There have been plenty of reasons to drink plenty of whisky in 2017, and I’ve done my best to honor all occasions. For the new year, I’ve resolved to drink more whiskies in my tireless quest to make as many new discoveries as one fan can responsibly and humanly do.
But the memories of the 2017 finds linger, and I’d like to share the best of them with you.
I’ve had the good fortune to sample many whiskies as one of my job duties, so what follows is a list of the standouts I had last year. (I did the same in 2016).
Some of these have graced this blog before, and some haven’t. Like last time, my only two selection criteria for these choices is that I tried them in 2017 (even if they were released before then), and that they were able to be bought by the bottle.
I’ve split this list into two parts. Part one, Accessible Whiskies, are bottles that you can still get hold of either online or in specialist shops, and shouldn’t present a challenge to find and buy. Part two, Tricky Whiskies, are are rare, limited or expensive drams (sometimes all three) that I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy.
And so, in alphabetical order, here they are:
Bruichladdich Octomore 8.3
The Octomore range from Bruichladdich comprises some of the peatiest whiskies in the world, but this particular release may be the record holder, at 309.1 ppm (parts per million) of peat. To compare, a heavily peated whisky like Laphroaig tends to clock in at 50-60 ppm. This whisky was a deeply meaty, monstrous pleasure and I feel privileged to have tried it.
Paul John – Classic Select Cask
Paul John is an Indian whisky distillery that deserves to be considered as seriously as the most well-known scotches, and all its whiskies are excellent. I think this one is the best from its core range, though. It’s crisp, creamy, and nutty. Vanilla and bananas are bursting out, complemented by a citrus zing.
Lost Distillery Company – Jericho Archivist
The LDC uses historical research to unravel the taste of whiskies from now-closed distilleries, and then creates blends that match that reconstructed taste profile. To me, this one is their very best release. It’s what us geeks call a “sherry bomb,” comprised of whiskies aged in Spanish sherry casks that deliver deep rich flavours. Caramel, toffee, plums and prunes all shine through with a little ginger tang.
Rabbit Hole Distillery – Straight bourbon whisky finished in PX casks
I’ve heard of a couple distilleries in the U.S. starting to age their bourbon in sherry casks to give extra fruity flavours. This is the first and only one I’ve had of its kind so far. I find it’s superbly balanced. The sweetness of the bourbon is given a lovely depth by the sherry casks where it’s been aged. I really enjoyed trying to pick out elements of each.
Royal Salute – 21 years old
As I wrote previously about this bottle of blended whisky, whatever you may imagine delicious old whisky to taste like, this ticks the box. The perfect choice of drink while surrounded by leather bound books in an apartment that smells like rich mahogany. Bow before royalty.
Golden Decanters – The Tight Line
An independent bottler that sells a high-end, four-bottle collection consisting of single cask whiskies, Golden Decanters has bottled one of the best bourbon cask whiskies – a Glenlivet – that I’ve ever had. Extremely sugary and full of citrus.
Laphroaig 10 Cask Strength batch 9
Laphroaig 10 is one of the great standard scotch whiskies out there. Its cask strength version is phenomenal. The 9th batch is my favorite of the lot so far, and beats some other amazing and older Laphroaigs I’ve had the pleasure of tasting. A perfect combination of sea breeze and smoked meat. There’s a few specialist stores that still have it available. Make a quick google search and snatch up a bottle before they’re gone for good.
Bunnahabhain Eich Bhanna Lir
As more distilleries are looking to enter the ultra-luxury whisky market, Bunnahabhain has dipped its toe in the water by releasing its oldest-ever whisky, a 46-year-old single cask beauty. It’s thick, creamy and full of orchard fruit. It also avoids the strong oak often present in really old whisky and that can sometimes be a bit overwhelming.
Compass Box has made a name as one of the top artisanal whisky blenders. Its No Name release is a limited edition from this year, and it’s a rare peated release. Compass Box should do these more often because it’s absolutely delicious. Thick yogurt, meat and tar all through.
One of my all-time favorite whiskies. I bought several bottles when it was released in 2012 and a precious half bottle remains. The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is an independent bottler that bottles almost exclusively limited edition single casks. It’s had a busy year, opening many new clubhouses (or working with partner bars to serve their special whiskies) around the world. The 66.36 is an Ardmore aged in a sherry cask that is described on the label as “Milano sausage with a tropical fruit kebab.” That’s pretty accurate.
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