By far the most common question I’ve received right throughout the year was “What was your favourite whisky?” And it’s a very hard to name just one – an analogy I’d use is to imagine if you listened to a different song every day for a year and had to name your favourite song. After listening to a song just once, it’s very hard to say that it’s your new favourite! It might piqué your interest, you might love the band or that style of music, you might really like it and want to listen to it some more to really get to know it and learn the lyrics…but you’re not going to say it’s your new favourite after only one listening. It’s the same with the 365 whiskies I tried.
So with that in mind, I’ve decided to call out some of my highlights from my Whisky a Day adventure, a few interesting facts, and then finish up with not “a favourite” but a list of the top four whiskies that really rocked my world.
Whisky collection – start of year vs end: I tried to buy whiskies at bars whenever I could, but obviously there were just a couple of bottles I picked up along the way. I’ll let the pictures tell the story…
So does a Whisky a Day keep the doctor away? Well, throughout 2014 I drank a whisky a day and had ZERO visits to the doctor. In the first 2 weeks of of 2015, I took my foot off the gas whisky wise and didn’t have one each day…then BAM – I came down with a nasty virus and had to go to the doctor. You be the judge!
Some special moments of the year:
- Glenrothes 1969 – The MacPhail’s Collection. The first truly outstanding whisky of the year that really made me sit up and take notice. I can still remember the taste now, it was like liquified Christmas pudding.
- The Balvenie Bourbon Refill Barrel 40 Year Old Cask Strength Single Malt (Barrel 17703): Drinking 40 year old Balvenie straight from the barrel in the warehouse where it’s been maturing for the last four decades. Wow.
- Gordon & MacPhail 1940 Generations Glenlivet 70 Year Old Cask Strength Single Malt: This really was like drinking history. Seventy years old, laid down in 1940 during the Second World War. Stunning.
Worst whisky of the year: only a few made it to the rarified air of being dubbed a “truly awful” whisky. Somewhat surprisingly, I didn’t get around to tasting many commonly available entry level whiskies, e.g. Johnnie Walker Red Label. In the interests of keeping the positive vibe going, I’ll refrain from singling out one whisky as the worst of the year. Suffice to say though, that I was pleasantly surprised by the overall quality of whiskies I tried – I thought to get to 365 whiskies I would’ve had to try a lot more truly awful whiskies!
Favourite new distilleries that I hadn’t previously discovered: A tie between Isle of Arran Distillers (Isle of Arran, Scotland) and Great Southern Distilling Company (Albany, Western Australia, Australia). Searching out 365 different whiskies really opened my eyes to trying some new whiskies I hadn’t tried before. These two distilleries aren’t huge names, but geez they both produce some amazing stuff.
Most surprising whisky of the year: Kavalan Solist Ex-Sherry Cask Strength Single Malt.
Best Islay Malt: Very hard to split, there’s been so many great ones. I’d have to nominate it a tie between the Blackadder Smoking Islay Raw Cask (Sherry Cask) Cask Strength Single Malt and Douglas Laing’s Old & Rare Port Ellen 30 Year Old Single Malt.
An honourable mention goes to the SMWS 3.194 Surf and Turf BBQ.
Slightly surreal but fantastically fun experiences of the year:
- Ardbeg 10 year old…through the medium of interpretive dance. Taking part in Scottish comedian Alan Anderson’s “Whisky For Dafties” show at the Perth Fringe Festival.
- Finch Whiskies: interviewing the winner of Germany’s Best Whisky 2014 for Stuttgart’s Die Neue 107.7 radio station? Yes indeed.
Favourite Blended Whisky: Suntory Hibiki 21 Year Old Blended Japanese Whisky
Favourite Australian Whisky: Great Southern Distillery – Limeburners Barrel M93 Single Malt
Best value whisky: Edradour 12 Year Old Caledonia Selection. Purchased online from Japan (god bless Claude Whiskies!), around just $65AUD for the bottle (plus shipping).
