My Favourite Drams of 2018 (Part 1) / by Jason Hambrey

Here is my list of a few favourite drams this year. They are not necessarily the best whiskies I tasted in the past year – but the most memorable. I’ll divide it into two parts, as usual – the best standard (i.e. available) whiskies, and the best limited edition whiskies I’ve tasted. Here we go!

These are not in any particular order, so let’s start with Canadian:

1. Two Brewers Batch 8 and 10

Two Brewers released a great hopped whisky (batch 8) and a cask strength (batch 10) which were fantastic. I love the style, and through multiple tastings this year - blind and not blind - they stunned the participants.

Read my review of batch 8 here and batch 10 here.

2. Lohin McKinnon Chocolate Malt

When I visited Lohin McKinnon this year, they said the chocolate malt was hard to make because the malt became like coffee grinds in the lauter tun. Sometimes people found it a bit weird - a chocolate malt whisky aged solely in a Sauternes cask, but lots of people loved it and I found myself taking it to countless tastings with friends. There is a great kick of stout-like flavour mid-palate which is just wonderful.

Read my review here.

3. Shelter Point Single Malt

I ran a Canadian craft whisky tasting earlier this year and this just stood out, to me and participants - with lots of complexity and stone fruits. It was quite memorable.

Read my review here.

4. J.P. Wiser’s Wendel Clark

A sleeper this year - a mix of column and pot distilled rye, 11 years old. Yes please!

Read my review here.

5. Crown Royal Bourbon Mash, Northern Harvest Rye, and Blender’s Select

These whiskies are terrific to taste together. A funky rye geared towards blending, a whisky made very much like a bourbon, and a third whisky where that bourbon mash gets distilled through a column still again. Nosing bourbon mash (or blender’s mash) alongside blender’s select (or Crown Royal single barrel) is fascinating because you have all the flavours of the blender’s mash in the bourbon mash, but they bloom so wonderfully in the blender’s mash. It’s a great picture of some of the powerful, diverse distillates coming out of Canadian distilleries. Bourbon mash can be a bit rough, but the same stuff is just amazing in the 13 year old noble collection this year.

Read my review of Bourbon Mash, Northern Harvest Rye, and Blender’s Select.

6. Talisker 18 Year Old

This peaty whisky is so well balanced.

Read my review here.

7. Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2009

The winner of a massive blind tasting I led in the fall. It is really terrific stuff - a bit like the old Laddie Ten.

Read my review here.

8. Westland American Oak Single Malt

I just love this single malt. It is a great expression of a variation on a theme, single malt, while also being so distinctly American and not Scottish. It’s also a whisky that, as you drink more, you like it more.

Read my review here.

9. Amrut Intermediate Sherry and Peated Cask Strength

If you’ve never had either of these, you need to. They are truly some of the world’s great whiskies - a cask strength, sherry matured single malt made and matured in India, and a cask strength peated whisky made and matured in India. Amrut Peated Cask strength is probably on my top 5 whisky list.

Read my review of Intermediate Sherry here and Peated Cask Strength here.

10. A few gins! Glen Saanich Genever, Roku, and Dillon’s Unfiltered 22

I tasted my way through a number of impressive gins this year, and three really stood out. The first was Glen Saanich Genever (not really a gin, but close enough) made near Victoria BC - it is a genever made by steeping a number of spices and botanicals into Glen Saanich’s single malt spirit (notably star anise). It is just a wonderful spirit. My review is here.

Roku is a Japanese gin made by Suntory which incorporates seasonal botanicals . It is incredibly floral and complex, with a spicy bite from Sancho pepper. Perhaps the best gin I’ve had. Read my review here.

Dillon’s Unfiltered 22 is a gin made with 22 botanicals with a Niagara grape spirit base. It is the craft unfiltered IPA version of gin, and I love it. Immensely flavourful and complex. Read my review here.