Blanton's Original is a near-perfect daily sipper for me. It's just the right balance of sweet and boozy, with lots of complexity to keep me interested. A high-proof version of Blanton's Original needed to be made, and it comes in form of Blanton's Gold Edition bottled at 51.5% ABV (compared to 46.5% ABV of Blanton's Original).
Old-school whisky stories that tell of how a distillery was first conceived are occasionally accurate and of historic relevance. For me, though, I find the story behind a particular bottle of whisky far more engaging--why did the whisky maker decide to make this whisky in particular? Often the answer is because he or she believes it will sell well. Sometimes, though, it's because they're haunted by a whisky from the past.
Laphroaig is deserving of the scotch cult following. Some hate Laphroaig, some like Laphroaig on occasion, and others love Laphroaig whisky. For those in the latter category, this cask strength variation of Laphroaig 10 is for you.
This whisky is ridiculous. There are few whiskies on the market aged entirely in port casks, and even fewer that spent a total of twenty-three years in port casks. Don't get me wrong, port cask finishings have become a "thing" in the last decade; that's when a whisky is primarily aged in more readily available (cheaper) American oak, and spends a few months to a few years in port casks. However, a whisky aged entirely in port casks for twenty-three years? Damn.
J.P. Wiser's Union 52 is in an odd flavor category in the same way that it's an odd blend of whisky. This is a blend of 15 year old Canadian whisky and extremely old peated single malt scotch that's been maturing in Canada since the 1964. Old smoky scotch meets Canadian whisky. The blend is ridiculous, and it works.
I was one of ten judges scoring the Canadian Whisky Awards for 2017. Masterson's Straight Rye 10 Year Old (Batch PSA3-0035) scored as my the best Canadian whisky, and it also averaged as the best overall Canadian whisky from the judges narrowly beating Gooderham & Warts Four Grain and Lot No 40.
Laphroaig Select is a maddening combination of whisky. The core scotch is regular Laphroaig aged in previously used American bourbon barrels, that are "finished" for six months in brand new American oak barrels. The distillery then blended this whisky with other whiskies to create six different single malts. The Laphroaig fan club, Friends of Laphroaig, selected the winning blend from the six to create the Select.
Laphroaig's An Cuan Mor release is a traditional new-age scotch whisky. The scotch is first matured in first-fill American oak in the Laphroaig warehouse against the Atlantic Ocean, then transferred to European oak and let to mature for a while longer.
Octomore is the smokiest scotch you can buy. But for me, it's not about the peaty levels. My nose isn't all that sensitive to peat, and I've never been overwhelmed by it. Lightly peated whiskies (like Bowmore) barely register. Instead, I'm looking for flavor beneath the peat.
In 1977, George Thorogood covered an original blues song written by Rudy Toombs: One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer. The George Thorogood version is specifically about a time when the singer lost his job, and dealt with his problems by ordering the three drinks on repeat until 3am.
Cutty Sark Prohibition Edition is not the best whisky in the world, and yet it's a damn fine whisky. Old time blended scotch drinkers are going to complain Cutty Sark Prohibition Edition is not "smooth" enough
Redbreast is produced in New Midleton Distillery (home of Jameson). It’s not a single malt, but rather a pot still, which is made from both malted and unmalted barley. Unmalted barley is typically responsible for greener notes, and it’s traditional from an era where the UK charged taxes based on how much barley was malted.
The following list are whiskies to buy today, because they will be gone tomorrow. If you have a whisky friend on your gift list, any of these purchases will not only impress them, but they'll soon realize that they're not likely to see them at the LCBO again.
Hibiki Harmony came into markets replacing the 12 Year Old variety. As a no-age statement whisky, it could be made available to a broader audience, but it also lives in turmoil with endless comparisons to the whisky it replaced. Removing age statements gives producers flexibility making whisky (why should 12 years be the minimum age in the bottle?), but it also creates a sense of distrust with the consumer accustomed to seeing a number on the bottle.
Glengoyne 12 is the sort of whisky that would have seemed (almost) ordinary back in the day when you could get The Macallan 10 or 12 for under $100. In Today's whisky world, Glengoyne 12 Year Old is rare treat at a price-point that is fairly reasonable.
It's cliche, I know, to drink Writers Tears while writing. A cliche that I know I share with many writers in the whisky genre. A cliche that I endured while writing The Whisky Cabinet. And for that reason, it was hard to rate this whisky. When reviewing whisky, it's important to outpour ones feelings when writing about the whisky, but be void of attachment when rating the whisky.
Making whisky is not unlike writing—you do it because you love the craft. You hope there's a big windfall, but in most cases you know that to simply be able to work on your craft and pay the bills is a win. Every person I've met that's in this business is passionate about making whisky. The passion, the enthusiasm, that drive is shared among whisky makers from the smallest to the largest distilleries.
When I first came across the bottle of Blanton's Original, I was in Las Vegas and early in my whisky writing career. The bartender took me through a long list of bourbons before ending the night with the last of his Blanton's. Many years later, I found myself at the lab of Buffalo Trace Distillery on a media tour with an wonderful insight to how each barrel of Blanton's is selected.
Kentucky and Scotland hate the B word. Mention it on Twitter, in Instagram, or during a whisky tour and they'll quickly tell you why you're wrong. "We don't blend! We marry the whisky in a vat." Yes, whisky particles are married, not blended. Despite the best-selling scotch in the world being a blend (Johnnie Walker), blended whisky has bad connotations going back to the 1800s.
Virginia Black American Whiskey is the otherwise known as Drake's whisky. This whisky is bound to be polarizing: Drake is pop culture at its highest level, and traditional whisky drinkers are likely disregards his music as stuff "young people listen to." It's also a celebrity booze product, which nearly always gets negative reviews from critics.