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Whiskey news from around the world

Barrell Bourbon Batch 026

Barrell Bourbon Batch 026 56.32% ABV $90 Website We would like to thank Barrell Craft Spirits and Ro-Bro Marketing & PR for sending us a sample to review. What the Blender Says Barrell Bourbon Batch 026 was created by combining 9, 10, 11, 13 and 15-year-old barrels in several blending steps. The first was a …

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The post Barrell Bourbon Batch 026 first appeared on Whisk(e)y Apostle: Proselytizing the way of the malt.

Inbox / The Week's Whisky News (January 15, 2021)

Welcome to Inbox, our weekly round up of whisky news and PR material that has found its way in to our WFE email. It was created as we cannot write full articles or do justice to every piece received. It features items from around the world of whisky and is published by us each Friday. Within Inbox we aim to write a few lines detailing each press release/piece of news/PR event that we have received and provide links, where possible, for you to find out further information.  This is our first Inbox of 2021 and although the year has started on the same bad note that 2020 finished on, we hope it will be a better one overall. Anyway, it's still a bit slow so here is the news from this week as the whisky industry begins to wake up from its festive and New Year slumber ... ________  
The Lowland distillery of Daftmill has teamed up with esteemed London-based wine and spirits Berry Brothers & Rudd to present a new limited edition single malt. The 2009 Summer Release will be exclusive to the retailer and will be available via a customer ballot. The whisky is a marriage of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks, and there are just 600 bottles available. Each will cost £100 ($137 US). The Daftmill 2009 Summer Release is bottled at 46% ABV and is both nin chill-filtered and of natural colour. The ballot runs until 6pm GMT on January 19 with successful applicants notified by January 22. To register, please visit -

The Irish whisky distiller of Teeling have announced the fourth and final part of their Brabazon single malt collection. The series was launched in 2017 and is named after the Brabazon family who presided over the Liberties area of Dublin (where the Teeling distillery is located) in the 16th to 19th centuries. The Teeling Brabazon Bottling Series 4 has been part matured in rare ex-Carcavelos wine casks from Portugal. Carcavelos is historical white Port style of fortified wine produced near Lisbon.  The single malt was distilled in 2007 and bottled towards the end of last year at 13 years of age and a strength of 49.5% ABV. There are just 10,000 bottles and these will be available in selected markets worldwide. A bottle will cost €95.00/ £85/ $115 US. 

"We now complete the Brabazon series, this time using barrels used for a rare white Port style of wine. This produces a very unique expression of Teeling and Irish whiskey and is a fitting end to our award-winning series, as well as highlighting our unique approach to making Irish whiskey and innovation."Jack Teeling - Managing Director at Teeling Whiskey Co.

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Review / Teeling Single Malt

This whiskey forms part of The Unconventional Collection from Irish distiller Teeling. The Teeling Single Malt is made from 100% Irish malted barley and features a complex marriage of five cask types - the whiskey has been matured in ex-Cabernet Sauvignon and White Burgundy wine casks plus ex-Madeira, ex-Port and ex-sherry casks. These are then combined in differing percentages to create the final single malt. The Teeling Single Malt is released at 46% ABV and is both non chill-filtered and of natural colour. It is available in specialist whisky retailers and travel retail in selected markets worldwide. A bottle should cost around the £50/ €57 mark.

The Teeling Whiskey Company was founded by Jack Teeling in 2012. The Teeling family are true pioneers and had previously helped to rejuvenate the Irish whiskey industry by founding Cooley distillery in County Louth in 1987. Their aim was to bring back old Irish whiskey brands that had been lost over time - these included Connemara, Kilbeggan and Tyrconnell. 

Cooley was sold to Beam Global in January 2012, which left Jack free to set up Teeling Whiskey Co. Since then they have built a new distillery in the centre of Dublin and this began production in mid-2015. The range of whiskeys has also expanded significantly and collected many awards from around the world.

Our tasting notes

The colour is a pale lemon yellow and the nose is immediately green, delicate and fresh. Initial aromas include green apple and frest cut grass, plus hints of heather and cereal-like earthiness. Then come further aromas of sugary sultana and candied lemon peel, both of which add to the vibrant feel.

On the palate this whiskey has an instant hit of warming spice - think of white pepper with a pinch of cinnamon. Then comes an interesting vegetal note that is most reminiscent of crisp green capsicum peppers. Some much needed sweetness arrives shortly after in the form of white chocolate, sugar syrup and a blob of heather honey. There are also further notes of vanilla, apple Danish pastry/ apple pie and a lovely mix of both candied lemon and fresh lemon zest. The green apple characteristic seems to increase with time to become more influential. A background hint of apricot jam and that fresh cut grass from the nose come through at the very last minute.

The finish is of decent length, although it is the peppery and warming spices that linger most. The green apple-like quality fades first, then the sweet elements and this allows the earthy cereals and those spices to shine. Mouth watering and delicious.

What's the verdict? 

This is a whiskey that easily shows why Teeling have won multiple awards in worldwide spirits competitions. It has a distinct lightness, delicacy and vibrancy yet has a set of layers that contribute to a lovely depth and complexity. The combination of aromas is enticing and the palate delivers on the promise of the nose. We particularly enjoyed the zesty and vegetal notes, which added an extra dimension. Definitely worth a try.

