My top 10 Whiskies of 2018
It’s amazing how it’s already February. January just flew past, but since it is still the beginning of the year and I’ve already had the chance to try some really nice whiskies, I thought it could be fun to sum up some of the favourite and most memorable drams of last year. It was a tough choice and through researching this article I realized that I’ve certainly have had a lot of whisky in 2018, so very excited to see what’s waiting this year.
They’re not in any specific order and I’m sure I’ve forgotten about some incredible drams, but from memory these 10 whiskies still linger on my brain and palate.
Brenne Cuvée Speciale
My newfound favourite whisky, which is so incredibly unique in flavour and origin. American ex-ballerina Allison Parc founded the company and the whisky is matured in virgin limousin European oak and finished in cognac casks. For me both the nose and the palate is just like foam bananas and I’ll probably do a foam banana + Brenne pairing sometime soon as well.
I first nosed Brenne at a tasting where we were introduced to the bottle because the guy hosting the tasting said it was quite weird on the nose. After that I really wanted to try the whisky and ordered a sample bottle from Master of Malt and ever since that I’ve been a massive Brenne fan. They’ve recently released their first 10yo so that is definitely on my list of whiskies to try in 2019.
I first tried this bottle last autumn during a visit to Sweden. We visited Ardbeg Embassy, a whisky bar in the old town of Stockholm, and since I’ve loved the packaging for this bottle I had previously been looking to try it, simply based on its appearance. I’m so happy the cover matched the book since this became one of my absolute all time favourite drams. And my lovely boyfriend bought me a bottle, intended as a Christmas gift, but when I got appendicitis in November he gave it to me as a gift to cheer me up when I was in a lot of pain and had to go to the hospital.
The Milsean (meaning sweet in gaelic) is matured in re-toasted Portuguese red wine casks and has a really complex sweetness, along with such a smooth and lovely oak character that really suits my taste.
Kavalan Solist Port
I mean; w o w.
That was exactly what I thought when I tried a Kavalan Solist for the first time. This rich and gorgeous whisky lingers with you and makes you finish the dram dangerously quick. It’s full of dark fruit flavours, a subtle oakiness and rich sweetness that derives from the hot climate of Taiwan under which it has been matured. This whisky is what made me so fascinated with international whiskies and how different cultures and countries take whisky and make it their own. It’s fascinating! Our bottle of Kavalan Solist Port is unfortunately already all gone, so perhaps its time to get my hands on another bottle soon again.
The first time I ever tried Kavalan was at a tasting in Edinburgh where we tried Japanese, Taiwanese and Swedish whiskies next to each other. And it was one of the best tastings I have ever been to. Good enough for two of the whiskies I had that evening to be featured on this list.
One of the amazing perks of my job is being able to meet interesting people and sometimes even take part of industry secrets, not yet released into the world. When Dr Bill from Ardbeg & Glenmorangie visited us last spring, he was kind enough to bring his new Ardbeg Grooves with him. I already was totally in love with Ardbeg, since it was the first whisky I ever liked, so I was already expecting great things. But the smooth, sweet smoke that met my nose and palate was unlike anything I could’ve guessed. I even convinced my dad to buy a bottle (and pay for it), on the terms that it has to live in his private whisky bar in the house in Sweden…
Grooves has been partially matured in heavy-charred red wine casks. The heavy charring caused “grooves” on the inside of the cask and hence the name.
Compass Box Hedonism
Hedonism was the first bottle that I ever owned. I won it in a raffle and wasn’t expecting much at all, since I had just started to explore the world of whisky and barely even knew what grain whisky or Compass Box was. This blended malt has a heavy note of vanilla in it and is very smooth and mellow. The marketing often mentions that it has a quite female character and I hope that is because along with the sweetness it also has some complex spice to it. I often feel that grain whiskies are under appreciated as only an ‘ingredient’ in blends, but I really enjoy having a dram of grain whiskies on their own as well.
Glen Moray Chardonnay 10
It was such a tough choice of deciding wether or not I wanted the cask strength cider cask Glen Moray to be featured on my list, but in the end I couldn’t not put the 10yo Chardonnay cask finish on here because it is simply a great dram. A very white wine-like palate, with green and yellow fruits on the nose and a fresh finish that goes well with pretty much anything. Matured in American oak chardonnay seasoned casks. I think the Chardonnay cask finished Glen Moray is pretty much my go-to dram of any occasion at the moment. I also put it in to the cream in my birthday cake and I can’t wait to have it as part of my whisky & cheese pairing that I’ll write about soon!
Deanston Brandy Cask
I must admit that I’m a big fan of the combination of spicy and sweet that I usually find in cask strength sherries whiskies and I was incredibly satisfied by the similar character in this whisky, which although a resembling flavour still provided a new tasting experience that still makes my mouth water. The Deanston has been finished in French Brandy Casks and is 9 years old. I had it for the first time at the McIntyre Gallery Bar at The Scotch Whisky Experience and I’m so sad it’s a limited release. The Deanston Bordeaux which is also a limited release was another really nice whisky I had in 2018, but I happened to have quite a lot of it in one evening so the memory is good but a bit fuzzy...
I just love a whisky thats’ a little bit different and perhaps even weird. Maybe because I can relate to my own personality. The Tomatin Muscatel was another whisky I tried at work one day and I remember thinking how I didn’t like the nose at all. But on the palate my perception of the whisky completely changed and bursts of blood orange flooded my senses. I later had it in the blind tasting and still wasn’t a fan of the nose but loved the citrusy character of the palate. Muscatel is a fortified wine made from the muscat grapes and the whisky is 15 yo. Unfortunately there is only 6000 bottles available and when it’s gone, it’s gone…
Glenmorangie Cellar 13
This whisky will always mean a lot to me. My dad has a bottle of it in the house in Sweden and there’s only a tiny bit left. It is one of my dads favourite whiskies, and mine as well, because of the emotional connection we have to it. An old friend of ours died a few years back in cancer. He was the nicest person I have ever met and I still think it is so horribly unfair that he got sick. He was the type of person who had a lot of friends and cared about everyone. He often got bottles of whisky as gifts from his friends even though he didn’t like it at all, so he often gave the bottles away to his friends who he knew would appreciate and like the whisky. My dad was one of those friends that got some of the bottles. So last year my dad poured me a dram of this whisky and allowed me to taste it and it is a really lovely whisky. It is smooth but really complex and the connection to it just makes it really special. We have now decided not to drink anymore of that bottle but to instead save the last few drams in the opened bottle as a tribute and memory to Peter. My dad will probably buy another bottle of it to keep enjoying and drinking the whisky but the bottle he currently has will always carry a few drams in memory of our dear old friend.
This peated whisky has been matured in ex-bourbon barrels and then transfered in to 40l American oak casks. This results in an intense beautiful whisky that is throughly enjoyable without adding water even though it is at 50.8% abv. This was another of the whiskies I had at the tasting which included Taiwanese, Japanese and Swedish whiskies. I’ve not been able to try another dram of this since I had it the first time so it might be my delusional romantic memory of this whisky that is speaking at the moment. But from what I can remember I was thoroughly surprised by this one, because the Swedish whisky we had just before this one wasn’t that overwhelming, but this completely changed my mind about what Swedish whisky is and even made me a bit proud to be from my beautiful little nordic country.
Also a shoutout to High Coast Distilleries website where you can be as whisky geeky as you’d like since they write every little detail about the recipes for their whiskies, where they source barley and water as well as casks.