Jim Murray’s World Whisky of the Year (2017)

Whisky connoisseur Jim Murray has released the winners from his 2017 edition of the Whisky Bible. Last year’s choice was a controversial one — Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye — as was the year before that: Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013.

Murray’s selection for 2017 will no doubt raise some eyebrows as well, as he named Booker’s Rye 13 Year Old as his World Whisky of the Year.

bookers rye whiskey


From the press release:

A unique Kentucky rye has been crowned the planet’s finest dram by the latest edition of Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible.

Booker’s Rye 13 Years, 1 Month, 12 Days began life as an experiment by Booker Noe – grandson of Jim Beam – at the family distillery in Clermont, KY, shortly before his death in 2004.

Now it has become his remarkable legacy after landing the title of World Whisky of the Year.

Jim lavishes praise on its “brain-draining, mind-blowing” nose and finish of “amazing depth”.

And he hails it as a “staggering example of a magnificent rye, showing exactly what genius actually means. A very big, unforgettable whiskey from a very big, unforgettable man”.

Booker followed in his iconic grandfather’s footsteps by becoming master distiller at Jim Beam, but he was long-retired when he dabbled one final time.

After he passed away aged 74, son Fred kept an eye on his casks – and the result is pure liquid gold, scoring 97.5 out of 100 in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible.

The top three whiskies of the year, in Murray’s view were:

1. Booker’s Rye 13 Year Old
2. Glen Grant 18 Year Old
3. William Larue Weller Bourbon (Bot. 2015)

Here are the rest of the named winners.

Scotch Whisky
Scotch Whisky of the Year: Glen Grant 18 Year Old
Single Malt of the Year (Multiple Casks): Glen Grant 18 Year Old
Single Malt of the Year (Single Cask): That Boutique-y Whisky Co Macallan 25 Year Old Batch 5
Scotch Blend of the Year: The Last Drop 1971
Scotch Grain of the Year: Whiskyjace Invergordon 24 Year Old
Scotch Vatted Malt of the Year: Compass Box Flaming Heart 2015 Edition

Single Malt Scotch
No Age Statement (Multiple Casks): Glenlivet Cipher
No Age Statement (Runner Up): Port Askaig 100 Proof
10 Years & Under (Multiple Casks): Glen Grant 10 Year Old
10 Years & Under (Single Cask): Kilchoman Guze Cask Finish
11-15 Years (Multiple Casks): Lagavulin 12 Year Old
11-15 Years (Single Cask): The Single Cask Glentauchers 2002 14 Year Old
16-21 Years (Multiple Casks): Glen Grant 18 Year Old
16-21 Years (Single Cask): Scyfion Choice Mortlach 1996 19 Year Old (Berry Bros & Rudd)
22-27 Years (Multiple Casks): Dalwhinnie 1989 25 Year Old Special Releases 2015
22-27 Years (Single Cask): The Boutique-y Co Macallan 25 Year Old Batch 5
28-34 Years (Multiple Casks): Port Ellen 1983 32 Year Old Special Releases 2015
28-34 Years (Single Cask): Cadenhead Caol Ila 31 Year Old
35-40 Years (Multiple Casks): Brora 37 Year Old Special Releases 2015
35-40 Years (Single Cask): Cadenhead Glentauchers 38 Year Old
41 Years & Over (Multiple Casks): Gordon & MacPhail Glen Grant 1952
41 Years & Over (Single Cask): Gordon & MacPhail Glen Grant 1950 65 Year Old

Blended Scotch
No Age Statement (Standard): Ballantine’s Finest
No Age Statement (Premium): Ballantine’s Limited
5-12 Years: Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Year Old
13-18 Years: Chivas Regal 18 Year Old Ultimate Cask Collection First Fill American Oak
19 – 25 Years: Royal Salute 21 Year Old
26 – 50 Years: The Last Drop 1971

Irish Whiskey
Irish Whiskey of the Year: Redbreast 21 Year Old
Irish Pot Still Whiskey of the Year: Redbreast 21 Year Old
Irish Single Malt of the Year: Bushmills 21 Year Old
Irish Blend of the Year: Jameson
Irish Single Cask of the Year: Teeling Single White Burgundy Cask 2004