The M&H (Milk & Honey) Classic Single Malt Whisky

Tasting notes:
The nose of the Milk and Honey Classic Cask opens with an industrial, yet warm cedar, undertone. The dominant, robust, unctuous overtone is Half-and-Half cappuccino foam misted with honey made from tulip fields and vanilla beans in equal parts. Milk and Honey either named their brand after this nose—improbable—or perhaps I am unduly swayed by the intoxicating magic of words—likely, but inapt in this case—or perhaps the distillery master leaned into the oak aging and brought out a lovely coruscating trio of notes. We got also a cedar deck that had been exposed to years of elemental fury, both tempering the natural woodiness and also elevating the resilient sinuous sinewy fiber-y “roots in the ground, leaves in the sky” of the planked tree. A perfectly adorable four month old Rottweiler, Ariel, and a loquacious duck, Belle, bask in the sun, snuggling with each other, and occasionally gnaw on the deck. A pixelating sprinkling of tannins, which we named “Biff,” evanesce into sonar pings of juniper.

The mouth is lemony, woody, young, and innocuous: It evokes drinking whisky out of wooden mugs with (room temperature) ebony “ice” cubes. It asks drinkers to look deep within and self-evaluate their worthiness to taste whisky. As I ponder my fabled foibles, the mouth’s role expands, like a walk-on college sports hopeful who eventually makes the starting roster by a mixture of spunk, vim, and sheer desire. We also got Uni, which eventually won us over with its seawater blessings.

The finish is the cedar deck after a wedding reception hora was danced on it to live klezmer music: Light, faint footprints marking the brief passage of time and the start of a life-long journey. (Ariel and Belle were startled: They thought they owned the deck.) Closure and eschatology are not what the Jewish religion is about; it’s the questions, considerations, and interpretations all leading to more discussion, examination, and exploration. It’s an unfinished business.


On the scale of unfinished works of art–

The M&H (Milk & Honey) Classic Single Malt Whisky is Arnold Schoenberg’s opera Moses und Aron–Completion and redemption are coming!






–Our thanks to ImpEx Beverages for the sample!



Barrell Bourbon Batch 018

Barrell Bourbon Batch 018 55.78% ABV $90 Website What the Blender Says Barrell Bourbon Batch 018 is a cinnamon bomb of a bourbon. We began with a juicy and tropical 11-year-old blend and layered in more structured and spice-driven 14 and 15-year-old barrels to give this batch a serious amount of character and bite. A …

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The post Barrell Bourbon Batch 018 first appeared on Whisk(e)y Apostle: Proselytizing the way of the malt.

Review / Samuel Gelston's Single Pot Still

Samuel Gelston's is an Irish whiskey brand that is owned by Halewood Artisanal spirits. This single pot still has been produced using both malted and unmalted barley in the traditional way at an un-named distillery in Ireland and then matured exclusively in American oak ex-bourbon casks. This Single Pot Still sits within a wider range of whiskeys that includes the Blended Irish Whiskey and single malts at no age statement, five and 12 years of age (three different expressions) plus the 26 years old Very Rare Reserve. The Samuel Gelston's Single Pot Still is bottled at 40% ABV and is available in selected markets globally. A bottle should cost around the £22-25 mark.

The brand was founded in 1830 by Samuel Gelston, a wine and spirits merchant based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He had a shop located in Corporation Street in the city and his Gelston's Old Irish Whiskey became very popular. Upon his death the brand was sold to Harry J Neill, who expanded the business, the popularity of the whiskey and its distribution significantly. 

However Gelston's, like many Irish whiskey brands, then disappeared as sales slumped due to Prohibition in the USA during the 1920s but has now been revived by Johnny Neill, a fifth generation descendant of Harry J Neill. He has also created such brands as the Whitley Neill and Marylebone gins, and Samuel Gelston's sits within the wider Halewood Artisanal Spirits portfolio.

Our tasting notes

The colour is golden yellow and the nose has a lovely freshness and vibrancy to it. Initial aromas included honey, vanilla and a hint of lemon zest. Underneath are further aromas of butter shortbread, creamed coconut and robust cereals along with hints of freshly mown grass, white chocolate and cinnamon spice.

On the palate this whiskey feels soft and creamy with delicious honey and vanilla notes rising first. Then comes a distinct milk chocolate characteristic that adds to the softness and gives depth to the sweetness. There is also underlying robust cereals present and these give structure and have a cookie dough biscuit-like quality. This becomes more like the butter shortbread note from the nose with time. Underneath are hints of fresh lemon zest and dessicated coconut, along with an increasingly influential green grassy nite and a hint of creamy hazelnut praline. Warming baking spices add another dimension - think of cinnamon and a suggestion of clove especially. A late pinch of white pepper rounds things off nicely.

The finish is warming and on the short side. The sweeter elements fade, as do the coconut and vanilla notes, and this leaves the baking spices, biscuit and cereal characteristics to linger on. Again, a late pinch of white pepper rounds things off.

What's the verdict?

