This is our chance to look back at an eventful year and post our top ten whiskies of the year! Well, make that the top ten of whiskies that we have drank this year, not of all whiskies actually released this year, obviously – making this list even more subjective! Well, without further ado… let the countdown begin…
10. Fettercairn – 12yo PX Finish
2018’s successful relaunch and rebrand of Fettercairn has been followed up by a retail exclusive release with a Pedro Ximenez finish. Sure, it could have a higher ABV to deliver more bite and fuller flavour but that is just personal preference having experienced its core range siblings, but on its own this is still a delicious whisky and would make for an excellent gateway dram for a newbie into single malts. (Review here).
9. J.J. Corry – The Gael
This was a close call between J.J. Corry’s The Gael and The Flintlock, but given that The Gael is their first release and demonstrates a fantastic blend of Irish whiskey signatures then this one edged it. A fantastic entrant to the market with a great story behind it. I look forward to more from J.J. Corry and the Chapelgate team in the future! (Review here).
8. The Lakes Distillery – Whiskymaker’s Reserve No. 1
Released in September and sneaking in as our last review of the year, this English whisky represents an insight into The Lakes’ quest for a sherry-led signature profile. With rather resplendent packaging and marketing to boot, this is an enjoyable whisky and an excellent signpost for things to come. (Review here).
7. Wemyss Malts – Smoky Nectar
In 2019 the independent bottlers introduced a new subscription club that gives its members the opportunity to buy single cask releases from Wemyss’ great deal of sources. Seemingly the belle of indie bottling, the first release was a Caol Ila. The original spirit was distilled in 1983 and this whisky shows off the joys of well-aged malts, whilst retaining some original (delicious) character. (Review here).
6. The English Whisky Co – Cabernet Sauvignon finish
At the start of the year a chilly visit to Milroy’s of Soho found me searching for winter warmers and the thought of a red-wine-cask-aged whisky seemed to fit the bill, and I’m glad that I made that choice. The whisky market is seeing more and more experimentation in cask finishes and the relaxation of barrel ageing regulations for Scotch whisky is surely set to see that trend continue. For now though, their southern frenemies have made something rather delicious to demonstrate that it is a good trend too. (Review here).
5. The GlenAllachie – Port Finishes
As part of a Tweet Tasting to promote the distillery’s new Wood Finish range trio, the stand out whisky for me was the 10yo Port Wood finish (there seems to be a theme emerging with my favourite whiskies!) but the evening also included the one-off Port Pipe matured release to celebrate 10 years of blogging legend Ralfy. Both were great, even if the new range was slightly overshadowed by an excellent bottling to celebrate a whisky buff being reviewed by fellow whisky nerds. (Review here).
4. Loch Lomond – Madeira Cask
We have had a few releases from LL this year via the Open Collection but I’ve not actually posted about my favourite LL whisky from this year, enjoyed as part of a LL tasting. Pens were down and we simply enjoyed the moment, the whisky and the company of those around us. That’s what whisky is all about, right?
3. Bimber – Recharred Oak
After sampling and savouring my way through an initial tasting pack from London’s Bimber distillery (packs still available online too), it could actually be anything by them. This whisky was their second release and represents a maturity and deliciousness well beyond its years. I also have my bottle of The First ready to wet the baby’s head for my firstborn son and to bring in the new year!
2. Mackmyra – Vintersol
This whisky would have been number one but for December’s Whyte Christmas tweet tasting – a great mix of the Mackmyra fresh and bright flavours mixed with some light and juicy summery fruits via the Quinta Do Vallado port casks. An excellent sipper whose winter sun really shone for me. (Review here).
1. Whyte & Mackay – 50yo
Few will seldom have the chance to taste a 50yo scotch. Earlier this month, we were fortunate enough to be presented with one that “money cant buy” and what an opportunity this proved to be because man did this deliver big in terms of tastes and as an experience. I’ll avoid hyperbole and say that I can still taste it, but there were just lots and lots of flavours that unfurled themselves in and out of the glass. Half a century bottled, a rare gem and a reminder that patience is a virtue. (Review here).
Honourable mention: Whilst still not fully versed in American Whiskies, a 4th of July whiskey tasting really opened my eyes further to the range and quality of bourbons and otherwise. That Boutique-y Whisky Company’s mystery 24yo Bourbon #01 being a particular highlight! Maybe our New Year’s Resolution should be to explore the US offerings some more!
Summary: Another year and another 50yo at the top spot – no matter where you stand on the age statement front, for a 50yo whisky (Single Malt or otherwise) you have to show some respect. What a lovely whisky it is. I should probably point out that the Fettercairn 50yo (2018) and Whyte & Mackay 50yo (2019) are the only two 50 year old whiskies that I’ve ever tried btw, but man alive do they deliver.
Despite the state of the world, for all of its political, economic and environmental issues that have proliferated the TV headlines and newspaper front pages this whole year [ed: remember when the news used to be boring?!] when taking a look closer to home to see what real impact this year has had well… it has been quite the year! For whisky reasons, sure – more delicious drams had, more hits and reads on the site (thank you!) and having obtained my alcohol licence (more on that next year) – but even more importantly, having become a dad. Wow. What a year. And that’s not a boast. I truly appreciate how lucky I’ve been to enjoy all of these experiences, and so I want to take the opportunity to thank everyone who has been a part of making this year what it has been. Thank you all so much and I really look forward to 2020 and what it has to bring.