I’ve been asked for advice on Whisky (Single Malt) from a few close friends this year, particularly as the festive season is upon us and people are looking for something to help them through the winter blues and take their weary minds from the cold, dark evenings, especially in Scotland. Consequently, I’ve decided to write this annual review on some of the best drams that I have tasted this year and had my hands on. They are deliberately simple choices, by this I mean they are easy (with the exception of the Ardbeg Supernova) to get your hands on, most supermarkets or distilleries have them.
Ardbeg Supernova // Islay
This was a Christmas gift from my fabulous, beautiful wife. After trying this extremely peaty dram at the distillery itself, I had to have a bottle. Firstly, Supernova is a very strong whisky (60%) and its not for the faint of heart, its feels oily as it hits your tongue and finds its way past your taste buds to explode in your throat with an intense heat. As your nose enters the glass for the first time you can actually feel the inside of your nose and head begin to open up to invite the pale, almost clear nectar into your unsuspecting mouth. A wonderful dram for those who want a little something to impress guests or to have all to yourself on those special nights.
Auchentoshan Three Wood // Lowland
We stay around five miles from the distillery and I have yet to own a bottle of Auchentoshan. Its a shame really, as its a lovely whisky and only recently we had a tour of the place. We sampled this Three Wood and I had the taste of a cask strength dram that the guide himself had just bottled. Auchentoshan is a light whisky, a great starter for someone who hasn’t had the opportunity to experiment with the full range. The Three Wood has not only been triple distilled, it has also spent some time in Bourboun, Sherry & PX casks. A nice sweet, caramel and buttery taste that can be enjoyed anytime.
Balvenie Doublewood // Speyside
Another Christmas gift, this time from my Mum and Dad. I opened this on the evening my daughter Amélie Sofia was born. One of the whiskies I will always have a soft spot for, its layered with honey and soft fruits, almost flawless in its taste. Another wonderful starter whisky (that has spent time in both an oak whisky cask and a sherry cask) that will get people interested ‘the sport’. It should also be said that this whisky arrives is one of the most beautiful bottles, a nice shaped body with a delicate neck that allows the honey coloured spirit to gently slip into the glass. If you don’t enjoy this dram, Its unlikely you will ever enjoy whisky.
Bowmore Small Batch Release // Islay
A Birthday gift from my older brother. The very first bottle of Bowmore I have ever had the pleasure to get to know, I’ve tried it and sampled a few at the distillery but its a different matter when there is a bottle in your kitchen cupboard. I liked this whisky, it was peaty & smoky without being over the top and probably a good bottle to get someone that finds the Laphroaig’s and the Ardbeg’s a little bit to much like eating fiery compost. If you have the chance to try this, you should treat yourself.
Bruichladdich Rocks // Islay
A huge disappointment. I had bought the sister bottle of this, called Waves when I was in Islay and it was a beautifully rich, peaty whisky that had mouthfuls of flavour and a nice heat and sweetness that I expected from this distillery. But, to be honest I thought Rocks was a wee bit weak and didn’t really have much to offer, it seemed a little flat. I hope to find another bottle of Bruichladdich in the near future that will set me back on course because I have a love for the distillery and everything it stands for. Perhaps someone will treat me?
Glenfarclas 21 year old // Highland
A gift from a great friend of mine. Beautiful and mellow, pretty much the perfect example of a Highland malt in my opinion. I normally recommend Glenmorangie, Glenlivet or even The Macallan when I’m asked about Highland whiskies, but if you are willing to spend nearly £100 on a good bottle, this is your man. It slipped down gently, vanilla and light fruit with some sweet toffee flavours. Nothing to flowery or heathery here. A belter.
Glen Scotia 12 year old // Campbeltown
Yet another gift, this time from my sister in law. I don’t have that much knowledge on this region, its a new area of expanding distilleries and close enough for my next cycling tour. I remember this being a lovely sweet tasting whisky with some smoke and peat if i’m correct. It could easily be mistaken for an Islay whisky if you had a blind tasting, I suppose its only 2 hours away by ferry. The bottle disappeared quite quickly which normally means its a good thing. This is not a whisky that you find in many outlets or supermarkets so if you come across it, treat yourself.
Laphroaig Quarter Cask // Islay
Fantastic. One of my all time favourites and extremely difficult to beat. My first taste of this sweet, peaty and smoky nectar was round a fire with my wife in Islay. We were about 2 miles from Bowmore camping at the side of the road and enjoying each other’s company (and the company of some ticks). It was the perfect whisky, gently whirling the tails of the spirit around in the glencairn glass you could see the strength of the spirit. If you want to buy the serious whisky enthusiast a bottle, buy them this.
Old Pultney 12 year old // Highland
A gift from friends after I played at their wedding. Beautifully light and easy to drink from the headland of Scotland, Wick. I had some more of this great whisky on the recent Harris Tweed Ride in Glasgow and throughly enjoyed it, its a daytime malt in my opinion, a wee bit like Auchentoshan and Glenmorangie. There is a lightness and gentleness that the peaty monsters don’t have.
Talisker 10 year old // Skye
I won a bottle of this on the Harris Tweed Ride, it was also wrapped in a Harris Tweed sheath. A great dram that is full of the sea, it tastes wild and rugged as you would expect, nothing sweet and gently about it. A full belt around the taste buds, similar in many ways to a lighter Ardbeg but without so much smoke. The only distiller on Skye, so try it.