This Samuel Gelston's Single Pot Still is very nice and expressive. It is not the most complicated whiskey but shows a good set of classic single pot still characteristics. The whiskey also offers great value for money and the price makes it very accessible for everyone that may never have tasted any single pot still spirit before. The whiskey offers plenty of flavour and is great neat or especially over ice. Delicious.

Review / DS Tayman Second Edition - Caol Ila 12 years old & Linkwood 12 years old

DS Tayman are a new independent bottling company that have been set up with the aim of offering certified kosher whiskies to customers. This is being achieved by pairing selected casks of whisky with wine barrels from different wineries. These casks have then been blessed by a Rabbi in situ in the warehouses in Scotland. This gives the company the ability to carry kosher stamps from KLBD (Kosher London Beis Din), MKL (Mishmeres haKashrus London) and OU (The Orthodox Union). DS Tayman is part of Dalkeith Brokerage.

The company released their first two whiskies in Spring 2020. This Second Edition was released back in the Autumn and features two more whiskies - one from Caol Ila on the island of Islay and one from Linkwood in Speyside. These are released as a set of single casks (30 in total) spanning the two distilleries and at the same ages. In each case the whisky has been initially matured in first-fill ex-bourbon casks before being transferred to ex-red wine casks from the Flam Winery in Israel.

Both distilleries are currently owned by Diageo. Caol Ila is located on the rocky north eastern coast of Islay and was founded by Hector Henderson in 1846. Linkwood is older, having been founded on the outskirts of the Speyside city of Elgin in 1821 by Peter Brown. Both distilleries are large - 6.5 million and 5.5 million litre capacities respectively - and are predominantly used by Diageo in blends. Therefore the easiest way to taste them, especially Linkwood, is through independent bottlers. 

Both the Caol Ila and Linkwood 12 year olds are released at 46% ABV and are non chill-filtered and of natural colour. They are available in selected specialist whisky retailers in Israel, the UK and the USA. Each will cost around £50 per bottle.

Our tasting notes

Caol Ila 12 years old

The colour is golden yellow and the nose is a combination of sweet and smoky aromas. The smoke has an ashy, almost flinty, quality with a medicinal and mossy twist. The sweetness has a golden syrup-like feel and these aromas are backed up by further aromas of honey and a hint of caramelised apple and crystalised ginger.

On the palate this whisky has a lovely maltiness and smokiness to begin with. The malted barley note has an earthy edge and is reminiscent of oatcakes or cookies. The smoke has a distinct peat, ashy and slightly chalky quality. It feels acrid and medicinal with hints of seaweed, moss and damp vegetation. Later, it becomes more like bonfire embers. There is plenty of sweetness in the form of golden syrup, honey, toffee and milk chocolate. These notes compliment the rich malty and peaty characteristics well. There are also notes of green apple, cocoa powder and white peach. The finish is long. The sweet and fruity notes go first, then the robust maltiness and finally the peat smoke. This gives a lasting savoury feel that becomes increasingly drying and ashy.

Linkwood 12 years old

The colour is gold with a distinct red, almost peach, tint. The nose has an instant lightness, vibrancy and sweetness with initial aromas of vanilla, honey, green apple and strawberry jam. Underneath are further aromas of white chocolate and candied lemon, plus a pinch of baking spice (especially cinnamon and all-spice).

On the palate this whisky is sweet and creamy up front, before deeper and spicier notes begin to come through. White chocolate, honey and marshmallow lead the way and are backed up by further notes of vanilla, toffee apple and a hint of butterscotch. Underneath is that red fruit/ strawberry jam note from the nose, which adds delicious depth. With time earthy and woody spices develop to give a pleasant warmth - think of cinnamon and all-spice again along with a hint of white pepper, clove and a hint of gingerbread. The finish is of decent length and follows a similar path as the sweetness slowly fades to let the earthy/ woody spices come to the fore. The result is warming and mouth watering.

What's the verdict?

These are two fine whiskies from DS Tayman and two that show off very different styles of single malt. The Caol Ila is classic Islay, albeit in single cask form, but it is the Linkwood that was the revelation and shows off the kosker ex-red wine casks best. This is not only true in the colour but also in the aroma and flavour profiles that give plenty of confected red fruit and peppery spices. It will be interesting to see how the range develops with time and which other distilleries may feature.

DS Tayman should also be congratulated for putting these whiskies to market at the very accessible price of £50 per bottle. They could easily have charged more given the single cask nature of them and use of kosher wine casks. Something for other independent bottlers to consider maybe?

O.H. Ingram River Aged Straight Rye Whiskey

O.H. Ingram River Aged Straight Rye 49% ABV $80 Website We would like to thank Brown Water Spirits LLC and The Strategy Group for sending us a sample to review. What the Distillery Says The release of O.H. Ingram River Aged Straight Rye follows the highly successful launch in October of the first in the …

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The post O.H. Ingram River Aged Straight Rye Whiskey first appeared on Whisk(e)y Apostle: Proselytizing the way of the malt.

