In my last piece – Drams of 2012: Part 1 – I revealed the first of my top drams for the year 2012.
They were chosen not only because of the fact that I loved them when I first tried them, but also because they stuck out in my brain and had flavours and characteristics that I could easily recall months later. While there have been many an amazing dram I’ve sampled this year, those first four stood out for those reasons.
But, those were not the only drams that really struck a chord with me. As mentioned in Part 1, I am choosing my Top 7 drams of the year. As such, there are three others still to go.
As per the last post, I would love for you to 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.
Here are my final three top drams (plus a “Special Mention”) for the year 2012, in order of when I first tried them:
I had not come across Tomatin before this year’s Whisky Exchange show in October. But, I arrived this year with the goal of tasting only whiskies I’d not had before. Spotting the Tomatin stand, I headed there first of all and asked UK Sales Manager, Alastair, to take me through the whole collection.
To say I was quickly won over is an understatement. I loved most of what was on the stand. But my stand-out dram of the company’s releases was definitely the Tomatin 30.
After the show, I wrote the following: “Only 1,500 bottles of the 30 year old are released annually. It is bottled at 46%. It was, as it turns out, one of my favourite of the whiskies I tried that day. On the nose it was full of banana peels, mango, pineapple and vanilla. On the palate, there was a crescendo of tropical fruits: pineapple, cherry syrup, mango and a light spiciness. It was beautiful and so sprightly for a 30-year old. Very impressive indeed. It’s £122 so not one to run out and grab, but if you’ve got a Christmas wishlist I recommend.”
As Christmas is now over, I’d recommend adding it to your birthday list. Or your “I’m saving up for a whisky” list. At the listed price, it’s an exceptional price for a 30-year old whisky. And well worth trying or buying, I’m certain.
I sometimes love whiskies that really puzzle me on first trying them. This Kariuzawa – from the now closed distillery – definitely fit the category of – “I’m puzzled but in a good way that means I love this whisky.”
I sampled this dram also at The Whisky Exchange’s show in October. In keeping with the theme of “trying only drams I’d not had before” I stepped up to The Number One Drinks stand (the chaps who distribute this whisky) and asked to try everything. Edward Bates – a company ambassador – was up for the challenge and took me through the lot.
Here’s what I wrote about it at the time: “In telling us about this whisky, Ed said it was full of: “Really linear, bang, bang, bang flavours.” I have an even stranger note, taken after my first sip: “It’s like a rainbow; my tongue’s on fire.” I remember very clearly wanting to write that down to try and explain the whisky, although I’m not sure that will make any sense to anyone reading this.
To give you a (potentially) clearer picture, this 64.5% whisky is a friendly punch to the nose – it explodes with orange, nutmeg, sherry and citrus notes. On the palate, without water it was quite woody, and I found that citrus note pulling through once more, featuring a yuzu flavour (which is a Japanese citrus fruit often made into a delectable sauce). With water, it was much gentler and easier to grab a hold of. “It’s just beautiful,” I added in my notes. A favourite of the day for me.”
The more I drink whisky, the more I come to enjoy smokier flavours. Five years ago, you wouldn’t have seen me dare go near one; even two years ago I approached only with caution. Now, I’m really coming to find ones I love.
Here’s what I thought: “This whisky was launched in 2009 and follows up from the 2006 release of the first Smokehead. There are 6,000 bottles released annually. It comes in a black bottle with contemporary silver writing, making it stand out in comparison to the other bottles on any whisky shelf. It is bottled by Ian McLeod distillers but the origins of the whisky are not revealed. I’ve heard talk it is an Ardbeg, and others have said it might be a Caol Ila.
Regardless of its origins, it is definitely one to try. On the nose, there is a huge waft of peat that is balanced out by lemon peel, passion fruit and rosemary notes. Then, in the mouth, it really explodes – it’s deliciously creamy (hinting almost at butter), with a hefty smoke that is tempered by a sticky fruit and vanilla pod sweetness that bursts mid-sip. It’s got a great, oily finish that clings to the roof of the mouth and the flavour goes on and on long after you swallow. Best of all for me, my other half – who is normally adverse to smoky whisky – really took to this one, likely because it’s not all smoke, all the time.”
This was a great example of an all-rounder smoky whisky that could just appeal to those who are easing their way into this style of dram, but which will equally be of interest to people who already enjoy it.
This year, I was also introduced to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, which I hadn’t come across in my whisky journey before 2012. I tried dozens of drams from this fantastic single malt, single cask outfit and so I couldn’t choose just one – especially as they all come from different distilleries. Instead, I have decided to give them a special mention for providing me with some incredible drams this year, my favourites of which include the following:
- 26.71: The Great Outdoors: a 25-year old Clynelish that “was like a warm day at the beach on the nose, with hints of butter, pineapple, almonds and starfruit, while the palate was initially spicy but then sweet. With water the dram took on chocolatey and caramalised banana notes, like a tropical beach with flambéed bananas, a salty sea breeze and sizzling BBQ prawns. It had quite a spicy, herbal aftertaste, with flavours of cumin and rosemary.”
- 41.45: Audrey Hepburn in a Ball Gown: a 25-year old Dailuaine that was perfectly classic, elegant and dreamlike, just like Audrey herself.
- 71.36: Two Seasons in a Dram: a 27-year old Glenburgie that knocks my socks off every time I drink it. Starts on the nose with apples and marzipan, with a hint of citrus and a warmth reminding me of autumn before having a palate of vanilla, banana and pineapple at the start and a slight smokiness and grassy freshness and warm floral note to finish.