Categories
Whiskey

Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2018

jim murray whisky bible 2018Today is another important date in the whisk(e)y-lover’s year, circled on everyone’s calendar: the day when Jim Murray announces the latest selections from his Whiskey Bible.

Murray is a controversial figure in the whisky world, for a variety of reasons that others would be better positioned than I to explain. (Although I’m guessing that pose on his book cover isn’t helping.)

But two things are certain about him and his humbly named book: his selections are sure to cause plenty of eye-rolling — and they’re also sure to set off a buying frenzy.

Whiskies that nobody previously paid any attention to will suddenly become the “it” spirit of the year, just by being named in Murray’s book. It’s not because he has such wonderful taste. He may or may not, and it scarcely matters either way. But much like with Robert Parker in the wine world, Murray is a “name,” he gives a number, and he gets lots of publicity.

So without further blather, here are his picks for 2018 (which are really his picks from the last 12 months).

THE FULL WINNERS LIST

2018 World Whisky of the Year
Colonel E.H. Taylor 4 Grain Bourbon

Second Finest Whisky in the World
Redbreast Aged 21 Years

Third Finest Whisky in the World
Glen Grant Aged 18 Years

SCOTCH WHISKY

Scotch Whisky of the Year
Glen Grant Aged 18 Years Rare Edition

Single Malt of the Year (Multiple Casks)
Glen Grant Aged 18 Years Rare Edition

Single Malt of the Year (Single Cask)
Cadenhead’s Glendullan 20 Year Old

Scotch Blend of the Year
Compass Box The Double Single

Scotch Grain of the Year
Cambus Aged 40 Years

Scotch Vatted Malt of the Year
Compass Box 3 Year Old Deluxe

SINGLE MALT SCOTCH WHISKY

No Age Statement (Multiple Casks)
Ardbeg Corryvreckan

10 Years & Under (Multiple Casks)
Glen Grant Aged 10 Years

10 Years & Under (Single Cask)
Scotch Malt Whisky Society Tomatin Cask 11.32 8 Year Old

11-15 Years (Multiple Casks)
Gordon & MacPhail Ardmore 2002

11-15 Years (Single Cask)
That Boutique-y Co. Clynelish 15 Year Old

16-21 Years (Multiple Casks)
Glen Grant Aged 18 Years Rare Edition

16-21 Years (Single Cask)
The First Editions Ardmore Aged 20 Years

22-27 Years (Multiple Casks)
Sansibar Whisky Glen Moray 25 Years Old

22-27 Years (Single Cask)
Hunter Laing’s Old & Rare Auchentoshan 24 Year Old

28-34 Years (Multiple Casks)
Glen Castle Aged 28 Years

28-34 Years (Single Cask)
Old Particular Glenturret 28 Year Old

35-40 Years (Multiple Casks)
Brora Aged 38 Years

35-40 Years (Single Cask)
Xtra Old Particular Caol Ila 36 Year Old

41 Years & Over (Multiple Casks)
Gordon & MacPhail Glen Grant 1957

BLENDED SCOTCH

No Age Statement (Standard)
Ballantine’s Finest

No Age Statement (Premium)
Compass Box The Double Single

5-12 Years
Grant’s Aged 12 Years

13-18 Years
Ballantine’s Aged 17 Years

19 – 25 Years
Royal Salute 21 Years Old

26 – 50 Years
The Antiquary Aged 35 Years

IRISH WHISKEY

Irish Whiskey of the Year
Redbreast Aged 21 Years

Irish Pot Still Whiskey of the Year
Redbreast Aged 21 Years

Irish Single Malt of the Year
Bushmills 16 Year Old

Irish Blend of the Year
Bushmills Black Bush

Irish Single Cask of the Year
Dunville’s VR First Edition Aged 15 Years

AMERICAN WHISKEY

Bourbon of the Year
Colonel E.H. Taylor Four Grain

Rye of the Year
Thomas H. Handy Sazerac 126.2 Proof

US Micro Whisky of the Year
Balcone’s Texas Blue Corn Batch BCB 16-1

US Micro Whisky of the Year (Runner Up)
291 E Colorado Aged 333 Days Bourbon

No Age Statement (Multiple Barrels)
George T. Stagg 144.1 Proof

9 Years & Under
Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection Organic 6 Grain Whisky

10 Years & Over (Multiple Barrels)
Colonel E.H. Taylor Four Grain

RYE

No Age Statement
Thomas H. Handy Sazerac 126.2 Proof

Up to 10 Years
Pikesville 110 Proof

11 Years & Over
Sazerac 18 Years Old

WHEAT

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
Nikka Coffey Malt Whisky

Single Malt of the Year (Multiple Barrels)
Nikka Coffey Malt Whisky

EUROPEAN WHISKY

European Whisky of the Year (Multiple)
Penderyn Bryn Terfel (Wales)

