Each year there seem to be an ever-increasing number of whiskies released and 2023 has proved no different. With almost six months gone there have been some fine bottlings put out on the market.
From elegant, old, and rare whiskies to experimental and innovative artisanal offerings, we look at eight of the best so far to cover all budgets.
Ardbeg Heavy Vapours
Each year the cult Islay distillery of Ardbeg tantalises fans with its annual Ardbeg Day bottling. This year the brand has gone down the experimental route with this big, bold and intensely smoky single malt.
Several years ago, whisky was distilled through a still with the purifier removed. This apparatus purifies the spirit and creates balance between the smoky, floral and fruity elements.
With this removed, the result is a heavier and more robust version of Ardbeg that is brooding, ashy and rich. Dusty and sooty peat smoke notes mingle with golden syrup and vanilla toffee. These characteristics are backed up by dying bonfire embers, drying seaweed and a hint of eucalyptus.
If you love smoky whiskies, then you will love this.
Bushmills 25 Years Old
This permanent addition to the Bushmills range is a stunner. The Northern Irish distillery holds the oldest license to distil in the world dating back to 1608 and has some of the rarest stocks of maturing Irish whiskey. Some of these are of significant age.
The 25 years old experienced an initial four-year maturation in ex-bourbon and ex-Oloroso sherry casks, before being transferred for a long 21-year secondary maturation in ex-Port pipes.
The length of time in Port casks has created a wonderful marriage of rich, fruity, and spicy notes – think of caramelised plum, raisins, peach and barbequed pineapple combined with cinnamon, walnut and milk chocolate with hints of gingerbread and orange oil.
Bushmills is showing us how good old Irish whiskey can be with this release.
Glenmorangie Amontillado Cask Finish 12 Years Old
The north Highland distillery of Glenmorangie has always been at the cutting edge of innovation in Scotch whisky. It was one of the first to develop the finishing process in maturation during the 1980s – the process where spirit is transferred from one cask to another. This legacy continues with this superb new release that is exclusive to the Australian and UK markets.
Ex-Amontillado sherry casks are rarely used by distillers, but this release makes you wonder why. Luscious notes of plump sultana and overripe peach work well with hazelnut praline, candied orange, and cocoa powder.
The mix is heady and expressive. One of the best Glenmorangies that has appeared for a while and at a good price to boot.
Glen Moray Twisted Vine
The Speyside distillery of Glen Moray has come with a very late entry with the recently released Twisted Vine. The brand has always had an experimental approach to cask maturation and has had numerous releases influenced by unorthodox cask types. Twisted Vine is the latest and benefits from time in ex-Cognac casks sourced from France.
Rich and sugary dried fruit notes – think of raisins, sultanas and prunes – sit alongside caramel, toffee and toasted nuts. Hints of milk chocolate, espresso coffee and warming spices (especially cinnamon and clove) are supported by undertones of malted biscuits and delicate tannins.
Glen Moray Twisted Vine is deliciously rounded and soft, and offers exceptional value for money.
Ryelaw is the highly anticipated inaugural bottling from the ground-breaking Fife distillery of InchDairnie. It is a single grain whisky made using a mix of 53% rye and 47% malted barley and takes its name from Ryelaw Farm where some of the cereals were grown.
The spirit, which is only produced for one week per year, was then matured in charred virgin American oak barrels.
Ryelaw is sweet and peppery on the nose with aromas of fudge, toffee, blackcurrant and cherry backed up by expressive wood and baking spices. Milk chocolate, orange fondant and marshmallow follow, as do hints of bittersweet malt and menthol.
This is a great first bottling from InchDairnie, which has announced itself as ‘one to watch’.
Powers Irish Rye
Rye whiskies are growing in popularity and this landmark release is the first to be produced using 100% Irish rye. Brand owners Irish Distillers found reference to rye whiskey within its extensive archives and commissioned the cereal to be grown at Cooney Furlong Farm in Co. Wexford, close to Edermine House – the ancestral home of the Powers family.
The resulting whiskey is a gem – one that is delicious when sipped neat but also great when making classic rye-based whisky cocktails such as the Manhattan and Old Fashioned. Peppery bittersweet cereal notes mix with maraschino cherry and cocoa powder, followed by banana bread and green apple. The spiciness hits again towards the end with lovely warming cinnamon and a ginger-like kick.
Tobermory 25 Years Old
This lovely single malt is the third bottling in the Hebridean Series from Tobermory on the Isle of Mull. The whisky is rare and comes from a time when production at the remote distillery was sporadic at best.
Initial maturation was in American oak and ex-sherry casks, before a nine-year finishing period in ex-Oloroso sherry casks sourced from the famous Gonzalez Byass bodega in Jerez, Spain.
Notes of milk chocolate and fresh honeycomb combine exquisitely with jammy characteristics including plum and apricot. Further layers of coconut, caramel, cinnamon and toasted walnut add depth and complexity, as do later hints of dried fruits and clove.
A truly sublime whisky that demands your attention.
Wire Works Caduro
The first permanent addition to the Wire Works core range. Caduro – named after a brand of cable that was manufactured in the former Victorian wire factory that is now home to the White Peak distillery in Derbyshire – has already won gold at the IWSC (International Wine & Spirits Challenge). It was the only English single malt to do so this year. The lightly peated whisky follows a series of successful small batch and single cask releases.
Delicate gentle peat smoke wafts around vibrant notes of vanilla, honey and caramel to create a lovely sweetness and softness. Further notes of toffee apple, chocolate and sultana enhance this feeling before the whisky turns more savoury towards the finish – think of cinnamon bark, all-spice and old cigar box especially. Wonderful.