I don’t do awards or anything like that. They don’t mean anything at all in the grand scheme of things and everything in the tasting world is subjective. However. Just like everyone I do have an opinion so I’m putting mine out there this year to round off things with a few favourite drams and bottles I’ve experienced throughout the year. All opinions are my own. There will not be a best whisky of the year, just a bunch loosely categorised. Please bear in mind. I haven’t tried everything. Not everything I tried would have been in the best circumstances either, but the below stood out for me. They took me in the moment and continue to do so, and they resulted in buys and in some cases re-buys…and even re-re-buys…
Most enjoyed whisky under £50
Cotswolds Whisky. At 3 years of age it’s amazing stuff. This distillery is going to continue to be the bees knees. They give a damn about what they do and that’s evident in the production of affordable and quality whisky. Their new Founder’s Choice which is a little more expensive, but essentially a Cotswold’s Cask Strength variation is also superb stuff.
Port Charlotte 10. The re-release of the classic PC doesn’t disappoint. Its beautiful, full of flavour and has a gorgeous new bottle. Highly recommended.
Glen Moray Bottle Your Own – all of them. Ive had some smashing whisky from the bottle your own offerings from Glen Moray. I’m practically a subscriber now. They are epic value for money. Always recommended.
That Boutique-y Whisky – Glen Moray 10 Batch 2 – Another unexpected surprise from the whisky show. An unexpected beauty! A wonderful fruity number from Glen Moray bottled by That Boutique-y whisky company, loved it!
Greatest bang for buck whisky.
Glen Moray Cabernet Cask finish – in fact their Port Cask and Sherry Cask finishes are also right up there in the bang for your buck department. At ~£25 a bottle this fails to disappoint on every level. It’s truly delicious, drinkable and an absolute treat.
Kilkerran 12 year old. Not a lot to be said. Most of you will know this one and what a stupendous value for money whisky this is.
Aldi Irish 26 year old. Technically last years. But still well worthy of a mention. It’s whisky fruit juice at its finest and still can be picked up at auction at what I would say is a very reasonable price (~£50-£60) giving most definite value for money.
Most enjoyed whisky under £100
Glendronach 15 Revival (the new one) – so easy drinking and personally I prefer this to the old bottling, as it’s slightly sweeter. Sorry. Just an opinion.
The Whisky Show Ledaig 12yo Present Future – another whisky I had a proper moment with at the whisky show. This is properly delicious, big, bold and beautiful. Awesome.
Daftmill Summer Release. At first I took an instant no approach to this release (and the Inaugural release) due to the price points. I was wrong. A friend gave me a sample of the Summer release and I absolutely bloody loved it. Regret filled my being, but I did manage to get on the case and get some of this for later. Its a beautiful, gentile whisky, very reminiscent of an old, careful lowland style, it takes you places, and all good ones. Love it.
Most enjoyed whisky over £100 (but still borderline affordable/bought)
Dumbarton 32yo (Claxton’s). A stunner of a grain whisky from a closed distillery bottled by the awesome independent bottler which is Claxton’s. This surprised me a great deal, I didn’t know what to expect when I tasted this whisky on a tweet taste, but it resulted in an immediate and no brainer of a purchase. Superb stuff and surprisingly affordable for the age and availability. Only 96 bottles of this exist. If you see one out there its well worth it.
Glen Moray Distillery Exclusive 1998 PX Finish. Oh my god, epic sherry monster. Another tweet taste resulting in some quids dropped, but rightly so, its a bloody amazing whisky.
Glenburgie 21yo (Gordon & MacPhail). A total surprise whisky from the whisky show resulting in another battering of the credit card. I adored the moment spent with this whisky so much the purchase was inevitable.
If money wasn’t an option.
Caol Ila 35 Special Release 2018 – I had a proper emotional, ethereal moment at the whisky show with this dram. It will stick with me. I really should get one. 😳
Fettercairn 50 – amazing opportunity to try such amazing and old whisky. Truly a moment. However. The price point is quite silly. But it’s rare. So what can you do!