European Whisky of the Year (Single)
The Norfolk Parched (England)

WORLD WHISKY

Asian Whisky of the Year
Paul John Kanya (India)

Southern Hemisphere Whisky of the Year
Limeburner’s Dark Winter (Australia)

Categories
Whiskey

10 Whiskies Everyone Should Own

whisky recommended best

The folks over at Whisky Advocate magazine have put together a list of their “10 Essential Whiskies Everyone Should Own (And Why).” I love whiskey and I love lists, so I was delighted to read it.

I’m going to list their selections below along with my own commentary. The article is worth clicking through to see their thoughts — it’s a very quick read.

1. A Versatile Mixer: Jameson
Every bar needs some Jameson. I only ever use it for Irish Coffees, but it’s the perfect whiskey for them, in my opinion.

2. The Quintessential Blend: Chivas Regal 18 year old
I’ve never really explored the world of blended Scotch, so I’ve never had this. But Chivas is very highly regarded in the industry.

3. A Dependable Straight Bourbon: Evan Williams Single Barrel
A staple of the bourbon world, this is as reliable as Old Faithful. Which is why I included it in my recent Good Bourbon You Can Afford (and Actually Find) post.

4. A My-Oh-My Rye: High West Rendezvous Rye
I’m a big fan of High West ryes. They are very gifted in the art of blending. This one has long been on my list to try, but haven’t done so yet. But their Double Rye is a staple in my house.

5. A Dram with Universal Appeal: Highland Park 12 year old
One of the legendary Scottish distilleries, this one makes most lists of the best. I haven’t had it in years and really need to revisit it.

6. The Power of the Pot Still: Green Spot
Pot still Irish whiskey has grown increasingly popular in recent years. (Redbreast is probably the better known one.) I have a bottle of Green Spot hidden in a box somewhere, so have not tried it.

7. A Guileful Persuader: Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or
Glenmorangie doesn’t get the attention that the better known “Glens” do, but it’s a top-notch distillery. This whisky is finished in sauternes casks before bottling, given the spirit a slight honeyed sweetness to go along with all the malty goodness.

8. A Japanese Grand Master: Yamazaki 18 year old
If you can find it, this is a $400-500 bottle of whisky. I have not had the pleasure of tasting it. But the 12-year-old version is wonderful, so I assume this is a real delight.

9. A Smokin’ Good Islay: Lagavulin 16 year old
I have been slowing coming around on the topic of peated whisky. It’s definitely one of those flavors that takes some getting used to in my experience. I have not yet tried this one, but it’s on my list.

10. A Trophy Whisky: Glenfarclas 40 year old
“Trophy Whisky” is right. A bottle of this will run you close to a grand. I would never spend that much on a whisky, but if you would, please share.

Categories
Whiskey

Celebrate the Holidays with Nick Offerman and Lagavulin Whisky

lagavulin scotch whisky

Don’t be lonely or cold (or thirsty!) this holiday season. Let Nick Offerman and Lagavulin warm you up with a little whisky and a crackling yule fire. Here’s the video in all its 45-minute glory.

But that’s not all! You don’t have to settle for just one helping of Nick and Scotch. Because he’s got you covered with your New Year’s Eve countdown as well!

I don’t know about you, but I find these highly amusing. Kudos the Lagavulin and whomever produced the spots.

Categories
Whiskey

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

Bourbon
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

Rye
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
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

Categories
Reviews Whiskey Reviews

Whisky Review: Bowmore Darkest 15 Year Old Single Malt Scotch

The flavor profile of Bowmore whiskies is often described as “sweet and peat,” and that is very much in evidence here with the 15-year-old Darkest scotch. It has a lush aroma of sweet mesquite smoke, just like a good West Texas barbecue, that carries over to the palate.

Bowmore Darkest is aged for 12 years in ex-bourbon barrels and a final 3 years in Oloroso sherry casks. That gives the whisky a very enjoyable rich and sweet character without going too far on the wine notes.

