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.

My Favourite Drams of 2016 (Part 1) by Jason Hambrey

You may have noticed that I have been posting a large number of very highly rated reviews of late - and now you know why - so I could squeeze in all of my favorites! This year has continued to be a stellar year for whisky, and looking back I have put together a few of my favorite (not necessarily the most highly rated) whiskies of the year. With all the marketing buzz over special releases, it can sometimes be too easy to forget about some of the great standard bottles.

I'll post part 2 of this list tomorrow, which will include my favorites of the bunch. Otherwise, these aren't in any particular order:

1. Longmorn 16 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky

This whisky is sadly no more - this last year it was repackaged (and doubled in price) because of popularity and the continued pressing towards luxury whiskies from many Scotch producers. Sad. However, this is still around in some stores and worth getting. It's a lighter style whisky which is immensely complex and the 48% ABV gives it a great body and finish.

Read my review here.

2. Crown Royal Hand Selected Single Barrel Canadian Whisky

I absolutely love this stuff. It is big, creamy, and very confectionary, and some barrels are incredibly complex. Tasting it makes you taste drops of this stuff at the core of so many Crown Royal Products, and it is a favorite of mine to pull out for random tastings. One of the best Canadian whiskies you can buy, when you can find it.

Read my review here.

3. Masterson's 10 Year Old Straight Rye Batch 1 Canadian Straight Rye Whisky

This is magnificent stuff, and batch 1 was my favorite of all the batches of Masterson's - my favorite brand of straight rye. It is still kicking around in Quebec among other places, and it is breathtaking straight rye. It'll show you how good the rye can be up in Canada...

Read my review here.

4. Canadian Rockies 21 Year Old Canadian Whisky Batch 001

Though originally bottled for the Taiwanese market, this hit the shelves in Western Canada for the first time this year. Very complex, well-aged corn whisky which has brilliant leathery complexity, and is bottled at a good 46% for more flavor than many of the older Canadians that we see.

Read my review here.

5. Amrut Peated Cask Strength Batch 12

Amrut makes some terrific whiskies, and this is my favorite of all the Amruts that I have tried. It's not overly smoky - but has wonderful complexity and some very notable dried flower notes. I tasted nearly 60 of my unopened whisky bottles in the last year, and this was a surprising standout that was hard to beat in various flights.

Read my review here.

6. Longrow 18 Years Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Springbank makes terrific whisky, and this beauty of a long aged, heavily peated whisky is elegant, rich, fascinating stuff. Even at the price, it does pretty well value-wise for old Scotch. Perhaps one of the best standard 18 year olds in Scotch Whisky.

Read my review here.

7. Lagavulin 12 Years Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Lagavulin produces a terrific 16 year old, but every year they do a special release of a 12 year old which is bottled at cask strength. The stuff out of Lagavulin is great, and this smoky delight does not disappoint.

Read my review here.

8. Bowmore Laimrig 15 Years Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Yes, you'll notice that I have a penchant for good cask strength peated whisky. Good peated whisky, alongside good rye, is my favorite style of whisky. This whisky is 15 years old and matured in sherry casks which bring in great fruitiness and complexity to complement the smouldering peat. For what it is, it is usually very well priced too.

Read my review here.

9. Laphroaig 10 Year Old Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky

I was only introduced to this whisky during the summer, and I fell in love with it (no surprise). It's laphroaig, but a lot bigger which does wonders too for the complexity. Any big peat lovers need to try to get a taste of this stuff.

Read my review here.