By Richard Thomas
Although The Whiskey Reviewer does not give out formal awards (yet), we do round-up each year with an informal set of whiskey picks. Each staff member is allowed to chose one whiskey in two categories, Best New Whiskey and Best Whiskey To Pass My Lips, the latter representing whatever the best dram that person had during the year. Here are the top picks for 2014.
Diana Kaoru Cheang, Staff Writer
- Best New Whiskey: Glenglassaugh Torfa. I’ve actually had quite a few NAS whiskies this year but that Torfa kinda blew me out of the water.
- Best To Pass My Lips: Mortlach 25 Year Old. That stuff was gilded nectar, and at $1000 a bottle it had better be!
Jake Emen, Staff Writer
- Best New Whiskey: Kavalan Solist Ex-Bourbon. The best of the five Kavalan whiskies I was able to sample, the Solist ex-Bourbon is a single malt, bottled at 57%. It offers deep, rich flavors, from tropical fruit to honey, vanilla, pepper, and oak, and is loaded with complexity in the best way.
Best To Pass My Lips: Old Potrero Hotalings 18. American craft distilling at its best, and perhaps it’s oldest vintage – an 18 year old, pot distilled 100% rye. The age has taken the bite off the rye while keeping its spice, offering a very smooth and refined dram with plenty of fruit.
Kurt Maitland, Deputy Editor
- Best New Whiskey: Barrell Bourbon Batch 003. Similar to Batches 001 and 002 in mashbill but distilled in Kentucky versus Tennessee, this release is a completely different animal to its brethren. Less spicy even though it is the highest proof of the releases, Batch 003 is full of flavors and is so well done that I’m going to have to start treating Barrell Bourbon the way I treat Parker’s Heritage each year and grab a bottle the minute it is released.
- Best To Pass My Lips: Brora 30 Yr Old Single Malt Natural Cask Strength, Bottle 002675 of 2958. Deceptively peaty nose, an amazing fruity middle that turns to a earthy, peaty finish. It’s a PhD level course on Scotch in a glass.
S.D. Peters, Staff Writer and “Rye Guy”
- Best New Whiskey: Ranger Creek .44 Texas Rye is my vote. For a “young” Rye, it had the aroma, flavor, and finish of a classic rye — a spicy body wrapped in a mildly sweet coat — yet still stood apart from the big guns almost as distinctly as it was unlike other young Ryes. A truly unique Rye whiskey.
- Best To Pass My Lips: Of the whiskey’s that have been around but had, until this year, been names only to me, the Redbreast 12 Year Cask Strength Single Malt Irish Whiskey was my favorite. I’ve been consuming Irish whiskey with as much relish as I have for Rye this year, and this one really stood out. It has the sweetly mellow barley flavor that makes Irish whiskey so palatable, but the cask strength bottling gives it a bit of a kick that’s more common to a Bourbon or Rye. Not that Irish whiskey doesn’t pack a kick in too-large quantities: but I usually find Irish whiskey to be the most mellow, so it was pleasant finding one that retained that character while offering a stronger bite.
Richard Thomas, Owner and Managing Editor
When I reviewed my notes for 2014, I discovered my choices would make me “all-Irish” this year.
- Best New Whiskey: Teeling 30 Year Old Platinum Single Malt. I handed out only a few “A” grades this year, and no “A+” grades, so consequently my pool for new whiskeys was a small one. Yet even if the list had been longer, the choice would have been easy. The Teeling 30 Year Old is rich, balanced, sophisticated, and yet also very easy drinking. Or more simply put, it’s absolutely lovely.
- Best To Pass My Lips: Jameson Rarest Vintage. I got to sample some of the top of Jameson’s line while visiting Midleton this year. I couldn’t write it up because I don’t know whether what I had was of the 2007 or 2009 batch, and also because I was unable to become properly acquainted with it. That is an oversight I am keen to rectify. What makes this a very special whiskey is the very old, port-pipe aged pot still whiskey in the blend. I had a chance to try that port-aged pot still whiskey on its own too, and I would have named it “Best To Pass My Lips” were it in commercial release in its own right.