Most excellent independent bottler
WM Cadenhead. Continuing to show some amazing value for money Old Caol Ila’s are out there along with the every expanding set of surprise single cask and batch release offerings of distilleries i would not normally try. This bottler continues to amaze. I hope they continue to do so. Though lay off a bit of the spectacular bottlings please. I have debts I need to address. 😂
That Boutique-y Whisky Company. Always some interesting stuff coming out of this indie bottler. And Dave is the bloody best brand ambassador to boot!
North Star. A relatively new indie bottler who’s had an awesome start with some superb whiskies at affordable prices. Long may they continue to do so.
Glen Moray. I love the people who work here, they have passion which is clear from the quality of the whisky and the continued effort to keep things affordable. The distillery bottlings have been a highlight for me this year. Although there official bottlings have left no palate disappointed. Carry on Graham, Iain, Emma and everyone else at Glen Moray. I look forward to visiting soon and hope 2019 is an awesome year for you all.
Springbank. Though some of their limited single cask releases are starting to creep up in price, they still represent very good value for money. Their whisky is clearly traditionally well made, and always enjoyable, engaging and rewarding stuff. It’s very rare to have a duff dram from Springbank and their Springbank 12yo CS, 15yo, 18yo, Longrow 18yo, and various single cask offerings have all been highlights of the year.
Tomatin. A distillery producing some delicious new make turning into even better well matured whisky presented in the best way it can be. I’m a big fan of Tomatin. Their 30 and 36yo expressions are pure decadence. And their affordable stuff is pure indulgence. Awesome.
Biggest disappointment in whisky
Ahhh. The biggest Fujikai moment of the year. Being ill far too much this last year and not trying, tasting and reviewing as much as I would have liked to. Fingers crossed for a better 2019.
New (and old) distilleries taking the piss. I won’t name names. You know who they are. 😈
Glen Marnoch 1988
£49.99 from Aldi (Christmas special release)
Quite a rich baked apple nose on first pour. Some cinnamon and sugar crusting. Some ginger and spice. A little dusty in the aromas, along with some floral perfume notes. A bit of time and the fruit gets a little more complex, with some added citrus and ripe orange. After 30 minutes in the glass the nose becomes a little spicier and more honey and vanilla led with the fruit taking a back step. This gives more of a balance between fruit and oak, and there’s some added oak spice, with a hint of pencil shavings. More time and more rich vanilla comes to the front, its a developmental nose, evolving with continued exposure to air.
Very fruity, lots of fresh apples and a touch of orange. Spicy as well, but not abrasive, some gentle ginger and cinnamon sugared custard. Sweet all the way through arrival and development, possibly too sweet for some, but suits my palate well. Makes things very moreish and quaffable. The only criticism would be the light mouthfeel which is evident from the minimal 40% ABV and obvious chill filtration. Saying that its still a suitably chewable dram with a nice fruit and spice balance. With lots of time the fruit becomes a little more tropical, some mango coming into play. Very tasty.
Medium length. Spicy oak initially fades back to some fresh fruit and dry ginger. Hints of vanilla custard at the very end.
I really don’t want to add water, but…a drop in the last 5ml of my dram. The nose is a lot lighter, more floral and oak, lost a fair amount of fruit and spice. The palate, whilst still quite fruity has lost some oomph, and gained more vanilla custard, still good but not as good. Water/ice at this drams peril. Keep it neat. (My opinion).
It’s not half bad. Fruity bourbon based maturation, probably all refill. There’s nothing wrong with this whisky, and despite the price increase of Aldi’s Christmas special (year on year price increase – ok this is technically, maybe a year older) its still exhibiting great value for money. I don’t think this whisky shows the 29/30 years as other more expensive (you cant get a 1988 single malt for less than £132 on master of malt, that one being a Tormore. Who knows, maybe this is a Tormore??) whisky would. It’s worth the punt if you want a fruity, easy, solid drinker of a whisky.
White Walker by Johnnie Walker
£33.95 from The Whisky Exchange
Grainy, young and a touch acrid. There’s hints of vanilla, a little bitter oak, not a lot going on initially. It’s very closed. Might warm it up a bit (for reference I didn’t have this in the freezer like the serving suggestion). A lot of warmth and a little white fruits come out, touch of peach, apricot maybe. It’s very grainy though, lots of corn, popcorn, hints of creamy vanilla.
