John Hansell, publisher of Malt Advocate magazine, recently picked his fave whiskies for 2005. Here's what he had to say:
It was a good year for new whiskies. Here are my 10 favorites, listed alphabetically. Some, especially the bourbon and rye whiskeys, are reasonably priced, too! (The remaining eight are single malt scotch.) Noticeably absent is anything new and stellar from Ireland. Hopefully this will change in 2006.
Balvenie 1973 Vintage: This 1973 vintage replaces the equally impressive 1966 vintage that was on the market for many years. Both vintages show how well Balvenie ages. This vintage is clean and polished, with incredible finesse for such a big whisky. ($400)
Bowmore 1989 Vintage: No frills here, just pure, classic, unadulterated Bowmore. This island whisky speaks of its location in a very pure and natural way. You'll discover invigorating brine, seaweed and fishnets, along with the classic Bowmore peat smoke. All these flavors are softened by gentle vanilla and honeyed malt, while background tropical fruit adds complexity. ($90)
Bruichladdich Legacy III, 1968 Vintage: Soft, seductive and still quite fresh for its age. It is less smoky than its island brethren, Bowmore. Some of the older Bruichladdichs are absolute gems. This is one of them. While not inexpensive, this Bruichladdich costs much less than the Bruichladdich 40-year-old released around the same time, and it's also a better whisky. ($430)
The Dalmore Stillman's Dram 28-year-old: This spicy, marmalade-tinged Highland scotch replaces a 30-year-old version that has been on the market for several years. It's the best Dalmore Stillman's Dram in years. ($140)
Glendronach 33-year-old: Matured entirely in oloroso sherry butts. A follow-up to the 1968 vintage released a while back. This 33-year-old is more polished and rounded than the 1968 vintage (and the 15-year-old version, which was also from sherry butts). More flavors accompany the sherry with this 33-year-old. ($400)
Highland Park 30-year-old: It's hard to believe that this distillery in Scotland's Orkney Islands could release a whisky as good as their 18- and 25-year-old expressions, but they did. And not just one, but two! (See next item.) This whisky is very complex, with wonderful depth, and continues to evolve on the palate. All this while still maintaining the Highland Park character. ($350)
Highland Park 32-year-old: An essay in elegance. It's lighter and more subtle than the 30-year-old reviewed above, and it's beautifully balanced. It's also very drinkable. Hard to believe this whisky is 32 years old the wood never dominates. ($350).
Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve 15-year-old bourbon: The youngest of three Pappys (the others being 20 and 23 years old, respectively), it's fully matured at 15 years old, and continues to entertain the palate with waves of diverse flavors. A remarkable value, too, considering its age and that it is bottled at 107 proof. ($50)
Sazerac 18-year-old Rye Whiskey: A new release for 2005. Add the intense spice of a straight rye whiskey grain bill with extensive aging in quality oak, and you end up with one of the world's boldest and most dynamic whiskies. A whiskey whose taste seems larger than life. Very impressive! ($48)
Talisker 18-year-old: The mid-range of the three Taliskers, positioned between the 10- and 25-year-old expressions. It combines the best of both. It expresses the vibrant, powerful youthfulness that we enjoy in the 10-year-old with the nice maturity and depth in the 25-year-old. We found Talisker's ''sweet spot'' with this 18-year-old edition. ($65)
See more about Malt Advocate here.
[ via Ardent Spirits Bulletin ]