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Whisky of the Lockdown Year 2020

10 15

@RianC
RianC started a discussion

What an amazing year 2020 has been! Pfffft!

Frankly, as we all know, it's been quite the ordeal for many, and while we all may have our own thoughts on our respective countries actions in coping with this nasty virus, I think we can all agree that its effects have been felt around the globe and have contributed to mass panic, fear, illness and stress, among many other problems. In short, it's been enough to drive one to drink, especially the hard, strong stuff ...

So, with that in mind, my thoughts have once again turned to the all important subject of what has been my favourite whisky this year. In truth, I have found that I've probably drank less this year than in others - possibly due to having spent most of it looking after two toddlers 24/7 but also, I think, due to a creeping laissez-faire attitude towards whisky, and perhaps, life in general this year. I suspect that this festive break is much needed for everybody and hopefully, wherever you are, you can spend it with people you love and/or eat and drink as much as to make one forget the blues and enjoy to the full the simple comforts life can still offer.

Let's then dispense with the preamble and sink our teeth into our top five (or so, whatever, it's up to you!) whiskys enjoyed in 2020, the Year of the Bug.

In descending order then.

5 - JD Single Barrel Proof. Loved this when I first opened it and boy does it showcase what JD can really do. Time hasn't been overly kind in the bottle, as it's taken on more raw oak notes, but still very enjoyable and it's one whiskey I dont feel bad about plopping the odd ice cube in - it may even improve it. A beasty, full-powered bourbon with delightful treacle toffee notes.

4 - Lagavulin 12 2018 release. Only sampled, I'm afraid, but I really did enjoy this. A more elegant and graceful peat monster than, say, the Laphroaig 10 CS with gorgeous smokey notes. A tad expensive, but I may have to get a bottle of this.

3 - Rebreast 12 CS B1-17. Popular for good reasons and easily the best Irish I have had so far. A whiskey that manages to get the balance between fresh oak and malt just right. Creamy, buttery and sherry goodness.

2 - Octomore Masterclass 08.2. Another tease (from a sample) has made it's way onto my top five but this one was easily a notch higher than all the others. Fantastic balance between heavy, dense peat notes and sweet, jammy fruits.

Honourable mentions would have to be Deanston 12 and Glen Scotia 15. The former being a lighter, sweeter style than I normally go for but with depth and some complexity. Well-made, tasty and affordable malt whisky, hurrah! The latter being very much a 'mood whisky' (@cricklewood) and one that you sink into and quietly ponder. Complex, nuanced and malty - a whisky cuddle. The perfect whisky to reflect on this year, actually!

1 - JW Black Label 1980's. Yeah, I know, a bit unsporting picking a 'dusty' but what the heck. Call it nostalgia, call it geekdom, call it whatever you like but no whisk(e)y has given me this much pleasure all year. To taste a piece of history is a joy in itself but the richness and quality of this blend are simply stunning. A perfect mix of peaty complexity and old-school sherry sweetness. Now, a time machine would be a handy thing to have in 2020 but I know what I'd be using it for ;)

Well, I hope this topic may usher in happy memories (dramories? Aye, why not!?) for you as you reflect on those little moments of joy the brown nectar has given you this year. I'd be very interested in hearing your picks.

Have a great Christmas, happy Hannukkah or simply a restorative and refreshing break and I sincerely wish you all the best and a much happier 2021!

Slange Var!

30 days ago

15 replies

@casualtorture

Eloquent pre-amble sir. I think we're all hoping for a better 2021 for everyone. It might be kind of hard for me to pick a top 5 because I haven't had a lot of different whiskies this year compared to other years but here goes:

  1. Glen Grant 21yo G&M - The oldest whisky I've ever purchased, a super floral whisky in a way that isn't delicate.

  2. Laphroaig 10 CS batch 011 - I just love these big cask strength Laphroaigs. Need to go find one from this year's batch.

