961), 40.7%

The whisky is sensational, a glorious mix of ginseng syrup, baked banana, semi-dried tropical fruits, and an exotic smoked edge. Without the last, you could believe it was a delicate Cognac. In time, there’s peppermint and guava syrup. A sip is all you need to reveal perfect, thrilling harmony: light nuttiness, pollen, subtle fruits, gentle smoke, and light fungal touches. It’s stunning, but it’s £16,000! Whisky this great, even in limited quantities, should be fairly priced. Points off. £16,000

Reviewed by: (Spring 2014)

95 points

Brora 2010, 54.3%

Though Brora has acquired cult status, it has to be said that for a few years these Special Release Broras went through an off-putting butyric phase, which might well have put off newbies to this legendary closed site, who must have wondered what all the fuss was about. One nose of the 2010 SR shows that these days have been consigned to the past. This is classy from the word go. Gold in color; the nose manages to be both overtly waxy — I’m reminded of waxed paper — and fragrant. Behind that is coal smoke, rather than the heavy peatiness of earlier vintages (Brora’s peating levels varied in its last years). In other words, this is robust and powerful, with an evocative aroma that speaks of old sea chests, the seashore, and vellum. Hugely concentrated, with massed fruits — quince especially — following behind. This is amplified with a drop or two of water. The palate is unctuous and heavy. Tectonic plates move more quickly than this does in the mouth. When it does, the oily/waxy textures and flavors move slowly — camphor, peach, membrillo, hints of citrus, and toward the finish a growing brininess (akin to olives) and a hint of smoke. Elemental and one of the best Broras for years. [not available in the U.S.]£280

Reviewed by: (Spring 2011)

95 points

Nikka 12 year old Coffey Malt, 55%

Produced at Miyagikyo’s grain distillery from 100% malted barley, this is rich gold in hue, while the nose is big and luscious with plenty of ripe banana, crushed hazelnut, and an intriguing green malt note behind. As it opens, there’s the effect of a high-cocoa chocolate bar melting in your hands, as well as coconut, vanilla fudge, and basil. With water (and it needs it) there’s honey on hot buttered toast. The palate is sumptuous; that banana’s now flambéed. Super ripe and fascinating. A grain for malt lovers. £99. Price in US dollars converted at time of review.

Reviewed by: (Fall 2010)

95 points

Yoichi 15 year old, 45%

Nikka’s first distillery is located in the eponymous town on the western coast of Hokkaido. Here, power is the key. Deep and rich with a distinct oiliness — somewhere between linseed and cod liver — there’s also plenty of smoke in the mix as well, and a little hint of black olives in brine with ripe apples lurking behind. I hate making comparisons between Japanese and Scotch single malt but if I was forced to, Yoichi reminds me most of Springbank (edging into Longrow). Water dampens the personality too much for me; best have it full-on and uncompromising. Rather than the palate showing a slow procession of flavors along the tongue, this is a layered whisky; coal-like, oily, and richly fruited with a distinct saltiness on the sides, ably demonstrating that Japan has almost as much variety on offer as scotch. £76.95.

Reviewed by: (Fall 2010)

94 points

Glenfarclas Family Casks 1987 (Cask #3829), 48%

This is the bomb. Savory and lightly meaty, but sweetened by plum sauce; there’s even some strawberry around the fringes. You could see how with another 30 years this would end up like the ’54. Elegant yet powerful, there’s sandalwood incense, marmalade, even a little dried mango. The distillery’s density is balanced by this fruit. Lush with supple tannins and at its best neat. From a refill butt, this is an exemplary sherried malt. £230

Reviewed by: (Fall 2014)

94 points

Lagavulin 12 year old (Diageo Special Releases 2010), 56.5%

There’s precious little reticence about this beast, which leaps out of the glass blowing peat smoke everywhere — then comes raffia, Lapsang Souchong tea, seashore, wet rocks, Elastoplast, talcum powder, bog myrtle (laurel), vetiver, and the aromas of a just-expunged peat bonfire with apples baking on it. Huge and complex, in other words. The palate starts with a fug of smoke being belched at you (non-peat freaks look away, now) then distinct saltiness enlivens the tongue before everything plunges down; intense sweetness takes charge for a moment before it shifts into charred creosoted timbers. This begs for some water, and when it’s added, out comes sandalwood and peat smoke and tar and an orris root-like character — it’s not often I get gin-like notes on Lagavulin, but it’s here — which rolls over you as you roll over and succumb to its power. After this year’s sublime distillery-only bottling, it’s clear that Lagavulin is in a real purple patch. Superb.

