Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Our Top 10 Whiskies of 2019

Another year has passed and as we pass in to a new decade, it is time for one of our favourite blog posts - our top 10 whiskies from last year. Everyone will have a different opinion about what should and should not be on such a list. Our list is simply our favourites with no criteria, such as price or availability applied, or agenda.

2019 saw seemingly more whiskies released than ever before. The ever growing number of new distilleries saw some bottle their first ever products, established brands put new whiskies in to their core ranges, classic whiskies were re-invented and some distilleries pushed the boundaries with the use of experimental or unorthadox casks. The competitions that we both judge on saw record levels of entries, reflecting this vibrancy and innovation .

As with previous years it has been a struggle to narrow our choices down to just ten. We have sampled many nice whiskies, reviewing numerous of them. As with the last few years, we have decided to again list the final ten in alphabetical order, rather than ranking them. Please let us know your thoughts and your favourite whiskies of 2019 in the comments. So here goes ...


Our Top 10 Whiskies of 2019

Ardbeg Supernova 2019 Edition
Read our full review here.

This year saw a brief reappearance of a previous favourite limited edition that was first released in 2009. The Supernova is the peatiest ever version of the Islay malt and the 2019 Edition was no exception. Only available to members of the Ardbeg Committee, it sold out in no time. This now sees bottles going for nearly double the price on auction sites. Well worth it if you love your powerful, smoky single malts. It's a cracker.

Balcones Texas Pot Still Bourbon
Read our full review here.

A new permanent addition to the core range of Texan distillery Balcones that came out in the early part of the year. Made using a mash bill of roasted blue corn, malted barley, Texas rye and Texas wheat and then distilled through their bespoke copper pot stills, this whisky then matures in the Texan climate to create a delicious and rounded bourbon unlike anything from Kentucky or elsewhere. Wonderful.

Balvenie 'A Day of Dark Barley' 26 years old
Read our full review here.

The Speyside favourite of Balvenie released a new range of three single malts this year. These were called The Balvenie Stories and were each influenced by a different person. The two younger versions get honourable mentions later on and were very nice but the star of the show was this 26 year old created by Malt Master David Stewart MBE. The most expensive whisky on this year's list is an absolute stunner and is made from heavily roasted malt, which was only used for a very short period in 1992.

Benromach Peat Smoke Sherry Cask Matured
Read our full review here.

This limited edition from the small traditional Speyside distillery used some of their rare heavily peated spirit, which they only produce for a short period each year. This has then been matured in first-fill ex-sherry hogshead casks and bottled at punchy cask strength of nearly 60% ABV. It offers a bigger, bolder version of Benromach with plenty of sweet Highland peat in combination with a succulent richness from the sherry casks. Fabulous.

Glenglassaugh Octave Cask #SC36 
Read our full review here.

This is a whisky very close to our hearts as it belongs to us. We make no apologies for putting it in to this year's list as it is undoubtedly our favourite of 2019 and we are very proud of it. We purchased the cask and filled it with new make spirit back in 2013 when Glenglassaugh were still offering such a deal. After six years and a month we decided the ex-Oloroso octave barrel was ready for bottling. And we were correct - the vibrant coastal Highland malt works superbly with the characteristics from the small sherry casks and dangerously drinkable at the natural cask strength.

Jameson Triple Triple
Read our full report here.

The first of two Irish whiskeys in the Top 10, but at opposite ends of the price scale. This new Jameson Triple Triple sits around £30 for a litre and is exclusive to the travel retail sector. The name refers to the fact that every drop of Jameson is triple distilled and that it has been matured in three different types of cask - ex-bourbon, ex-sherry and ex-Malaga fortified wine. The result is easy drinking, soft and rich with a pinch of warming gingerbread spice. Very good value and excellent quality.

Midleton Very Rare 2019 Edition
Read our full report here.

The second Irish entry sits with a super premium price tag of £160. The annual Midleton Very Rare release is eagerly anticipated by whisky fans each year and has been since it was first bottled in the 1980s. This year's expression is the 36th release and features single pot still and single grain whiskeys ranging in age from 13 to 34 years. The 2019 Edition is full of nuances and is deliciously classy and elegant. Stunning.

Read our full report here.

Scarabus is an Islay single malt released by the independent bottling company of Hunter Laing. The whisky is young and comes from an un-named distillery on the famous whisky island. The name is an old Nordic word and translates as 'rocky place'. It was launched at the opening of the company's Ardnahoe distillery on Islay at this year's Feis Ile festival. Great value for money at around £35 and packing a big peaty punch, this whisky is an absolute belter.

Singleton of Glen Ord 18 years old
Read our full report here.

This year's Diageo Special Releases were a nice bunch but nothing beat this Singleton of Glen Ord 18 years old for us. We actually both agreed that this was the best of the collection, which rarely happens. The whisky has been matured for the full term in charred American oak hogshead barrels and is sweet and highly fragrant on the nose with a sumptuous and malty richness on the palate. A classy and luxurious single malt.

Tamdhu 15 years old
Read our full report here.

Our final choice is a big sherry bomb from the increasingly popular Speyside distillery of Tamdhu. This 15 years old was released alongside the annual Batch Strength bottling back in the Spring and both were superb. Matured in ex-sherry casks, some made from American oak and some from European oak, this whisky has a vibrancy that is often lacking in such whiskies. For us, this fresh and juicy quality lifts it above many of its competitors in the sherry cask category. A sublime whisky.

Best of the Rest ...
It is always difficult to narrow our choices down to just 10 whiskies and there are always numerous other products queuing up behind the ones that we do choose. On another day they could all easily have made it on to the final list.

Some have already been mentioned above such as the Tamdhu Batch Strength No.004 and the two other releases in The Balvenie Stories range - The Sweet Toast of Oak 12 years old and The Week of Peat 14 years old.

Other delicious single malts included the Glen Moray 21 years old Portwood Finish, the Glenmorangie Allta (the 10th anniversary release in the Highland distillery's Private Collection series) and the Ardbeg Traigh Bhan 19 years old. All very good and with very differing characteristics.

2019 was also a year of innovation. A relaxing of the casking rules by the Scotch Whisky Association led to some interesting experimentation such as that in the revamped Cù Bòcan single malt range, a couple of new additions to the Method & Madness Irish collection and the Glen Moray Rhum Agricole Finish.

It was also a year of firsts as a number of the new distilleries that have been established in the last 3-4 years began releasing their inaugural whiskies - these included lovely examples from Bimber, The Lakes Distillery with their Whiskymaker's Reserve Nos. 1 and 2, Spirit of Yorkshire with Filey Bay and The East London Liquor Co.

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