It’s that time of year when we all start looking back, thinking about what we’ve done and what we want to do next. It’s also that time when us whisky lovers, think about those drams that took us by surprise over the last twelve months. Now I’d normally think about doing a top three or five with a few honourable mentions etc but it didn’t seem right this time. So I’m going to do something a little different and hope you approve.
It’s been a very busy year for me, I started with the best of intentions to put more time into the blog. I’m affrad to say that didn’t work out how I thought it would, finding that I had even less time this year than I hoped for. Most of this was just down to my main job having a very busy year, some is because I’ve had great opportunities to help and work a little in the industry. Reducing the amount of free time I’ve had, hopefully something that will be better balanced this coming year.
Now I said I was going to do something a little different, I don’t want to just do a straight list of my favourite drams I’ve tried this year. I personally feel that my attitude changed again this year, for me it’s not just been about the whisky but about the memories that I’ve created while trying these drams. Most of my favourites have been ones I tried first at shows, having been to more shows/festivals this year than any other year. Mostly due to the fact I was working for Paul John single malt, manning the stand at the festivals or helping at tastings for them on my own or with Sorren Krebs. This has been such a great experience and one I found to be hard work and great fun in equal measure, it’s only right I say a huge thanks to Shilton Almeida for this opportunity.
So my first set of recommendations is what I’d call the extravagant range, most of these are outside of my price range but that doesn’t make them unattainable. I’ve tried all of these at shows and loved them all, not one of them was a disappointment. From the Tomatin 1972 warehouse 6 release tried at the TWE show London, along with the 1975 Benriach & 1975 GlenGlassaugh tried at the Midlands whisky festival. All of these were sublime but the one that stands out the most for me, was the 1950 Glen Grant from Gordon & Macphail. This just took me to another place, it had everything going for it, flavours and a nose that just never seem to stop giving. It was quality and perfection from start to finish.
At the other end of the price range I’ve found some excellent malts, ones I feel the quality is far higher than the price point would suggest. This next lot is a mixture of drams I tried at shows and recommend drams from friends, with expressions from all around the globe. From Japan with the Nikka All malt, the Eagle Rare bourbon from the US, Brilliance from Paul John. That’s before you start to look towards Scotland, where I loved the 15yo Elgin Heritage from Glen Moray and the one that stole my taste buds the Spey Tenné. This expression set me off on a hunt to find more Port cask finished malts, for me it has the perfect balance between the rich fruit I want from a sherry cask and the sweetness I want from a bourbon cask, it has become a firm favourite for the family.
Then there is the surprises, the ones I had no idea what to expect from them. These were generally drams that I got handed to me with know idea what they were. Some where completely new distilleries to me that I’d never tried anything from, while others were ones that I already liked just hadn’t tried this expression yet. All of them were excellent in there own way, like the two Glenfiddich expressions I got to try. The first was the 26 year-old Glenfiddich Excellence and the second being the latest Experimental Series expression Winter Storm, both of these were superb drams that delivered that glenfiddich experience on another level. The same could be said for my next two choices, the first is the Kilkerran 8 year-old cask strength from Glengyle distillery. For me this younger expression was like the 12 year-old turned up to 11, it had so much depth, character and attitude it was not what I was expecting in such a good way. Then there is the Ailsa Bay a lowland malt like no other I’ve tried I would have sworn blind it was an highland malt, so rich and meaty with a lovely balanced Peated taste profile. I guess the two that really stood out for me this year are from my favourite distilleries, one I first tried in March and have not shut up about since, the second I only tried a few months ago at the TWE show in London. I’m of course talking about Kanya from Paul John and Tomatin Earth from the Five Virtues range.
Now Kanya I tried back in March and is a truly sublime expression but it’s not being released until January 2018, I’ve already placed my pre order I think it’s that good. Earth is the first Peated malt to be released under the Tomatin name in the UK, I’ve liked all the Five Virtues range so far but this Peated malt is amazing. So smooth, complex and rich, yet the peat doesn’t dominate the essence that is Tomatin. I for one wish this one could become a permanent member of the range, for now I’ll just have to get my hands on as many bottles as possible.
Everyone of the malts I’ve mentioned above I feel that any whisky lover should be proud to have tried, they might not capture you like they did me but I’m sure one or two will and like I said at the beginning hopefully you’ll create some wonderful memories in trying them. I personally have some great memories from these drams I’ve mentioned, most are with new friends I made this year. People like Shilton Almeida, Paul Dempsey, Luke Todd-Wood, Jamie Harbour, Ben Bowers, James Macrae, Johnny Lawson, Jason Vaswani, Jim Irvine, Kenny Macdonald, Joe Holmes and many more that have all given me some great memories.
So I will wish everyone a happy New year and I hope you have a great year ahead. I’m most definitely excited for this coming year and can’t wait to see where this wonderful world of Whisky will take me next.