Now that Christmas and New Year are done with, and I’ve had a few moments (literally only a few) to reflect on an awesome 2016, I thought I’d put together The GreatDrams Top Ten Whiskies of 2016 so you can see what I loved over the last twelve months. Make sure you let me know if you agree in the comments at the end.
These are in ALPHABETICAL particular order.
Ailsa Bay – £59.00 – Available here
The bottle design is stunning, the SPPM measure from Brian Kinsman, a new measure of ‘sweet parts per million’ and a gorgeous smokiness that is almost dangerously easy to drink makes this a no-brainer. It is NAS, but given the distillery started producing spirit in 2007, it does not take a genius to work out it is going to have components between around five and eight years old in its make-up. The stopper especially is awesome – I have a few of them now and play with them in my office, flinging them between my hands as they glide on the surface of my desk, and the bar!
Auchroisk 27 Year Old – Cadenheads – Unavailable to purchase
Out of nowhere, on the penultimate day of 2016, my dram of the year goes to this 27 year old, sherry matured single malt Auchroisk from Cadenheads. Simply incredible. The depth of character, rounded fruity character and impressive smokey brilliance of this beast is so fantastic I had to pull in a few favours to obtain myself a bottle as I was not privy to the initial sale, thanks to Tom of Tom’s Whisky Reviews and Jason the Whisky Rover for coming through for me, truly appreciated.
Douglas Laing’s Single Grain Winter Warmers – £varies – Available here
I’m a sucker for single grain, really love the stuff and think it is probably the next big thing in Scotch as producers find decades-old product left over from blending recipes long gone and look to bottle them and ship them out as premium products… and I cannot wait. Always so smooth, soft, fruity, unassuming and gorgeous, you have to try the single grains from Douglas Laing.
Jameson Makers Series – ~€70 each – Available here
The Whiskey Maker Series: Distillers Safe, Coopers Croze, Blenders Dog. I’m mightily impressed with the Whiskey Makers Series. I think it delivers on something really special; Jameson whiskey expressions that show the personalities of the people involved in the production process.
As alluded to, this range is all about telling the stories of coopers, blenders and distillers through the liquid, all of the products have been created especially for the new range.
At the launch, Master Blender Billy Leighton took a moment to explain that the whiskies are brought about by each other’s personalities, as he sees it:
- Brian & Distillers Safe are young and smooth.
- Ger & Coopers Croze have been around a while.
- Billy & Blenders Dog are suave, sophisticated, rounded and complex.
I think I see where he is going with this… in my view; they’re all great, and for different reasons.
Longmorn 23 Years Old – £1,400 – Available soon
I have often said that Longmorn is one of the most underrated whisky distilleries in Scotland; it gets good press, but not as much as some of its more famous neighbours garner. Stunning, beautiful, dry, fruity, caramel with heavy vanilla nose and palate. The palate was vibrant, juicy, mature, green apples, silky and all round brilliant with a super-long white peppery finish.
The packaging for the range is great, but the Longmorn 23 Year Old especially was impressive; the silver detailing, etching and heavy set stopper were a joy for a whisky packaging geek, all about the finishing touches.
The price is a bit inflated in truth, but if you park that and just enjoy the liquid it delivers all you want from Longmorn and much, much more.
Longrow 14 – Cadenheads – Unavailable to purchase
Similar to the Auchroisk, I missed out on this one, bought a sample off a friend, loved the smokey, fruity, bonfire-y notes and ended up buying it at the very next online whisky auction for £35 more than it went on sale, which, for the quality of the liquid and how simply brilliant it is, I’m ok with as it was released for £65 in the first place! I cannot put it any better than Mark of Malt-Review;
“This Longrow was bottled for the society late last year at 53.2% ABV. 600 bottles were available at something ridiculous like £65 each. Honestly, can you think of another distillery that releases limited editions as inexpensive as this? It’s spent its entire 14 years in a fresh Sherry Butt.”
Redbreast Lustau Edition – £45.25 – Available here
I was gutted not to be available for the launch of this in Jerez, Spain, but that aside the whiskey itself is stunning; probably rocketing to one of my top three Irish whiskies of all time. Michael Cowman, resident GreatDrams Irish whiskey fanatic, explains the release:
“Redbreast Lustau is a Non – Age Statement single pot still initially aged in bourbon and sherry casks for a period between 9 and 12 years after which it spends a further year maturing in specially selected sherry butts at the bodegas Lustau.
The Bodegas Lustau is one of the most awarded sherry brands in the world, frequently scooping international awards and acclaim.This permanent edition to the Redbreast range is designed to showcase the quality of the casks used by Midleton. For anyone unfamiliar with the Redbreast range the influence of sherry casks is one of the defining characteristics and it’s being used to full effect for the purpose of the new Lustau edition. For drinkers looking for a delicately balanced whiskey with a heavy sherry influence then look no further.”
The Dalmore Quintessence – £1,000 – Available here
Carrying a cool £1,000 price tag, The Dalmore Quintessence is clearly not a mass-market product, limited to an un-spcified number of bottles in the low hundreds, and having been bottled at 45% ABV to ensure the red wine flavour characteristics are not diminished through too much water being added, this is a very nice whisky indeed.
The colour was deep, burning gold wrapped in a light red hue. The nose brought about a plethora of wine and sweetness rounded off with a distinct burnt sugar note with hints of vanilla, dark fruits, juicy peaches and the classic chunky marmalade character of The Dalmore distillery’s signature style.
On the palate silky caramel notes shone through as the liquid turned velvety and creamy with marzipan notes, only a light alcohol feeling and a chocolate orange character developed before being replaced by white peppers and spice.
The Glenlivet Cipher – £110 – Available here
The Glenlivet Cipher has as little information as is legally possible, all we know is that the specific cask combinations have never been used by The Glenlivet before and that the end result is super-smooth with the distiller’s quintessential fruity notes.
My tasting notes for The Glenlivet Cipher (there are no official ones as yet). Nose: Lots of honey, smooth, hints of spice – likely ginger as that came through more on the palate. Palate: Creamy, smooth, ginger, fresh apples, orchard fruits – potentially citrus and more honey is definitely present. Finish: Fun, medium length, sweet and fruity.
The Macallan Edition 02 – £77.95 – Available here.
Definitely one of the best releases from The Macallan for a few years, both this and its Edition 01 predecessor are fantastic and moreish, like the quality I expect from old releases from The Macallan. Robust flavours, interesting stories and an all-round enjoyable whisky experience; not forced, like a few recent releases * cough * 1824 Series *cough *.
SO there you have it, my top ten whiskies of 2016, what were yours? Do you agree?
I want to thank the brands involved for inviting me to launches, providing samples and always being on hand for information and interviews; truly appreciated and look forward to another blockbuster year ahead… bring on 2017!
Also published on Medium.