Thursday, January 5, 2012

Our Top 10 whiskies of 2011 - Numbers 1 to 5

Welcome to 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 split our choices in to two parts. In this second part we cover our Top 5, including our 'Whisky of the Year', plus a short list of some excellent whiskies that didn't quite make the final cut for one reason or another.  The first part covering numbers six to ten was published yesterday - to read this click here. Please feel free to leave any comments about our selections at the bottom of either post.

So without further delay, let's get down to business and announce our 'Whisky of the Year' and the Top 5.  Drum roll please ...

Whisky For Everyone's Whisky of the Year 2011

Great King Street

When boutique whisky blending company Compass Box released this blend back in the Summer, they cannot have imagined what a stir it would cause. Nicknamed 'The Artist's Blend', it has received a plethora of rave reviews and laughs in the face of those that think that blends are an inferior product to single malts.   

Great King Street (named after the street where the company's Edinburgh HQ is located) re-affirms the high standards of excellence that Compass Box have set themselves in the last decade and will surely go on to win a heap of awards around the world.

Not only is it our favourite whisky of the year in terms of quality, flavour and character but it is also highly affordable at just £25 a bottle. It ticks every box for us and is a fantastic product.
Reviewed on 9/8/11 - click here for original notes.

2 - Auchentoshan Valinch
This whisky was also released back in the Summer and the Lowland distillery came up trumps. To release Auchentoshan's soft triple distilled spirit with a powerful alcohol strength of 57.7% ABV could have been a tricky marriage, but it worked a treat.  Sympathetic casking and the skill of the Master Blender are evident here. It can take plenty of water also, and holds up very well. The Valinch is planned to become a regular annual feature for Auchentoshan and if each batch is this good, then we can't wait for this year's version. Another bargain at around £40-45 a bottle.
Reviewed on 25/7/11 - click here for original notes.

3 - Benriach Solstice 15 years old
The first 'wow' moment of 2011 was provided by this whisky from one of our favourite Speyside distilleries. Standing at the Whisky Live show in London the Solstice announced itself with a splendid mix of intensity, smoke, fruit, wood spice and warm biscuit notes. It is unusual for a Speyside single malt in that it is heavily peated and has been part matured in ex-Port casks.  The combination works superbly and makes you think that more distilleries should try it. A new 17 year old version has just been released in a similar vein, so we cannot wait to try that and hope it is as good as this beauty.
Reviewed on 9/3/11 - click here for original notes.

4 - Greenore 18 years old
Hailing from the Irish distillery of Cooley, this is the first single grain whiskey to appear on one of our Top 10 lists. To put it simply - this is the best single grain whiskey that we have tried to date and the only one to which we have returned on numerous occasions. If you have never tried a single grain whiskey before, then this Greenore would be a good introduction to the genre.  It offers wonderful bittersweet cereals, creamy vanilla and coconut, spiced orange and plenty of wood spice characteristics. All are perfectly balanced and the result is delicious and rich.
Reviewed on 6/2/11 - click here for original notes.

5 - Shackleton Highland Malt
Another blend in the Top 5 - what is going on?  This is a whisky with a difference - it has a unique story (synopsis - someone finds old bottle under Antarctic ice after 100 years, someone else brings bottle back to Scotland and recreates replica as near to the original as possible), but also a unique flavour profile. The original was from an era where single malts did not exist as a product and this was produced in the old Highland style with some richness and smokiness. The back story is great but for us the most important thing is that the whisky in the bottle stands up on its own.
Reviewed on 26/4/11 - click here for original notes.

As mentioned, the selections for numbers 6-10 in our Top 10 were revealed in the first part- click here to read if you missed it.

We found it tricky to select our Top 10, as we have sampled so many good new whiskies throughout the year.  Naturally, some excellent products did not make the cut for one reason or another.  Below is a list of some others that we felt deserved a mention.  We have also attached the links to the original reviews, if you wish to take a look at them.


Mike said...

Interesting list, enjoyable read. I received Great King St for xmas and was blown away by the quality and price. Made me rethink my stance on blends.


Anonymous said...

While I might not agree with every pick, this is a very very decent list. The Great King Street is fantastic indeed!