It’s been a good year for whisky, with two Scottish distilleries from Islay, Laphroig and Ardbeg, celebrating their 200th anniversary, and plenty of new products emerging to keep collectors entertained.
Here are some of the best from 2015.
Three decades after it first appeared, Laphroaig resurrected its 15 year old 43% ABV single malt to mark its bicentenary. It starts out citrussy, with a touch of mint before heading into caramel and cigars and a little pepper before the trademark smoky peatiness lingers on a long, clean finish. It's a really lovely reminder of how classy one of the most robust single malts around can be. About $160.
This is bottled Christmas cake, and at $1500 a bottle, certainly a festive treat. Laphroig has had this whisky in ex-Oloroso casks since the time Margaret Thatcher was at the height of her powers and like the Iron Lady herself, this is iron fist in a velvet glove material, with bitter dark chocolate notes, nutmeg, cinnamon, red apples and oakiness offset by a lingering sweet sherry finish and surprisingly subtle peaty saltiness you'd expect from Islay. Australia scored 100 cases. Check Dan Murphys for a bottle.
Business Insider is a huge fan of this William Grant & Sons expression, which has all these lovely leather and cigar notes thanks to finishing in Caribbean rum casks. Add toffee notes, warm spices and lingering sweetness and it's the sort of single malt you can imagine would keep Santa going as he skips from chimney to chimney on Christmas eve. Finding one under the tree on Christmas Day is even better. About $230.
Tasmania has turned into a whisky hotspot, with plenty of the young distilleries holding their own up against the world's best, including Hellyers Road, from up near Burnie in Tassie's northwest. The 2013 pinot noir finish was named best New World whiskeyat Whisky Live Paris and the 10 year old is Australia's biggest selling local single malt. It's matured in old bourbon casks and bottled at 46.2% ABV. Amid citrus notes, dried herbs and a double of golden syrup with the oaky vanilla, it's a really lovely, sweet local hero that will set you back about $90.
Here's something different - Ireland's only seated single malt, Connemara, by Kilbeggan, which lays claim to being the world's oldest distillery (1757), but certainly has the world's oldest working pot still. This iteration certainly holds its own against Islay's finest, with a lovely balance of sweetness and smokiness.
This isn't a new Tennessee whiskey, but the fun part of Single Barrel is that no two barrels are the same. We've tried one that's creamy and spicy, with dried fruit and ginger, dried citrus peel and banana, but we've also had lighter and heavier styles. The really fun part is buying a whole, single barrel - and getting to choose the style you want. That will set you back $A26,000, or you can get a single bottle for about $90.
This is perhaps the most exciting new release of 2015, from the Speyside distillery in the grounds of Balvenie, just across the road from its family owner, William Grant & Sons. Kininvie is dubbed the hidden distillery, began in 1990 and until now was mostly used in the triple malt Monkey Shoulder. The 23yo, aka Batch No.3, is just the third release from the distillery and the first to land in Australia. It's mostly the 1991 vintage matured for most of the time in bourbon casks before a final six months in sherry casks is bottled at 42.6% ABV. Expect lovely orange and honey notes with oakiness, spice and dried fruit. This special treat is $210 for 350ml.
Japanese whiskies are the hot new kid on the block and this Suntory-owned distillery in the mountainous Chūbu region produces fresh single malts with a hint of smokiness. The Distiller's Reserve, first released last year at 43% ABV, is the entry level whisky at about $88, with melon hints and crisp finish, while the 12 year old - about $120 - is consistently impressive with a rich mouth feel and smoky finish that wouldn't be out of place on Scotland's west coast.
With 8,888 individually numbered bottles released at $888, it's not too difficult to guess who Daigeo is targeting with the second edition of this annual release. 2014 was smoky, 2015 is ‘Rare Fruit Character’ and master blender Jim Beveridge is given his head to be a little more playful with 46.8% ABV mix of 29 casks. It's a fun blend of Speyside grass, green apples and pineapple, West Highland dried fruits and Highland stewed apples, with American oak vanillas. The distinctive square bottle is fun. This is a bit of fun for fans of Just Keep Walking.
At $6000 a pop, this isn't for the faint-of-wallet, but if you like the idea of being one of just 400 people to own a bottle of blended whisky made from 82 distilleries, with a killer back story, then this is for you. Many of the 70 malt and 12 grain whiskies used came from now-closed distilleries. It was blended together and sold as a 12 year old, but three sherry casks lingered in the warehouse. There's a 50ml taster that comes with it, inside the red leather case. And if that's not enough money, the Last Drop also produces a $9000 1967 Glen Garioch single malt.
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