Thursday, 23 January 2020

Chivas Regal 12 Year Old: A Blind Tasting

What comes to mind when I say "Just Do It"? Nike, right? How about "I'm Lovin' it"? With that slogan, McDonald's capitalizes on Justin Timberlake's catchy little "ba da ba ba ba" to get you drooling over a Quarter Pounder. And how can you not love JT's winning smile and angelic voice? It's not easy to counteract or neutralize our biases. We all have them, and smart marketing people use them to their advantage. Slick logos, catch phrases, and celebrity endorsements all aim to part you from your hard-earned money. When it comes to whisky, anyone who tells you they aren't affected by marketing is either lying or clueless. I think it's the latter more often than not. This isn't some kind of fault or character flaw; it's the way our brains are wired. Even the most rational among us is subject to emotional manipulation, especially with our "fast thinking". Read Daniel Kahneman if you don't believe me.

Inasmuch as most reviewers love to proclaim their neutrality, certain brands have done such a great job of evoking luxury (The Macallan), viking warriors (Highland Park), or Scots Gaelic mythos (Bunnahabhain) that it's hard to assess the whisky in and of itself. The only way to truly assess a whisky "objectively" is to taste it completely blind. And that's what I've done here.

I'm giving away the fact that this is a pretty common blended whisky ahead of time, but I'll walk you through my thought process in the tasting notes. The Chivas brand is owned by Pernod Ricard, who also owns The Glenlivet, Aberlour, Longmorn, and Scapa. That's not to say those are the only single malt options, but it's likely that those distilleries provided most of the malt whisky in this blend.

Tasting notes

**Keep in mind that I had no idea what this was when writing down my tasting notes.**

Bottle opened Dec 9/2017, sample poured May 29/2019

Tasted neat from a Glencairn glass

  • Nose: It's a bit shy, and comes across as fairly light. There are equal parts red fruit, honey, and graham crackers. After a rest in the glass, a touch of spices come through, but they're a bit muted. There's something slightly floral developing; almost a light peat-smoke from a Highland or Speyside whisky or maybe barrel char from a North American whisky. There's also a slight maple cream aroma in the background. A blend perhaps?
  • Palate: light to medium bodied, fruity (strawberries? light cherries?), soft caramels, a touch of spice, a bit of cocoa powder, some black pepper coming through.
  • Finish: vanilla at first, a bit of oak, a slight nuttiness, some cloves, honey, and a touch of orange zest bitterness near the end of the finish.
This is sweet whisky, and it definitely feels light. I'd guess this is 40%-43% abv. With time in the glass, the red fruit aromas become more faint (which is disappointing- they were lovely) and the vanilla and caramel become a bit more prominent. I was convinced this was a single malt whisky at first, but I'm less certain with time. The bitterness on the finish has me thinking Forty Creek as many of their whiskies finish this way. It's delightful when it's well integrated yet when it's not, the bitterness is too prominent and becomes a distraction. This whisky feels a bit disjointed: the nose and first part of the taste profile feel like a  different style of whisky than the end of the flavour development and the finish. As time goes on, this whisky gets less distinct and more "generic" if that makes sense. There are some nice things going on for sure, but it's a bit out of balance or Koyaanisqatsi, if you're a Godfrey Reggio/Philip Glass fan.

I always enjoy blind samplings because they keep me honest. No preconceived notions, just honest scoring. I'm also grateful that this blind sample was an ordinary whisky. It's fun to see how we perceive "work-a-day" whiskies when we don't have the marketing blah blah to guide us. I didn't have a mouthgasm, but I didn't spit it out in disgust while cursing the heavens either.

  • Would I buy order this in a bar or pub? Sure. Especially if I was out with co-workers for a casual drink and I knew I wasn't going to nose intensely, this whisky is fine and dandy. Heck, I might even sip it on the rocks.
  • Would I accept a glass if offered? I would, and I have. My wife's cousin lives down the street from us. Her husband is a dedicated blend drinker (JW Black is his usual go-to) and he has this on hand every now and then.
  • Would I buy a bottle of this? Unlikely. It's $55 and for that price I can get Arran 10 Year old which I like better.

