The scotch industry may have been around for centuries, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t constantly coming up with new, exciting expressions. Every year, distilleries up and down Scotland release fresh drams to enjoy and indulge in, and this year has been no different. As the last few months of the year arrive, check out these five Scotch whiskys that are a cut above the rest.
With its roots in the historic whisky region of Campbeltown, this scotch ($45) is an exciting release from Glengyle Distillery. All previous releases from Glengyle have been adventurous and experimental, leading up to this, its first true distillery release. This expression will define the core, quintessential distillery character for years to come, but that doesn’t stop it from being an extraordinary malt. It’s made of first-fill former bourbon matured malt and some sherry cask matured malt, resulting in a sweet and fruity flavor profile.
The nose opens with a sweet and smooth aroma, filled with butterscotch and honey. There’s a slight salted air to the nose that has a more mellow background with some dried fruit coming through. On the palate, the smoothness takes on a vanilla note that develops into a delightfully warming cinnamon and pepper flavor. The pepper has a crisp texture to it that contrasts brilliantly with the zesty citrus fruits that come through as well. The finish is long and dry, with a deep peppery note that lasts throughout.
This expression ($172) has an interesting journey behind it. The rum used to season the casks is made in the Caribbean, then the casks are shipped to Scotland, and the whisky filled into these casks is matured for six months.
As you’d expect, rum comes through immediately on the nose, with lots of brown sugar sweetness. There are also lots of thick and juicy fruit notes, including oranges and sultanas. These lend a citron zest to the dram. The sweetness is enhanced on the palate where the flavors are full of sweet toffee and caramel, with a mouthfeel to match. There are also distinct hints of apple and more oranges, with raisins and dried apricots in the background. The finish is long and has a wonderful brown sugary sweetness to it, with crisp green apples just underneath.
Coming off the back of the success of Haig Club, this second release ($30) of Diageo’s single-grain malt is set to be aimed at a younger audience with a cheaper price tag. Clubman has been distilled at Cameronbridge Distillery and has been matured in former bourbon casks.
The nose is sweet, with lots of vanilla and caramel coming through. There’s a slightly nutty note to it but ultimately a lot of creamy, smooth vanilla and toffee. On the palate, the vanilla is developed in two directions, with a slightly oak hint and a honeyed note as well. The oak becomes slightly spicy and is joined by some orange zest. The vanilla makes for a wonderfully creamy mouthfeel. The oak spices grow as the flavor develops into the finish.
This scotch ($450) is a heavily sherried expression coming out of one of the best distilleries in Speyside. It’s also one of the oldest distilled at Glenfarclas, reaching back at least two generations of the family who own the distillery.
The sherry is evident from the very beginning, with lots of sweet dried fruits on the nose. It’s a wonderfully complex dram, with lots of tastes to decipher. There’s also a great malty undertone to the nose. These flavors become bolder on the palate, with all the signs of a moist Christmas cake, including dried fruits and sherry spices. There’s a great nuttiness to the palate, with sweet nuts such as pecans and almonds mixing in with the dried fruits perfectly. The finish is long and lasting, leaving you with delicate notes of cinnamon and raisins.
The Glenlivet has done this kind of thing before: It releases an expression with no age, no tasting notes, no cask information and in a jet-black bottle. Then it was called Alpha, now it’s called Cipher ($120). On the nose, there’s lots of honey, with hints of spice, while on the palate, it’s creamy and smooth, with flavors of ginger, fresh apples and citrus. The medium finish is sweet with hints of fruit.