It’s been an amazing year for me in whisky. I’ve tried more spirit in 2017 than any year previous. I started reviewing for Toronto Whisky Society, and made lots of friends and contacts in the Toronto whisky scene. As I reflect on 2017, I wanted to share some highlights.
Ill start with my biggest disappointment of 2017. Without a doubt it’s Macallan 12 Year Double Cask. Macallan moved past their 1824 Series and released an age statement expression which combined sherry seasoned in American and European casks. I was hoping it was a bridge between the 12 Sherry Oak (which I love), and the 12 Fine Oak, but it fell short in my opinion. I suspect Macallan used too many re-fill casks which lacked the boldness of the sherry and the complexity of the ex-bourbon.
Best whisky I’ve reviewed this year. This category does not quality of my Whisky of the Year because some of these bottles were released prior to 2017 or were private bottlings not released to the general public.
Macallan Cask Strength received my highest score of 2017. I finally pulled the trigger on this bottle. It cost a pretty penny on the secondary market, but my curiosity overruled my wallet. I was not disappointed! Big, bold, luxurious sherry bomb. Everything you want in a sherried scotch with the Macallan signature I love.
The two exclusive Kavalan bottles I reviewed were both exceptional expressions of single barrels picked by KavaFan. The Ex-Bourbon and Port Cask Solists show how a few extra years of maturation in the Taiwanese climate can take a great whisky and make it epic. Both these expressions were aged 2+ years more than the standard Solist releases. The results were added boldness, complexity, viscosity, and richness. KavaFan will be releasing more barrel picks in 2018 and I am so excited to try them! If you want to checkout KavaFan, find them of Facebook.
Whisky of the Year Runner-up. I am a huge fan of Ardbeg, There hasn’t been a yearly release I didn’t like, and 2017’s release I loved! Ardbeg Kelpie uses some virgin oak influence and the results were very good. My tasting notes for Ardbegs are always interesting. When you see “diaper wipes” you probably don’t salivate, but somehow their whisky’s always appeal to me. Kelpie is like liquid Hickory Sticks. I love the bold, unforgiving punch on the palate you get from it. Really good stuff!
Whisky of the Year Winner! 2017 was a great year for Canadian whisky. The Northern Border Collection finally showcased Canadian whisky in a way that was different from the typical Rye and Coke mixer you order at a bar. These expressions were meant to be sipped like other fine whiskies. Canadian Club also released the oldest spirit ever in Canada, the CC 40 Year Old. But the highlight for me, and my Whisky of the Year 2017 was definitely the Lot 40 12 Year Cask Strength. The standard Lot 40 rye was somewhat of a unknown secret. Rarely did you see it on bar shelves along with Crown Royal or Canadian Club. But the 12 Year Cask Strength version absolutely took it to a new level. Not only was it bottled at cask strength but it was aged almost double the time of the standard release. This gave it much more complexity and richness. The banana notes alone are worth the price of the bottle. The hype around this release grew immensely prior to it coming out in October, mainly because members of Toronto Whisky Society tried it on their distillery tour back in March, and blogged about it consistently until it was released. I waited in long lines, searched the LCBO inventory, and drove around the city to secure the 4 bottles I ended up getting. It was pretty crazy how much demand this release mustered. But with only 4,968 bottles and a price tag of just $70 CAD you can understand why. My open bottle is even better since I reviewed it. Oxidation has rounded it out and smoothed it down very nicely. I would re-score it a point or two higher now, and for these reasons it is my Whisky of the Year!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my reviews, I have a lot of amazing stuff to share in 2018. Happy New Year! Cheers!