Rating: 80/100

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Top Five: Drinking Buddies

This post was going to be called "The five people I'd most like to have a drink with" but I refuse to end a sentence with a preposition. I know it's somewhat accepted these days, but it is something with which I cannot agree. I'm going to limit myself to fictional characters since a list of real people with whom I'd like to share a dram would quickly become too personal. Let me know what your Top Five (or Top Three or Top One) choices would be and which dram you'd share.

Five: Logan/Wolverine 

Looks like you could use a drink, bub.
Why I'd like to share a dram with him: He's been my favourite superhero (are mutants considered superheroes?) as long as I can remember and I think he'd be receptive to focusing intensely on the whisky. He's not much for small talk, but he pays attention to detail. Bonus: his nosing skills are off the charts, so he'd undoubtedly pick up more nuance than me.

The whisky I'd choose: Wiser's 35 Year Old Canadian Whisky. It's Canadian, it's bold (50% abv), and it breaks the mold of the "stereotypical nice, soft Canadian", just like Logan. The whisky has oak, fruit, spices, and some tropical notes (coconut) as well. It's an exceptionally easy to drink whisky, and as such, you might forget that it's 100 proof. That would be no big deal for Logan, since he's not really affected by alcohol, what with his super-healing and all that, but we mere mortals must imbibe more moderately. Bottoms up, bub.

Four: Daenerys Targaryen

10/10 would bend the knee
Why I'd like to share a dram with her: First, spare me your belly-aching about the last season of Game of Thrones. Yes, I agree; there should have been at least 6 more episodes. No, I'm not surprised that Dany turned out to be a "villain" (Was she really? Maybe Jon Snow was the real villain.). If you were paying attention, you should have inferred that's where the show's writers were taking her character. Now, with that out of the way, she's still my queen. And yes, you should read that last part in Jon Snow's gravelly deadpan "She's mah kweeeeen!" Daenerys is a complex and fascinating character with a quick wit and a fiery temper. She'd definitely keep anyone on their toes, and the conversation would not be boring.

The whisky I'd choose: With apologies to Diageo, I'd choose Kilchoman Sanaig Single Malt Scotch. Kilchoman is a young distillery, but they're doing things a bit differently, much like Daenerys. Sanaig is matured using 70% ex-sherry casks and 30% ex-bourbon casks. So the smoky flavours are complemented, yet not overwhelmed by the sweet, fruity notes. Like Daenerys, the fire is always present alongside the sweet, seductive exterior.

Three: Jules Winnfield

Why I'd like to share a dram with him: 
Besides delivering what may be the most bad-ass speech in all of movie history (The Ezekiel 25:17 speech) before he shoots someone, Jules also has a philosophical side. He muses about the possibility of divine intervention and how people define the "touch of God". He's a fascinating all-around character, and you know that nobody would interrupt this BMF if you were in the midst of an intense discussion. I would just have to make sure not to say "what?" too many times.  

The whisky I'd choose: Elijah Craig Barrel Proof. This uncut, unfiltered bourbon is released in batches and each one is different. It's big and imposing, the way Jules is when he utters "And you will know I am the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you." Now that is a tasty bourbon.

Two: Olivia Pope

Why I'd like to share a dram with her: I love politics. I love reading about policy. I enjoy talking about political strategies, and Olivia Pope is the best there is. She's brilliant, she's witty, and she's always thinking three steps ahead of everyone else. How could I not have her on my list? I get that she's more of a red wine drinker, but since this is my flight of fancy, I think she'd be game for some whisky.

The whisky I'd choose: Edradour 16 Year Old Barolo Cask Finish. This one is a bruiser at 56.1% abv because like Olivia Pope, Edradour doesn't mess around. Because it's such a small distillery, it's easy to overlook and underestimate Edradour, but you're foolish if you do. Edradour isn't widely available in Ontario, but any Edradour I find is an instant "buy". Their whisky is fantastic and I think Olivia would love the rich blackberries, apples, pepper, and chocolate notes that the Barolo influence imparts.

