2015 Whiskey Favorites of the Tasting Table

December 31, 2015

As we bring 2015 to a close here at Distiller, we’ve got just one more thing for you! We brought together as many of the members of the Tasting Table (for whom we are incredibly grateful) as we could, to bring you their personal favorites of the year, in a handy, bite-sized format.

Here are the Distiller Tasting Table’s favorites in whiskey from 2015!

Jake Emen:

Glenmorangie 1970’s Collection ‘77
This ultra-premium release of five rare Glenmorangie expressions from the 1970s is highlighted by the 1977 offering, a 28 year old with a buttery, creamy backbone and an early example of the distillery no longer using its own maltings.

The Last Drop 48 Year
4th release from The Last Drop Distillers, the youngest whisky included here stretches back to 1965. A fruity and sweet nose leads to a complex palate and a finish which goes and goes.

The Balvenie Tun 1509 Batch 2
The second batch of the Balvenie’s Tun 1509 incorporates 32 hand-picked barrels. Honey, sherry and chocolate intermingle on the nose, leading to a smooth palate and a huge finish.

Glenfiddich 1978 Rare Collection Cask
Only 150 bottles hit the market of the latest Glenfiddich Rare Collection release. Cask strength, with a luscious nose of honey, pears and melons, leading to a big, bold palate with spice, oak, caramel and cacao.

The Macallan Rare Cask
Less than 1% of the Macallan’s sherry casks are selected for this release, which predominately includes first-fill sherry casks. Find a heavy sherry influence with raisins, nuts, red fruits, as well as caramel and cocoa for an ultra-smooth sipper.

Amanda Schuster:

Bowmore Mizunara Cask Finish
I expected to be underwhelmed. How good can it be? However, the mizunara oak finish added just enough pizzazz to the Bowmore that it completely changed its character without masking it
gave it new life. So much fun to sip. Hope they do more like this.

Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye (Fall 2015)
For the second year in a row, it beat out my usual favorite William LaRue Weller in the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection challenge for its quiet complexity.

The Glenrothes Extraordinary Single Cask 1969 #11485
another contender in the “Come on, really?” category that lives up to the hype. So much life left in that whisky, no coincidence it was put to cask in the Summer of Love with all the vigor it still holds.

Evan Williams Single Barrel 2006 (bottled June 4-6, 2015)
okay, mostly because I tasted this yummy bourbon right out of its barrel and then chose it among 3 others as my “bourbon soul mate” that day. I’ll always think it was special.

Bushmills 1608
biscuity, buttery and comforting. Like a hug in a glass.

Paul Belbusti:

Colkegan Single Malt Whiskey
This surprising dram drinks like mature Scotch, yet is distinctly American.

Laphroaig 10 Year Cask Strength Batch 005
“Bottled beef jerky” just begins to describe this massively complex whisky.

Charbay Hop Flavored Whiskey R5 Lot No. 3
Every Charbay offering blew me away this year. This was my favorite.

Caol Ila Stitchell Reserve (2013 Special Release)
This experimental, young whisky was the most elegant and lithe dram I had all year.

Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Four Wood Bourbon
Quite simply, one of the best Bourbons I have ever tasted. I occasionally dream about the rich, complex flavors.

Blair Phillips:

Gooderham & Worts Four Grain Canadian Whisky
This whisky was part of the original 1990’s Whisky Guild Series that also featured Lot 40 and Pike Creek. The release bombed but once whisky fans got hold of discontinued bottles, they realized just how special these whiskies were. Dr. Don Livermore resurrected Lot 40 and Pike Creek in 2012 and they are alive and well. Gooderham & Worts completes the family with a subtle whisky that masterfully layers the best flavor profiles from corn, wheat, barley and rye grains into a tight package.

JP Wiser’s Hopped
This is J.P. Wiser’s whisky that’s been dry hopped with natural bravo hops at the end of whisky’s aging process. It was a labor of love for master blender Don Livermore. A new dimension of floral and herbal fragrances have been added to the whisky without the bitterness you’d expect.

Stalk & Barrel Rye Cask 17
This whisky won “Best New Whisky” at last year’s Canadian Whisky Awards. Single Cask whisky made from locally sourced rye grain. So earthy that NASA should consider designating it a new planet.

Crown Royal 75th Anniversary Blend & Crown Royal Hand Select Barrel
Crown Royal Norther Harvest Rye is getting a lot of attention these days and for good reason. It shows off what a dream team of master blenders are capable of. Monarch and Hand Select Barrel is further proof that Crown Royal is playing with a loaded deck. This is just the beginning of a Canadian Whisky Monarchy that shouldn’t be feared. Hail to the Crown.

Sam Davies:

Compass Box Flaming Heart 15th Anniversary Limited Edition
A powerful peat beast breathing fiery spices tamed by expert maturation and blending.

Darkness! Bruichladdich 12 Year Pedro Ximenez Cask Finish
I stewed over this dram for a few hours and new aromas kept revealing themselves, anything from shoe leather to old Madeira.

Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt
An exotic dessert with the deft touch of Japan, full of creamy malt and smoked white chocolate.

Ladyburn 41 Year
You’ll find yourself elsewhere, dry hay, lanolin, and gentle spices that never leave you.

Ransom The Emerald 1865 Straight American Whiskey
An Irish bowl of oatmeal masquerading as an American whiskey. Along with the rich oats you get sweet spices and green bananas.

Davin De Kergommeaux:

Crown Royal 75th Anniversary Blend
A seamless synthesis of grain, fruit, flowers and nuttiness. Lush, creamy and ever so elegant. My clear fave of 2015.

Gooderham & Worts Four Grain Canadian Whisky
Rye, wheat, corn and barley masterfully crafted into a rich full-bodied blend. A gentlemen’s club in a bottle (ladies welcome.)

Forty Creek Three Grain Harmony
Another masterpiece from John K.Hall. A rich, creamy body envelopes dark fruits, nutty barley and the buttery silk of ex-bourbon casks.

Johnnie Walker Select Casks Rye Cask Finish
Canadian whisky in a Scottish bottle, this treats a well-crafted Scotch blend to a holiday in Dickle Rye casks and it comes back with a decidedly wry smile.

Littlemill 25 Year (2015 release)
Richer, fuller and just as creamy as the Littlemills of old this one shows a complexity of flavour without the bite of overactive wood. Hints of ripe dark fruits show a sherry-cask glory that modern malts no longer do.

Stephanie Moreno:

Highland Park Freya
A beauty both for its aesthetics and for its taste; the whisky is bright with stone fruits with splashes of smoke, salt, and wood spices. It is a lively and fresh dram and one of my favorites to come from Highland Park.

The Macallan No. 6
What can I say, sometimes my job allows me the opportunity to taste rare and expensive whiskies (somebody has to do it!). The aroma alone is worth the price of admission. If you hit the jackpot in Vegas, treat yourself; we live once.

Teeling Silver Reserve 21 Year Single Malt
Tropical fruits and ginger along with a rich and sweet profile, this is a great after-dinner dram.

Benromach 1976
A single malt that made me sit up and take notice. Just a rich yet lively malt with flavors such as coconut, curry, dried fruits, gentle spices–the list goes on as does the finish.

Sazerac Rye 18 Year (Fall 2015)
Aromas of dark honey, dried cherries, and lots of barrel spices. The taste is tangy and dry, but not mouth-puckeringly so. This would make a damn good Old Fashioned cocktail, which I totally recommend that you do, but make sure you use the largest cube of ice you can to just fit the glass. You’re going to want to savor this.

Whiskey, rum, agave, brandy, and everything in between…

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