Balvenie Doublewood 12 Year Old: Sweet And Spicy Finish
Another Speyside distillery, Balvenie single malt whiskey is produced in Dufftown, Scotland. Balvenie produces whisky in a traditional style and the distillery is one of only seven in Scotland that has its own malting floor.
Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Old is a classic single malt, and in my experience is a great drink for converting non-whisky drinkers to single malts. The nose aromas for me include raspberry, cherries and chocolate, layers of honey. The palate has more red fruit flavours with an added nutty sweetness. The finish is sweet and spicy with warmth.
Best Rice Whisky: Kikori
Region: Japan | ABV: 41% | Tasting Notes: Floral, vanilla, citrus
Although some might consider Kikori to really be an aged shochu, it qualifies as a whiskey under the US definition of the spirit. This rice whisky is aged in American oak, French Limousin oak, and sherry casks for a minimum of three years, imparting the spirit with a wide range of flavors. Kikori if you prefer a nice light whisky, says Eric Soracco of Top Vinyl in Nashville. This is also a good one to try in a Highball.
Best Scotch Whisky: Ardbeg Traigh Bhan 19 Year Old Whisky
Scotch whiskies made on the island of Islay are famous for their robust smoky profile imbued from the peat-fueled fire used to roast the barley. Ardbeg embraces that tradition and makes some of the finest bottlings for those who love a big mouthful of smoke. Traigh Bhan 19 is no exception.
This single malt is rich and smoky, but what elevates it to the next level is that through that peaty layer explodes a shimmering and intense pineapple note that radiates on your tastebuds and will forever alter the way you experience single malt Scotch.
ABV: 92.4 Proof | Age: 19 Years | Volume: 750 milliliters
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Few Bourbon 465% Abv Blend Illinois Usa
Hailing from Evanston, Illinois a place that was dry for over a century FEW is a spirit with light, bouncy characteristics. A blend of corn, rye and malt, its a true cocktail bourbon. Mix it with sweet red vermouth, a dash of bitters and some ice and it reveals its full potential. We also like it’s tongue-in-cheek name Frances Elizabeth Ward was a staunch supporter of prohibition and played a big part in keeping Evanston dry.
Highland Park 18 Year Old Viking Pride
What makes a whisky great? Complexity, character, balance. Longevity too more than 20 years after its launch, this remains exceptional thanks to its restrained smoke, wonderful fragrance of fruit and flowers, and sumptuous combination of heather honey and vanilla fudge. Tasting it again is like a warm hug from an old friend. Alc 43%
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Single Malt Whisky: Best 5
Here is a summary of my selections.
- Aberlour 18 Year Old: Creamy and Fruity
- Lagavulin 16 Year Old: Powerful and Peaty
- Glenmorangie Signet: Dry and Decadent
- Talisker 10 Year Old: Smoke, Sea Air and Garden Fruit
- Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Old: Sweet and Spicy Finish
I give more details and explain my decisions below, following a brief discussion of the different spellings of “whisky”.
Aberlour 18 Year Old. Finished in sherry barrels, this Speyside single malt pleases my palate with its rich taste of apple and orange, followed by a smooth chocolaty finish.
Best To Drink Straight: Connemara 12 Year Old Peated Single Malt Whiskey
ABV: 40% | Age: 12 years | Volume: 750 ml
As a style, Irish whiskey is characteristically smooth, though there are some brands that break the stereotype. A brilliant, bright, and spicy whiskey, Connemara is a great choice for anyone who enjoys a peaty scotch. Malted barley dried over peat is the heart of this premium bottle produced at the Cooley Distillery in County Louth, Ireland.
Connemara 12 Year Old is the best of the portfolio. Where the original is a little harsh, and the cask strength a bit too bold, this whiskey is simultaneously smooth and bold. The well-balanced whiskey has a ton of character and a full force of peaty spice to tantalize the tongue. The long finish ensures that its a memorable experience. For what this 40 percent ABV drink has to offer, the high-end price is not unreasonable.
