91 Teeling Whiskey Co 21 Yr Old Single Malt, 57.5%, $250
Whoosh! Jack Teeling and whiskey maker Alex Chasko fire their first golden arrow with this weird and whacky whiskey. Did you ever listen to Jane's Addiction? This is to conventional whiskey what that band was to conventional rock. Finished in Sauternes casks, it's like nothing you've tasted from Ireland before. All the Irish characteristics are there but they're bent and twisted and put together in a new and exhilarating order. I wasn't sure at first. Now I'm begging for a refill just to make sure it all really happened
89 Teeling Whiskey Co Small Batch, 46%, $44
This is the first 'conventional' release from this fledgling Cooley breakaway company, and it is Irish whiskey's equivalent to a seemingly frothy sweet pop song which on closer inspection has barbed and cutting lyrics. It's a sweet Irish blend and seems like it. But it has a high malt content, is packed with flavour, and it easily justifies its price. It's creamy and rich with toffee notes, there's some tropical fruit and delicious rum and raisin milk chocolate notes. Not too cloying despite the sweetness, either
87 Wild Geese Classic Blend, 43%, $30
If there's a problem with the Wild Geese range it's that its whiskeys offer much but never have the conviction to strike out and be bold. Ironically, through, this is the one you'd expect to play safest of all and in fact it's the most interesting of the bunch. There are trademark apple notes but it flip flops appealingly. It has a creamy and toffee-ish heart, is full, soft and sweet, and has some orange fruit, apricot and peach notes. Not unlike a classy Canadian whiskey.
85 Wild Geese 4th Centennial Limited Edition, 43%, $65
Grandiose name for a perfectly acceptable but ultimately tame and straight down the line Irish whiskey. There are hints of pot still oiliness and the expected green fruits are in place but the only new trick on offer here is the fact that it is less sweet and cloying then its brand siblings, the apples are like baked apples filled with mincemeat, and there is nutmeg and cinnamon in the mix. Frustrating in that it hints and greatness but doesn't follow through.
84 Wild Geese Single Malt, 43% $80
If you've ever tasted Connemara peated whiskey, you'll recognise this. As you'd expect for an Irish whiskey it's sweet, with over ripe apples and some pureed, almost creamy, pear. But that's all offset by a sooty, burned dust smokiness, and some gentle spice. It's quite soft and easy drinking and the taste is never less than interesting. But these days it's up against some stiff competition.
87 Limeburners Single Malt M79, 61%, $AUS130
Nobody hollers louder than an Aussie when he wants to. Call that a knife, mate? This is a knife. This malt is matured in 100 litre American oak casks and finished in port barrels just as Cask M76 is, but if that whisky was all about pub rock, this is Wolfmother, a hard hitting, rich, forceful, but complex wave of loveliness, with fig and dates to the fore, baked peach, and crystallised brown sugar. It's creamy, rich, mouth coating and there's some menthol and cough sweet in there for good measure.
85 Nant Single Malt, 43%
Two different malts from the same distillery and reminiscent of neither, this is a creamy, rich, refreshing, departure from the most common styles of Australian whisky and it's ample proof that diversity will be a major part of the Oz story. This is milky chocolate and cocoa, almost like Cachaca, with some soft violet and red wine notes and somewhat bizarrely, blackcurrent sorbet. After all I said about shouting Aussies above, this is anything but - a delicate, light fingered exercise in style.
84 Limeburners Single Malt M76, 43% $AUS130
Arguably the most improved whisky in the world, Limeburners is a mainland Australian whisky whisky and is now unrecognisable from the fledgling releases of a few years back. This is matured in 100 litre American oak barrels and finished in port, and it is big and rich in flavour, with oily fruit and floral notes, a trace of young green barley and menthol, liquorice and spicy cardamom. Australia's whisky industry is a tidal wave slowly starting to swell. It has some way to travel but when it strikes it'll be huge.
93 Millstone Rye 100, 50%, 53 Euros
Oh my golly gosh! From the distillery that brought you the best New World Whisky of 2012 comes another contender for the title in 2013. This is called 100 because it's 100 per cent rye distilled in pot stills - no mean skill in its own right -100 per cent proof and 100 months old. That's over eight years and so it's no baby. This whisky is big, and perfectly balanced between honey and fruit, and sparkling distinctive raunchy spice, with some ginger biscuits thrown in. I'd love to give it 100. I can't. But this is rye to die for. Superb.
94 Amrut Greedy Angels, 50%, $225
A whopping three quarters of the spirit put in to the casks was taken by the greedy angels - but who can blame them? This is nectar, kissed by angels - and it ends the debate once and for all over whether Amrut should sit at malt whisky's highest table. It has a big waft of crystallised pineapple, tropical fruits and spiky spice on the nose. On the palate, red liquorice, syrupy jellied fruits, some mandarin, cherry lozenge and tinned strawberries. And the coup de grace? The same menthol rancio you would kill for in a 30 year old Scotch. This is Amrut's oldest ever whisky, it's as rare as hen's teeth - and just eight years old. Awesome.
