Top 10 Whiskeys
Having spoken to a lot of whiskey lovers in my time, they all have their definite favorites. Whats interesting is that once a whiskey lover finds their favorite, they tend to stop looking, or just keep to that one distillery.
Whilst Scotland is the Manchester United of Whiskeys, there are now distillers all over the world and so I have selected my top ten whiskeys from an outstanding international list. These are all affordable and accessible and hopefully something for everyone. First in my top ten whiskeys is;
Hibiki 12 & 17, Japanese Blended Whisky
This whiskey originates from the Suntory Whiskey company in Japan, which commenced production in 1923. Japans climate is very different to Scotland’s and that creates a totally different tasting whiskey.
The fresh waters in the local area and the huge number of malt and straight grain whiskeys that go into the finished product create a unique taste on the palette.
The Whiskey is casked in japanese oak and has a subtle amber hew. Hibiki whiskey smells of rosemary with subtle hints of sandalwood. The taste is sweet and clean with overtones of orange and white chocolate.
Cost per bottle is around $148.00.
Green Spot, Irish Single Pot
This whiskey has been described by Jim Murray as one of the worlds best whiskeys. Green Spot is one of only a couple of single pot whiskeys being produced today. It can’t be called malt, because some of the grains are un-malted and also single pot whiskeys are distilled three times not twice like malted versions. The whiskey is produced at the Midleton Distillery in Cork Ireland.
Green Spot was one of several different colors that were sold under the “Spot Brand” The current batch is a complex blend of eight and nine year old whiskeys and was difficult to get hold of, unless you lived in Ireland as it is mainly sold through a specialist shop in Dublin that is owned by Mitchell and Sons, the owners of the Spot brand.
However with the brand gaining in popularity in the United States it is now freely available through online stores.
Whilst the whiskey is rich and robust in color, it does not have that smokey or sweet flavor like Scottish whisky’s. instead it has a very soft and smooth taste and is easy to drink neat. Cost is around $45.
Whistle Pig 12 Year Old Rye Whiskey
Situated in 250 acres of Vermonts finest countryside, the Whistle Pig Distillery is a 150 year converted dairy barn. Rye grain is harvested from the company owned fields and distilled in distinctive especially designed copper pots and matured in American white oak barrels that have been carefully charred and which gives Whistle Pig a unique smokey flavor.
The 12 year old whistle pig is a careful blend of European oak casks – Madeira, Sauternes, Port, Cognac, and Sherry. The Master Distiller Dave Pickerell, has created a one of a kind whiskey, which whilst distinctly American has notes from all over the world.
The whiskey has won numerous awards and is in huge demand. Whilst the underlying taste is rye, you also get hints of the fruitiness, a combination of plums, raisins, combined with honey and apricots. Prices are around $135.
Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Straight Kentucky Bourbon
This is an old school bourbon from the Russell stable that packs an almighty punch! The way this bourbon is produced hasn’t changed for 60 years, in fact it costs more to produce than its modern competitors, but the unique taste remains to be enjoyed by all.
The Wild Turkey Distillery that produces many award winning products is situated in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky and can be traced back the the late 1800’s.
As the name suggests the Russell’s reserve is a single barrel bourbon distilled from rye and aged in American Oak barrels. The process that gives this bourbon its distinct aroma is in part to the charring of the barrels. Each barrel is given what is known in the trade as a “No 4 Alligator Charr”. This is apparently as deep a burn as you can get without, weakening the actual barrel.
It is bottled at 110 proof and it is advised not to drink it straight! Even with water, its still rich and full flavored with overtones of hazelnut and toffee, combined with that unmistakable hint of smokiness. Priced at $55.00.
Macallan Rare Cask
Described by the Macallan Brewery as “Rare and Rich” The Macallan Distillery is lengendary nestled in nearly 400 acres and has been around for 100’s of years. Using unusually small stills and taking only the top 16% to mature in casks, means that the whiskey produced is second to none.
The Macallan Rare Cask goes one further and uses only 1% from casks that will never be used again.
I have not had the pleasure of tasting this whiskey, so am relying on the notes from the Macallan distillery
The nose is Opulent, yet soft and slightly meandering, picture an orchestra setting up: quiet vanilla with deep notes, already in tune; raisin bold and booming, though only in spells; chocolate a star performer, but not a standout; a sweet ensemble of apple, lemon and orange, beautifully balanced with a spicy quartet of root ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. Then oak conducts, mature and elegant, with patience only time delivers.