ABV: 47% | Age: NAS | Volume: 750 ml
The hard times of war, U.S. Prohibition, and the Great Depression rocked Irelands whiskey industry, leaving just two distilleries operating for most of the 1900s. Around the turn of the 21st century, that number began to increase, and Tipperary is one of the few “boutique” distilleries in the country. Started in 2016, it keeps everything small and local, including the barley and water, both of which are sourced from the family-owned Ballindoney farm.
ABV: 46% | Age: Up to 6 years, then another 6-9 months | Volume: 750 ml
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Bowmore 25 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Origin: Islay, U.K.Price: $425 for 750 ml.ABV: 43%: Bowmore
One of the most storied distilleries in Scotland, Bowmore has created yet another memorable malt.
The elegant, salty smokiness marries with the peat on the nose to draw you in. On the palate, a ripe lemon zest accompanied by a touch of pecan and hazelnut is followed closely by rich cocoa and orange. A distinguished finish lingers, leaving a sherry-infused chocolate crème brûlée essence with a stream of peaty smoke. Single malts like this exemplify the subtle artistry of the distiller.
Glenkinchie 2000 Amontillado Finish Distillers Edition
Although the Scottish Lowland was not originally known for its scotch production, several distilleries have made a name for themselves over the past few decades. Today, 8 quality brands dotted throughout the lowland region are producing single malt scotch whisky, but none stand out as much as Glenkinchie and their 2000 Amontillado Finish Distillers Edition.
Of the 8 brands hailing from the lowland region, Glenkinchie is only of only 2 chartered prior to 2005. This gives it a leg up on the competition, as its had longer to produce and age its scotch. As its name suggests, the 2000 Amontillado Finish was originally distilled in 2000 before sitting for 14 years in Amontillado sherry casks.
The 2000 Amontillado Finish embodies the light grassiness of a Lowland single malt, paired with the rounded sweetness of vanilla and spice imparted from the sherry casks. Youll notice aromas of ginger and apricot on the nose, which round out with a final finish of orange.
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Laphroaig 10 Year Old
Although there are now a number of versions of this Islay classic, this is the original and is known not just for its signature smoke, but also for its sweet undertones and definite medicinal qualities. Yes, as their ads used to say, youll either love or you wont. Its seaweed-tainted essence is the result of the distillerys locationright on Islays rugged shores, with the ocean waves crashing against the very warehouse itself. In fact, at high tide, the waves lap at the distillerys foundation. As distillery manager John Campbell says, This whisky is a big, peaty slap in the face. Perfect!
Best World Blend: Mars Maltage Cosmo
Courtesy of Whiskey Exchange
Region: Japan | ABV: 43% | Tasting Notes: Orange, chocolate, dried fruit
The bottle from the Mars Shinshu distillery is a blend of whisky distilled in Japan and sourced from Scotland. Catherine Simmerman of Pepe Le Moko in Portland, Oregon is a fan, saying Mars Maltage Cosmo tastes like a sherry casked scotch with hints of vanilla and plum. Thats likely due to the inclusion of whisky that was aged in sherry butts in the blend, along with liquid aged in ex-bourbon barrels. Try this one over a few ice cubes or in a cocktail like an Old Fashioned.
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The Glenmorangie 14 Year Old Port Cask Finish Quinta Ruban Single Malt Whisky
Gold Medalist at the 2019 San Francisco World Spirit Competition, The Glenmorangie 14 Year Old Port Cask Finish has been matured in American White Oak ex-Bourbon barrels before being extra matured in specially selected Ruby port pipes from Portugal.
The Quinta Ruban single malt is a dense and complex scotch well suited to the chocolate, minty notes created by the wood finishing of the port casks, and when poured shows off a deliciously dark color.
Fantastically priced and equally suitable for the connoisseur or developing whisky drinker, The Glenmorangie 14 Year Old Port Cask Finish is one to keep handy.