Allotment Drams / Laphroaig 10 years old & Mortlach 16 years old

Happy New Year (or is it too late to still be saying that?) and to kick off 2021 we have two more episodes of our Allotment Dram series for you. Firstly, watch as Matt talks about the classic Laphroaig 10 years old - the biggest selling peated Scotch single malt in the world. Learn about the popular Islay whisky and find out his thoughts and tasting notes, plus what he harvested for the WFE Christmas dinner.

Then watch as he visits the allotment on a freezing cold New Year's Eve and opens the Mortlach 16 years old, which we received as a Christmas present. Watch to find out a bit about the Speyside distillery, known as 'The Beast of Dufftown', and hear his thoughts and tasting notes after popping the cork.

To keep up-to-date with our video, please subscribe to our YouTube channel HERE.



Distilling Irish Whiskey History

Irish Whiskey makers once dominated the world with their single pot still whiskies, but the collapse of Ireland's whiskey industry a century ago   closed dozens of distilleries and consigned their unique recipes to history. Irish Whiskey historian Fionnán O'Connor has been working with Boann Distillery in County Meath to produce spirit using many of the recipes he's uncovered as part of his doctoral degree research at Dublin's Trinity College. Those recipes will be put to the test in the coming weeks in blind tastings with today's Irish Whiskey distillers, as Fionnán tells us on this week's WhiskyCast In-Depth. We'll also have the week's whisky news, tasting notes, and some of your unique ways to describe your favorite whiskies, too!

Compass Box Phenomenology

Compass Box Phenomenology Blended Malt Scotch Whisky 46% ABV $170-$180 Website What the Blender Says ‘Phenomenology’ – Noun. An approach that concentrates on the study of consciousness and the objects of direct experience. Phenomenology and whisky. What, you may wonder, is the connection? We’d long been working on a blend of single malts that combines …

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The post Compass Box Phenomenology first appeared on Whisk(e)y Apostle: Proselytizing the way of the malt.

Review / Caperdonich 18 years old & 25 years old

These two whiskies form part of The Secret Speyside Collection from Chivas Brothers, a 15-strong selection of single malts from the company's lesser known Speyside distilleries. Four such distilleries feature in the collection - Braes of Glenlivet, Glen Keith and Longmorn are all currently in production with Caperdonich closed for many years and now demolished. This makes these two whiskies arguably the rarest of the series. 

The Caperdonich 18 years old in particular is extremely rare as it features peated spirit, which was only produced at the distillery for a short time each year during a short period of its history. The Secret Speyside Colection feature six Caperdonichs in total - three using the classic spirit at 21, 25 and 30 years of age, and three using the rare peated spirit at 18, 21 and 25 years of age.

The Caperdonich distillery was founded in 1897 by James Grant in the Speyside village of Rothes. It was built as the sister distillery to Glen Grant and unromantically named as Glen Grant #2. The two were famously connected by a 'whisky pipe' to allow spirit to be filled to cask at Glen Grant. This was elevated over the main street of Rothes. However, it closed in 1902 due to the Pattison Crash and did not reopen until 1965. It was only then named as Caperdonich, which translates as 'secret well' from Gaelic.  

Caperdonich with Glen Grant in the background, as seen in the 1990s.

The single malt produced at Caperdonich was exclusively used for blending by owners The Glenlivet Distilleries Ltd. and was a key ingredient in such brands as Chivas Regal and Ballantine's. They did not own any Islay or western isle distilleries so took the decision in the early 1970s to start producing peated spirit at two sites for a short period each year. This fulfilled their needs, rather than purchasing from their competitors. Caperdonich was one, Benriach was the other. Caperdonich was closed in 2002 and eventually demolished in 2009.

The Caperdonich 18 years old and 25 years old have both been matured in first-fill American oak ex-bourbon barrels and are both bottled at 48% ABV. They are available from selected specialist whisky retailers worldwide. The Caperdonich 18 years old Peated will cost £115 per bottle and the Caperdonich 25 years old is £375.

Our tasting notes

Caperdonich 18 years old Peated

The colour is golden yellow and the nose has an instant hit of sweet and earthy peat. This has a feel of damp earth, heather and dried bracken to it. Underneath are aromas of honey, white chocolate and crisp green apple with hints of cream soda, gingerbread and orange oil.

On the palate this whisky has a peppery and warming quality to begin with. This is driven by the peat smoke, along with a good pinch of baking spice and white pepper. The smoke is again soft and sweet with the earthy and vegetal feel. Sweeter characteristics begin to come through and this helps to soften the whisky. Stewed apple, honey, golden syrup and white chocolate notes are all evident and are backed up by suggestions of lemon zest, orange oil and fudge. The finish is long and the sweeter elements soon fade to leave the smoke and spices on show. This gives a drying, ashy and slightly chalky feel towards the end.

Caperdonich 25 years old

The colour is deep golden yellow and the nose has initial aromas of caramelised apple, creme brulee and golden syrup. Underneath are dusty baking spices, especially cinnamon and all-spice, along with a distinct malted cereal quality and a pinch of cocoa powder.

On the palate this whisky feels creamy, luxurious and soft with a lovely initial note of preserved lemon hitting the tastebuds first. Then comes the distinct maltiness and caramelised apples from the nose. These combine well with some honey, vanilla and golden syrup. A big pinch of earthy and dusty baking spices (think of cinnamon, all-spice and nutmeg especially) adds further depth, as does a note of milk chocolate and a drop of clove oil. Late hints of canned pineapple, dried mango and over ripe pear round thing off nicely. The finish is of decent length and becomes more earthy, malty and peppery with time. 