American Whiskey
Bourbon of the Year: William Larue Weller 2015 Release
Rye of the Year: Booker’s Rye 13 Year Old
US Micro Whisky of the Year: Garrison Brothers Cowboy Bourbon 2009
US Micro Whisky of the Year (Runner Up): Koval Four Grain

No Age Statement (Multiple Barrels): William Larue Weller 2015 Release
No Age Statement (Single Barrel): 1792 Single Barrrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon
9 Years & Under: Garrison Brothers Cowboy Bourbon 2009
10 Years & Over (Multiple Barrels): Blade & Bow 22 Year Old

No Age Statement: Thomas H Handy 2015 Release
Up to 10 Years: Pikesville 110 Proof 6 Year Old Straight Rye
11 Years & Over: Booker’s Rye 13 Year Old

Wheat Whiskey of the Year: Bernheim Original

Canadian Whisky
Canadian Whisky of the Year: Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye

Japanese Whisky
Japanese Whisky of the Year: Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2016 Release
Single Malt of the Year (Multiple Barrels): Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2016 Release

European Whisky
European Whisky of the Year (Multiple): English Whisky Co. Chapter 14 Not Peated
European Whisky of the Year (Single): Langatun 6 year Old Pinot Noir Cask

World Whiskies
Asian Whisky of the Year: Kavalan Solist Moscatel
Southern Hemisphere Whisky of the Year: Heartwood Any Port in a Storm

Reviews Whiskey Reviews

Whiskey Review: Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey

For many years, the Irish whiskey business was dominated by just a couple major players. Through consolidations, sales, and reorganizations, the names of the owners changed, but the status quo remained essentially the same. (Today those two owners are Beam-Suntory and Diageo.)

The only significant competition to those two was from the Cooley Distillery, founded in 1987 by John Teeling. Cooley produced a variety of whiskeys that were sold under various brand names — two of the better-known ones being Kilbeggan and Tyrconnell — in addition to doing contract bottling for other companies.

Eventually, the state of the spirits industry being what it is, the Teeling family sold Cooley to Beam. But that didn’t mean they were out of the whiskey business for good. Because now they have returned to the market with their own eponymous label.

Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey is the company’s entry-level product, a blended Irish whiskey like Bushmills or Jameson. It is reportedly composed of 35% malt whiskey and 65% grain whiskey, and aged somewhere between four and seven years. Interestingly, the blend is then finished for an additional four-to-six months in Flor de Caña rum casks.

The color of light straw, this whiskey has aromas of caramel/toffee, vanilla, and coconut. A light whiff of alcohol, but not too much. It is light-bodied and slightly thin in the mouth, dry, and with a touch of astringent oak on the finish.

You can definitely taste the presence of the malt whiskey, with the flavor of cereal grain, plus the vanilla and coconut returning. I didn’t detect any contribution from the rum, none of the spice or “rumminess” you’d expect from the finishing.

I was surprised to see that this clocks in at 92 proof (46% abv), as it doesn’t have that much heat. I also liked the way the malt and grain whiskeys are in balance. Both are testimony to the quality of the blending.

Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey costs a little more than some of its competitors, but it’s money worth spending. This is a fine whiskey.


Irish Whiskey Tasting: Clontarf and Knappogoue Castle

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, Castle Brands is reinvigorating and reintroducing their line-up of Irish whiskeys. They were kind enough to share samples with me so I could put them through their paces. (For some past thoughts on Irish whiskeys, see our Irish Whiskey Taste Test.)

Castle owns two Irish whiskey brands: Clontarf and Knappogoue Castle. Clontarf is the entry-level blended whiskey, and Knappogoue Castle is their line of single malt whiskeys. None of the whiskeys are actually distilled by Castle, and their sources are unknown.

Knappogue Irish Whiskeys

Clontarf 1014 Irish Whiskey (not pictured)
40% abv. $20.
A very light blend, composed of 10% single malt and 90% grain whiskey. Aged for 4 years.

Smells: Like honey.
Tastes: Briny and a little bitter.
Thoughts: Reminds me of other blended Irish whiskeys, like Jameson and Bushmills.
Bottom Line: An acceptable Irish blend, drink it in coffee or highballs.