Best Single Malt: Hakushu 12 Year Old
Region: Japan | ABV: 43% | Tasting Notes: Apple, light smoke, honey
In Japan, single malt essentially means the same thing as in Scotlandwhisky made at one distillery from malted barley. Hakushu is produced in the Japanese Alps, and the whisky produced there is just as gorgeous. It has a woodsy and herbaceous nose that expands to include delightful fruit notes that are backboned with a light peat quality, says Crystal Chasse, beverage director of McCarren Hotel and Talk Story Rooftop. The water source for this whisky comes from the mountains deep in the forest near the distillery. This secret ingredient makes this whisky very approachable for a peated whisky. It is unique and delicious.”
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Best Rum Cask Finish: The Balvenie Caribbean Cask
Region: Speyside | ABV: 43% | Tasting Notes: Brown Sugar, Caramel, Spice
Finishing whisky in a rum cask might not be as popular as sherry or wine casks within the single malt scotch category, but there are some benefits. A rum barrel brings new flavors to the mix, like banana, brown sugar and cocoa. The Balvenies Caribbean Cask 14-Year-Old Scotch is a stellar example. Everything about this whisky draws you in, says Otsuji. The ex-rum barrel finish creates a sense of richness in the flavors, like toffee or caramel, toasted oak, or perhaps a bit of honey on fresh papaya but rather than expressing itself as a sugary taste, it comes through as a luxurious textural element.
Tullamore Dew 14 Year Single Malt Irish Whiskey
This 14 year old, triple distilled Irish single malt has been finished in bourbon, Port, Madeira and Oloroso Sherry cask.
Sweeter and more floral than the Scottish malts, this mellow taste of Ireland has hints of butterscotch amidst its smooth and delicate texture.
If youre looking for a unique, lightly smokey single malt and a taste of the Irish, then Tullamore Dew 14 Year will be a hit no matter your taste of choice.
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Best Canadian Whisky: Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye
When Jim Murray crowned Northern Harvest Rye 2016 World Whisky of the Year in his Whisky Bible, a great number of whisky aficionados were shocked and some even bit dismayed. But it is delicious.
Every bottle is 90 percent rye , so its rye forward but not quite as spicy as youd expect. Big notes of apple and cherry ride an undercurrent of clove and lemon. Its an explosive drink with a lovely, long, and creamy finish. Plus it makes a killer Manhattan.
ABV: 90 Proof | Age: 3 Years | Volume: 750 milliliters
Laphroaig Triple Wood Islay Single Malt Whisky
Laphroaig Triple Wood Islay Single Malt Whisky comes from the remote island of Islay in the Western Isles of Scotland.
The no aged expression is notable for triple maturation in 3 types of cask: American oak ex-Bourbon casks, 19th century style Quarter casks, and the finishing Oloroso sherry cask. An Oloroso sherry cask uses oxidative aging to create excellent flavors when contributing to the finish of a single malt.
The Triple Wood carries a sophisticated and complex taste compared to the Laphroiag 10yr or the Select Cask. The sweet sherry shines through in combination with heavy peat and hints of the unmistakable salt of Islay to make the taste more complex.
The result is a single malt scotch with great power, most suited to those with a taste for peaty Islay Malt. Priced for considered drinking, it will taste even better over time as it breathes.
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The Balvenie 15 Year Single Barrel
Jeremy Williams, head mixologist at MDRD atop the Amway Grand Plaza in Grand Rapids, Michigan
ABV: 43%Average Price:$124
Why This Bottle?
Without getting too far up in years, I enjoy The Balvenie 15 Year Single Barrel. This expression from Balvenie spends time in ex-sherry casks that help contribute that rich, dry fruit and nutty characters. The color of this whiskey is special too. Its a rich amber mahogany.