Honourable mention: Glendronach 15 Year Old Revival 100% Sherry Matured Single Malt. At around $100AUD/bottle in Oz, for the amount of rich, full flavour you get in this it’s hard to go past this one – cracking value.
Over the course of the year I’ve found my tastes gravitating to the rich, full flavoured, syrupy, somewhat fruity almost chewy drams – especially the cask strength releases. Even at the end of the year when I thought I might find it difficult to uncover new whiskies I’d yet to try, I was still discovering absolutely outstanding whiskies in this style, such as the Murray McDavid Dufftown Distillery Speyside Single Malt Whisky (distilled 1979).
So how much did it all cost?! A question I’ve been avoiding all year…I’ve kept track of the price I paid for almost all drams and bottles, but I’ve resisted the urge to add them up until now as I was afraid to find out. This quite sizable figure adds up to a grand total of…$10,053.60. Wow. And that doesn’t include the cost of my trip to Scotland, that’s just the whisky costs through the year. Ouch!
So what were your damn favourites for the year??! It’s impossible to land on one…so here are my top four whiskies of the year – in alphabetical order, to avoid any arguments! Here we go:
- Balvenie Bourbon Refill Barrel 40 Year Old Cask Strength Single Malt (Barrel 17703): Stunning. Velvety, creamy; like honey and butter on hot toast. It really was special to be drinking 40 year old Balvenie straight from the barrel in the warehouse where it’s been maturing for the last four decades.
- Glenrothes 1969 – The MacPhail’s Collection: “Like liquified Christmas pudding”. It was a standout when I tried it in March, and it’s still a standout looking back over the year. The first time I came to love the nose of a whisky even more than the taste.
- Great Southern Distillery – Limeburners Barrel M93 Single Malt: Like golden syrup slathered on top of hot buttered crumpets. I bought the last bottle from the cellar door, then when I heard there was another bottle available at a bottle shop in South Perth I grabbed that as well. A stunning drop!
- Kavalan Solist Ex-Sherry Cask Strength Single Malt: What a colour, what an intense flavour! I tried the Kavalan thinking it would be a “truly awful” whisky seeing as it’s from Taiwan and who’s ever heard of a good Taiwanese whisky, right? It blew me away and deservedly takes its place in the top echelon for the year.
So there you have it, my standout top 4 whiskies of the year. Simply sublime, each of them.
What now for Whisky a Day? My passion for whisky has only intensified, there are some grand plans in the years ahead but in the short term I’m going to continue exploring new whiskies and posting tongue-in-cheek tasting notes here at Whisky a Day. I’m also starting to explore whisky and food pairing and also cooking with whisky, so stay tuned for some of that.
Before I go, I must thank a few people. Thanks to you readers for your support, interaction and for making this adventure so fun and intriguing. Thanks also to the many fine bartenders, whisky industry folks and others who I’ve shared a dram with – I have learnt so much and my appreciation of this fine spirit has grown immeasurably. Special mention to the guys at a couple of Perth’s finest whisky bars, Helvetica (Jason, Hutch, Gareth and the rest of the gang), Varnish on King (Xander! Absolute legend of a whisky fiend), Canton Lounge (Steve), Bobèche (Joe) and of course The Hoff of The Flour Factory / Luxe Bar / every other damn bar in town. These guys, plus countless others, are bartenders who are all so passionate and knowledgeable about their industry and also about whisky. It really was a pleasure to sit across the bar from you guys on a random Tuesday night and shoot the breeze about this amazing amber liquid.
Special thanks also to Dram Full – Perth! What an amazing whisky community we have here in Perth, mainly thanks to the driving force behind it all – Nathan DeTienne. I’ve learnt so much from Nathan and all the other guys who are active, plus I’ve been fortunate to share some amazing drams with some fellow whisky fiends.
But most of all I’d like to thank my three “whisky tasting lieutenants” – Brett, Giles and Joel. Three of my best mates, you magnificent bastards have always been there to share a dram, split a bottle, or help us twist one another’s arms to have just one more dram…and I know that we will have many more whisky adventures over the years ahead.
Todd (aka Whisky a Day)