It’s the end of another great year of whisky tasting and believe me when I say we’ve tasted some truly great stuff this year. With that in mind, we thought we’d recap on some of our favourite drams tasted in 2017. A great thank you to all of our followers for reading our tasting notes and thoughts on the whiskies/whiskeys we’ve tasted in 2017. We now look forward to another fantastic year of whisky tasting in 2018 – see you there!
THE MACALLAN GRAN RESERVA 15
The Macallan expressions have always remained a favourite amongst novices and connoisseurs simply because it is just that good. This year we were lucky enough to have tasted this rare and truly exquisite limited release Macallan Gran Reserva. Every now and then, Macallan release something a little special that is truly considered limited: the Gran Reserva. The Macallan Gran Reserva 15-year-old has been exclusively matured in seasoned sherry oak casks. Macallan pride themselves on their mastery of wood from which each cask is made and of course their spirit, something they’ve done since 1824. Bottled as a 15yo for the very first time, this rich, dark, spirit unleashes lingering flavours of winter spice, orange and chocolate, with a complex long finish.
HIGHLAND PARK 40
We’ve sample our fair share of Highland Park and this year we were lucky enough to finally sample their 40-year-old expression in a private tasting session. The 30-year-old we posted tasting notes on at the latter part of last year was just sublime and offered up some brilliantly rich notes. This 40-year-old expression is almost like a more intense version that just keeps offering more and more rich, deep notes. It is so well-balanced with the right amount of sweetness, spiciness, body and peat that has great depth.
GLENDRONACH KINGSMAN EDITION
GlenDronach is easily one of our favourite Scottish distilleries and this year they released something a little special that we just had to get our hands on. This year, GlenDronach released the Kingsman Edition 1991 Vintage (limited hand-numbered bottles), a year personally selected by film director Matthew Vaughn, to mark the release of Kingsman: The Golden Circle – a fitting dram, seeing as it is his single malt whisky of choice. The GlenDronach 1991 Kingsman Edition, was chosen from some of the finest sherry casks the distillery has to offer, with a combination of Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez. Matured for over 25 years, this patient endeavour has created a style the is distinctively GlenDronach: richly sherried, elegant and full-bodied to the very last drop.
YAMAZAKI MIZUNARA 2017
It is entirely fair to say that we’ve posted quite a lot of tasting notes on Suntory’s Yamazaki and this year we perhaps sampled one of their most sought-after drams to date. The Yamazaki Mizunara 2017 Edition is made from a precise selection of malt whiskies, all distilled at Yamazaki and aged exclusively in Mizunara casks. Suntory’s Chief Blender, Shinji Fukuyo (who we’ve had the pleasure of meeting) wanted to create an expression that achieved the exquisite balance of subtlety, refinement and complexity that is the hallmark of all Suntory whiskies. In his pursuit of true “Mizunara-ness” Shinji tasted no fewer than a hundred Mizunara whiskies and a selection with varying ages, from 18-years-old and beyond. A very small portion even exceed 50-years of maturation, giving this limited edition incomparable depth and flavour, that lingers long after taking the first sip.
Hibiki is without question one of our favourite Japanese Blended whiskies, it is just so sophisticated. The Hibiki 21 is a blend of rare and meticulously selected mature malt and grain whiskies aged over 21 years. With aromas of sweet dried fruit and a spicy flavour, it is characterised by a solemn, refined richness and profound, lingering echoes. It is these exact same characteristics that led to the Hibiki 21 winning the “Supreme Champion Spirit” award at the International Spirits Challenge 2017.
The Japanese distillery of Nikka is often overlooked in favour of Suntory’s Yamazaki and Hakushu but Nikka in my humble probably produce slightly better whisky. Mr. Taketsuru is a legend in the Japanese whisky industry having helped to set up the country’s first single malt distillery of Yamazaki in 1923, before going out on his own, forming Nikka and building Yoichi. Interestingly enough, the Yoichi distillery makes use of small pot stills that till this day, continue to be heated by direct flame, fired by coal, which is very traditional and a method that most Scottish distilleries have now abandoned. And this year, we managed to get our hands on one of their aged expressions.
KAVALAN SOLIST EX-BOURBON
Over the past few years the Kavalan distillery have become somewhat of a household name among whisky connoisseurs and rightly so. The Kavalan Solist ex-Bourbon is a delightfully complex, multi-dimensional single malt whisky, with vanilla, fruits and coconut highlights. Matured in hand selected fresh American ex-Bourbon casks, the whisky is available at cask strength and non-chill filtered hence it retains a fuller flavour of a natural single malt whisky.
GLENMORANGIE BACALTA PRIVATE EDITION
Every year Glenmorangie release a Private Edition. Now in its eighth release, Glenmorangie, have released what may just be Dr. Bill Lumsden’s last Private Edition in ‘Bacalta’. Scots Gaelic for ‘baked’, Bacalta is the first Glenmorangie expression finished entirely in sun-baked Malmsey Madeira casks. The inspiration for this limited edition first began more than 20 years ago, with the release of the Glenmorangie Madeira Finish, the world’s first whisky extra-matured in Madeira casks. For Dr Bill Lumsden, Glenmorangie’s Director of Distilling, Whisky Creation and Whisky Stocks, the memory of that expression lingered on.
KAVALAN SOLIST AMONTILLADO
Another expression from Kavalan’s award-winning Solist range that made our top ten list is this Amontillado expression. This is something from their top-tier Solist range; Solist Amontillado. Amontillado is a kind of dry sherry which is darker than Fino but lighter than Oloroso, maturing with a cap of flor (wine making term referring to film of yeast on the surface) and then exposed to the air for further oxidation due to the loss of flor. Toasted almonds and hazelnut are the classic aromas for Amontillado casks, making it a whisky not only full of depth and surprises but whisky that was worthy of winning Single Cask Whisky of the Year 2016.
Last but by no means least is the famed Yamazaki 18. We’ve tasted Yamazaki 18 before many times but this year for the first time we posted our tasting notes the much sought-after Japanese whisky of choice. Over the past few years, Yamazaki has won the approval of many whisky aficionados alike, as well as winning a few awards along the way too. The 18-year-old expression has, somewhat, become the cornerstone of Yamazaki, tickling the taste buds of those who chose to venture further than the brilliantly balanced 12.