It's almost the end of yet another year, and as 2016 draws to a close, all around people are giving their opinions on what are, were, or will be the best of something or other, so I really should do the same shouldn't I.
I've gone for two Top 5's, the second set are bottles priced under £50, the first set are my top 5 expensive/discontinued/amazing drams of the year. All of these have been selected from the 230 drinks reviewed this year, a number i'm disappointed with as it's the first time in 3 years i've done less than 300, 2017 will make up for that I promise.
So first up, my top 5 Amazing drams reviewed in 2016 -
1st Place goes to Rosebank 15 Year Old (Bottled 1980s) which I bought a dram of in the brilliant Usquabae bar in Edinburgh. Any Rosebank was always going to feature highly on my list, but for me this was definitely the highlight of my year, a brilliant dram filled with delicous flavours and a Huge emotional connection for me.
Rosebank is becoming quicker and quicker further out of my price range so getting the opportunity to try drams like this is becoming rarer and rare. If you get the chance, this is a must.
2nd Place goes to Mannochmore 25 Year Old (2016 Special Releases) which i sampled at the Diageo Special Releases launch earlier in the year. This dram really surprised me with it's fresh fruity and honeyed notes and a real leafy grassy element which worked really well with my palate.
I liked this dram so much that i've since had the Woodpecker adorning this bottle tattooed onto, joining a host of other whiskies on my tattoo whisky sleeve.
3rd Place goes to Timorous Beastie 40 Year Old this limited edition sold out really quickly and it's no surprise why, delicious sweet, oaky, fruity, fresh, honey, wax ... there's just way too much going on here to keep writing about, an absolute blinder of a dram.
Reviewed from a sample received from Douglas Laing, but I also have a bottle of this waiting for a rainy day.
4th Place goes to Jura 30 year old (Wm Cadenhead) yeah another "no surprise there" entry to the Top 5, anyone who knows me knows how fond i am of Jura whiskies and this was yet another blinder. Thanks to Jason at Whisky Rover, who helped me source this bottle, there everything i love about Jura in this and more, with tasty farmyard notes, the BBQ pineapple and more, delicious stuff, no surprise with it being a Cadenheads bottle i can hear Jason say, there were only 66 of these emptied from the cask, and if you can find one, you're doing great.
5th Place goes to Benromach 1973 Vintage I only sampled this last night as part of the #BenromachXmas tweet tasting (organised by Benromach and The Whisky Wire ) but it totally blew me away, amazing freshness and fruitiness with cinder toffee notes bringing that trademark sweet smoke from Benromach. A pricetag of upwards of £1200 and only 52 bottles available anywhere in the world, this is one I'm unlikely to get to try again, truly brilliant stuff.
There were a number of other bottlings which could have made it into this list, from more Rosebank, to Port Ellen, Brora and even a 1922 White Horse, but these drams just did it for me.
The next list, below, is the top 5 drams I have reviewed this year, priced under £50 (normally) and shows that there are some really great bang for your buck drams out there and also a reminder that age, or a lack of seeing one on the bottle, should not be what decides what you buy.
1st Place goes to Glen Moray Classic Sherry Cask Finish and I already can hear people that know me well shouting "WTF are you doing putting a sherried dram as your number 1!" but i just love this dram, big rich fruits, orchard fruits, beeswax, that trademark toffee/floral note and manuka honey, what's not to like? and with a price tag less than £30, and regularly available for less int he Supermarkets, this is just the ticket and a dram that I'm seriously happy to sip on, over and over and over again.
2nd Place goes to Port Dundas 11yr Old Particular (Douglas Laing) another one that will twist minds is this young single grain from Douglas Laing, ther common misconception is that Grain whisky has to be old, very old, to get any flavour from it, but this is most definitely an exception to the rule. From the now Closed Port Dundas distillery, this has notes of coffee, mocha, mezcal, wasabi and more and just rewrites the rules on why grain whiskies need to be aged for multiple decades before they become drinkable.
3rd Place goes to Kilkerran 12 Year Old the first big aged, and regular bottling, from Springbanks Glen Gyle distillery is a brilliant dram, filled with chalky smoke and big fresh fruits, for around £35 a bottle this is an absolute steal and you should not be thinking twice about adding one of these to your christmas list. A recent visit to the distillery seen that some very Heavily Peated, rumoured to be 70-80PPM, malt was once again flowing through the stills at Glen Gyle, I can't wait for when that's available to buy.
4th Place goes to Glenfiddich Experimental Series - Project XX the Glenfiddich this dram is based on casks selected by each of the 20 global brand ambassadors for William Grants and there's just enough of everything in here to make it really work for me, spices, sweets, vanilla and a lick of plum near the finish make this seriously drinkable and a permanent addition to the Glenfiddich range. priced around the £45/50 mark this is right up my street.
5th Place goes to The Big Strand a single malt from an un-named distillery on Islay and bottled at 46% and presented at under £40, that'll do me nicely. Knowing, partly by accident and the work related sample bottle of this, that it is a Caol Ila makes it all the more interesting. Creamy, smouldering BBQ and a damn nice splash of seaside coastal notes make this very drinkable in the winter months and a must have if you like your whisky smoky and full on.
Well folks, thats the end of my Top 5 lists for 2016, i've got a bundle of drams to get through before the bells on the 31st December but i doubt many will knock these guys off their pedestals. I'm keen to hear what you think of my Top 5's and even keener to hear what your's are. To 2017 and beyond!