Top 5 drams of 2015
Well yet again New Year is almost upon us and it’s about time we published the top 5 drams we reviewed in 2015. We were lucky again this year and were privileged to review some fantastic whiskies. All the best for 2016 and here are our top 5 drams of 2015 by score in descending order:
5: Glenrothes 24 year old (Cadenheads)
This dram may be a bit of a ‘sherry monster’ for some people but we found it very palatable. The nose had deep sherry notes with toffee, red fruits, molasses, red liquorice, bananas, and spices. The palate had charred oak, toffee, chilli, sherry, caramelised apples, and sweet bananas. The finish was long and lingered on. It had warm treacle, sherry, and a rich spicy end. The whisky had a fantastic deep red brown (almost the colour of a peat stream) colour and a thick dense texture. Air mellows the nose and palate slightly, while adding water did open up the dram. Being almost 60% we added slightly more water than usual but with the right amount the ‘sherry monster’ is tamed. It unleashes citrus on the nose, rum and raisin on the palate, and spices on the finish. As the sherry dulls the whisky shines through. This is quite intense in the beginning but with the right amount of air and water this dram shines through. Lovers of a sherried whisky will love this, but fear not, with a little water this opens up and has a lot more character. It’s be won’t for everyone but we certainly enjoyed it, having said that every one of us has a fairly high ‘sherried whisky threshold’!
Notes: 55.7% ABV – 1990 (bottled 2014) sherry cask. £90 per bottle at time of tasting.
4: Talisker Port Ruighe
This offering from Talisker is a wee bit different from their usual whisky. The nose gave us fruit, wood smoke, caramelised pears, wild strawberries, and slight medicinal notes. The palate was earthy and fruity with hints of sweet orange peel, peat smoke and a dry oak. The finish was medium to long, syrupy and smoky. The colour is a stunning golden bronze and the texture is thick and sticky. Letting this dram breathe mellows is slightly and we didn’t actually feel it needed any water. All in all we thoroughly enjoyed this dram. The more you drink this the better it gets. It’s marries the Port finish with the smoky Talisker spirit beautifully to produce an interesting whisky that changes the more you sip away. This is a remarkably well thought out whisky made all the better by the reasonable price.
Notes: 45.8% ABV and non-chill filtered. Matured in 2 different port casks and £45 at time of tasting.
3: Caol ila 18yr (SMWS 53.198)
We are always keen to try a new bottling from the SMWS as it’s one of the most consistent (for quality) independent bottlers out there. We have to say that this bottle is yet another cracker. The nose gave us a nice balance of peat and sherry along with hints of lavender, tcp, and burnt matches. It’s earthy on the palate and retains the lavender and sweet peat of the nose. It also has a fruity and savoury notes, burnt wood, salt, and spices. The finish on this is medium to long with sweet medicinal notes, treacle, peat, and heather that tails off to a wood smoke and salty finish. It has that classic ‘peely walley’ light Caol ila colour and a lovely sticky oily texture. Letting this dram breathe doesn’t do much but a dribble of water opens up all the flavour, takes some of the ‘alcohol zing’ away, and sweetens the nose and palate. It’s amazing how little water this needed considering it’s almost 60%. This is a fantastically well balanced dram that gets better and better the longer you drink it, and we could have drunk it all night!
Notes: 59.1% ABV – SMWS 18 year old Caol ila. Second fill sherry butt and distilled August 1995. 510 bottles produced and £80 per bottle at time of tasting.
2: Arran 18 year old (Cadenheads)
We feel Cadenheads release some really good Arrans and with that in mind we were eager to try this. The nose on this one had Madeira wine, cereal, apples, vanilla, and oak, but in all that it still retained that ‘Arran feel’. The palate was sweet with citrus fruits, orange peel, malt, and deep rich savoury notes. The finish was short but pleasant with hints of orange and a rich sweet finish. The colour was amber/yellow and it had a thick and creamy texture. Letting this dram breathe released more vanilla and really balanced out the initial flavours and brought everything together. Adding a little water sweetened this dram further, took the edge off the alcohol, and brought out Madeira wine, vanilla, and hints of tobacco on the nose.
All in all this whisky really met our expectations and proved to be another cracking Arran from Cadenheads. It’s rich and delicious with a malty goodness and citrusy sweetness that is extremely well balanced. To be honest none of us would have taken this to be a bourbon cask. It has the qualities of a wine or 2nd fill sherry cask that had been finished in a bourbon cask for a few months. That aside, we really loved it and are always up for an interesting dram that challenges our palate while delivering the flavours. This does that, and some – superb!
Notes: 60% ABV – 2nd fill sherry butt. Around £72 per bottle at time of tasting.
1: BenRiach 17yr Solstace (Heavily Peated Port)
Instantly the nose on this dram gave us delicate port notes. It then developed to give us cream toffee, cheesecake, strawberry milkshakes, and that classic sweet cereal malty peaty goodness that is Kilchoman! The palate on this dram was sweet with an unusual interplay of peat and port. It also gave us slight oaky notes combined with cream fudge and a slight hint of aniseed. The finish on this was rip roaring! It’s long and sweet, with malt, peat, and a slight hint of vanilla and salt at the very end. The colour on this whisky is a stunning bronzed ruby red while the texture is creamy and velvety. Letting this dram breath opens it up nicely and brings out slight notes of vanilla on the nose. When it comes to water, this dram is easily drinkable without it, even it 55%. Having said that, with the right amount of water it really opens up and brings out hints of vanilla and smoke. This whisky is simply stunning! We all loved it and it’s one of the smoothest 55% ABV whiskies we have ever tasted. It’s creamy and smooth but still has a fruity punch and that cereal Kilchoman peatiness. A must try if you can get it!
Notes: 50% ABV – distilled from heavily peated malted barley, then matured in ex-bourbon casks before finally being finished in Tawny Port casks. £65 per bottle at time of tasting.