Ok, so warmed up it actually works better on the palate, quite sweet, more white fruits, peach, honeydew melon, hint of orange juice, lots of creamed corn, vanilla ice cream, some rough spices, ginger, cardamon. Definitely has more going for the palate than the nose.
Short, sweetness turns bitter, like chewing an old pencil with some popcorn.
Just a drop added. Nose is now muted. Bit vodka like with some oak. Palate is weakened and more sugar and vanilla now, the bitterness of the finish coming in sooner. Don’t dilute. Or if you do do it with something flavoured. Works nicely with orange juice actually. 😜
Ok, so as they suggested it I did it, and as I expected it’s not worth talking about. Everything is closed up. Couldn’t smell much at all, bit of vanilla and alcohol that’s it. The palate was thick in the mouthfeel (it would be), but numb in the taste. Nah, hit it with OJ and quaffed happily.
Ok, let’s be honest, this isn’t a half-experienced whisky drinkers whisky. There are much better blends and single malts at the same price or less that are much superior to this. But as a marketing exercise it’s clever. I got it as I’m a curious whisky drinking Game of Thrones fan, remove the whisky experience and I would be happy. But with whisky drinking experience it takes more to please, and this one isn’t for my palate. Now in a cocktail it works fine, and that’s what this whisky is hitting towards. Freeze me, mix me. For that approach is does the job. If you’re expecting a great blend then just reach for Black or Green Label instead. Same price or much less and much more rewarding.
My own bottle.
Aerstone 10 year old Land Cask
£30.00 from Tesco (currently on offer at £20)
Quite pungent and smoky. Bonfire smoke, rich honey, touch of vanilla and cask char. There’s some maritime notes, tar and wet rope, cigarette smoke, an earthy moss and some damp grass. Very autumnal. With a little time the smoke turns more medicinal, some hospital cleanliness and plasters, with a touch of germolene. Some old leaves and an autumn forest comes to mind.
Chewy honey, some spiced toffee, vanilla. Burnt toast and marmalade, some sweet ginger. Not so much active smoke on the palate. The mouthfeel suffers from the 40% and chill filtration, but there is good flavour here and it’s perfectly sippable.
A touch of smoke, a lot of runny honey and some ginger remains. Short to medium in duration.
Small drop added. Very little difference on the nose. The smoke is more enhanced on the palate, and things become more integrated, I’m pleasantly surprised to say a small drop of water improves this whisky.
Again, my critical comments regarding the ABV are just personal. I would love to try this dram at 46% and non chill filtered. I think it will be a belter, just like Aisla Bay is in its official bottling form. However, as this whisky stands and at a reduced price of £20 currently at Tesco, this is a bargain. It’s a tasty, affordable midweek dram, which I will be seeking out a bottle ASAP. This is my favourite of the pair of Aerstone single malts, but they are both pretty damn good at this price point.
See my review for the Sea Cask here.
Thanks to Aerstone for the official review sample.
Aerstone 10 year old Sea Cask
£30.00 from Tesco (currently on offer at £20)
Certainly salty sea air right up front. Very coastal. A touch of lemon citrus, lemon peel, and zest. A full house of lemons! There’s also a hint of oranges. It’s a vibrant fruity dram with an overcoat of seaside influences. There’s a hint of smoke, but not a lot. A little time and we have some additional tropical fruit notes, some mango and a hint if grilled pineapple.
Honey, clove studded and baked oranges, some liquorice. The mouthfeel is unfortunately quite weak. There are hints at some nice oiliness but is lost in the ABV. The balance of the flavours as is is good though, rich fruit and honey offset with some nice spices and a salty edge. It’s a chewable and moreish Whisky.
Spiced orange and liquorice root sticks around for a short while, replaced with some light vanilla ice cream.
Not reviewing with added water. It killed it for me.
Actually surprised me. As critical as I am of the ABV and the effect it’s had on the overall feel of the palate, I really like this whisky, it’s a good tasty midweek drinker which doesn’t break the bank. As it’s currently on offer for 20 notes it’s well worth hunting one down. I will be.
See my review for the Land Cask here.
Thanks to Aerstone for the official review sample.