  3. Knob Creek Single Barrel Store Picks - I had a couple of KCSB store picks this year and was impressed with each one. Especially the value.

  4. Edradour 10yo Natural Cask Strength bourbon cask - I know Edradour is known for their sherried whisky, but this was the best Edradour I've had yet.

  5. Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique - This is an easy choice. The best whisky I had this year and thankfully there is still 80% of it left after 1 year on the cabinet.

29 days ago 8Who liked this?

@casualtorture

@casualtorture The numbers re-did themselves in my comment. That should be 5 down to 1, not 1 down to 5. Auto keyboard fail.

29 days ago 3Who liked this?

@RianC
RianC replied

@casualtorture - Thank you, Sir! Nice picks, and I completely forgot Laph 10 CS! Number six then ... smile

28 days ago 4Who liked this?

@Nozinan
Nozinan replied

I've been thinking about this since you posted your question and this year it's a tough one.

So much has happened this year that has eclipsed my "spiritual journey", and I don't know if I've tasted broadly enough to come up with a top 5 list. I don't track which expressions I've tasted each year, unless I review or post about them. But I do know that my intake of whisky by volume was just over 50% what it was in 2019.

I only opened a handful of new bottles, and for many of them I haven't had the chance to get to know them yet. I did enjoy the Octomore 10.1 I opened early in the year. Tasting single barrels for a private purchase was an experience in itself. The Milk and Honey Classic was quite good but would I have rated it in the top 5 in a normal year?

I can say that Canadian whiskies have figured more prominently than they have in the past, not necessarily because I tasted them more but because I tasted everything else so much less.

I think my best assessment of 2020 would be "bring on 2021 already"!

28 days ago 8Who liked this?

@fiddich1980
fiddich1980 replied

2020 has been messy year:

Some bottle openings which I had been planning were thrown off the rails. A new job opened up opportunities for my co-workers to explore whiskies which they would never contemplate buying. The declaration from one came in the statement "that Redbreast 12 Cask Strength was the best whiskey I've ever tasted!". It was followed up a month later by "that Talisker 8 Special release is the best!".

Personally, I've been exploring other spirits. I was finding that many whiskies were starting to taste similar. Maybe it was what Ralphy called "palate fatigue". These were 2020 highlights for me and not a best of the best.

Rum: La Hechicera a "Solera 21" from Colombia. There is world out there for anyone willing to explore.

Armagnac: Delord 1980 Distilled in 1980 and bottled in 31 March 2020. The only flaw a little bit too oaky

Cognac: Hine 2006 Bonneuil Single Harvest/Single Barrel bottled in 14/04/2016

Whisky Wise:

anCnoc 2002 - yeasty, dirty old school whisky .... characterful

Tamdhu 15 : Oloroso matured. It was way way better than the Macallan Sherry Oak ... don't mean to bash but ... just saying.

High West Campfire: Mind F^#K whisky of the Year a great blend, fun to picking apart for experience. What's your poison Rye, Bourbon or Islay Peat?

Glen Garioch 1995 Batch 10 : "Sneaky Highland Pete" unlike Islay which dissipates with air time this throws a peat slap as the fill level drops over time in the bottle

Wiser's 35 2nd Release : My Canadian whisky of the year ... so far. The year is not over CONDITIONAL on a tasting of a 43 year old Canadian. Canadian whisky continues to show dynamism.

In the words of Gordon Lightfoot "a drink for the living a toast to the dead" in memory of those who have departed far too soon.

Pardon the 2020 interruption maybe, we can get back on the rails in 2021.

27 days ago 8Who liked this?

@OdysseusUnbound

@fiddich1980 I think the batch of Tamdhu 15 that ended up in Ontario was a particularly excellent one, and I’m glad I snagged 2 bottles. I’m not sure how far into 2021 my first bottle will last. It’s excellent and I’m willing to bet that there’s some older casks in this particular vatting. It’s rich and fruity without being too sherried, in the modern sense of the word. I can’t properly explain, but it doesn’t taste “engineered” if that makes any sense.

