Whisky Connosr

The best New World releases of 2012

By Dominic Roskrow

AUSTRALIAN SINGLE MALT WHISKY

85 Bakery Hill Classic Single Malt, 46%

Bakery Hill has been at the forefront of Australian whisky for some years now, but David Baker's struggled to keep making good whisky and simultaneously open export channels for it. That's about to change, and a good thing too, because this is very good indeed - clean, fresh, and malty with plenty of honey and vanilla - smooth, blemish free and excellently made , this wouldn't look out of place in Speyside.

88 Bakery Hill Cask Strength Peated Classic Single Malt, 60%,

If you've tasted any Connemara Irish peated whiskey you'll know and love this. This whisky is the most improved in the Bakery Hill range, so that now with water the peat weaves patterns round the standard green apple, honey and vanilla heart of the malt. Australian peat is very different to that of Scotland and here it is wispy, smoky and sweet.

90 Bakery Hill Double Wood Malt, 46%

This is the distillery's flagship brand and it's up there with anything New World whisky has to offer, a delicate and sophisticated whisky which reflects the rise and rise of this distillery. The nose is subtle, with plum and peach, on the palate there are chewy orange and other citrus notes, honey, coconut and caramel. The finish is sweet and rounded.

83 Southern Coast Single Malt Whisky Cask 3, 46%

What a difference a cask makes, say Southern Distillers, and they're not kidding. Just five casks have been made available so far, each one hand-crafted in traditional fashion by people who know what they're doing and each one pushing out the envelope.This is the nuttiest and dustiest of the five and it wears its youth on its sleeve, but there are no feints and the whisky marks a step up in quality, with date, walnut, and golden syrup in the mix.

89 Southern Coast Single Malt Whisky Cask 4, 46%

Southern Coast Distillers is part of a new wave of distillers in Victoria, South Australia, and unlike many fledgling distilleries who bottle too early and learn their trade in public view, with blemished linseed sappy malt, this distillery has hit the ground running and is already making fabulous whisky. There isn't an off note here, and it combines lemon sherbet bonbons, honeyed vanilla, bitter dark chocolate liquorice and some pepper. Delightful.

86 Southern Coast Malt Whisky Cask 5, 46%

I'm not sure that if you loved Cask 4 you'd be so pleased with Cask 5, because it's completely different. This has the shadow of Bill Lark all over it, with big over-cooked red apple flavours combining with walnut oil, orange liqueur, treacle toffee, stewed berries and some oaky astringency.  It's rich, full, complex and a grower - and i can feel a new love affair starting right here

86 Sullivan's Cove Cask HHD430, 47.5%

Sullivan's Cove whisky is matured in French oak and bottled as single cask offers and there is a big variation in taste. As a rule of thumb, though, anything with a number higher than 330 is worth checking out. This is a standout, moving away from the Speyside style fruitiness of some casks towards treacle, chicory coffee and burnt hazelnut on the nose. The taste has apricot, sweet orange, honey, cinnamon and menthol, and the finish is soft and light.

BELGIAN SINGLE MALT WHISKY

90 Belgian Owl Cask L170711 4 year old 2012

Belgian whisky maker Etienne Boullion takes help and advice from Bruichladdich distiller Jim McEwan and it shows. Now the owner of the old Caperdonich stills and set for major expansion, Belgian Owl is literally on the move. Let's hope it retains the greatness of this malt. This is the distillery's best offering yet - a sweet rich vanilla laced fruity dessert whisky which is both refreshing and very more-ish. Alcoholic tinned fruits, particularly pear.

80 Belgian Owl Cask 4276140 5 year old 2012, 76.1%

Yep, you read that right. A whopping 76.1% ABV. Belgian Owl has matured its whisky in warm and brightly lit warehouses so the spirit sort of cooks. You have to add water and add water and add water until….darn it, you've gone to far. If you do manage to get it right - at about 46% -it offers nothing extra to what you get from the 46% version. Too much like hard work and really not worth the effort.

ENGLISH SINGLE MALT WHISKY

87 St George's Founder's Reserve Cask 0005 46%

You'll struggle to find this as it has been snapped up quickly, but if you can find it, don't miss out. This whisky was originally made by Iain Henderson and is bottled at five years old, and it marks a significant step forward for this fledgling distillery. The sappy notes have retreated and are being replaced by a delightful sweet lemon and creamy vanilla whisky. The pinprick pepper adds a delightful dimension.

91 St George's Chapter 7 Rum Finish 2011 edition, 46%

Any lingering doubts that English whisky means business are dispelled by this whisky masterclass. This is a new Orleans show band of a whisky, bursting with vibrancy and happy, celebratory note. The cask is all over this, with rum and raisin, milk chocolate chocolate and mocha contributing to an all round sweet treat. Not took sweet, though - and the malt at the centre of this sings.

87 St George's Classic Malt, 46%

This is set to be the first proper release in to the American market, and it's a good introduction point, with all the distillery characteristics on display and a delightful rustic peat base to set it all off. On the nose there is trademark sweet citrus, cracked pepper, though they're joined here by milk chocolate and creamed lime, and on the palate there's sweet lemon and lime sherbet, fruit cordial and peat.

