My Favourite Drams of 2016 (Part 2) / by Jason Hambrey

This is part 2 of my list of favorite drams this year. Yesterday I posted about some very impressive drams, this ups the game even further. They aren't in any particular order, except the final dram, which is my favorite of the year.

1. Ardbeg Uigeadail

This is a standard bottling, but is quite batch dependent. I tasted 3 different batches last year, and one of them (L14 094 0843 6ML) was a stunner. Incredible Ardbeg here - beautiful smoke, minerality, and complexity.

Read my review here.

2. Elements of Islay Oc1

This independent bottler does some terrific work in this young Octomore matured in a wine cask. Huge and complex.

Read my review here.

3. The Rye Monster

Ever heard of this one? Probably not. It's because so few have actually had a taste of it - it is a vatting of my own. Home blending is something that I quite enjoy - mixing odds and ends of bottles that I am a little bored of, or sometimes trying to fill gaps that are missing in whiskies. I'll post more on this later, and, in fact, Mark Bylok of whsky.buzz reviewed this blend for me and rated it - to come on his site.

It is a stunning vatting, and as I worked with it more I found this to be just perfect - a blend of 100% straight rye whiskies from 4 distilleries:

  • Masterson's 10 Year Old Straight Rye (30%)
  • Collingwood 21 Year Old 100% Rye (30%)
  • Lot no. 40 (30%)
  • Stalk & Barrel Rye Cask 17 (10%)

All the elements play in very well together - medicinal Alberta rye, candy and fruit from Collingwood, tea and spice from lot no. 40, and a different bit of tea and spice from Stalk & Barrel. Brilliant stuff.

I'll post more on home blends later once some more external reviews come in - but this was good enough to make it into my top drams of the year, no question. 

4. Blanton's Straight from the Barrel

My favorite bourbon, only to be discovered this past year. I love Blanton's, but as cask strength it is full of such balance and flavor. Hard to find, and not available in North America, but if you can pick it up in Europe - do so.

Read my review here.

5. Darroze 40 Year Old

I had to squeeze an Armagnac in here. Armagnac is terrific spirit, and very old Armagnac can be found at a relatively low price. I'll review a number of Armagnacs in the Darroze line in 2017, but until then, I must still say this was one of the best spirits I tasted this year, and is not out of place whatsoever on this list. It was a wow spirit for me, and probably will be for you too if you like complex and rich spirits.

6. Brora 35 Year Old 1978

I only had a little spot of this one, but it is one of the best Scotch whiskies that I have tasted. Brora is well known for good reason, and the profile is right up my alley. It isn't worth the price, but it is lovely stuff - intricately balanced, complex, intriguing, and bold.

Read my review here.

7. Lot no. 40 Cask Strength

Another one that isn't available, but is everything that we might hope for - the complexity and terrific profile of Lot no. 40 - but bigger and longer. My fingers are crossed that this officially is released, and in the same breath that a younger version isn't released - the last batch of Lot No. 40 I tried was a tad immature and I hope they don't try to compensate youth with ABV as many tend to do these days.

Read my review here.

8. Lock, Stock, and Barrel 16 Year Old

Yes, we have come to my favorite dram of 2016 - even above Brora. This is so rare - a very well aged rye with terrific complexity and bottled at 53.5%. I rated it a 93, but I often wonder if it is in 94 territory (I later bumped it up to this!) - on par with the best nose I have ever smelled in Forty Creek Evolution and the legendary Alberta Premium 25 Year Old. The fruit, the spice, the floral notes, the medicinal notes, the grassy and green notes, the arugula, the tea - all of the best that rye and oak have to offer is present in this bottle. It's pricy, but it is a wow whisky nonetheless.

Read my review here.