There are flavors of chocolate, raisins, toffee, and a molasses taste like a good dark rum. There is also a little phenol giving it a nice tingle on the tongue. It is somewhat thin in the mouth, but has a long, satisfying finish — not too hot, despite the 86 proof (43% abv).

One of the things that impressed me the most about this spirit is how the fruit flavors from the sherry cask are so well balanced with the smoky peat. Milder than some of the other Islay whiskys, the Bowmore uses its smoke as a grace note, not a solo.

A wonderful whisky and a fine introduction to the Islay style.

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Reviews Whiskey Reviews

Whisky Review: Balblair 2001 Single Malt Scotch

The first thing you notice about the Balblair 2001 vintage scotch is how light in color it is, despite being aged in ex-bourbon casks for 11 years. That is because, unlike many Scotches, this is not doctored with caramel coloring before bottling. But the age is definitely there.

It has the sweet aroma of cereal malt with vanilla (presumably picked up from the bourbon barrels). The flavor is also slightly sweet with caramel and cereal grain, along with a dry oakiness. There is some spice (cinnamon, perhaps) and notes of bitter chocolate, especially on the rather long finish.

The Balblair 2001 Single Malt Scotch is good, but unspectacular. It didn’t have as much balance as I was hoping for. There are definitely interesting elements there, but I didn’t think they all came together.

As this whisky is a little hot at 92 proof (46% abv), adding some water isn’t out of the question. I found that I could discern more of the flavor after doing so.

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Reviews Whiskey Reviews

Whisky Review: Aberfeldy 12 Year Old Scotch Whisky

Dewar’s is one of the most popular brands of blended Scotch whisky in the world. And the whisky that forms the heart of those blends is made in the town of Aberfeldy in the Scottish Highlands.

The Aberfeldy distillery was opened in 1898 by the Dewar family and has been producing whisky pretty much ever since. (It closed briefly during the two world wars.)

Their most popular expression is the Aberfeldy 12-year-old single malt. It’s a very pleasant, easygoing whisky, but still full of flavor. It shows great balance, with honeyed sweetness matched with dry oak, and fruitiness contrasted with just a touch of smoke.

The Aberfeldy 12 is a mild-mannered whisky, not a Scotch that grabs you by the lapels. Still, it demands attention for its lip-smacking flavor.

This would make a wonderful introduction for those who are looking to explore the world of single malt whisky. But even those who are dyed-in-the-wool Scotch drinkers will find much here to enjoy.

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Reviews Whiskey Reviews

Whisky Review: Auchentoshan American Oak Single Malt Scotch

Auchentoshan Lowland Scotch Whisky has released a new single malt that is designed to appeal to bourbon drinkers. The new American Oak Single Malt Scotch is aged in first fill ex-bourbon casks, the first Auchentoshan to be matured in this way.

It’s still a single malt Scotch, triple-distilled from 100% malted barley, but by aging it in barrels that were first used to mature bourbon, the idea is that the American whiskey will lend something of its character to the Scotch.

The aroma of Auchentoshan American Oak is light and slightly grainy. There are toasted malt and wood notes, but overall nothing really jumps out.

Sipping neat, this whisky is dry and slightly woody. The cereal malt is more pronounced in the taste, along with some of the flavors you’d expect from bourbon, such a vanilla and light spice. I don’t know that I would have made the connection to American whiskey on my own, however. The flavor is definitely Scotch all the way.

Auchentoshan American Oak is a straight-forward single malt, without much nuance or complexity. It doesn’t have an age statement, so we can assume it’s fairly young. The attractive price — relatively cheap these days for whisky — makes it appealing as both a whisky to drink straight, or to use in cocktails and highballs.

If you’re not usually a Scotch drinker and you’d like to give one a try, this is an affordable, pleasing option.

Auchentoshan American Oak Single Malt Scotch label

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Reviews

Whisky Review: Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve

Johnnie Walker is the most popular whisky in the world, known and respected almost anywhere you go. It’s a blended Scotch whisky, meaning it is a mixture of malt whiskeys from different distilleries, along with some more neutral grain whiskey.

The company does not reveal all the names of the distilleries whose whisky they use. But they have said this blend is build around Clynelish. Other oft-mentioned suspects are Cardu and Talisker.

The Gold Label Reserve contains no age statement, so we don’t know how long it spent int he barrel. (This is in contrast to the Gold Label 18 year, the whisky it replaced in Johnnie Walker’s lineup.)