83 St George's Distiller's Elect , 46%

Without doubt this distillery is developing a core style, with peat the main variant over a grape, gooseberry and lemon theme. This particular bottling is only available at the distillery and to some degree treads water after a series of great releases. The smoke is quite light but assertive, and there's a pleasant spiciness on the palate to shake things up a little. But it doesn't punch as effectively as Chapter 11 or the rum cask offering.

87 St George's Diamond Jubilee Commemorative Whisky, 46%

There will be lots of whiskies released this year to mark the British Queen's 60th year on the throne, not all of it fit for a Queen. But this is impressive. A house style is developing at this distillery and while this isn't anywhere near as peaty as Chapter 11, it forms a robust backbone to a whisky dominated by honeyed fruit and apple and pear compote. Like a good Royal street party, there's lots going on.

FRENCH SINGLE MALT

92 Glann ar Mor, September 2012, 46%

Glann ar Mor is a rising star in the world of whisky, one of three very impressive distilleries in the Brittany region in Northern France, and this new single malt, fresh from the cask at the back end of September, is its finest release yet. A mixture of soft tinned fruits, especially sweet pears in syrup, sweet vanilla ice cream and a delicate but assertive earthy underbed make this an utter delight. Magnifique.

90 Kornog Toal Esa Z'Gwech, 46%

Kornog is the peated version of Glann ar Mor and the whisky is released in batches. This one is the most intense, with oily, charcoally peat most evident. but what makes this whisky particularly special is a dark chocolate and lime candy heart, the concentrated pear notes and a refreshing sweet theme which holds off the oil and smoke elsewhere. Think Connemara and you're not far off.

88 Kornog Taouarc'h Pevared 12 BC 46%

Of all the releases I've tasted from this distillery, this version is the one which most resembles Glann ar Mor, stepping a big step away from the peat and towards the sort of earthy fruitiness that is typified by Glann ar Mor. There are more exotic fruits here two, kiwi and mango, perhaps, and something reminiscent of green salad. Surprisingly refreshing, too.

85 Kornog  Sant Erwan 2012, 50%

Bearing the easiest name of all the Kornogs to pronounce this is also the least challenging and complex. It is, pretty much, a straightforward peated whisky worth more citrus fruits than the others, some apple and pear in the mix, and some chill spices. The finish is long, smoky and spicy.Benefits massively from a little water.

80 Bastille Blended Whisky, 40%

Described as 'French blended hand-crafted whisky hand-made and finished in French Limousin oak', this is a real weirdo. It's more interesting than many blends and quite likeable, but it tastes less of whisky and more like a thin Southern Comfort, with liqueur-like orange, some menthol, gentle spice, and other aromatics. Hard to believe nothing has been added.

INDIAN SINGLE MALT WHISKY

89 Paul John Single Malt, 57%

A cask strength single cask bottling available through one UK outlet, this is still worthy of inclusion because it's further proof that India and Asia have the potential to produce world class malts. This is just three years old but it's blemish-free and packed with flavor. Orange, lemon and berries battle it out with jasmine, cinnamon and nutmeg, and although my sample is marked 'unpeated' and a fully peated version is planned for 2013, there's still some earthiness at the core. Very good indeed.

LIECHTENSTEIN SINGLE MALT WHISKY

83 Tellsington IV, 43.5%

Brace yourself, it's about to get bumpy. Liechtenstein is a tiny principality in central Europe and the Telser distillery sited there takes its whisky very seriously. Every stage, from drying the barley over smoke first to the red wine casks used for maturation, is designed to make this different to Scotch. You'll love it or hate it. The linseed oil nose isn't encouraging, but the liqueur-like flavors with fir tree, furniture polish and Rumtopf-style fruit compote have their own charm.

NEW ZEALAND WHISKY

80 Thomson 10 year old, 40%

Thomson is a small independent New Zealand whisky company with a limited amount of stock originally distilled at the now demolished Willowbank Distillery, and this is as young as New Zealand whisky currently gets. One suspects it would have benefitted from a couple more years but it's simple sugar and spice combo and rich citrus heart make it an uncomplicated but very drinkable session malt. It's a waltz of a whisky which kicks a bit at the death.

88 New Zealand Co 2011 Vindication, 52.3%

A single cask, cask strength 16 year old malt from the demolished Willowbank distillery, to celebrate the All Black World Cup victory and further evidence that New Zealand is back on track. this is whisky hitting its stride. Creamy and honeyed with a cracked lemon pepper undercoat, it's fresh, and very drinkable with a delightful sugar and spice combo running through it. Oak only really makes an appearance in the finale.

93 New Zealand Co 1990 Single Malt Cask Strength

Finished in New Zealand red wine casks, this is a Kiwi take on the Tasmanian port trick, and when combined with the full flavours resulting from its cask strength, this a brutal bruiser of a whisky. add some water and it's complex, fruity, spicy and rich and it's a revelation - truly great New Zealand whisky. How was this locked away so long? So good it beat Ardbeg Uigedail in a blind tasting. That's going some.

