The WhiskyAdvovate recently released the Top 20 Whiskies of 2018. I must admit even though the idea of enjoying a glass of Scotch while smoking one of my precious cigars always fascinated me. Too bad I don't like Whisky at all. It tastes shitty - worse than medicine. Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy most sorts of alcoholic beverages (don't tell my mum, please) and would always favour a gin and tonic, craft beer or wine over a boring glas of water.
I am also convinced that drinking whisky would perfectly suit me. Like my Buddy Holly glasses, my wanna-be hipster attitude, the Harrington jacket I keep wearing even though I'll never be James Dean and so on. Still, whisky and I won't fall in love for some reason. Many people tried to persuade me, talk me into the whisky thing. I have tried all sorts and brands, on the rocks, with water and plain. No cigar. However, sometimes I feel like having a whisky anyway. At least holding the glas, nipping every now and then, hiding my nausea while looking totally handsome.
The previously mentioned ranking got me interested again and I really want to try one of those anytime soon.
Why not start with the best? The top ranked whisky 2018? Nikka from the Barrel - it's a Japanese blend, but I like how the bottle looks. And it's also the #1!
For Nikka From the Barrel, it’s been a long road to Whisky of the Year. This Japanese blend made its U.S. debut in 2018, but its inception dates back more than 30 years. In 1985, Nikka Whisky Distilling Company’s blending team, led by Shigeo Sato, designed this whisky using both malt and grain whiskies produced at Nikka’s Yoichi and Miyagikyo Distilleries. When taking into account the full array of casks—bourbon barrels, sherry butts, refill hogsheads, and more—over 100 different constituent whiskies are enlisted. “From the Barrel” suggests barrel proof, but that’s not the case. The blenders made a conscious decision to bottle at 51.4% (derived from 90 British Proof) to deliver maximum flavor impact. They succeeded. Notably balanced and elegant, the colorful palette of whiskies combines for tremendous depth of flavor. Soft, sweet butterscotch and orange peel meet poached pears and stone fruits. Earthiness appears as dried autumn leaves, coffee, old oak, and tobacco. Among the tangle of spices, tasters identified chili pepper, allspice, cloves, and universally adored its ginger note. Finally, wisps of smoke and sea salt. Overall, it feels generously malty, with the grain whisky lending broad sweetness and supple mouthfeel across the long finish.
Maybe a whopping $65 feels a little pricey given the likelihood of me emptying the bottle into the sink because I'm once more disappointed about myself not liking whisky even though I am convinced I should! But there's way more expensive bottles on that list - higher priced but lower ranked (makes sense). Does Glendalough 13 year old Mizunara Cask sound yummy? It's an Irish whisky and could be yours for nothing less than $120.
Precious few distillers outside of Japan are resourceful and determined enough to lay their hands on virgin mizunara oak to cooper their own finishing puncheons, let alone allow you to experience its flavors at such a reasonable price. Stone fruit, Quaker oats, comb honey, and sandalwood aromas are followed by ripe melon and tropical fruit flavors trailed by cocoa. Fragrant spices contribute to a sublime balance, with spicy chocolate, coffee grounds, and menthol to finish. This is a rare gem among Irish whiskeys.
For me it's maybe rather the lowest priced whisky here: 1792 Bottled in Bond, a bourbon, for just $36 (for this price I could still have it sitting in it's bottle for decorative purposes for the rest of my life).
While this offers no age statement, it revels in the renewed respect for bottled in bond whiskey which assures us it is at least 4 years old, 100 proof, from one distillery, and one distilling season. This new appreciation is for good reason. Toasted oak, chocolate-covered banana, vanilla, and apple meet hints of coffee and cinnamon on the nose. The high-rye recipe delivers the requisite cracked pepper and baking spices on the caramel-laden palate laced with licorice. This widely available bourbon seems to dwell in the age sweet spot, is nicely balanced with oak, and comes at a price that leaves little cause for hesitation.
Which blend would you recommend to a miserable beginner?