2017 was a great year for the Toronto Whisky Society (TWS), between hosting a number of wonderful tastings, visiting distilleries, reviewing whiskies, and of course all the great social events with members. It would be a waste to have all these great whisky lovers and not ask them for their whiskies of the year!
Read below to see what whiskies were the highlights for a number of TWS members.
2017 was a year of growth for the Toronto Whisky Society, and included many opportunities to try some fantastic whiskies! I posted 99 scotch reviews, 92 world whisky reviews and 47 bourbon reviews in the past 12 months, and these are the drams that took the cake for me:
Scotch of the Year: Speyside 43 1973 from the Whisky Agency
An unknown distillery, aged in (likely) Fino sherry casks, this beast of a dram was a fruit salad by the sea, with just the right amount of barnyard and minerality. By a wide margin, the best Speyside I’ve ever had and one of the top scotches I’ve experienced with a score of 94. This year was apparently the year of very old, undisclosed distillery/independent bottlings for me, as my runners up are two XO blended malts from The Whisky Agency and Whisky-Fassle, comprised of Macallan, Tamdhu and Glenrothes barrels from the 60s & 70s, plus young Glenfarclas. Another honourable mention to Old Pulteney 1983, an incredible 34yr vintage bottling!
Bourbon/Rye of the Year: Henry McKenna 10 Single Barrel Bottled in Bond
I had a lot of great bourbons this year, but none that completely blew me away, and none that scored over 90. This rated an 89 from me, and in addition to being one of my favourite bourbons this year, it was probably my favourite review, as I covered it while watching a Blue Jays win (and interspersed commentary throughout). Runner-up for me this year was Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch 6.
World Whisky of the Year: Glenora 13 Single Cask Peated
Until my trip to Nova Scotia in October, I would have assumed Lot No. 40 Cask Strength would take this award again, but when visiting Glenora, we got to try a number of drams, including this whisky that only came into existence as the result of a shipping error. It’s the first North American peated whisky that truly blew me away and is superior to many peated scotches of late. The icing on the cake was going home with 250ml from the single barrel in the gift shop. At a 91, it’s my highest rated Canadian whisky ever and one of the best world whiskies I’ve tried. Absolutely worth making the trip to Cape Breton. Runners-up: Lot No. 40 Cask Strength & Amrut 6 Single Cask Virgin Oak.
Scotch of the Year: Speyside 43 1973 The Whisky Agency
Imagine for a second the best butter you’ve ever had. Then imagine, slowly, your favourite type of meat, done in your favourite sauce. All balanced out, with the best flavours of things you didn’t love before, which are now things you’ll love again. This is a honey hive, the best butter ever, and a great dram, all in one.
Honourable Mention: Glen Moray 27 1988 Jack Wieber “Locomotive Breath” – A subtle, fun, nice dram. It not only opened my mind on what water can do to a dram, it also reminded me of my love of wonderfully tasty subtle drams.
World Whisky of the Year: Midleton Single Pot Still Virgin Oak Cask 83785
In a trip across Ireland, I found a virgin oak single cask whiskey that proved why Irish whiskey used to be king. One of the best whiskies I had all year, with huge flavours from start to finish. I went from sunny Dublin to a tropical island in a second. This is the reason I’ll be hunting down more Midleton in the future.
Honourable Mention: Heartwood Convict Resurrection – This would have been the best whisky of the year if the finish hadn’t broken down. That said, it was still one of the most unique and ballsy drams out there. Heartwood has proven, time and time again, that they make legendary drams, and will cost me quite a bit hunting them down from Canada in the future.
Bourbon/Rye of the Year: Sazerac 18 2015
My bourbon of the year comes from a previous year, like a lot of whiskies on this list. The last of the vatted juice shows it’s quality, and the fact of the matter is the company is going to be fighting tooth and nail to match this level of rye again. Big complex flavours abound in this whiskey.
Honourable Mention: High West Rocky Mountain Rye Very Rare 21 Rye. Each year there’s a few whiskies that remind us that we don’t need wacky, odd casks to have unique flavours. It takes time, patience, tastebuds that sharks are jealous of, and much more to make something this good. And High West pulled it off.
Time really does pass by quickly when you’re having fun… here we are again, reflecting at the end of a great year for personal milestones accompanied by some amazing whisky along the way. With over 400 new (to me) whisky experiences in 2017 – in large part due to the generosity of TWS members and the greater whisky community at large – picking out just one that stands out above the rest as “whisky of the year” is a fun, yet challenging task.
Scotch of the Year: Laphroaig 32
Bottled for the distillery’s 200th Anniversary in 2015 and comprised of a mix of first fill and refill Oloroso matured casks – really capped off the year nicely and is my personal pick for top Scotch and whisky of the year. Complex, rich and vibrant with a fantastic dynamic range and great harmony… just a phenomenal dram from start to finish, with a profile that is sadly getting harder and harder to find. Most importantly, this one that was poured and enjoyed in great company.