89 New Zealand Co 10 Year Old Doublewood 40%

My theory is that most whisky from Willowbank was matured in mainly tired or poor quality casks - certainly some bottlings have been poor. The New Zealand Whisky co seem to have set about saving some of them by recasting them and this relatively young one is a case in point. It has taken on rich red hues from its time in a second cask and the result is a marmite whisky that will divide the room. I'm in favour.

SWEDISH SINGLE MALT WHISKY

82 Spirit of Hven Rackafallsbyn Single Malt, 45%

There are now 14 distilleries in Sweden and this is the second one after Mackmyra to start bottling whisky, and it's rather good. It's clearly young, but there are big flavours here, including blackcurrant and rich citrus fruits early on, then a Highland style earthiness towards the end, with a distinctive peat lasting longest in to the finish. There is lots to like here, and with age the line between fruit and peat will become more blurred.

TAIWANESE SINGLE MALT WHISKY

94 Kavalan Solist Bourbon Cask, 57.1%

The gauntlet has well and truly be thrown down. After a great 2011, Indian whisky distiller Amrut has to come to the plate big time. Bring it on! - can't wait! This is the pick of the bunch, the whiskey equivalent of The Fountains of Wayne, an effervescent, dessert whiskey, which from the first aroma to the final finish is a consistent mix of vanilla, coconut, and over-ripe banana, sprinkled with icing sugar and cinnamon.

93 Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique, 60%

The Kavalan flag is unfurling fast. The whiskies are making it Stateside and they're improving from a very high base. A couple of degrees stronger than previously, this is far richer than any wine cask matured whisky has a right to be. This is huge, with a tropical nose of mango, melon and papaya and a hint of dustiness. The palate is astounding. Rich, sweet and rounded, it coats the mouth with an intense mixture tempered by burnt toffee and cocoa. Stunning.

91 Kavalan Solist Fino, 57.6%

Each cask of this nicely packaged malt is selected by the distiller, and so there is considerable variation between batches. This one is a step up from the last year's releases. It's slightly weaker but the nose has firmed up in to a delightful mix of fresh juicy grape and a spicy dustiness. Taste-wise this takes an amazing journey from plummy sweet fruit up front and a slow dominance of dry sherry at the end. The finish is longer than before. Excellent.

90 King Car Whisky, 46%, $100

King Car is the name of the Taiwanese company which owns the Kavalan brand and this lavishly packaged single malt is its standard bearer. It's not hard to see why. More subtle and complex than some earlier bottlings of Kavalan this has an exotic fruit, cream toffee and soft banana nose, and has bitter orange, dark chocolate and peppery on the palate. It's a rapier sharp, clean, and drying rather than sweet.

WELSH SINGLE MALT WHISKY

87 Penderyn Portwood, 41%,

At present this is a distillery-only bottling but we need to start a campaign to get it on general release because it is a modestly priced gem of a malt whisky. This is fruit compote in a glass, with blueberry, blaeberry, rose petal talcum powder and redcurrant on the nose, and strawberry jam, summer fruit cordial on the palate. It's a palate cleanser, all soft, fresh and fruity. Summer's arrived early.

90 Penderyn Portwood Batch 2, 41%

Penderyn will miss distiller Gillian MacDonald, who has gone to work at Glenmorangie, because it has been moving up the gears of late. This is a traveling circus of a whisky, with all sorts of oral treats to keep you entertained. It's not for the faint-hearted. There are rich stewed fruits, baked apple, blueberries, and spirit-soaked black and red berries all delivered with a power punch. Great.

INDEPENDENT IRISH WHISKEY

87 Writers Tears Pot Still Irish Whiskey, 40%

This is from an independent company inked to renowned whiskey maker Bernard Walsh, and it is described as of a style popular in James Joyce's Dublin (hence the name). Grain whiskey was a no-no at that time, so this uses no grain and is a mix of malt and pots still whiskeys. For its price and strength it is amazing - a big-hearted and full-flavoured whiskey with an oily, apply pot still heart and cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper spices.

92 Writers Tears Cask strength Pot Still whiskey, 53%

Well the name's spot on because at that price it definitely brought tears to this writer's eyes. What a shame because the liquid is eye-watering, too, a stunning big bruiser of a whiskey which coats the mouth mouth as berry and green fruits battle it out with oak, spice and grain oils - the whiskey equivalent to one of singer Sinead O'Connor's rants - powerful, impressive, a little bitter and twisted, utterly unforgettable and unmistakably Irish.

88 Connemara Bog Oak 57.5%

Bog oak is oak preserved in Irish peat bogs for 5000 years, and for this whiskey cask heads made of it are used for maturation. The whiskey is three year old Turf Mor only a year older mixed with some older whiskeys and it's intriguing. This has all the oily, burning dust smoky notes of a standard Connemara but the rubbery youthfulness of Turf Mor has gone and this is sweet, has orange notes, and a long, peaty sweet finish.