2018

My Favourite Drams of 2018 (Part 2) by Jason Hambrey

Basically, my favorite special releases this year.

1. Caroni 2000

Caroni is a closed rum distillery from Trinidid & Tobago, and is now renowned for its unique and complex spirit. This is my favourite spirit I tasted this year, 55%, unsweetened, and 17 years of age. I bought it at a whisky store in New York. Heady and complex - immensely spicy and medicinal, with all sorts of rubbery and tarry notes (to the point that some friends thought they’d get a headache just smelling the stuff). If you like intense, medicinal peated whiskies this stuff works a charm. Read my review here.

2. Talisker 8 Year Old Cask Strength

This stuff is just awesome. If this could possibly be turned into a regular release, I would love it. Huge, complex, smoky, spicy, fruity.

Read my review here.

3. A few other Diageo Special Releases: Cladach, Inchgower 27 Year Old, Carsebridge 48 Year Old, and Caol Ila 35 Year Old

These don’t merit their own line item like the Talisker 8 because of some rather prohibitive pricing. The Cladach is a remarkable complex blended smoky malt with lots of marine character. The Inchgower 27 was uniquely herbal and lightly fruity, the Carsebridge was incredibly rich and elegant, and the Caol Ila 35 is among the best whiskies I’ve ever tasted. If you get a taste of any of these, you won’t be dissapointed.

4. Lot no. 40 11 Year Old Cask Strength

I don’t have a lot more to add - this stuff is just awesome, as always. Intense, rich, and moreish. Big and fruity this year. If they keep bottling these upwards of 8 or 9 years they’ll probably be a perennially on this list.

Read my review here.

5. Century Reserve 30 Year Old and Canadian Rockies 21

Two old corn whiskies coming out of highwood - the incredible 30 year old from BC liquor stores which came in at 45% and only 150$! The Canadian Rockies 21 is always good, too.

Read my review here.

5. Crown Royal 13 Year Old Blender’s Mash (Noble Collection)

This whisky tastes just like an elegant bourbon, but it is immensely complex with a ton of rye character. In a blind tasting of over 100 whiskies, this came in my top 2. It’s sadly only available in the USA, but if you can get it, you should…

Read my review here.

6. J.P. Wiser’s 35 Year Old

This year’s isn’t quite as unique or rye heavy as last year, but it’s a bit more approachable and still unbelievable. Perhaps the pinnacle of Canadian whisky at the moment.

Read my review here.

7. J.P. Wiser’s Seasoned Oak

A 19 year old corn whisky, with a very lovely dash of rich rye. Oaky and rich, too.

Read my review here.

8. Westland Amaretto Cask

This was one of my favourites of a the year - a cask sample of an amaretto casked Westland. I thought it might not work at all, but it was just awesome!

Read my review here.

9. Westland Garryana

I tried a single cask of an exclusively Garry oak matured westland, and I understand why they blend it - it is intense and rich, similar to Japanese oak in its overpowering nature. When Westland applies their blending magic, though, we do get something truly spectacular in the peated releases.

Read my review here.

10. Port Charlotte 2007: CC1

I quite like the cask strength port charlottes, and the cognac cask does the trick here…very nice!

Read my review here.

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.