One: Sherlock Holmes

Why I'd like to share a dram with him: Sherlock is witty. He's odd. He's brilliant. Quite brilliant. He'd do most of the talking, leaving me to enjoy the whisky. He's got a tolerance for all kinds of Victorian-era psychotropic substances so a few glasses of whisky aren't going to dull his wits.

The whisky I'd choose: Since I'm fairly certain there are no "cocaine cask" whiskies or "opium cask" whiskies, I'd go with Laphroaig Cairdeas Port Cask or Laphroaig Brodir. Holmes was fond of having Port wine after dinner and he was known for his fondness of pipe-smoking. So what better choice than a smoky whisky with a Port influence?  

Bonus choice: Ron Swanson

Being in Chris Traeger's chair would literally be the greatest
whisky moment ever.
Why I'd like to share a dram with him: Too obvious, right? Just about every Islay whisky enthusiast is enamoured, to some degree, with Nick Offerman's alter ego, Ronald Ulysses Swanson. He's a man of few words, he's hilarious (often unintentionally), and he sports the greatest moustache in the history of television. That's enough chatter.

The whisky I'd choose: Do you really have to ask? Lagavulin 16, obviously.

So there you have it; my ideal (fictional) whisky buddies. I could have made this a top ten or a top twenty list, but my Cusack-inspired (read: obviously derivative) series is "Top Five" so other greats (The Oracle from The Matrix, Tanis from Letterkenny, Gandalf,  Joan Holloway from Mad Men, Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Beatrix The Bride Kiddo, Dr Gregory House) had to be cut. I'm curious with whom you would like to share a dram. Drop me a line in the comments or on Facebook to let me know.

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Worth the Wait? A review of W.L. Weller 12 Year Old Bourbon

It's been a long time running
It's been a long time coming
It's well worth the wait
"Long Time Running" by The Tragically Hip

Obviously, I'm a horrible person for wanting one of these dogs
The internet is a strange place. Social media is even stranger. Log on to Twitter, say something as innocent as "I like Alaskan Malamute puppies" and within the first ten minutes someone will undoubtedly tell you that you're the worst person who's ever lived and that you should re-think your life. I've left a few bourbon groups on Facebook for similar reasons. Now most whisky appreciation groups on Facebook are interesting, convivial places where you can find recommendations and information you can't seem to find anywhere else. In most scotch-focused groups, for example, divergence on taste preferences are treated as just that; individual preferences. However bourbon-specific groups seem to draw a different type of enthusiast. In the Facebook bourbon groups I've visited, there's a direct correlation between your bourbon preferences and your intelligence, as well as your value as a human being. I was chastised, derided, and belittled because I had the audacity to state that my particular bottle of a well-loved and much sought-after bourbon, Weller 12 Year Old, wasn't very good. It was perfectly clear to these grown men who I didn't know that I'm "obviously a triggered libtard snowflake". Of course, these same strangers were the ones carrying on about it IN ALL CAPS ! but I digress. Perhaps I haven't found the right bourbon groups, but the ones I've visited seem very odd.

Luckily, there are many other whisky groups with more sympathetic, insightful, and erudite members. I was told by a few people that some batches of Weller 12 were nigh on undrinkable unless they were allowed to "sit" for a year or more. This became a challenge for me, since I'm more of an instant gratification kind of guy. I want my bourbon to be delicious and I want it to rock my world now. But given the choice between pouring my Weller 12 down the drain and waiting it out, the decision was obvious. Wasting bourbon is criminal.

My tasting notes are almost always an aggregate of several tastings, but I don't always include separate notes and dates, but I did in this case since I was expecting the bourbon to change. For those who don't know, Weller 12 Year Old is a wheated bourbon produced at the Buffalo Trace distillery. It's main claim to fame is that it allegedly uses the same mashbill as the much-vaunted and incredibly rare Pappy Van Winkle bourbons, also the product of the Buffalo Trace distillery.