Palate The spicy quartet leads, loud and full, unwavering in their performance. Raisin dares to temper – and succeeds!! – but oak takes control; timeless, polished, rich and resonating. Vanilla and chocolate compliment each other in the background
Finish Light citrus zest, yet full and warming
Prices are around $300
Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye
Next is the turn of a Canadian Whiskey. Situated along the shore of Lake Winnipeg is the tiny village of Gimli. Here there has been a Crown Royal Distillery for over 100 years. The harsh climate (down to minus 30 degrees) and lime filtered cold waters of the lake, all add to the unique blended flavors of Canadian Crown Royal Whiskey.
At least fifty different blends of whiskey are carefully brought together using a unique still called the coffey still (after the man that invented it), to create an unmistakable smooth whiskey.
The maturing casks expand and contract due to the large differences in temperature and this only adds to the taste.
The Northern Harvest Rye is a 90% Rye Blend and has already earn’t its place in the Jim Murray 2016 Annual Whisky Bible. The whiskey itself has a very spicy nose, you can taste vanilla, oak and a hint of pepper, but the overriding factor is the smooth and creamy finish. Its very popular and not easy to get hold of at the moment, the cost is a modest $40 for such a great whiskey.
Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Whiskey
This is such a well known brand, thanks to billboard and TV advertising and you can pick up a bottle of Jack Daniels for only a few dollars. But the popular Tennessee whiskey company also produces some special bottles such as the Single Barrel Whiskey.
Jack Daniels is the oldest registered distillery in the United States, where the process hasn’t changed in the slightest from the day they opened their doors. Unusually Jack Daniels make their own barrels, something I believe no other company does. The contents of their whiskey is of course corn, rye and a tiny part malted barley, combined with pure iron free spring water.
The whiskey is dripped through ten feet of charcoal and matured until the master blender decides its ready.
The single barrel is 94 percent proof and as the name suggests drawn from a single barrel. Each bottle details the specific batch, barrel number and bottling date. As a result no two bottles will be exactly the same. These barrels are chosen as the best of the best and having the most caramel and toasted oak flavour. The result is a smooth taste on the palette with hints of toasted oak and almonds. Prices are around $80.
Frysk Hynder Freisian single malt whiskey
A new boy by whiskey standards, the Dutch Frysk Hynder distillery was started in 2002. It started off as a bit of a hobby and only produced 77 bottles per day. However as it became more popular, it slowly turned into a business. Unfortunately there were financial pressures along the way and the distillery, have to bottle every three years, so that they can continue to trade.
The climate is quite similar to Scotland’s and the pure waters in the local area is critical to such a pure taste.
Matured in port barrels, it has a fruity nose and taste, with hints of malted barley followed by an unmistakable oaky finish. The bottle has a distinctive Freisian Horse Head top, in either a silver or gold finish and is priced at $40.
Bastille 1789 French Whiskey
This is a luxury whiskey, totally hand crafted in the Cognac region of France. Jean-Marc Daucourt, the famous distiller creates this whiskey from the best malted barley and wheat grown in France. Incidentally this is the wheat and barley that is used my many of the top Scottish Distilleries.
The sparkling clear waters from the Gensac spring filtered through miles of limestone are added to the process. Finally the whiskey is aged in very small batches using only the finest oak barrels, which include the famous Limousin oak.
I have not had the opportunity to taste this particular whiskey, but would point out that 1789 does not refer to its age, but rather to the french revolution. 1789 is a blend and according to the International Review of Spirits:
Bright orange amber color. Intriguing aromas of orange marmalade, dried apricot, spice cake, pineapple blossoms and suede with a vibrant, dry-yet-fruity medium-to-full body and a long, orange bread crust, peach cobbler, peppery spice and limestone accented finish. A remarkably fruity, exotic and enigmatic whisky that will make unique cocktails.
International Review of Spirits Award: Gold Medal
A bottle can be purchased for $40. Maybe not as refined as some of the scottish offerings, but worth trying.
The final of my top 10 whiskeys is
Chivas Regal 25 Year Old Scotch Whiskey
The Chivas Regal whiskey originates from the Strathisla distillery. It was created in 1786 and sits close to the river Isla. The distillery is one of the oldest in Scotland. In 1950 the distillery was purchased by the Chivas brothers, (hence the name of the whiskey) allowing a centuries old process to continue to this day.
The process includes the use of very short and very small copper stills, water from the River Isla and top quality malted barley. The result is a full bodied single malt scotch whiskey that is extremely popular. (you can still visit the distillery to see for yourself, how such a wonderful whiskey is made)
The Chivas Regal 25 is the culmination of years of refining a skilled process. This bottle contains a blend of whiskeys that have all been aged for at least 25 years.
It is a rich gold in color, and has a very fruity aroma, hints of oranges and peaches. It is rich but comparatively mild in taste. Again the taste of oranges is prevalent, in this case chocolate orange. The finish is described as smooth, rounded and long.
A bottle of this quality will set you back $250.