91 Paul John Single Cask Whisky P1-163, 57% £60
Another hard to get Indian whisky but further proof that Indian whisky isn't a one trick pony. This single cask release is the second from the distillery, and a significant step upwards; an altogether more complex whisky with an earthy prickly peaty at one level and a rich pureed pear heart with orange fruit, and berries. The combination is quite gorgeous and with a little water you get whisky's answer to a summertime flower show. Impressive stuff.
New Zealand whisky
85 Thomson 18 year old Barrel No 22, 46%, $142NZ ($120)
Mat and Rachael Thomson are a do it yourself, hands on, whiskey business moving cask by cask towards building their own sizeable and successful whisky business - and they seem to know what they're doing. Truth be told, much of what's left from the Willowbank distillery is average. This isn't. It's an example of just how good the distillery could be, with citrus at its heart but gutsy and prickly savoury notes and some salt and pepper to fill it out. Late on there's a trace of spearmint and even menthol.
79 Embrujo, 40%, NA
This is a Spanish whisky from the Granada region. It's not Spain's first whisky or its best, but there are signs that this could eventually be a contender. Its problem is that it has sulphur all over it and it's very hard to know whether this is a deliberate attempt to empower the malt or sloppy whisky making. Get past it though, and this is a thin, light orange and mandarin aperitif whisky, and ideal to serve chilled early on a sunny, summer, Spanish evening. It's about context. Not earth shattering though.
86 Spirit of Hven Seven Stars, 45%, $179
This is the second release from this tiny independent Swedish distillery and it takes a confident step forward from the first though it's not the finished article yet. The youthfulness is there but there's much to admire, too - citrus notes, mainly lemon, some melon, tropical fruit- mango perhaps? - and some soft orange fruits make for a gentle, almost blend-like whisky. Late saltiness and a touch of pepper ensure it's not cloying and distinctively Swedish. Very encouraging.
90 Saentis Appenzeller Cask Strength Peated, 52%, 55 Euros
Two years ago I included this on a world whisky table at a London whisky and music festival which attracted 1000 cool and trendy music fans in their 20s who knew nothing about whisky. This was the star of the show. When it says 'peated' it means 'sooty' charcoally church incense, with smoked meats and salami. It's intense, unforgettable, and not unlike a big smoky Swiss cheese or a Scandinavian smorgasbord. Up there with Balcones and Corsair, IMHO - that means In My Humble Opinion. I'm down with the kids, you see.
88 Saentis Alpstein IV Edition, 48%, 35 Euros
Bit by bit, step by painful step, Whisky Advocate is moving out in to the unknown, turning over the rocks, and discovering beautiful and unfamiliar creatures like this one. In tiny distilleries in Switzerland, Sweden and, er, Swansea, they're throwing the rule book in to the air and creating new whiskies based on how it falls. This has spent four years in a beer barrel and then a year in an ex port cask - and it's fabulous. Think liquorice, aniseed and cherry-flavored soda. Then add cream, fruit and a wee Jameson. Yowsa.
87 Saentis Malt Edition Germany, 48%, 35 Euros
This is European whisky made in a European style, so don't expect Scotch. In fact reset your taste buds, free your mind and join me on a journey. This is six years old and spent five and a half years of them in a beer barrel - the whisky is made from an award winning beer maker - and six months in a Merlot wine cask. It's fabulous. Honeycomb, creamy toffee caramel, European sappiness. It's slightly flabby, like an overfed but much loved puppy. Wasted on the Germans. No offence intended.
93 Kavalan Bourbon Oak, 46%, $100
Surprise surprise. This is like the school's best pitcher who steps in to the Football team and throws a match winning touchdown pass. You want to hate the kid for being a show off but you can't help but admire the skill. This is a whole new side to Kavalan. Remember Faith No More doing Easy? Having out-sherried and out-bourboned us with kickass rock n roll whisky, Kavalan goes for gentle and crooney, with vanilla and honey. The coup de grace? Apple pie and cream morphs in to liquorice and menthol. Exquisite.
90 Kavalan Podium, 46%, $100
The mark of a good distillery is one which consistently produces 85 points plus whiskies and with this batch Kavalan's total doing so goes in to double figures. But if the distillery has a weakness it's that sometimes it overstates its case and makes even the Aussies look subtle and nuanced. Not here. This is delicious and a dessert whisky, with vanilla and toffee in abundance and some sugar candy. But having made its case it steps back and is surprisingly gentle. Kavalan with subtlety? Scary!
87 Kavalan Sherry Oak, 46%, $100
Well two out of three ain't bad, and while Kavalan doesn't quite do the hat trick, this is no album filler either - can we still say that? It is Karaoke Kavalan, Taiwanese X Factor whiskey - a perfect reproduction of a big plummy, pruney, tannin-soaked rich fruit compote with late, Fall damp forest notes. It says a lot about this distillery that five years ago we'd have marvelled at this. Today and by its own standards, it's Kavalan doing an Aerosmith ballad.