Tasting Notes (April 2018)

From a Glencairn glass
  • Nose (undiluted): cherries, oak, brown sugar, a bit of old leather and tobacco.
  • Palate (undiluted): rich mouthfeel, deep cherry notes, a bit of maple syrup, a lovely beginning marred by a somewhat off-putting cough syrup note.
  • Finish: the sharp, discordant medicinal cough syrup note persists and masks what is otherwise a pleasant maple-pecan-oak finish. Good overall, but the cough syrup note is incredibly disappointing and doesn’t seem to go away with time or with water.
I tasted my Weller 12 a few more times in the subsequent months of 2018 and it was always the same, lovely aromas, nice start to the flavour development, and turning unbearably awful and bitter on the finish. It was disappointing but friends encouraged me to keep my bottle around and promised that the bitter cough syrup note would eventually dissipate.

Initial Score: 70/100 (mostly because of the bitter and off-kilter finish)

Tasting Notes (November 30, 2019)

From a Glencairn glass
  • Nose (undiluted): subdued, oak, vanilla, cherry, brown sugar, a hint of Juicy Fruit gum
  • Palate (undiluted): medium bodied, vanilla, oak, slightly tannic, a little maple syrup, a touch of almonds
  • Finish: the cough syrup note is finally gone. Gentle and somewhat drying oakiness, baked apples, pecans, maple syrup, and a hint of the Juicy Fruit gum flavour lingers.
Updated score: 87/100

Tasting Notes (December 27, 2019)

From a Copita glass
  • Nose (undiluted): cherries, toasted oak, vanilla, ripe peaches, a bit of barrel char
  • Palate (undiluted): medium body, slightly tannic, cherries, oak, cinnamon
  • Finish: long and warming, but pleasantly dry, baking spices (cinnamon and nutmeg), pecans, a little maple syrup, some cherries hanging around.

Final score: 88/100

I'm glad I waited this one out. I'm not sure I'd pay the crazy prices people are paying on the U.S. secondary market, but my bottle cost me about $50 back in 2018 and that's about where this should be priced in my humble opinion.

  • Would I order this in a bar? No. Since I have no way of knowing how fresh the bottle is, I wouldn't want to set myself up for disappointment.
  • Would I accept a glass if offered? Yes. If this is from someone else's bottle, it would be worth a go.
  • Would I purchase another bottle? Absolutely. Especially if the price is reasonable. Now that I know that it does improve with time, I wouldn't hesitate. Who knows; maybe my next bottle would be good straight away. If not, this bourbon has proven to be worth the wait.

Saturday, 28 December 2019

The Third Annual Completely Subjective Whisky Awards

Yes it's that magical time of year; the moment when I reveal the winners of the most coveted awards in the whisky industry, nay, the ENTIRE spirits industry. That's right, I'm ready to reveal my picks for top whiskies of the year in my own randomly made-up and arbitrary categories. Eat your heart out, Jim Murray. Take a seat, International Wine & Spirit Competition. World Whiskies Awards? Please ! I've got them beat hands down. My awards are so much better that other spirits awards are sent into fits of impotent rage akin to that blonde lady yelling at the cat when faced with my superiority. Of course, almost nobody sends me free whisky, and I don't get the chance to taste everything so these awards are based solely on whiskies I've tasted this year, on my own dime. So with that in mind, please don't get as angry as the aforementioned blonde woman.

Rookie of the Year

This need not be a new whisky, but rather a whisky I've only just discovered. Possibly from a newer distillery, possibly from one which isn't quite as popular as the "industry standards" (e.g. The Macallan, The Balvenie, Glenmorangie, Glenfiddich, Highland Park). People's mileage may vary here as my "rookie" whiskies might be well-known to other people.

And the winner is:

Isle of Arran 10 Year Old Single Malt Scotch (aka "The Arran Malt 10 Year)

This one ticks a lot of the right boxes; bottled at 46% abv, unchill-filtered, natural colour, and unafraid to state a young age right on the label. This whisky shows that younger malts can be complex and enticing; there's no need to rely on mystery and questionable marketing back-stories to sell great whisky. It's quite "tropical" to my palate with some pineapple, mango and orange notes. As a bonus, it's quite affordable in Ontario as of this writing (approx. $55). Pick up a bottle; you won't regret it. Note that the photo is Arran's newer presentation. I'm not sure if any of the older, more colourful bottles are still out there in the wild, but either way, Arran 10 is worth a taste. Lovely stuff.

