My Favorite Whiskies: 2016 Edition

With the holiday season in full swing, lots of “best of” lists start popping up all over the place.  I’m not a fan of using the word “best” to describe a whisky.  Tastes are extremely subjective.  There’s no real objective criteria for referring to a whisky as “the best.”  Instead of a “best of” listing, I prefer to simply share some of my favorite whiskies I’ve tasted in the last 12 months.  This list features regular and limited bottlings.  I’m currently working on a budget whiskey list that will be up soon.  In the meantime…

MY FAVORITE WHISKY THIS YEAR

Hands down, the whisky I enjoyed most this past year is Lagavulin 25 year.  This bottling of Lagavulin is part of the distillery’s 200th anniversary.   Matured exclusively in sherry casks, this quarter century old whisky is everything I love about Lagavulin’s smoky profile, with added sherry richness and that intangible old malt characteristic.  It’s about as perfect as a whisky can get.  $1,200

FAVORITE AMERICAN WHISKIES

  • BOOKER’S RYE WHISKEY – Booker’s Rye is tops here.  This one-time release from Jim Beam is powerful, spicy, sweet and complex.  Unfortunately, just about the only way to get a bottle is to buy one on the secondary market. $300
  • REBEL YELL 10 YEAR SINGLE BARREL BOURBON – Wow!  This is definitely the sleeper hit of the year.  RY10 is a wheated bourbon sourced from Heaven Hill. Soft, rich, sweet, and spicy.  It’s got a great mouthfeel and, in my humble opinion, is better than Old Fitzgerald 12 year and W. L. Weller 12 year.  RY10 is priced just right at $50.  
  • MICHTER’S 10 YEAR OLD BOURBON – If you can find one selling for the suggested retail price of $100, buy it.  It’s a rich, spicy single barrel bourbon offering that is a big step up from Michter’s standard US*1 whiskies.  I should also mention Michter’s 10 year rye whiskey, which I also thoroughly enjoyed.
  • BARRELL BOURBON – Pick a batch, any batch.  You can’t go wrong with these small batch, barrel proof bourbons.  My favorite batches (as of the writing of this list) are 005, 006, and 008.   Very complex yet extremely drinkable whiskies. $80-$90
  • HIGH WEST BOURYE – This blend of bourbon and rye whiskey provides just the right amount of sweet and spicy.  $80
  • BOOKER’S BOURBON BATCH 2016-05 – I think this is the best standard offering from Jim Beam.  While all batches are worthy of purchase, Batch 2016-05 seemed to have a touch more character than previous batches this year. $60

FAVORITE SCOTCH WHISKIES

  • LAPHROIAG 32 YEAR – I tasted this after my 2015 list came out, and wow!  This one is one luxurious single malt.  It’s not the peaty punch to the face normally associated with Laphroaig.  Instead, this sherry cask-matured Islay whisky is slightly laid back, while demanding your attention with its rich sherried fruit notes and it’s elegant peat smoke (has peat ever been described as elegant??).  Can’t find it?  This year’s 30 year and 25 year are both stellar releases. $1,200 
  • CHIVAS REGAL ULTIS – The first blended malt from Chivas Regal.  Even though it’s bottled at a low 40% abv, it’s a bit richer and spicier than the standard Chivas Regal house style.  I like this one… a lot. $200
  • LAPHROAIG LORE – It’s described as the “richest of the rich”.  That may be true, compared to the brand’s standard offerings.  ~$110
  • COMPASS BOX THE CIRCUS – Limited to less than 2,500 bottles worldwide, The Circus might be my favorite blended Scotch released this year.  Its full of sweet and rich sherry notes.  Delicious. $275
  • COMPASS BOX THREE YEAR OLD DELUXE – Another classic release from Compass Box.  It is made up of .04% 3-year-old Clynelish.  The other 99.6% is MUCH older whisky.  Rich, fruity and smoky.  Good stuff.  $300
  • ARDBEG DARK COVE – Readers of this blog know I love a smoky, sherried whisky.  This Ardbeg is just that – full of powerful peat smoke and fruity sherry.  I enjoyed it more than Uigeadail. ~$100
  • ABERLOUR A’BUNADH BATCH 54 – I’m not sure why I waited so long to taste this sherry bomb.  A full review is forthcoming, but in short – it’s everything I expect from a cask strength, sherry cask-matured whisky.  Quite delicious.

WORLD WHISKIES AND OTHER SPIRITS

  • SUNTORY TOKI – A new blended whisky from Suntory, Toki is light enough to enjoyduring  the hot summer months in a highball but complex enough to hold up neat in a glass.  
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