Samstag, 16. März 2013
Does age matter?
There are many people outside there who think that a good single malt whisky has to be or a certain age before it can be a good whisky. I think this thesis is complete rubbish. Good whisky is no question of age. The only criteria that are important for good whisky are good ingredients (water, barley) and good casks for the maturation. I would even go so far and claim that there are more old whiskies that suffer from too much wood influence than there are young whiskies less than 10 years just ripe for drinking. Believe me or not there are great whiskies out there that are young of age. I will give you each five examples of great young whisky worth trying and partially still available on the market from official bottlers and independent ones through all regions – I will not score them, go out and get them for your own trying!

Official bottlings:
• Auchentoshan Valinch (cask strength, batches around 35 Euro)
• Laphroaig Quarter Cask, 48% (around 35 Euro)
• Port Charlotte An Turas Mor, 46% (around 35-40 Euro)
• Longrow CV, 46% (around 35 Euro)
• Springbank Rundlets & Kilderkins, 10yo, 49,4% (around 70-75 Euro – not very cheap but absolutely stunning whisky!)
• Amrut Fusion, 50% (around 35 Euro, Indian single malt, absolutely worth trying and recommendation of the day, great stuff!)

Independent bottlings (I have to admit that the Bunna, Glentauchers and Tamdhu may be difficult to find):
• Bowmore 10yo 1999, Douglas Laing, The Old Malt Cask, 46% (regular series, so there is no special cask number that I would recommend, around 40 Euro)
• Bunnahabhain 5yo 1997, Murray McDavid Silver Tin, 46%, 1.200 bottles (no cask number available on the label as vatting of different casks, around 35 Euro)
• Classic of Islay (single cask bottlings of youngish Lagavulin), Jack Wieber’s World of Whisky, all cask strength (around 35-40 Euro)
• Smokehead (youngish Ardbeg), Ian Macleod, 43 % (no cask number available as batches of vatted casks, around 30 Euros). By the way – Smokehead Extra Black is a fantastic whisky as well (18 yo vatted Ardbeg) but doesn’t really fit into this category as prizes are around 80-85 Euro ;-)
• Glentauchers 7yo 2003, A.D. Rattray, Cask Collection, 60,5%, cask 900610 (around 55 Euro)
• Tamdhu 7yo 2004, The Ultimate Whisky Company, The Ultimate, 52,9%, cask 5439 (around 55-60 Euro)

All these bottles offer great bang for your buck. And I could have listed many more without problem. They are all younger or at least not older than 10 years. You see – there is no best age for whisky – the quality of ingredients used in the distilling and the casks defines when it is mature and ready to be enjoyed.

Best value for money series of Independent Bottlers (Top ten list)
This is a very personal listing based on my experiences so far and surely far away from being complete. I only included indie bottlers here from whom I have at least tried five good bottlings in order to be able to give a more or less qualified statement. And following my search for the best value for money that offer great malts for reasonable prizes – there are fantastic series which I like pretty much which haven’t made it to my list because of their ambitious prizes. So don’t compare my listing with your own experience, see it as what it is – a personal list of one of all the malt aficionados out there looking for a good and fairly prized dram ;-) And don’t forget – I am focusing on the series rather than on the whole portfolio of these bottlers. Maybe one day I will be able to give an overview over the best indie bottlers – independently from the series they offer and the prizes.
Enough said, here we go (in alphabetical order, don’t interpretate too much ;-)):

• A.D. Rattray – Cask Collection: cask strength single malts, great bottlings around
• Anam na-h Alba: cask strength single malts, some very good bottlings
• Bladnoch Distillery – Bladnoch Forum Bottlings: cask strengts single malts
• Cadenhead – Authentic Collection: cask strength single malts from the oldest independant bottler from Campbeltown
• Caminneci & Schrauth – C&S Dram Collection: cask strength series, very nice single malts in this collection
• Meadowside Blending – The Maltman: single casks, bottled at 46%, new series by Donald Hart (former CEO of Hart Brothers)
• Murray McDavid – Gold and Silver Tin Series: mainly finished in wine casks, selected by Jim McEwan, godfather of Bruichladdich Distillery
• Signatory Vintage – The Unchillfiltered Collection: bottled at 46%, vatted bottlings, some rare and hidden gems around (I am specially thinking of a 15yo Imperial and a 14yo Glenlivet)
• The Whisky Exchange – Elements of Islay: THE Islay single malt collection at cask strength, unfortunately in 0,5l bottles
• Villa Konthor - Whisky & Chocolate Series: Very nice single cask bottlings in cask strength in combination with the right chocolate for each malt, made by a professional chocolatier – a great experience and highly recommended!

There are many others that offer fairly priced bottlings like Berry Brothers & Rudd, David Stirk's Exclusive Malts, The Golden Cask by Mr. Whisky, the Ultimate Whisky Company or Weiser Private Collection, but I wanted to focus on the ones from whom I have tasted enough bottlings to feel being in the position of fairly judging. As always, these are my own personal impressions, of course.

Only focus on Islay whiskies?
Bullshit. Islay whiskies are building their own class of course but there are many other brilliant single malts out on the market. It would be much too simple to only focus yourself and your whisky life on Islay, you will miss many nice experiences. Have you ever tried a zesty grapy Clynelish from the Northern Highlands or a sherry monster from Glenfarclas or GlenDronach? What about a tropical fruity Imperial or a salty-malty Springbank that nearly breaks the glass because of its power and strength? Peaty whiskies indeed are offering another dimension to a single malt but it is definitely not the only interesting one to try. Whisky is so complex - it’s really worth trying all regions and all types of cask finishes, from sherry to wine or even other distillates like Cognac. Enjoy this journey, it will probably never end! By the way, I also love an ultra-clean Bowmore or a well-balanced Bunnahabhain, not to forget the other great Islay malts of course ;-)