27 days ago 5Who liked this?

@BlueNote
BlueNote replied

Count me in with you other fanboys on the Tamdhu 15. That’s my top find for 2020. I am also loving the 2017 Lagavulin 12 CS, the GOT Clynelish, the SMOS Caol Ila 8 year old, Cadenhead 21 year old Loch Lomond, Cadenhead 12 year old Aultmore, Arran the Bothy Quarter Cask, and three bang for the buck winners: Deanston 12, Tobermory 12 and Bunnahabhain 12.

It’s been a shit year in most ways, but a pretty good year in whisky terms.

Best of the season to you all.

27 days ago 7Who liked this?

@cricklewood
cricklewood replied

I'll echo many of what's been said, it's been a weird one, full of fuckery, fear, anger, uncertainty and sorrow.

My consumption is way down and while my overall interest is still high, I've come to learn to let go of FOMO a bit easier for both sanity and budgetary reasons. I've dived back into more of the geekery of whisky learning about history, distilling techniques and such, I've taken advantage of many of the free zoom/online discussions, tastings and interviews. I've even been roped into some fun little offshoot discussion groups, bi-weekly closed tasting/discussion group with a head distiller and a Yale professor that covers spirits and cocktails how'd I end up there? I won't ask but I am enjoying it.

I will also second @fiddich1980, I did get some serious whisky fatigue, mainly malt whisky, a break did me some good but also made me realize how much I was missing rum, I think 2021 will be dedicated to furthering my research and acquisitions.

Despite trashing this year there's been some highlights.

Scotch whisky: Kilkerran 15 bourbon wood. Opened early in the year and still something I think about 7+ months after the bottle is long gone. Kilkerran 8 Cask Strength 2019 which is filling the hole left by this one.

Kilchoman, as much as I want to complain about their prices setting bad precedents, they make solid stuff. That 100% Islay really grew on me.

Honorable mention to Ancnoc 2002 and a pair of teenage Tomatin single casks (for Alberta retailers) both had really good character that wasn't all about the cask.

Canadian whisky: It's the year of Alberta Premium Cask Strength as it's getting some major accolades and some friends might say that this whisky has been keeping me "safe". Also the fun of trying 10 cask samples of Canadian whisky to select is an experience that cannot be beat.

American Whisky: There's so much stupidity and fuckery around bourbon right now, I am content with Wild Turkey 101, rare breed and in a pinch I'll take the easily available Jim Beam products thank you very much.

Rum: Lots of good stuff, still loving how much Agricole rum has to offer and I see it's profile is really getting attention. Clairin Casimir, true artisanal Haitian rum, an experience.

budget: Appleton 8 is solid and dare I say better than the 12 to my mind. Plantation Xaymaca, not the funk bomb some people wanted but it is super aromatic and elegant I really loved it.

Cognac/Armagnac: another category that will continue to get love from me along with rum. Really impressed by that Hine single cask and the ability to try 40yr old products without selling an organ in the case of Armagnac.

27 days ago 9Who liked this?

@RianC
RianC replied

@cricklewood @fiddich1980 - Palate fatigue is a good word for what I have experienced this year. It started to seem as if I was only tasting the bitter, sharp and alcoholic notes in whisky. I think the phrase 'a change is as good as a rest' definitely applies for 2020!

Some excellent choices though and, while my buying list for 2021 is fairly short (so far), I will have to search out some Tamdhu - @OdysseusUnbound and @BlueNote have already had me drooling for that one, and it seems a good sherried whisky is a rarity these days.

@cricklewood - Feel you 100% on the bourbon front. Was thinking the other day how Wild Turkey 101 has reduced by about a third since I first bought a bottle - £35 to c£25 currently - and Rare Breed is easily the cheapest CS bourbon out there. It has never disappointed either.

27 days ago 7Who liked this?