World Whisky of the Year: Chichibu The Peated 2015
Heavily peated, cask strength Japanese whisky? Yes please! Impressive maturity and range of flavours for such a young age, drinks quite civil for the strength… it’s a real beast of a whisky, but only where it really counts. Up there among the best peated whisky I’ve ever tried.
Bourbon/Rye of the Year: Booker’s Rye
A category still fairly new to me, and one I consciously tried to start exploring more this year… and down the rabbit hole of bourbon/rye we went! Just a big rye from start to finish, with rich aromas, viscous mouthfeel and a bold, full flavoured experience along with quite a bit of developed spices throughout.
All in all, truly a fun year and a big thanks to the people who made it special for the whisky experiences and memories. Here’s to many more… Cheers!
2017 has come and gone, and I was lucky enough to get to try some amazing whiskies over the course of the year. It was not easy narrowing down the list, but here are my top whiskies for last year.
Scotch of the Year: Laphroaig 32 Year
I’m a huge fan of this distillery, and the 32 year old release from sherry casks was stunning. The combination of peat, sherry and time worked together to create something magical.
Bourbon/Rye of the Year: Booker’s Rye
The retail pricing on this was a little extreme, but man was it a good rye. Bold, wonderful amounts of oak and spice. I went in with low expectations and was blown away.
World Whisky of the Year: Heartwood @#$%&*
For those that are not familiar with Heartwood, they bottle some of the most interesting Australian whisky out there. This expression was 11 years old and a mix of 2nd fill port and 1st fill sherry. Big, bold and unique. Was really fun to try something so novel.
This was a developmental year for me, in terms of whisky. Looking back I feel like I’m in a foggy haze. I know the prior year, paying close attention was such a new thing for me that my definition of great whisky easily stuck in mind. This year though, while epic components stood out, recalling one dram that brought it all and locked in my psyche… that’s a tough task.
Scotch of the Year: Brora 24 1977 IB-Rare Malts
Bourbon/Rye of the Year: Parker’s Heritage Collection 10th ed. 24yo
World Whisky of the Year: Wiser’s Lot 40 CS
I always find it very difficult to make my selections for whisky of the year. Once again I was lucky enough to try some fantastic whiskies this year and there are more than a few candidates that I would be happy to select. The top ones that came to mind for me without looking through my notes in detail were the Glenfarclas 40, Springbank 21 refill sherry single cask, Laphroaig 32, Lot 40 CS, The Whisky Agency Tennessee Whisky, and last but not least The Whisky Agency 43 year old 1973 Speyside I was able to try at a TWS tasting in September. In the end my choices for my whiskies of the year are:
Scotch of the Year: The Whisky Agency 1973 Speyside for the simple reason that I will remember it as the best unpeated ex-bourbon whisky I have ever had and likely one of the best whiskies I will ever have in this category.
Bourbon/Rye of the Year: The Whisky Agency Tennessee Whisky which was able to show subtlety and depth I don’t often see in American whisky.
World whisky of the Year: Lot 40 Cask Strength for being the best Canadian whisky I have ever had and for pushing the Canadian whisky category to new heights.
Here’s to more memorable whisky moments in 2018! Cheers.
This year I did not try that many new whiskies that blew me away. I had a few good value drams and a couple that I thought were an interesting take.
There was one stand out winner that really helped to boost it’s category and stood out as a clear winner for the year. This year I am looking at innovation in the market to determine my whiskies of the year.
Scotch of the Year: Glenfiddich XX. This was a part of their Experimental collection and really delivers a great dram for under $100 at the LCBO. This was very interesting and I was not expecting much out of it, but was very surprised at how much I enjoyed this bottle.
Bourbon/Rye of the Year: Pikesville Rye. This year I didn’t try any of the special/limited releases in the bourbon world. There are too many, the costs are too high and they often fail to deliver. This year I have been drinking what is on the shelf at the LCBO and the main standout for me was Pikesville Rye. This is the big brother of Rittenhouse Rye aged at 6 years and bottled at 110 proof. This is a rich, deep rye that is a very enjoyable sipper and worth grabbing a bottle if you want a little spice.
World Whisky of the Year: Lot 40 Cask Strength.
The World whisky of the year is often dominated by Amrut for me, as they have been putting out great whisky. This year there is a big change and I think we have seen this across the country. Finally Canadian whisky started to innovate and put together some great releases. I based more good Canadian Whisky this year than I ever had before.
The Wiser’s special releases were a great step forward and CC 40 was a worthy release. For me the standout of the year in the Canadian/World and overall whisky of the year was Lot 40 Cask Strength.
This was a deep delicious dram that works perfectly in a cocktail and is amazing on its own. The flavours are fantastic and this is definitely worthy of Whisky of the year! If you were able to get a bottle I hope you enjoy. I hear that something similar will be released again next year, so make sure you are ready to buy!!
Scotch of the Year: 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.
World Whisky of the Year: 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!
And in case you’re curious, here’s a link to our Whiskies of the Year, 2016 Edition