Knappogoue Castle 12 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey
40% abv. $42.
Aged for 12 years in ex-bourbon casks. “Lightly” chill filtered.

Smells: Like toasted breakfast cereal.
Tastes: Like malt with a hint of coffee.
Thoughts: Easy to drink and tasty.
Bottom Line: A nice, straight-ahead single malt. If you’ve never tried Irish malts, this is an excellent place to start.

Knappogoue Castle 14 Year Old Twin Wood Single Malt Irish Whiskey
46% abv. $60.
Aged for 14 years in ex-bourbon and sherry casks. Non-chill filtered.

Smells: Malty and fruity.
Tastes: Dry and oaky.
Thoughts: Too much wood, flavors out of balance.
Bottom Line: If you like your whiskeys on the oaky side, you might enjoy this better than I did. Not sure if the sherry aging did anything other than give it a little color.

Knappogoue Castle 16 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey
40% abv. $100.
Aged for 14 years in ex-bourbon casks and 21 months in sherry casks. Lightly chill filtered.

Smells: Like sweet maple breakfast cereal.
Tastes: Like oak and cereal grain, with some fruit and spice (like pepper).
Thoughts: A rebound from the 14 Year Old. Definitely has more of the sherry influence.
Bottom Line:  More rounded and balanced than the 14 Year Old. Although expensive, this is a nice dram that would stand up well compared to other whiskeys. Not all the distilling expertise is in Scotland!


Cocktail Recipe: Derry Derby

Derry Derby

Derry Derby


  • 2 oz. Irish Whiskey
  • 3/4 oz. Fresh Grapefruit Juice
  • 1/2 oz. Honey
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters
  • 1 dash Grapefruit (or other citrus) Bitters


  1. Shake all ingredients with ice, then fine strain into a chilled cocktail glass.


  1. Adapted from a recipe by Phil Mauro of Rye, San Francisco.
  2. The original recipe called for two dashes of Bittermens Boston Bittahs. This variation was suggested by Camper English of Alcademics.

Taste Test Whiskey Whiskey Reviews

Taste Test: Blended Irish Whiskey

St. Patrick's Day is just around the corner, which means many drinkers will be turning to Irish whiskey for their drink of choice. The Irish whiskey category is hotter than it's ever been, so there are more choices than ever before.

Here at Professor Cocktail we do the heavy lifting so that you don't have to. ("Heavy lifting" sounds better than "heavy drinking.") We sampled a variety of Irish whiskeys so that we could decide which to recommend to you.

For this taste, we focused on blended Irish whiskey. This is by far the most popular type of Irish whiskey available in the U.S., as well as the most widely available.

A blended whiskey is a combination of different whiskeys, including both single malt and neutral (or near-neutral) grain whiskey. Blending the whiskey gives it a lighter, less flavorful character that many drinkers find more pleasant. (It turns out that more flavor isn't always better.)

For our line-up we selected a variety of the most common blended Irish whiskeys, several submitted by the spirits companies themselves, and a few from our own stash. We also included one extra-aged whiskey for comparison. (All Irish whiskey is aged for at least three years — but often no longer than that.)

This group of whiskeys was defined more by their similarities than by their differences. As expected, all of them were fairly light in flavor and without a lot of complexity. The colors, tastes, and aromas didn't vary as widely as with many spirits. Even so, there were still some differences that allowed us to pick our favorites.

Irish whiskey
Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey ($24) — Straight-ahead blended Irish whiskey: a little sharp, a little sweet, with a malty flavor that reminds you of breakfast cereal. This is light and easy, and very drinkable.
three stars(Recommended)

Michael Collins Blended Irish Whiskey ($23) — The stand-out of the entry-level whiskeys. This spirit has a rich, honeyed flavor, with just a touch of smoke, that was very appealing. Vanilla notes contribute to the mild sweetness, but everything stays in balance. Overall, a very nice whiskey.
four stars(Highly Recommended)