What's the verdict?

From memory we have only ever tried one Caperdonich in the past and that was a very long time ago. Therefore this was always going to be an interesting blog post and sampling for us. We always enjoy finding out and writing about different and unfamiliar distilleries, plus tasting whiskies from those distilleries. In the case of Caperdonich, we feel lucky as there cannot be too much of it left after almost 20 years since its closure.

These two Caperdonichs show the distillery in a decent light. Classic well aged Speyside in the case of the 25 years old and Speyside with a smoky twist in the case of 18 years old, which contains some of the last peated spirit ever made at the distillery. This feels like a particular treat as peated Speyside whisky of this age is extremely rare. Glad to have tasted them.

The Bib & Tucker 12 Year Old Single Barrel Select Bourbon Whiskey

Tasting notes:
The nose of the Bib & Tucker 12 Year Old Single Barrel Select Bourbon Whiskey whirls around my upper sinus region like a hand-carved and painted merry-go-round twirling merrily around a maypole of rye. The rye maypole, anthropomorphized by Stephen, has a menthol cigarette habit—a strange choice for such a bad-ass maypole. I thought rather that there were a colony of koalas (mammals with no collective noun!), munching away at eucalyptus leaves while on the ride. They’re accompanied by lozenge sucking children and caramel munching and sucking adults. Teenagers? Not to be found. There are also candied root vegetables, especially parsnips, and a green pepper that got lost from the farmer’s market. Finally, shoe soles made from a six-ply layering of velour and velvet, crushed together by an old oaken cider press. (John wanted to tie a yellow ribbon ‘round that old oaken press, but we wouldn’t let him.)

The mouth positively explodes, big flames of spices, sugar, almond shells, cordovan leather, and a tart boiled ham pierced irregularly by cloves. On the spice front, we got cumin, a touch of paprika, and Mel C. (Sorry!) John got an ozone note that was squealing like a pig, and we wondered whether he’d been Zooming for too many hours.

The finish led me to start singing, to the sadness of Stephen and John, “My bour-bonnie lies over the ocean, my bour-bonnie lies over the sea, my bour-bonnie lies over the ocean, etc.” It filled me with pecan pie finished with vanilla-infused whipped cream, from cows that wagyu-like were fed the finest grasses and the tastiest bourbons. There’s a minty black peppery fireman’s pole that sticks around, and if it—anthropomorphized—were given a chance, it would use its mutant superpower to desiccate the center field of my baseball diamond tongue. Does this make sense? No. Should it make sense? No. Wait, who are you, who is making these editorial semantic choices? I am that I am, and it is what it is.


On the scale of surreal cartoon series–

The Bib and Tucker 12 Year Old Single Barrel Select Bourbon Whiskey is Tuca & Bertie–The voice talent stars are Ali Wong and Tiffany Haddish, so you know it’s bigger than life. And surreal? Well, yes, very much so! Bold, brash? Yes, yes!






–Our thanks to Bib & Tucker (and Chandni Patel of R\West) for the sample!



Compass Box Three Year Old Deluxe

Compass Box Three Year Old Deluxe Blended Malt Scotch Whisky 49.2% ABV $300 Website What the Blender Says ‘How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?’ – Satchel Paige Composed of less than 1% three year-old malt whisky produced near the village of Brora, 90% malt whisky of an unstated …

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The post Compass Box Three Year Old Deluxe first appeared on Whisk(e)y Apostle: Proselytizing the way of the malt.

Our Top 10 Whiskies of 2020

Another year has passed and 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 agenda or criteria, other than the whisky had to be released in 2020. 

2020 was a year like no other in our lifetimes. The effects of Covid-19 have impacted all facets of daily life and beyond. It has had huge implications for the whisky industry around the world too. But after a short hiatus in March and April, companies began to carry on with adapted plans and release new bottlings. Launch events, tastings and even whisky shows turned to the online format and have now become commonplace. 

As with previous years we have struggled to narrow our choices down to just ten. We have sampled many nice whiskies, reviewing over 100 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 2020 in the comments. So here goes ...


Our Top 10 Whiskies of 2020

Ardnamurchan AD/09.20:01
To read our full review - click here. This whisky is the first single malt ever released from the west Highland distillery and follows limited edition releases of new make and part-matured spirits. We have tried numerous such releases from various new distilleries and this is one of the best. It blew us both away with its quality and balance. The whisky mixes their peated and unpeated spirits (distilled in either 2014 or 2015) together in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. Fresh and crisp with plenty of green apple, toffee and malty notes, plus chocolate, honey and vanilla. Also a lovely whiff of peat smoke that licks around everything. We like what they've done here - waited until the whisky is ready, rather than bottling bang in three years and releasing at an accessible price (£45), allowing more whisky fans to try their liquid.  