Hall of Fame Inductee

Some whiskies are so iconic they're beyond yearly awards, as far as I'm concerned. Some are such enduring classics, regardless of personal preferences, that they should be honoured in the Whisky Hall Of Fame. Is there such a thing? I don't think so. Various publications have their own Whisky Hall Of Fame, but I don't think there's a whisky equivalent to Cleveland (Rock & Roll), Cooperstown (Baseball), or Toronto (Hockey). So which whisky is on my ballot this year?

And the winner is:

Laphroaig 10 Year Old

Yes, I'm choosing another peated Islay whisky this year. With the price of Lagavulin 16 reaching further into absurdity in Ontario, I'm reaching for a more reasonably priced malt. Now that's not to say Laphroaig is "second best". Quite the contrary; Laphroaig produces a whole range of terrific whiskies, and those of us in Ontario still get this beauty at 43% abv rather than the 40% abv at which it's sold in the U.K. It's a bit brighter and livelier than some other peat bombs and Laphroaig has some soft, fragrant vanilla under the smoke, but that iodine-laced seaweed slap in the face may be a shock to the uninitiated. I enjoy all of Laphroaig's offerings, and the 10 Year Old is simply a wonderful representation of what this distillery is all about.


Canadian Whisky of the Year, limited release

J.P. Wiser's 35 Year Old Canadian Whisky (50% abv)

Yes, I realize this was released in 2018, but I tasted it several times in 2019 and I have to say it was hands-down my favourite Canadian of the year. It was complex with lots of sweet caramel corn, spicy rye, some vanilla, a bit of tobacco, coconut, and plenty of oak-driven backbone. This was a special whisky and I'm glad I got the chance to taste it several times. I didn't do an official write-up on it, but I'd easily rate this 90/100 or 91/100 points, maybe higher if I had worked through a full bottle.

Canadian Whisky of the Year, standard release

Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve (40% abv)

I was convinced this was a limited "special edition release", but it appears that it's part of Forty Creek's core lineup. That's good news for any Canadian whisky enthusiast. Confederation Oak is a whisky worthy of the leather armchair in your study. You'll find aromas and flavours of brown sugar, vanilla, plums, figs, oak spice (cloves, nutmeg, rye spice), orange peels, walnuts. It isn't cheap, but I promise this is one to savour as you contemplate the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow.

Canadian Distillery of the Year

Hiram Walker Distillery (Windsor, Ontario)

There are so many great products coming out of this distillery that it's hard to  track (or try) of all of them. There's Lot 40 Rye (standard and Cask Strength releases), the entire J.P. Wiser's line, the Gooderham & Worts whiskies, the Pike Creek line, as well as the NHL Alumni series whiskies. They're not the only distillery in Canada making great whisky, but they've done some of the most interesting things this year. Kudos to Dr. Don Livermore and his team for pushing the envelope and challenging pre-conceived notions of what Canadian whisky can be.


Bourbon or American Whiskey of the Year, limited release

Booker's Batch 2018-01 "Kathleen's Batch" (63.7% abv)

Booker's is released in different batches every year, and every batch is released at a different age and abv %. While this one was released in 2018, it only made it to Ontario in mid-2019. Like I said, I'm drinking on my own dime here, folks. This bottle of Booker's has gotten better and more complex with time and air exposure. It's big and bold, but also incredibly complex and nuanced. There's toffee, oak, ginger, pepper, caramel corn, a good dose of smoky barrel char and more to be found in every glass. Here's to hoping it won't be my last bottle of Booker's.

