Regardless of the time of year, there’s nothing like a dram of Whiskey to hit the spot. Now more than ever, fans of a wee dram are spoiled for choice; Scotland, the US and Canada, not to mention that recent darling of the Whiskey world, Japan, are all producing examples of great power, elegance, and persistence. Whether you’re a collector or simply enjoy savoring the best malts available, here are a few top of the line Whiskeys you need to try.
Auchentoshan Three Wood Scotch
Where there were once many Lowland Whiskies, today there is only a handful left. Of those few, Auchentoshan unquestionably leads the pack. Located just outside of Glasgow, Scotland, the Auchentoshan distillery has been around since the early 19th century. These single malt gurus use a unique distillation process: they are the only Scotch distillery to employ triple distillation; one more than the status quo. What does this mean for the spirit itself? Auchentoshan clocks in at a higher alcohol level and has fewer impurities than its counterparts. Smooth and incredibly flavorful, they offer quite a few different bottlings but one of the real standouts is the Three Wood Scotch. Aged first in a Bourbon barrel, then an Oloroso and finally, Pedro Ximenez Sherry cask, this Scotch is rich, fruity, and faintly sweet.
Suntory Hibiki 17 Years Old
Japanese Whisky is a great investment and an example of the art of distillation which continues to impress and surprise in equal measures. It has taken the spirits world by storm and has established itself as a real competitor for Scotch. This example from Suntory is a blend of top quality single malts aged in Japanese oak. An award winning Whisky, the Hibiki 17 is characterized by caramel, vanilla, and subtle oak notes taken from the rare Mizunara casks it is aged in.
Compass Box The Peat Monster
Peated Whiskies may be something of an acquired taste, but once you’ve crossed that line, you tend not to look back. For real aficionados of that unparalleled rich, smoky flavor, the Peat Monster will satisfy even the pickiest of peat fiends. Hailing from Ardmore in Speyside, this blended Scotch is actually comprised of malts from around Scotland. Islay brings that classic smoke and seaweed character, while the addition of elegant Highlands malts successfully rounds it out with a pleasant fruitiness. The Peat Monster is a deeply stylish number that isn’t half as monstrously peaty as its name suggests – the key is balance, and here, Master Blender John Glaser achieves just that. In truth, everything Glaser has done at Compass Box is on point, making this Scotch Whisky producer one well worth exploring further.
Green Spot Whiskey
This single pot distilled Irish Whiskey is truly outstanding. Once solely made for and sold by Mitchell & Sons of Dublin (produce by Midleton Distillery in Cork), it’s now more widely available around the world…which can only be a good thing. A limited number of 500 bottles are released per year and it wouldn’t be fair to the rest of us if the Irish kept Green Spot all to themselves, although it would be hard to blame them for doing so. A blend of 7 to 10-year-old Whiskeys which are aged in mixed Bourbon and Sherry casks, Green Spot also lays claim to the title of oldest continuously produce single pot Whiskey in Ireland. Lauded as one of the world’s greatest Whiskeys by Jim Murray of Whisky Bible, Green Spot is definitely one to seek out. Once you try the original, be sure to taste the Green Spot Chateau Leoville-Barton – the same Whiskey which is then finished in used casks from the St. Julien cru classé estate – a taste experience which is impossible to forget.
Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve Bourbon
For some, this Bourbon is the Holy Grail of American spirits. One of the world’s greatest Bourbons, Pappy can be tricky to get your hands on due to its very limited production. Yet it is well worth the investment of tracking down a bottle, as this is an example of a fine spirit which is definitely deserving of the hype. One of the things that makes it so special is the mash; like all Bourbon, Pappy Van Winkle’s mash bill is based on corn, but it also includes wheat as opposed to rye, and also benefits deeply from a dash of delicately spicy barley. The results are a perfectly balanced, gently sweet Bourbon that stands head and shoulders above the rest of them. If you’re able to swipe a bottle of this beautiful, elegant American legend, do yourself a favor and enjoy it neat or on the rocks.
Whistlepig 10-Year-Old Straight Rye
Born in Canada but now completely produced and matured in the US, this 100 percent rye Whiskey is one of the best currently available on the market, and has gained a dedicated following worldwide as a result of its undeniable quality. Dave Pickerell is at the helm of distilling at Whistlepig, a position he took after serving as Maker’s Mark Master Distiller for a decade and a half. The man clearly knows his stuff; this 10-year-old rye tastes utterly gorgeous, with notes of creamy caramel and rich butterscotch, all framed with that citrus and vanilla hit that we all love so much in a glass of fine rye Whiskey.
Lock Stock & Barrel 16-Year-Old Straight Rye
This rye is a Canadian classic through and through. Double distilled in copper pot stills and made from 100 percent rye, then aged in new charred American oak barrels for no less than 16 years, it ends up being gorgeously rich and fruity, with plenty of spicy oak and vanilla, even a hint of sassafras. We can clearly see why it picked up the Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition as Lock Stock & Barrel is complex, intense, and extremely satisfying—a real treat.
The world is full of wonderful Whiskeys. You can dedicate your entire life to discovering new ones and be delighted by the fact there will always be something you haven’t tried yet. These are merely a few favorites—rest assured, when it comes to fine whiskey, you’ll never grow bored!
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