Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Our Top 10 whiskies of 2011 - Numbers 6 to 10

The last year has been a bumper one for new whisky releases.  As the category continues to grow in both sales and consumption across the globe, many companies are developing and releasing more and more products to meet or drive consumer demand.  This has led to even greater diversity within the world of whisky.  It is impossible to sample every single new release, but we have been extremely lucky to try some of them through our serious hobby that is this blog.

As always happens at this time of year, it is natural to review and reflect on what has happened during the previous year. We have written nearly 100 whisky reviews with tasting notes in the last year, many of which are of the newest releases.  2011 saw our readership for both the website and blog increase dramatically, as did our number of followers on Twitter. It was also the year that Whisky For Everyone featured in the UK national press for the first time, firstly contributing to The Sun's Father's Day pullout and most recently in an article on The Guardian's award winning Word of Mouth food and drink blog.

After much deliberation, we have selected our Top 10 whiskies of 2011. Some people like Top 10s, some don't. They are always subjective and therefore contentious as a result - everyone has differing opinions at the end of the day. We have tried to select our Top 10 on a ratio of quality, value for money and availability to the public. To this end, there are not really any single cask or independent bottlings included, despite some excellent ones being sampled throughout the year. However, some are limited edition bottlings that are still available to purchase.

We have decided to split our choices in to two parts. The Top 5 will appear shortly, along with a short list of some excellent whiskies that didn't quite make the final cut for one reason or another.  Please feel free to leave any comments about our selections at the bottom of the post.

6 - Chichibu 'The First'
This highly anticipated first ever official single malt from Japan's newest distillery had plenty of hype to live up to.  As, it turns out, it did not disappoint.  'The First' is a marvellous opening shot from Chichibu and has won many friends across the whisky world already.  OK - it is youthful but it had us and the people we shared it with saying, "how can this be only three years old?" It shows such development, balance and complexity of aroma and flavour, that it makes you wonder how good some of the next and older releases from Chichibu are going to be.
Reviewed on 1/11/11 - click here for original notes.

7 - Rosebank 21 years old
Every Autumn the drinks giant Diageo treat the world to a new set of whiskies as part of their Special Releases programme.  This year's highlight was this gem from the closed Rosebank distillery.  It is a subtle whisky which is full of depth and delicate complexity - a balance that is hard to achieve.  A gorgeous zesty lemon note on the palate was a particularly memorable highlight. When you consider that remaining stocks of Rosebank single malt are dwindling to a critical level and that it is highly desirable to collectors, then this represents a good bargain too.
Reviewed on 24/10/11 - click here for original notes.

8 - Balvenie Signature 12 years old (Batch No.4)
The fourth batch of the popular Signature was released to much fanfare in early Summer.  Balvenie has always been a Whisky For Everyone favourite since it got us hooked on whisky, and this release kept up their usual high quality.  It is rich, reassuring and very easy to drink, combining lovely sweet elements with drier and spicier ones.  The balance is fantastic.  This is also the most readily available of all the whiskies in our Top 10 - this combined with the great richness and balance make it a good choice as an introduction to whisky for a beginner.
Reviewed on 9/6/11 - click here for original notes.

9 - Balblair 2001 Vintage
This single malt had the tricky job of replacing the popular 2000 Vintage, which made our Top 10 for 2010 amongst many other plaudits.  The 2001 is a landmark whisky for the distillery and its owners - the packaging had a revamp, it was released at a higher strength (46% ABV) with no added colouring and as non-chill filtered.  The result was a wonderfully delicate, subtle and sympathetic single malt that is full of green orchard fruit and honey notes. It is a great example of a whisky in the lighter and fresher style and one that leaves you wanting another sip.
Reviewed on 9/11/11 - click here for original notes.

10 - Bowmore Tempest 10 years old (Batch No.3)
Batch No.3 of the Tempest series was released in early Autumn and immediately it had plenty to live up to. We (and many others) were huge fans of the first two batches and we presented Batch No.1 with our Whisky of the Year for 2010. This is a different and feistier whisky to the other two.  It is refreshing, bracing and packs a smoky punch that combines with more delicate lemon zest, honey and vanilla notes.  Adding water makes it creamier and softer but we preferred the intensity of it in the neat form. A lovely example of a single malt in the smoky, peaty style.
Reviewed on 30/11/11 - click here for original notes.

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