@OdysseusUnbound

Highlights of the year for me, in no particular order:

  • Rum: this has been a year of rum discovery for me. I’ve dabbled a bit in rum before but I dove in head first this year. I had a great bit of help thanks to @cricklewood ‘s generosity. He lead me through a rum masterclass and the variety of the rum category is just amazing. I definitely have to get a bottle of that Plantation Xaymaca when Quebec opens back up. And those Agricole Rhums are just another world. Amazing.
  • Laphroaig Cairdeas Fino Cask: I’m not sure if this was my whisky of the year last year, but I’ve been through a few bottles this year and it’s just fantastic stuff. The dry, nutty, umami notes from the wine really add a certain je ne sais quoi to the Laphroaig-y goodness.
  • Tamdhu 15: this has been mentioned several times but it was definitely a wow moment for me.
  • Scarabus Islay: a mystery malt that I tried in a blind tasting. It just worked for me: sweet, smoky, and fruity. Yum.
  • Kilkerran 15 Year Single Bourbon Cask: another one that was tasted blind and was just fantastic. Springbank/Glengyle really do make some awesome stuff.

26 days ago 10Who liked this?

@paddockjudge
paddockjudge replied

Thank you @RianC for addressing this subject. The favourite, or best of, or Desert Island lists garner a lot of attention and help us to learn where our Connosr friends are, on their fine spirits journey.

This past year has been challenging for many reasons. For me, working a mile underground presents unique challenges at the best of times and this year has compounded the efforts required to continue performing this work safely and efficiently. I’m glad to be at home with my family. I’m enjoying a two week hiatus from work, preparing for 2021 which I believe presents an even greater challenge than this year.

Now, for my Fave Five of 2020.

These whiskies are all from my cabinet. Two were bottled in 2020, two in 2019, and one is from 2013.

5) North of 7 Barrel #16, 5 YO Cask Strength Four Grain mashbill 74.5% abv September 2020 release.

A barrel pick shared with family and friends. I purchased approximately 20% of this barrel, not exclusively for me, although I got my fare share.

This was was my favourite “bourbonne” of the year, affectionately known as COVID-BUSTER.

4) Glengoyne 21 YO 43% abv 12/11/19 release.

Wonderful surprise, a liquid spice jar.

3) CC 43 YO 45% abv 2020 release. From the same origins as Wiser’s 23 YO.

Easily quaffable, dangerously warning addictive. This has everything but peat smoke, everything!

2) J.P. Wiser’s 23 YO Cask Strength Blend 64.3% abv 2019 release.

Liquid sponge toffee with a green apple chaser. My favourite Canadian.

1) Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch #9, 49.3% abv. 2013 release.

If I could blend a Rich, Elegant, and Seductive whisky, it would be Tun 1401 Batch #9.

26 days ago 9Who liked this?

@OdysseusUnbound

@paddockjudge How could I forget to mention that North of 7 “not-bourbon”? It really is fantastic stuff. And at the risk of being expelled from the group, it makes a fantastic Old Fashioned. (I had to, just once, for science)

26 days ago 6Who liked this?

@RianC
RianC replied

@paddockjudge - Nice picks, Sir! I have tasted numbers 4 and 5 on that list and enjoyed both, although the No7 taste was a literal sip from a sample I'm yet to fully delve into - so, er, thanks I guess laughing

As for 2021, I think your assessment is spot on - there's gonna be some seriously big turds hitting some even bigger fans ...

26 days ago 4Who liked this?

MRick replied

@paddockjudge I agree with you about Glengoyne 21. I think the 25 keeps the 21 from getting the credit it is due.

25 days ago 3Who liked this?

@fiddich1980
fiddich1980 replied

I'm over turning my "conditional" choice for Canadian whisky of the 2020. It will be Canadian Club 43 Chronicles. It is a late call but life and work got in the way of my whisky tasting during the holidays.

8 days ago 2Who liked this?

Liked by:

@Nock@paddockjudge@BlueNote@cricklewood@casualtorture + 5 others

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