Ballantine's 7 Years Old Bourbon Finish
To read our full review - click here
This new permanent addition to the core range of the famous blend was released in September and impressed many people immediately. A marriage of single malt and single grain whiskies, all with a minimum age of seven years, that were blended together and then finished in ex-bourbon barrels from Kentucky. The result is a bright, sweet and vibrant whisky that is expressive and delivers way beyond its £28 price point. Creamy and soft on the palate with plenty of vanilla, butterscotch and green apple, plus hints of coconut and baking spices. Not the most complicated whisky but one that is delicious, great value for money and readily available. Excellent work by Sandy Hyslop and his blending team.

Benriach The Original Ten

To read our full review - click here
This single malt from the innovative Speyside distillery forms the entry point to a totally overhauled and revamped core range. The new whiskies are designed to showcase Benriach's eclectic mix of different spirit types and multiple origins of cask from all over the world. The result is a fine range of whiskies but this 10 years old stands out. It shows a substantial leap in quality and flavour from the previous incarnation and is also a decent price (£38). A marriage of ex-bourbon, ex-Oloroso sherry and virgin oak casks that gives soft fudge and toffee with honey, golden syrup and stewed apples. plus a good late pinch of warming oak spices. They also released a smoky version alongside it with a slightly different cask make-up. Want to show someone what a classic Speysider should be like? Give them The Original Ten.

Filey Bay Moscatel Finish
To read our full review - click here
The latest single malt release from the English distillery Spirit of Yorkshire appeared back in the Spring and offered a ray of bright sunshine during a heavy Covid lockdown in the UK. This whisky features some of the very first spirit distilled in the Summer of 2016, which was then transferred to ex-Moscatel wine casks for a finishing period. It shows a definite evolution from their first whiskies, one of which made our Top 10 last year, due to the use of a slightly unorthadox cask type. The result is a sumptuous mix of aromas and flavours - brown sugar, honey and maple syrup mix with green apples, sultanas and candied oranges with a hint of tropical fruits also. Another very promising bottling from a new distillery and one that was again well priced (£60).

Glenmorangie A Tale of Cake
To read our full review - click here. One of the first releases of the Autumn saw the latest in a string of fabulous new releases from the famous north Highland distillery. A Tale of Cake is a great whisky, but more than that seemed to capture the imagination of consumers like not many have before. Yes, it had good marketing and a nice back story (creator Dr. Bill Lumsden's grandma used to make him pineapple upside down cake when he was a child) but the liquid lived up to the hype. A finishing period in rare ex-Tokaji dessert wine casks from Hungary gave a viscous and sweet single malt packed with aromas and flavours of golden syrup, lemon, vanilla and an abundance of tropical fruit characteristics. Also decent value for what is essentially a limited edition 12 years old whisky from a popular brand using a rare cask (£75).

John Walker & Sons Celebratory Blend
To read our full review - click here
The Johnnie Walker brand celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2020, despite the pandemic - there was an excellent book 'A Long Stride' by Dr. Nicholas Morgan and numerous bottlings. This Celebratory Blend, released under the original John Walker & Sons name, was the entry level product in a set of three special bottlings, alongside the premium Blue Label Legendary Eight and super premium Bicentennial Blend. The high ABV (51%) and use of some old whiskies in the blend lead to an explosion of flavour - baking spices, vanilla, brown sugar and even some marzipan mingle with caramelised apples and dried fruits. Fabulous and definitely in our Top 3 (if we had one). You get lots of whisky for your money here (£50). Superb. 

Label 5 Bourbon Barrel
To watch our video review - click here.
This whisky is the only single grain in our Top 10 this year and what a beauty it is. This appeared back in the Spring and superbly shows the qualities of single grain at the lower end of the spectrum. There are not many products in this category with the most famous being Haig Club. This Label 5 has more depth and complexity and sits in the same price bracket as the Clubman expression (£25). This makes it the cheapest whisky in our Top 10, but arguably one of the most impressive because of that. It offers plenty - soft and creamy vanilla, butterscotch, some coconut and honey, cereals, a pinch of warming spice. Delicious taken neat and over ice on a hot day as we discovered. But also mixes well as it has enought depth and sweetness to stand out. A great all rounder and fantastic value. 

Scarabus 10 years old
To read our full review - click here.
This late Autumn release from Hunter Laing's Islay single malt brand helped to establish a core range for Scarabus. Previously there has been only the Specially Selected, which made it to our Top 10 last year. This 10 years old expression was also joined by the Batch Strength to form a tasty trio. This whisky has been matured for the minimum of a decade in ex-bourbon and virgin oak casks, and comes from an un-named Islay distillery. Aromas and flavours of malty burnt biscuits, vanilla and honey combine with damp earthy and mossy smoke that turns more ashy and charcoal-like with time. Depth and complexity are added by further notes of lemon, chocolate and ginger. Another superb effort from Hunter Laing and again one that is competitively priced (£45). 

Smokehead Rum RebelTo read our full review - click here
A Summer release that saw another permanent addition to the increasingly popular Smokehead range of Islay single malts. Like with Scarabus, the distillery is un-named but in this case the whisky has been finished in ex-rum casks from the Caribbean. It was launched on International Rum Day (August 16) as a result. Good value for money too, as with most of our choices (£55).

