Whisky — or whiskey — comes in a myriad of styles and from many parts of the world. Whether we’re talking about Scotch, rye, Bourbon, Irish, Japanese, or some other style, they’re all whisk(e)y. Depending on your taste buds and needs, one or another style may suit your fancy.
Here’s a look at nine different selections I recently tried that kept me going back to my snifter for sip after sip.
Canadian Club Rye ($20)
This single-grain whisky, 100 percent rye, stands as the latest addition to the Canadian Club portfolio. Most whisky labeled “rye” in this price category is not a single-grain product, but this one is. The nose here has a nice ferocity to it with toast, vanilla, and a hint of biscuit. The palate is loaded with silky flavors. Burnt brown sugar, toasted pecan, and white pepper are all there. A host of spices emerge on the finish, which has good length. This rye works well neat, and for $20 or less, it’s certainly reasonably priced for mixing into cocktails.
Laphroaig Select Single Malt Scotch ($55)
This newer entry in the Laphroaig line uses a variety of casks and butts in the aging process. Virgin American white oak, PX-seasoned hogsheads, oloroso Sherry butts, quarter casks, and used Bourbon barrels were all utilized. The result is a wide-ranging profile. In the glass, this whisky is a shimmering gold like apple juice. Classic Laphroaig smokiness emerges the moment you get anywhere near this Scotch. That’s joined by bits of tar, toasted nuts, and dried currants. Dried red fruits, continued toasted nuts, and a touch of sweetness emerge at the front of the palate and lead right into more of that trademark peat you expect. All of those elements come together on the somewhat opulent finish. This really stands apart from other Laphroaig releases.
Lagavulin 8-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch ($64.99)
This release marks this Islay distillery’s 200th anniversary. They chose an 8-year-old in honor of Alfred Barnard, considered the world’s first whisky writer, who tasted an 8-year-old Lagavulin in the late 1880s and dubbed it “exceptionally fine.” This offering has a lovely pale straw hue. Aromas of fresh-cut wheat and subtle peat lead the nose. The soft and elegant palate has both bite and elegant grace. Toasted oak, dried white fig, and copious spice notes are evident on the generous palate. Richly toasted oak notes and a continuing avalanche of spices are present on the above-average finish.
Paul John Edited Indian Single Malt Whiskey ($65)
This single malt from India was produced using six-row barley, favored for most American whiskies (the Scots and Irish generally use the two-row variety). Aging took place in American white oak. A very gentle bit of smoke emerges from the nose alongside some toasted oak notes and vanilla. The first impression of the palate is sweetness. Dark chocolate and dried mission figs are in evidence. Continued subtle wisps of smoke appear on the finish and they’re joined by a nice complement of spices and hints of chicory. This is an interesting and tasty whiskey that would be fascinating to sample alongside a single malt Scotch.
Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or Single Malt Scotch ($75)
Glenmorangie’s specialty is Scotches that are finished in casks that once contained something else. In this case, the barrels utilized to finish it once housed Sauternes, the French dessert wine. Citrus, white fig, and spices light up the welcoming nose. The palate has a remarkable combination of depth and complexity with an inherent lightness on the tongue that will knock you out. Dried stone fruits, lemon curd, and vanilla bean are present. Toasted macadamia, baker’s spices, and more are all part of the long, persistent, silky finish.
Ardbeg Dark Cove Islay Single Malt Scotch ($110)
This limited release (1,100 cases) from Ardbeg was aged in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-dark Sherry casks. This gives it a copper-like color, darker than others in the Ardbeg line. Everything here is deep and rich. It starts with the aforementioned hue and leads right into the heady and powerful nose. Toasted hazelnuts and dates are present. Dark caramel, chocolate, and a hint of petrol are all in evidence on the firm and pleasingly fierce palate. Burnt brown sugar and candied walnuts emerge on the long and lingering finish. This is a distinct offering from Ardbeg. If you’re a fan of peaty Scotches, put this on your must-drink list.
Usquaebach Old Rare Superior Blend ($115)
This blended Scotch is beautiful from first to last, and that includes the porcelain container it’s bottled in. Stick your nose into the snifter and a tiny wisp of peat comes back at you. It’s a gentle hit of peat and plays nicely alongside toasted nuts and hints of candied lemon. Marzipan and hints of biscuit and toasted pecan are all evident on the deeply layered and sweet-leaning palate. Bits of yeast and candied fruit lead the finish along with a continuing bit of gentle smoke. This is easily one of the best blended Scotches that’s going to wet your lips; don’t pass it up.
Knob Creek 2001 Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon ($129.99)
At more than 14 years of age, this is the oldest Bourbon Knob Creek has bottled to date; three different batches have been released. Just a hint of smoke accompanies the roasted pecan and toasty oak notes here. The palate has substantial depth and precision. Caramel, a wisp of candied orange, toffee, and continued references to roasted nuts are present. The finish is long, warm, pleasing, and layered with richness. I wouldn’t make cocktails with this beauty; it deserves to be sipped neat and in good company.
Booker’s Rye Limited Edition Big Time Batch ($299.99)
Big Time Batch was laid down for 13 years, one month, and 12 days. This release was culled from some of the last batches of Rye Booker Noe ever barreled. Every release in the Booker’s portfolio is bottled uncut; this is no exception. The deep copper hue shimmers in the glass. A bevy of spice notes and toasted malt inform the nose. The palate is bold and substantial without being over the top. There’s an inherent smoothness and sweetness to the palate that makes this an engaging rye. Mexican vanilla bean, marzipan, and roasted brown sugar are all present. The long finish is warm, pleasing, and memorable.