It frightens me to write this post. It really does. How – I wonder – is 2012 almost nearing its end?
The year has gone so quickly and the drams have kept on coming. As such, I thought I’d look back at this year of whisky greatness to choose my favourite drams of the past 12 months.
While most lists put together the top 5 or top 10, I’m going somewhere in between and choosing my top 7 drams.
But the question is, do you agree?
I want to know if you’ve tried these drams (or if you’re keen to) and – if the former – what you thought of them. Did you taste others that beat these ones? Get in touch on Twitter (@themisswhisky), in the Comment section below or on email at firstname.lastname@example.org – and let me know what drams really rocked your 2012.
Without further adieu, here are my first four favourite drams (in order of when this year I sampled them):
Dram #1. – Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy: 46%:
I managed the chance to try this whiskey twice this year – once at an Irish tasting with The Whisky Exchange back in March, and the second time at a dinner (again with The Whisky Exchange) in September. It really stands out in my mind as a perfect all-rounder and a showcase as to why whisky (or, in this case, whiskey) doesn’t only have to come from Scotland to be dram good.
The first time I sampled it, I said the following:
“This was an exceptionally interesting dram to me, especially because it was near the end of the tasting when I find my nose and tastebuds numbing slightly. Notes of citrus fruit, black pepper, lime, crunchy Granny Smith apples, melon and vanilla all managed to communicate themselves from my scent to my brain. The palate was slightly astringent, with notes of pear, apple and pineapple. There was a giant bite at the front of my palate, followed by a long lasting finish with lingering notes of mandarin oranges and brandy at the back of my tongue.”
And the second time I got: “Lemon cookies, almonds, Christmas trees and panettone on the nose and the mouth was all “mango, mango, mango”.
Neither review was exactly the same but, as always with drams, it depends what you’ve eaten and drunk before – all of which will have an effect. The point though? This is a fantastic whiskey and well worth venturing outside the Scottish borders to try.
Dram #2 – The Balvenie, Golden Cask Rum Finish, 14yo: 47.5%:
Continuing the theme of more tropical fruit influenced flavours was this dram I tried at Whisky Live London back in March.
Originally bottled only for travel retail, it came onto market in the UK for general purchase. I’ve tried it a couple of times this year, but this was my original review:
“Aroma: Sunshine in a bottle! If that’s possible. It was warm and inviting, slightly spicy with hints of crème brûlée.
Palate: Loads of tropical fruits flourished: pineapple, banana, mango. Add in flavours of vanilla ice cream and flambeed bananas soaked in caramel and honey and you have dessert in a bottle!”
Dram #3 – Bowmore small batch reserve: 40%:
I tried this dram back in May at (potentially) the perfect moment – when I was hellishly stressed and in need of something delicious to give me a quiet moment of calm.
And it was the ideal antidote to the grumpy feelings I was having – I went from compressed stress ball to smiling, Play-doh putty in moments – whether it’s a good sign that I can become this relaxed from a whisky is something I will debate wholeheartedly at a later date.
But back to the dram…
This whisky was matured in first- and second-fill ex-bourbon casks and was a distinct departure from Bowmore’s other, peatier and sometimes more sherried influences. And, at a mere £32.99 a bottle, it was a steal of a whisky for sure.
This was my review at the time: “The characteristic Bowmore peatiness was there but in an oh so gentle way. There were hints of fudge, vanilla and oak that one would expect from an ex-bourbon cask, but it wasn’t overpowering. It just said, “Hello, you’re feeling stressed aren’t you? Well, why don’t I use my relaxing flavours to eek away your blues!”
For those that like a heavier, sherried Bowmore (like the Darkest) this might seem a bit too gentle. It’s not yelling at you but just presenting itself for enjoyment. The nose is welcoming with grassy, soft sugary notes that would appeal to a beginner, but I think the palate is complex enough with its creamy smoke, hints of lemongrass and saltiness to encourage a longer-term single malt sipper to still enjoy it.
It’s the kind of whisky that, if I had a whole bottle, I’d probably sit down with friends new to whisky and spend the night drinking it all. It was just what I needed to take the edge off!”
Dram #4 – Balblair 1969:
As I wrote at the time, sometimes a dram actually makes time stand still. This was the case with the Balblair 1969 – and it still makes it (possibly) the top of my top drams of the year.
This is what I had to say after trying it at the Balblair Distillery back in July: “This subtle beauty is an absolute stunner. So much so, I actually managed to stop talking for a full 15 minutes. Anything that can make me do that has to be pretty powerful.
This whisky filled my nose with rich, creamy mangoes and papayas, sweet white almond bark (a North American chocolate concoction), apricots and a teeny hint of smoke.
On the palate, everything got even more intense. As I sat with this dram, I was transported to a dreamy, warm meadow in mid-summer. My mouth filled with toasted wheat, honey syrup sticks (another North American confection), the rich flavours that filter from a bakery onto a Parisian street (croissants, pain aux apricots) and the twang of orange bitters. It finished, for me, on a note of nori (edible seaweed) and the sweet hint of smoked salmon.
It was glorious. End of.”
And so ends part one of my “Drams of 2012” – find out on Monday which other three make the list!