We have sampled and reviewed many whiskies over the last year at Whisky For Everyone, so we have decided to choose our top 10 of the new releases that hit the market in 2009. With so many whiskies to choose from we have called in the help of Chris Maclean - the esteemed manager of The Whisky Shop's London branch and a selected judge in the whisky category of the recent Spirits Business Magazine Awards.
Top 10s are always contentious issues as everyone has differing opinions. We have tried to select our Top 10 on 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. Some however are limited edition bottlings that are still available to purchase. We would be interested to hear your nominations also, so please add your comments at the bottom of this post. Our selections will be split in to two parts with numbers 6-10 below and 1-5 will be posted tomorrow. Here goes ....
6 - Laphroaig 18 years old
This whisky was introduced to replace the popular 15 years old in Laphroaig's core range. The famous distillery on the western isle of Islay took a gamble by doing this but it paid off. The nose is fresh and clean with an instant hit of pungent aromatic smoke (imagine damp moss and dry peat). This is balanced with vanilla, a briny saltiness and honey. On the palate, it is robust and powerful offering early sugary sweetness that combines vanilla and honey with malty cereals and spicy woodiness. The smokiness is less earthy and more like charcoal or burning embers/ash with some saltiness and a bitter iodine twist. The finish is very long with a bittersweet mix of vanilla, honey, warm gingery spices and pronounced smokiness that reminded us of creosote fence paint. A classic smoky dram.
Details - Approx. price £65/ Alcoholic strength 48% ABV/ To read full post - click here
7 - Hibiki 12 years old
A Japanese whisky that was released to compliment to well known and well loved Hibiki 17 years old (made famous by Bill Murray in the movie Lost in Translation). The owners, Suntory, kept the distinctive decanter style bottle but that is where the similarities end. It contains single malts from the Yamazaki and Hakushu distilleries plus aged grain whisky. The main difference is that it has been part matured in Umeshu (a type of Japanese plum wine) casks. This has a very promising nose - it is fragrant with fresh stone fruit (like cherries and plums), plus vanilla, honey and hints of peppery spiciness (imagine ground white pepper). The palate is refreshing, cleansing and mellow with lots of fresh juicy fruit notes (especially the plums) combining with vanilla and barley sweetness. It has a crisp, short finish with peppery spice coming through. A lovely clean, fresh whisky that makes you want another sip!
Details - Approx. price £40-50/ 43% ABV/ To read full post - click here
8 - Lagavulin 12 years old Cask Strength
This bottling by the iconic Lagavulin distillery on the western island of Islay formed part of drinks giant Diageo's annual Autumn Cask Strength limited releases. The nose is intense and full of peaty, earthy smokiness (reminiscent of wood embers and ash). This is joined by a mix of caramel, vanilla, toffee, some saltiness and a citrus element (imagine lemon zest). On the palate, this is full bodied with smokiness marrying perfectly with sweet barley, briny saltiness, caramel and something nutty (imagine hazelnuts). With water, the whisky opens up releasing more smoke and salt with a pepperiness coming through. The water also brings out fruity elements (think of tinned fruit, pears especially). The finish is long, drying and intense with that earthy, peaty smoke fading slowly. An excellent and complex whisky that is a real bargain for the price.
Details - Approx.price £55-60/ 59.9% ABV/less than 3000 bottles/ To read full post - click here
9 - Dalmore 18 years old
Released in the Autumn and was long awaited as it represents the first time that the Dalmore distillery have officially bottled an 18 years old. The nose is very pleasant, sweet and rich with plenty of malted barley that is quickly joined by the classic sherry cask characteristics - dried fruits (think of raisins and sultanas), candied peel (especially oranges), nuts (imagine walnuts and almonds) and caramel. On the palate, this is full bodied and silky with plenty of sherried dried fruit, especially raisins, and this is complimented by a lovely woody, nutty spiciness ( a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg and walnuts). There are also other elements - slightly bitter candied orange peel, caramel, vanilla and a hint of dark plain chocolate/cocoa powder and roasted coffee. The finish is rich, fruity (the dried fruit/candied peel again) with warm spiciness (imagine cinnamon and cloves). This is a lovely, rich and smooth whisky.
Details - Approx. price £75-85/ 43% ABV/ To read full post - click here
10 - Kilkerran 'Work in Progress'
Kilkerran is the first official single malt release from the new Glengyle distillery in Campbeltown. The whisky may only be five years of age but we believe it shows great potential and had to have it in our Top 10. The colour is light and straw-like, with a nose that is highly aromatic and full of promising youthful vibrancy. There is a mixture of sweet cereal grains, fresh green fruit (think of pears and apples), something powerful and herbal (imagine dried grasses) and a whiff of peppery peat smoke. On the palate it feels creamy in the mouth and the cereal, green fruit and grassy elements from the nose are joined by a sugary sweetness (imagine icing sugar), vanilla and zesty citrus (think of lemon and orange). The finish is long with a hint of earthy smokiness and woody oak coming through, before turning slightly harsh and spirity right at the end. A very pleasant and highly characteristic whisky that may be robust, youthful, vibrant and not to everyone's taste. Watch out for future releases with interest!
Details - Approx. price £30-35/ 46% ABV/ only 12000 bottles/ To read full post - click here
Part 2 will reveal our Top 5 whiskies of 2009, as well as others that just missed out but are deserving of a mention. It will be posted tomorrow.