The Rum Rebel packs a peaty punch right from the off and this has a hot, drying and ashy feel. The smoke and ash notes are never far away and supported by further notes of oat cookies, sultanas, golden syrup, white chocolate and tropical fruits (especially mango). The combo of peated spirit and ex-rum casks is not that common but seems to be one that works well. Here the sweetness mixes very nicely with the acrid bitterness of the smoke and compliments it well. 

Talisker 8 Years Old (Diageo Special Releases)
To read our full review - click here. 
Having said that peated spirit in ex-rum casks are relatively rare, here is another one. This cask strength Talisker, the first ever expression from the Skye distillery to be matured in ex-Caribbean rum casks, formed part of the eight-strong Diageo Special Releases 2020. It was the stand out whisky for many, despite there being much older and more expensive options. This 8 years old has an initial flinty quality with plenty of sweetness, especially white chocolate and honey. The trademark Talisker peppery peat smoke is vibrant and fresh with further notes of tropical fruits and warming baking spice on the palate. Overall, an absolute cracker and we had to buy a bottle. Another that would be in our Top 3 if we had one.

Honourable Mentions

As we said, it has been difficult to select our final Top 10. In the end we went largely with value for money. All 10 are below £100 per bottle and all give you plenty at their various price points. But of course there are other whiskies that we considered and that almost made it. These deserve an 'honourable mention'.

Some limited edition and permanent releases impressed us especially the Blue Spot 7 years old and Tamdhu Batch Strength No.005 from the Autumn. The Mackmyra Grönt Te and Glen Moray Madeira Cask Project from earlier in the year were also highlights. A few single cask releases were also of superb quality. Those worth noting include the Glenglassaugh Coastal Casks and Glendronach Batch 18 that we sampled, plus the Rosebank 1993 Casks and the John Crabbie 1994 Single Cask.

At the expensive end there were some excellent whiskies released. The Redbreast 27 years old matured in ex-Port casks was an early pre-Covid highlight. Then came two from Diageo - the John Walker & Sons Bicentennial Blend, part of the brand's 200th anniversary celebrations, and The Singleton of Glen Ord 38 years old. The new Benriach The Twenty Five and The Thirty were both superb, as was the Glendronach Kingsman 1989 Vintage.

Compass Box The Circle

Compass Box The Circle Blended Malt Scotch Whisky 46% ABV $140-$150 Website What the Blender Says Sunshine in a glass Rosey Mitchell is the 2018 winner of The Circle, our programme designed to inspire bartenders around the world. Rosey’s prize? To create a blend with Compass Box founder John Glaser and whiskymaker Jill Boyd. Rosey …

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The post Compass Box The Circle first appeared on Whisk(e)y Apostle: Proselytizing the way of the malt.

New Year, More WhiskyCast!

Welcome to a new year, fans of the Water of Life! That's exactly what we'll be talking about on this week's WhiskyCast In-Depth. "The Water of Life" is a new Scotch Whisky documentary film that will debut later this month online after having its premiere delayed because of the pandemic. Director Greg Swartz joins us to discuss plans for the premiere, including tasting kits geared to specific parts of the film. In the news, 2020 ended with a busy week whisky-wise as the U.S. Food & Drug Administration tried to hit distillers who produced hand sanitizer during the pandemic with a $14,000 fee - only to get slapped down by the Trump Administration...while the TTB opened up the U.S. whisky market by allowing imports of Europe's standard 700m whiskies for the first time. We'll have all of the news, including a royal honor for "The Nose."

An Impostor on Domestic Soil: Stephen visits Får North Spirits

Summer before last, when COVID-19 wasn’t yet a thing, my wife and I drove up to Hallock, Minnesota to visit Michael Swanson and Cheri Reese at Får North Spirits. Only 20 miles from the Canadian border, Hallock is very Upper-Midwest. The distillery is located on a family farm, where the owners grow all of the rye they use for their production. They have their rye and barley malted at the nearby Vertical Malt (and the malted barley they buy there is grown by the owner, Adam Wagner). They spend the extra money to get all of their barrels from Minnesota cooperages (Blue Swan and the Barrel Mill), and they’re even looking into using some Minnesota peat in some future expressions. As Mike Swanson noted to me, “the only thing that doesn’t come from Minnesota is the glass.”

The accent on the A in the name is a nod to the Scandinavian heritage of the owners and of many in the area. Think of it more like a halo (LA Angels-style) than a Norwegian å.

Given that Får North is part of a family farm, it should come as no surprise that the star of the show, as far as the owners are concerned, is the grain they grow for their whiskey. But they don’t grow just any old rye, they grow AC Hazlet, a winter variety of rye that Swanson credits with the pronounced vanilla note in their distilled spirit. It doesn’t hurt that the rye travels less than 100 miles for malting–nor that they grind up the grain on their own roller mill immediately before mashing it. Accordingly, the house style is designed to show off that unique grain character.