Reviewed by: (Spring 2011)

93 points

Dailuaine 1980 34 year old (Diageo Special Release 2015), 50.9%

That rarely-spotted beast Dailuaine gets the Special Release treatment. This example has come from refill American oak and has immediate marzipan notes on top of the distillery’s fascinating mix of meaty density and sweetness. In time there are fat fruits, Victoria plum, bitter citrus, faded green leafiness, and chocolate notes. The palate is ripe, rich, and profound, with a hint of tropical fruits cut with cacao. Long, elegant, and complex, this is the best of this year’s bunch for me.

Reviewed by: (Winter 2015)

93 points

Mackillop’s Choice (distilled at Mortlach) 1991, 56.6%

Full gold. Weighty, but not oppressed by wood. Full, rich rancio aroma, which brings to mind an ancient cognac. It is rich and powerful, but has great finesse and perfect balance: cooked fruit, some spice, a lot of waxiness, licorice…and then the distillery’s signature meatiness. The palate starts sweetly with ripe old autumn fruits, and soft tannins. This has everything you want from a mature whisky, and from Mortlach, with added elegance. Highly recommended. £198

Reviewed by: (Summer 2015)

93 points

Port Ellen 1978 35 year old (Diageo Special Release 2014), 56.5%

Scarcity and the secondary market have driven prices up, so either buddy-up to a rich guy, or club together to try this. Greater levels of cask interaction have added an extra dimension to a whisky that is often skeletal. The smoke’s in the background, as salted cashew, peppermint, tansy, furniture polish, and smoked meats take center stage. The palate is slowly expanding and smoked, with some chocolate and wax. Finally, a Port Ellen that is truly, classically mature. A killer. (2,964 bottles)

Reviewed by: (Winter 2014)

93 points

Ichiro’s Malt The Joker (distilled at Hanyu), 57.7%

The final deal of Ichiro Akuto’s Card Series, a vatting of Hanyu from 1985 to 2000. Highly complex, rich, and distinctly resinous. Typical Hanyu boldness, but with balance struck between weightiness, finesse, and intensity. There’s old cobbler’s shop, tack room, light smoke, incense, ink, autumn leaves, and sumac. The palate is sweet to start, then builds in power. Leathery, then praline, damson jam, and fine tannins. Water loosens the tension, allowing yuzu to show. What a way to go out. £220

Reviewed by: (Winter 2014)

93 points

Lagavulin 1995 Feis Ile (2014 Release), 54.7%

A sherry-cask Lagavulin, this immediately shows a rich, mellow power with a touch of potter’s wheel, but it needs water to bring out sandalwood, beach bonfire, kombu, Lapsang Souchong, and bog myrtle. The palate is where it shows itself fully; resinous and thick, unctuous even, with that scented pine/juniper tea note shifting into paprika-rubbed ham, membrillo, currants, blackberry. I’ve a feeling that this period will be seen as Lagavulin’s golden age. £99

Reviewed by: (Fall 2014)

93 points

Mortlach 18 year old, 43.4%

Deep amber in color with the green glints of first-fill sherry, this has bosky notes and meat—mutton and venison—plus graphite, bitter chocolate, and wet rock before layers of dried stone fruits and date. This is the most savory and Bovril-like of the new range. The palate is feral and earthy; think mushroom with game pie, and rowan berries. Deep, but with more dimensions than the previous 16 year old which, in comparison, seems like a blunt instrument. £180/500 ml

Reviewed by: (Summer 2014)

93 points

Cragganmore Triple Matured Edition, 48%

Bottled for Friends of the Classic Malts (which means most of you), this is Cragganmore in early autumnal guise. Dry leaves underfoot, ripe black fruits on the bushes, waxed jacket, chestnut, and a whiff of cedary smoke, opening into dried peach. The palate is thickly textured, with those fruits, dark chocolate, and pomegranate molasses. The immensely long finish gives you light pepper, smoke, and blackberry jam. Cragganmore at its very best, and at a great price. £80

Reviewed by: (Summer 2014)

93 points

Glenfarclas 1953, 47.2%

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

Reviewed by: (Fall 2012)

93 points

Glenfarclas Family Cask 1972 (Cask #3551), 44.7%

Dark amber in hue, this shows immediate mature elegance with great sweetness — think of spiced honey or mead. There are some light notes of pecan pie and all the while that thread of the sod. Glenfarclas can never fully escape its dark roots. There’s dried peach and fruit leather, toffee, and, with water, biscuits dunked in tea. The palate is autumnal and soft — fruit compote and peppermint. This is what you want from fully mature Glenfarclas at its peak. (U.S. exclusive).

Reviewed by: (Summer 2012)