Bourbon or American Whiskey of the Year, standard release

Weller Antique 107 (53.5 % abv)

This is one of the few instances where the LCBO actually benefits Ontarians. Weller Antique can be difficult to find, or outrageously priced for some bourbon lovers south of the 49th parallel. Up until Buffalo Trace decided to put a cork stopper in Weller Antique, it could be had at the LCBO for $36 per bottle. I'm glad I stocked up when I did, because $65 seems pretty steep. Politics aside, this is a lovely wheated bourbon. While some may flip out over the age-stated Weller 12 year old, I'll take the Weller Antique 107 any day of the week. Rich, oaky, sweet, and perfectly balanced, this is a great whiskey to show people what wheated bourbon is all about.

American Distillery of the Year

Wild Turkey (Lawrenceburg, Kentucky)

Bourbon's marketing leans heavily on tradition and lore. Wild Turkey doesn't need to embellish their stories. Bourbon legend Jimmy Russell has been in the business over 60 years and his son Eddie has been working at Wild Turkey for 38 years. And while everyone loves a good story and a father-son team, the bourbon is what really matters. Lucky for us, the Russells and the team at Wild Turkey consistently produce outstanding whiskey. Wild Turkey 101 is, dollar for dollar, the best all-purpose bourbon you can buy. Russell's Reserve 10 Year gives you a little extra oak from the longer aging. Wild Turkey Rare Breed is a barrel proof bourbon that's dangerously easy to sip and is eminently affordable too. You'll always find a Wild Turkey product or three in my liquor cabinet.


Irish Whiskey of the Year, blended

Tullamore DEW Original (40% abv)

So I may trigger some "what an absolute idiot!" reactions here, but I'm nothing if not honest. Remember, you don't want to be the angry blonde lady. The honest truth is, I've tasted some exceptional bottles of Tullamore DEW this year. I had it more than a few times in pubs as well as going through a few bottles at home and I'm convinced that Tullamore is doing something right. This one may be a humble, modestly-priced blend, but it's a darned good one. Tullamore DEW contains single pot still, single malt, and grain whiskey. It's on the subtle side, but it's well-balanced with vanilla, apples, fruit, and some gentle oak notes.

Honourable mention: The Dead Rabbit Irish Whiskey (44% abv) If Tullamore is too mild and smooth for your taste, consider The Dead Rabbit. It's bolder, spicier, and oakier, and well worth a taste or two. It isn't the cheapest blend on the market, but it isn't a boring run-of-the-mill whiskey either. If you like your whiskies oaky, this one is for you.

Irish Whiskey of the Year, Single Malt or Single Pot Still

The Tyrconnell 16 Year Old Single Malt (46% abv)

This double-distilled single malt from the Cooley distillery combines 100% ex-bourbon maturation, a flawless presentation (age statement, natural colour, unchill-filtered, respectable abv%), and most importantly, a great flavour profile for a very decent price. Tyrconnell is available with all kinds of different wine cask finishes, and they're lovely, but this original all bourbon cask offering is my favourite. It's a perfect marriage of fruitiness, grassy grain notes, and oak influence. Wonderful stuff.

Irish Distillery of the Year

Cooley Distillery (County Louth)

There are three main product lines produced at Cooley Distillery; Kilbeggan (blended and single grain whiskey), Connemara (peated single malt whiskey), and The Tyrconnell (unpeated single malt whiskey). These products are all distinct, interesting and worth trying. Even though I'm a peated whisky fan, The Tyrconnell is by far my favourite line from Cooley. Irish whiskey is growing in popularity and the quality of the products coming out of Cooley shows why. If you haven't checked them out yet, I urge you to do it soon before the prices jump. (and they will)


Scotch Whisky of the Year, Blended or Blended Malt

Compass Box No Name (48.9% abv)

Back in April, I was given some mystery samples to review. I had no information on the whiskies whatsoever, other than they were all blended malts. I rated this offering from Compass Box more favourably than another whisky which sells for over $100 more. I've said it before and I'll repeat myself: there is no correlation between price and quality. Now Compass Box No Name isn't cheap and it isn't always readily available, but I think it's important to recognize quality when we encounter it. I believe this No Name was the first edition, featuring a vatting of malt whiskies from Ardbeg, Caol Ila, and Clynelish. As you might expect, it's quite smoky and tarry, but with some fruity apples, cinnamon, and honey in the mix too.