But Swanson isn’t happy just extracting great juice from their choice rye variety: he’s also teamed up with Minnesota State to conduct a first-of-its-kind qualitative study of aromas and flavors of different varieties of rye after they’ve been distilled. This has led to an impressive array of special releases showcasing those distinct rye varieties, which they call their Seed Vault Series. Beyond the wonderful mad scientist quality to all of this for fans of rye whiskey, with this project, Swanson is bringing rye in its many varieties to the attention of growers and distillers alike, many of whom in that latter group buy one of their main ingredients in its bulk “Variety Not Specified” form. We were lucky enough to taste through a few of the varieties used in the study.

Eleven rye varieties distilled

Eep the distillery cat

Needless to say, production matters, too, and Får North knows what it’s doing there as well. Aside from training with the folks at Koval in Chicago and elsewhere, Swanson also brought in the legendary Dave Pickerell early on as a consultant. (It was Pickerell who perhaps best described the landscape surrounding the farm and distillery when he first arrived: “Man, you could watch your dog run away for three days here!”) The Vendome still and the top-notch Black Swan barrels also attest to the attention to production quality.

However, to my mind, two features of their production stand out above the rest. First, Swanson varies cuts and barrel strength depending on the size of the barrel he’s using (they use 15-, 23-, and 53-gallon barrels and are slowly moving away from the smaller ones and toward the larger ones), and all of his cuts are sensory. Second, Swanson does not re-distill the heads and the tails in future batches. Instead, they go in with the spent grain, which goes back onto the fields as fertilizer. Given that the cuts they make tend to be on the narrower side, this second point is all the more remarkable. And both of those choices show clearly in the final product.

The bottling line at Får North Spirits

How they get from finished whiskey to that final product is perhaps the best part of the story, though. Wednesdays at 9am Får North invites local volunteers to help them bottle whiskey. It was not clear to me if they bottle every Wednesday or just certain ones, but we were lucky enough to visit on a Tuesday afternoon and leave midday on a Wednesday, so we joined in. At that hour during the week, most of the volunteers are retirees, and they bring coffee and bars (“bars” are essentially cookies in cake pan form, then cut up and shared). Volunteers are paid with a bottle of whatever they’re bottling that day. I wiped down bottles to ready them for labeling, while my wife put cap covers on to ready them for shrinking. For our labors, we received a bottle of the Røknar, which is their Minnesota Rye, but rather than the usual (around 1 month) finish in Cognac, this one was finished in Sauternes barrels. Fantastic stuff.

Hallock has a population of less than 1,000 people, and the landscape around the distillery is just as Dave Pickerell described. (In fact, we got to see his claim in action as we drove away from the distillery: one of the farm’s dogs chased us like crazy off the property and onto good-sized country road adjacent to it. He ran and ran and ran, and we could still see him running quite a long ways after we’d effectively lost him.) But don’t let those facts keep you from going to visit once the pandemic is behind us. They have a marvelous tasting room, where they serve their whiskeys as well as their stunning gins (and I mean their flavor, not just their bottle design), vodka, and rum. It’s a laid-back, but sophisticated oasis amid the fields of canola, soybeans, and rye. Well worth the visit, even if you can’t be there on Wednesday morning.

Tamdhu Batch Strength No 004

Tamdhu Batch Strength No 004 Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky 57.8% ABV $80-$90 Website What the Distillery Says Introducing the fourth edition of our multi award-winning Batch Strength Series. If you’ve had a dram of Batch Strength 001, 002 or 003 then you’ll have an inkling of what’s in store for you. Rich natural colour …

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The post Tamdhu Batch Strength No 004 first appeared on Whisk(e)y Apostle: Proselytizing the way of the malt.

The Ben Nevis 10 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (previous era branding)

Tasting notes:
The nose opens with a whisper of pickle juice, thrown on a fire and evaporated–or perhaps 24-hour turkey brine cast into a buttered skillet. There’s also a note of nail polish remover misapplied to a boat: it failed to kill the barnacles, but it definitely scared them. After a bit, the nose presents a Janus-faced cantaloupe note. No, wait: hear me out: imagine one cantaloupe that got caught under the mechanism at a skeet-shooting range and has started to moulder. Now imagine a green cantaloupe that is tart and bright and sharp, but still far from sweet. Finally, imagine a competition-grade trebuchet set up to fire both melons off at once for the range’s in-house pro. 

The mouth is spicy, with white pepper, attenuated chicken mole, a touch of Sherry, and a little heat at the end. But then we go back to the nose, and it’s even worse: we get mummy parts buried in a canister of used skateboard wheels. Aside from the many embalming fluids, we also find filbert skins coating a lemon. The nose here makes clear that the fact that Ben Nevis has caught on in recent years to become a thing among connoisseurs is really thanks to independent bottlers putting out other expressions of it.

The finish is long: it holds the pedal down on the piano and lets the note ring out in the cavernous concert hall. Meanwhile, Phil and Bert are separating the nutmeat of a filbert in the next room. This whisky clearly buys into the popular conclusion of Youngian analysis that it’s better to burn out than to fade away. 


On the scale of Def Leppard facts–

The Ben Nevis 10 Year Old (previous era branding) is the fact that the band’s drummer, Rick Allen, lost his left arm in a car accident but went on to play drums for the band through its most successful commercial phase–The renewal phase Ben Nevis has enjoyed recently shares some strong parallels, though early Def Leppard never had so much to make up for.