Concannon Irish Whiskey ($25) — This whiskey, distilled by Cooley in Ireland, is aged in petite sirah casks at the Concannon Winery in Livermore, California. That gives it the expected "winey" notes, which aren't uncommon with Irish and Scotch whiskey. What was a surprise was the aroma and flavor of smoke. It was definitely the strongest char of the group, reminding us more of Scotch than the usual Irish. That could be an advantage for some drinkers, but the flavors didn't balance for us, making this one a disappointment. 
two stars(Not Recommended)

Bushmills Blended Irish Whiskey ($24) — A raw, grainy flavor on first sip gives this whiskey plenty of bite. It mellows out after that, though, and ends up more astringent and spicier than most of the others. Reactions were mixed, but the floral/vegetal accents were popular with some.
three stars(Recommended)

Tullamore Dew 12 Year Old Special Reserve ($38) — The only whiskey in the tasting with an age statement, this is a blend of whiskeys from 12 to 15 years old. The extra time in the barrel gives this whiskey the darkest color or any in the sample. It also gives it the most complex flavor. Less sweet than the others, it has a tart, fruity taste with elements of caramel and spice. Although one taster found it bitter, overall this got high marks.
four stars(Highly Recommended)

Jameson Blended Irish Whiskey ($25) — The expected grainy, sweet character, but little else to distinguish it flavor-wise. This whiskey seemed hotter than the rest, and consequently seemed even lighter in taste. (You can taste the alcohol, but the malt flavor is overmatched.) I prefer Jameson in cocktails, but if you're searching for that Irish whiskey "kick," this is the way to go. If you're looking for a subtle sipper, look elsewhere.
three stars(Recommended)

Tullamore Dew Blended Irish Whiskey ($21) — A typical Irish whiskey, produced at an untypically fine level. Medium sweet, slightly honeyed, slightly malty. This made us think of breakfast: cereal and toast. An excellent everyday whiskey and a nice finish to the tasting.
four stars(Highly Recommended)

Gifts Spirits

Father’s Day Gift Guide – Give Your Dad the Good Stuff

Fathers_dayYou know what your Dad really wants for Father's Day: booze! He doesn't need another necktie or a pair of slippers or whichever 1950's cliche you choose to bestow. Liquor is the gift that is never turned down. Because even if it's not your brand, even if it's not your spirit, it's still alcohol.

Here are some suggestions for bottles to give, in each of the major categories.

  • Rum: Appleton Estate Extra ($28) – One of the all-time great spirits, and one of my favorite rums. It's hard to go wrong with this one. It's good to sip on its own, and brilliant in cocktails. Every dad who enjoys a drink should have a bottle of this rum.
  • Bourbon Whiskey: Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon – There are so many great bourbons, this is a category where the choices are virtually endless. I'm recommending the Four Roses Small Batch because it's reasonably priced and of very high quality. If you'd rather go up a step, you can get the Four Roses Single Barrel ($40), which we reviewed recently. Or if you're trying to save a little, you can give the Four Roses Yellow Label ($17). They're all good.
  • Irish Whiskey: Bushmills Black Bush ($30) - The ultimate in blended Irish whiskey, Black Bush is a spirit for all seasons. Great flavor, great balance, great whiskey.
  • Rye Whiskey: Wild Turkey Rye 81 ($20) – There are several excellent brands of rye that I could recommend, but Wild Turkey is a straight-ahead, good-tasting rye whiskey that is easy to find. If you see the 101 Proof version, buy that instead. (The higher-proof version has gotten much harder to find.)
  • Canadian Whisky: Canadian Club Classic 12 Year ($16) – Canadian whisky is often gifted for Father's Day, and for good reason. It tastes good, there's nothing extreme or esoteric about it, and it's very affordable. The Canadian Club Classic is a perfect example of that.
  • Gin: Tanqueray ($17) – Gin is a beautiful spirit: classic, elegant and refined. There are many different brands on the market, a lot of which I like. But I keep coming back to Tanqueray –pure distilled magic in a bottle.
  • Vodka: Stolichnaya Elit ($50) – Maybe your Dad is a man of refined, but simple tastes. In that case, give him a bottle of one of the best vodkas in the world. Yes, it's expensive. If you don't want to spend that much, you could give Stolichnaya Gold ($30, 1L) instead. Even the basic Stolichnaya  ($17) label is top-notch stuff.
  • Tequila: Avión Silver ($39) – This is my favorite blanco tequila, as revealed in our tequila taste test a while back. It's one of the few silver tequilas that you can enthusiastically drink neat, and it also makes a killer Margarita.
  • Scotch: The Balvenie DoubleWood ($44) – A lot of people immediately think "single malt Scotch" when they're planning to give a gift. I try to steer people in other directions, since Scotch drinkers tend to be picky about their brands. However, if you're committed to giving Scotch, this is an excellent choice.
  • Brandy: Pierre Ferrand Ambre 10 Year Cognac ($39) – The Pierre Ferrand company has been making a lot of noise the last couple of years by introducing excellent new products to the market, and this is one of them. A fine brandy that's better than most of what you'll find from the better-known producers.
  • Liqueur: Cointreau ($35) – Perhaps the finest orange liqueur in the world, it's absolutely essential for making cocktails. A lot of people avoid buying it, though, because it's expensive. That makes it a perfect gift. The difference between Cointreau and cheap triple sec in a Margarita or Sidecar is akin to the difference between chicken salad and chicken…