Honourable mention: Douglas Laing Rock Oyster (46.8% abv) This blended malt from Douglas Laing features malt whisky from the islands of Orkney (rumoured to be Highland Park), Jura, Arran, and Islay (rumoured to be Laphroaig). There's a playful balance of sweetness, fruit, and smoke in this whisky. If you were a kid in the 1970s or 1980s, this whisky may remind you of every birthday party  you attended, since the birthday cake was often infused with smoke because many parents still smoked in the house. Oh the nostalgia!

Scotch Whisky of the Year, Single Malt, Age Stated

Tomatin 14 Year Old Port Cask (46% abv)

I don't know if I should be telling you this, but Tomatin is one of the most underrated distilleries in Scotland. They consistently produce fantastic whisky that isn't too sweet, or too fruity, but manages to hit that "Goldilocks zone" where everything is just right. The 14 Year Old Port Cask offering isn't a wine bomb, and that's a wonderful thing. The wonderful, malty spirit is still present in the final product; it's enhanced by the judicious use of  Port Casks, not drowned out by it. This is not an attempt hide a flawed spirit with too much sweet wine influence, because Tomatin's spirit is beautifully made stuff. The final product is redolent of red fruit, honey, toffee, and malted barley. Tomatin 14 also has the trifecta of perfect presentation: age statement, natural colour, non-chill filtered. Oh, and it's bottled at a respectable strength too. Grab a bottle or three before the price skyrockets, because, you know, I have that kind of influence. (No, no I don't).

Scotch Whisky of the Year, Single Malt, No Age Statement

Ardbeg Corryvreckan (57.1 % abv)

This was a tough one for me to call. Laphroaig's Triple Wood almost won (again), but Ardbeg Corryvreckan is just a tad more complex to my palate and a bit "darker" in overall character. Maybe Corry's higher abv % gave it the edge. Maybe Ardbeg is slowly overtaking Laphroaig and Lagavulin on my "favourite distilleries" list. Then again, why choose a favourite distillery when there are so many great ones? Corryvreckan is a real belter; it's heavily peated, it's spicy, but also balanced out by some fruity cherry notes, rumoured to be from some burgundy wine casks. Whatever sorcery the fine folks at Ardbeg have spun, it works beautifully in this whisky.

Scottish Distillery of the Year

Springbank Distillery (Campbeltown, Argyll)

I've tasted a variety of Springbanks this year, and none has let me down. Springbank 10 is still one of the best young whiskies money can buy. Springbank 12 Cask Strength is one of the most complex malt whiskies on the market. Springbank 15 divides popular opinion but to me it is rich, deep, dark, fruity and funky. Their Local Barley variants are absolutely brilliant. Hazelburn, Springbank's triple-distilled unpeated line of whiskies, shows a different side of Springbank that's just as interesting as their other offerings. Longrow, the heavily peated expressions, incorporate wine, peat, and Springbank funk in an intriguing witch's brew. There may be Springbank whiskies I don't like, but I haven't found them yet.

Overall winner: World Whisky of the Year

Ardbeg Corryvreckan

Ardbeg's stock continues to rise in my book. And as long as you don't live in Ontario (or British Columbia), this whisky is available for a pretty reasonable price. There's so much going on in this whisky that I encourage you to try it neat, with a little water, and with a large sphere of ice. Yes, you read that last part right. Just try it once, for science. I prefer it neat, but it works any way you like it. It's big, it's bold, it's complex. Corryvreckan is a winner.

So there you have it, folks. I've declared my winners, so you can ignore all the professionals who disagree. Sure they're more knowledgeable. Yes, they've tasted more whiskies than I have. Of course they've been doing this longer than me. I admit their palates are more refined than mine. Wait, I forget where I was going with this. It doesn't matter. As the kids say, "don't @ me". Hey, I'm hip; I'm with it, and I'm not changing my mind. That is, until this time next year. Take care.

Actual photo of me trying to act hip