Auchentoshan Three Wood Single Malt Scotch: Best Single
Price: £35 |
An exceptionally smooth-drinking triple-distilled Lowland Scotch, Auchentoshan Three Wood is matured in bourbon, Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez casks to bring a mellow, fruity flavour thats worth savouring. Rich and very slightly sweet, with no peaty smoke, this is possibly the nearest fine whisky comes to the taste of Christmas pudding in a bottle. If more astringent malts have left you thinking you dont like Scotch whisky, give this one a try before you give up.
Key specs Alcohol content: 43% Bottle size: 70cl Country of origin: Scotland
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Virginia Distillery Port Cask Finished Virginia
Made by: Virginia Distillery Company, Lovingston, Virginia
Virginia Distillery Company has one of the prettiest still houses in the country, but shes more than just a looker. The distillery follows an unconventional blending protocol by sourcing four-to-eight-year-old Highland single malt, and blending it with its self-distilled juice before a marrying and finishing process. The brands current flagship is the Port Cask Finished, and its cobbled together with the assistance of blending mastermind Nancy Fraley. Another bottle from the producer worth trying is its annual autumn Cider Cask release, while theyve also released Chardonnay and beer cask-finished whiskies. The distillerys entirely self-distilled single malt, now dubbed Courage & Conviction, is slated for a spring 2020 release.
Best Overall: Yamazaki 12 Year Old
Region: Japan | ABV: 43% | Tasting Notes: Fruit, clove, orange
Suntorys Yamazaki 12 Year Old could be considered the core expression of the brands single malt lineup . It is probably the best known Suntory whisky and was once pretty easy to find . This is a floral and fruity single malt reminiscent of scotch but in a style that is very much its own. All in all, it’s an excellent starting point for those wishing to explore the category of Japanese whisky.
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The Balvenie Doublewood 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Origin: Moray, U.K.Price: $50 for 750 ml.ABV: 43%: The Balvenie
Founded in 1892, The Balvenie was one of the first distilleries to introduce various wood finishes to its malts.
Their aptly named DoubleWood is a 12-year-old single malt that spends most of its life in second-fill bourbon barrels prior to being transferred to first-fill Oloroso sherry casks. There are three levels of flavor in this single malt. The original Balvenie imparts heather, honey and clean barley flavors. The bourbon barrel adds vanilla and a sort of cookie-like taste, as well as marshmallow, caramel and toast. The Oloroso sherry casks influence is expressed via peach, marzipan, clover, a bit of honey and prunes.
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Penderyn Welsh Malt Whisky 70cl: Best Welsh Whisky
Price: £26 |
Yes, you read that right: Welsh whisky is a real thing, and a tasty one too. The wisgi tradition was reinvigorated in Wales in the early 2000s, and is now growing in popularity outside of its homeland. This warm, light whisky with notes of vanilla is Penderyns most popular singlemalt, while other offerings from the distillery include a jammy portwood-finished malt and the peatier Celt.
Key specs Alcohol content: 46% Bottle size: 70cl Country of origin: Wales
Learn More About Whisky: How Whisky Is Made
Whisky is a spirit made from fermented grain mash. The spirit features various grains, which may be malted, including barley, corn, rye and wheat. The process for creating whisky has changed little over the past 200 years including the makeup of three core ingredients water, barley and yeast.
There are five stages to the whisky-making process: malting, mashing, fermentation, distillation and maturation.
Barley is soaked for two to three days and then regularly turned before its dried. Peat is the powering source for many kilns, which means its at this point of the process when the level of peatiness can be determined. Whats left after this process is malt.
Next, the malt is mixed with water to create a mash, before the mixture is fermented with yeast. The fourth step of the process is the distillation, which is traditionally done twice for Scotch whisky and thrice for Irish whiskey.
Finally, the liquid is left to mature in casks. The spirit must mature in casks for a minimum of three years before its legally allowed to be called whisky in Scotland.
Many factors are at play here to determine the overall flavours of the whisky: the casks surrounding environment and other natural compounds. Once this process is complete, the whisky is bottled and sold.
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