This special edition version comes in a bright, shiny gold bottle; a rather striking appearance, if a little gaudy. If you like the looks of it, you might want to buy one now, as it’s supposed to be a limited edition. If you don’t, you can buy the regular, less ostentatious, version instead.

Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve has a light aroma overall, with honey and fruit dominating, and just a touch of smoke underneath. There is also a faint grapey/wine aroma as well.

Similarly, it is light on the palate — a common characteristic of blended whiskeys — both in flavor and intensity. It starts out with toasted malt and honeyed oak, before changing over to light smoke. It has a short, very dry finish, with an astringency from either the smoke or the wood or both.

This is a refined and balanced whiskey, but it is not exactly bursting with flavor. It is certainly pleasant to drink, and would likely be welcomed by those who aren’t fans of heavier whiskeys or who are just being introduced to Scotch. However, drinkers who are looking for the more assertive flavor of a good single malt are probably better off looking elsewhere.

Johnnie Walker Gold Reserve

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Gifts

Holiday Gift Guide: Spirits

An annual gift guide is obligatory for any self-respecting publication, along with many (like this one) that are not. Here are some suggestions for what to give the spirits lover in your life. There are more expensive and rarer spirits that I could tantalize you with. But these you can actually find most places and they won’t break the bank.

 Larceny Bourbon Larceny Bourbon
The most desirable bourbons — Pappy Van Winkle, George T. Stagg, etc. — are almost impossible to find. But there are still plenty of great bourbons that you can buy at the local liquor store. And Larceny is one of them. It’s a wheated bourbon, so it has a softer flavor profile — just like Pappy! — and it will please almost any palate.
 Bulleit Rye Bulleit Rye
Much like bourbon, the coveted rye whiskeys can be hard to find. Either that or they’re expensive. Bulleit Rye is both easy to find and affordable — and it’s good, too. Works for both sipping and cocktails, such as the Manhattan.
 Tanqueray Malacca Gin Tanqueray Malacca Gin
This limited edition gin from Tanqueray is starting to get hard to find. And once it’s gone, it’s gone. So if you see any for sale, buy it. It’s an amazing gin: less Junipery, more citrusy, and a little sweeter. It’s particularly delicious in pre-Prohibition era cocktails like the Tom Collins or Martinez.
 tequila artenom 1414 Tequila ArteNOM Seleccion 1414 Reposado
An amazing tequila — one of the best I’ve tried this year. Spicy and fruity and bursting with deliciousness.
 Plantation Grande Reserve Barbados Rum Plantation 5 Year Old Grande Reserve Barbados Rum
A very versatile and excellent rum at a great price. The blenders at Pierre Ferrand (which makes Plantation Rum) are masters, and it shows in this rum.
 Grand Marnier Raspberry Peach Grand Marnier Raspberry Peach
You know Grand Marnier, one of the world’s finest orange liqueurs. Now meet its cousin. This combines the traditional flavor of Grand Marnier with flavors of raspberry and peach. Makes a great Margarita or a nice dessert tipple.
 Boyd and Blair Vodka Boyd & Blair Vodka
Can vodka be delicious? Of course it can! And here’s the proof. The best vodka I tried all year. Creamy, smooth, and wonderful.
Rhum Clement VSOP Rhum Clément VSOP
If you’re looking for a more unique rum to give, Rhum Clément makes an excellent choice. One of the best examples of rhum agricole — a style of rum made from fresh sugar cane juice rather than the usual molasses — Rhum Clement has a spicy, rich and vibrant flavor. Can be enjoyed on its own, it also makes an amazing Mai Tai when combined with Jamaican rum.
 Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve
Blended scotches don’t get the respect that single malts do, but that’s crazy. Some of the best scotches in the world go into Johnnie Walker’s blends. This limited edition is only around for the holidays and I haven’t tried it. But the bottle alone makes it a gorgeous gift.
 Citadelle Reserve Gin Citadelle Reserve Gin
Most gin is intended to be drank in cocktails. And Citadelle Reserve makes a great cocktail. But it’s also excellent when enjoyed by itself over ice. The key here is that the gin is barrel aged after distillation, giving the finished product a softer, warmer flavor. (This one might be hard to find.)
 Suntory Hibiki 12yo Whisky Suntory Hibiki 12 Year Whisky
Japanese whisky is one of the hot new trends in the whiskey world, and for good reason. It can still be hard to find, but definitely worth seeking out. Designed to be enjoyed in highballs or with a little water, Hibiki is dangerously drinkable.