The first full calendar year of writing this blog has been a great experience, and over the past twelve months, I’ve sampled some bloody superb whisky. In fact, I’ve tasted very little bad whisky. So, with us reaching the end of the year and everybody being in a reflective mood, I thought I’d take the chance to run down my top ten whiskies of 2015.
From Tuesday 15 December, right up until Christmas Eve, I’ll be unveiling a different dram each day. All they need to do to make the cut is be a whisky which I tasted for the first time in 2015 and have impressed me sufficiently to leave a lasting impression.
Honourable mentions go to a few whiskies that JUST missed out on the top ten, which include a SMWS Clynelish bottling, the Lagavullin 12 Year Old, the Caol Ila 17 Year Old and the Glenmorangie Lasanta. But without further ado, here’s the top ten.
10. Highland Park Dark Origins
The newest addition to the Highland Park Range, Dark Origins uses a combination of combination of 80% first fill sherry casks and 20% refill sherry. The sherry adds some spice and fruity notes, although the typical Highland Park smoke is still. The palate is much sweeter than normal, although not overwhelmingly so.
Find out more about Highland Park Dark Origins
9. The Glenlivet Nàdurra
From the Gaelic for natual Nàdurra is The Glenlivet stripped back – matured in first fill American oak casks, non-chill filtered and bottling at cask strength. This gives it a much richer mouthfeel and texture. It’s quite floral on nose, leading to intense oak flavours. This continues on the palate, with soft fruits and honey sitting alongside strong vanilla notes from the casks.
Find out more about The Glenlivet Nadurra
8. Port Ellen 32 Year Old
The first entry from Diageo’s Special Release, this is the fifteenth release from Port Ellen and comes in at a pricey £2,400. Feel free to buy me one for Christmas! The nose matches the price tag – rich, creamy, smoky and spicy. These big flavours are joined on the palate by caramel, honey, raisins and dates, with a warm glow to finish.
Find out more about Port Ellen 32 Year Old
7. Mortlach Rare Old
My favourite whisky regenerated, it took me a while to get round to tasting the new, souped-up Mortlach. The things that attracted me to it in the very place were still there though – a mix of spicy and sweet flavours on the nose, with a thick and oily mouthfeel. This distinguishes itself from the old Flora and Funa bottlings though with some additional sweetness and a slightly lighter finish.
Find out more about Mortlach Rare Old
6. Clynelish Select Reserve
Another entry from the Diageo Special Releases, this is the only non-aged bottling in this year’s range. With the youngest whisky said to sit at 15 years old though, there’s plenty of older Clynelish in the bottle though. It’s got the waxiness you’d expect from a Clynelish, along with a buttery-ness and citrus. The plate is lovely and thick, with sweet and spicy flavours lingering.
Find out more about Clynelish Select Reserve
5. Balblair 1983
I had a great afternoon at The Nip earlier in the year getting to know the Balblair range. The stand out for me was a 30 year old, which had replaced the 1975 vintage. With 30 years in ex-bourbon barrels, the whisky was brimming with sweetness and spice, along with warming hints of oaks.
Find out more about Balblair 198
4. Glenmorangie Dornach
Another dram from The Nip, you’ll only find the Dornach in world travel retail. It’s a deceptively good dram, as the nose is slightly underwhelming to start. The palate though explodes into a feast of vanilla, dried fruits and soft citrus.
Find out more about Glenmorangie Dornach
3. Dailuaine 34 Year Old
The final whisky from Diageo’s Special Releases, this is a stunner of a dram. Unlike the standard Dailaine, this hadn’t been near sherry casks but was none the worse for it. The big, dense and robust nose mixes strong citrus flavours with something close to menthol. On the palate, we’re getting dried fruit, chocolate and marmalade, with an almost tobacco-like smoky finish.
Find out more about Dailuaine 34 Year Old
2. Octomore 07.2 from Bruichladdich
It took a long time for me to break my Octomore virginity but it finally happened at this year’s Islay Whisky Festival. With the peat weighing in at 208 PPM, this is the true definition of a “Peat Monster”. The nose is very fruity, with notes of apple, pear and lemon…but there’s no massive smoke hit. This continues on the palate, but the smoke is there. Instead of blasting you in the face though, it adds a depth of flavour which is unlike anything I’ve experienced before. And adding a couple of drops of water just deepens the flavour further.
Find out more about Octomore 07.2 from Bruichladdich
1. Ardbeg Perpetuum
At the start of this year, I never suspected that an Islay whisky would be my top dram of 2015, but here it is – Ardbeg Perpetuum. Launched at this year’s Islay Whisky Festival, Perpettum, combines a variety of Ardbeg styles – from old and new, to bourbon and sherry barrels – to create a stunning dram. The nose is a mix of smoke and tar, mixed with equally rich flavours of dark chocolate and treacle. The smoke dies down on the palate, giving beautifully creamy textures, with a tiny bit of spice to finish. Superb!
Find out more about Ardbeg Perpetuum