Happy Father's Day!

Drink Recipes

St. Patrick’s Day Cocktails

St. Patrick's Day libations tend to be of a simple variety: beer, beer, and more beer. Sometimes green beer. If there's any liquor involved, it might be a shot of Jameson, but that's about it.

It doesn't have to be that way, though. There are many cocktails that are well suited for a St. Patrick's Day quaff — either because they're Irish-themed, they're green, or they're just plain delicious. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

Spring is just around the corner, but it might still be cold where you are. If so, there's no better drink than an Irish Coffee. This is one of my all-time favorites.


Irish Coffee

1 1/2 oz Irish Whiskey
2 teaspoons Demerara Sugar
4 oz Hot Coffee
Lightly Whipped Cream

In a preheated Irish coffee glass, add the sugar and whiskey and stir until dissolved. Add coffee, then float cream on top.


Here's an Irish version of the Manhattan, made with Irish Whiskey and a touch of Green Chartereuse. (Originally appeared in Hugo Ensslin's Recipes for Mixed Drinks, 1916.)



2 oz Irish Whiskey
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
1/2 oz Green Chartreuse

Stir with ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.


Another variation on the Manhattan, this one created by Gary Regan.



2 oz Irish Whiskey
1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth
1/2 oz Grand Marnier
2 Dashes Orange Bitters

Stir with ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a green maraschino cherry, if available. 


One of the leading lights of the craft cocktail renaissance, this drink is a lovely pale shade of green.


Last Word

1/2 oz Gin
1/2 oz Green Chartreuse
1/2 oz Maraschino Liqueur
1/2 oz Lime Juice

Shake with ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.


This is the closest thing I could find to a St. Patrick's Day-themed Tiki drink. (See photo at the bottom of this post.)


Green Flash

2 oz White Rum
1/2 oz Blue Curacao
1 oz Grapefruit Juice
1 oz Passion Fruit Juice
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
Club Soda

Shake the first 6 ingredients with ice, then strain into an ice-filled collins glass. Top with club soda.


I don't know how this drink got its name — perhaps because it has enough booze in it to knock you over the head.


Irish Shillelagh

1 1/2 oz Irish Whiskey
1 oz White Rum
1/2 oz Sloe Gin
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
1 teaspoon Peach Schnapps 

Shake with ice, then strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Garnish with fresh berries.


Here's a tasty one, courtesy of Michael Collins Irish Whiskey.


Frisky Whiskey

1 1/2 oz Michael Collins Blended Irish Whiskey
3/4 oz Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur
1 1/2 oz Orange Juice
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Shake with ice, then strain into an ice-filled old fashioned glass. Garnish with an orange twist.


This drink gets a bad rap — and it's true that it's heavy and sweet. But if you like chocolate and mint, it's pretty tasty.



1 1/2 oz Green Crème de Menthe
1 1/2 oz White Crème de Cacao
1 oz Cream

Shake with ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. 


If you have any suggestions for your favorites, please pass them along. Sláinte!


(This didn't come out quite as green as I anticipated. But it's close enough for drinking!)