The best whiskies to try this World Whisky Day
If your whisky cabinet is looking a little uninspired, why not splash the cash on one of these lesser-known offerings?
15 May marks the 2021 edition of World Whisky Day, a celebration of all things Scotch, Bourbon and the rest. As the pandemic continues to trundle along, it seems possible that a trip to your favourite Scotch or bourbon distillery may still be off the cards, so why not use this opportunity to hit the web and try something a little different?
Here, Tempus looks at the best rare or limited-edition whiskies from some of the world's most prestigious brands, along with a few ultra-high-quality offerings from distilleries you may not have heard of, for an extra special World Whisky Day.
BRORA 40-YEAR-OLD HIGHLAND 200TH ANNIVERSARY 1978
One of Scotland's earliest purpose-built malt whisky distilleries, Brora was founded in 1819 as Clynelish by the Marquess of Stafford. This is a fine, elegant old coastal malt with rich fruit sweetness and compelling smokiness, held in perfect balance and a vigour remarkable for its age. Clear amber in colour with fine long beading.
On the nose there is a slight prickle, then sweet, smoky-peat and wafts of treacle, toffee and smoke with iodine. This gives way to rich, sweet fruit and ripe figs. On the palate it is exquisitely smooth, with a lightly waxy texture and a powerful, rich, darkly sweet, savoury then finally smoky taste, with great balance, length and persistence. Best straight but also deliciously drinkable with a dash of water, which adds to the sweetness and brings up a minty note. All this is still underpinned by a smokiness.
REDBREAST 27 YEAR OLD
Ireland's Redbreast distillery has for more than a century stayed true to the Irish Pot Still whiskey making tradition, and few whiskies demonstrate the skill of these distillers than the Redbreast 27 Year Old, their most indulgent expression yet.
On the nose are notes of mango, pineapple, blood orange and ripe red berries along with some aromatic wood spices, while on the tongue the whiskey is extraordinarily rich in texture with ripe red fleshed plums, black cherries and summer berries.
COPPER RIVET DISTILLERY MASTHOUSE SINGLE MALT WHISKY
This special single malt from Copper Rivet Distillery has not one but two USPs. For a start, Kent is likely not the first place that springs to mind when thinking of premium single malt whiskies. But if mere geographic oddity is not enough, the real ace up the sleeve of the Masthouse Single Malt is its remarkable exclusivity; the whisky sold out its inaugural batch of 2,124 bottles within a month of its November 2020 launch.
Apple and peach are at the forefront of the nose, while its fabulously smooth, creamy and almost chocolately profile lingers on the palate.
And if you're intrigued, you needn't worry. A second batch of the 2017 Vintage was released from its casks in December and will ship at the beginning of February 2021, so be sure to set a reminder on your phone to snap up a bottle of this highly saught-after tipple.
STAUNING PEAT SINGLE MALT WHISKY
If Kent wasn't an unusual enough origin for your new favourite single malt, how about the windswept Scandinavian climes of Denmark? Based just outside the the small coastal town of Skjern, Stauning has been making waves in the European whisky scene since its foundation in 2005 with a variety of quality spirits.
Fans of premium Islay whisky will love the Stauning Peat, a stonking single malt made from barley that has been floor-malted at the distillery before being peated using peat excavated from Denmark’s west coast. It is matured there too, with ample airflow, so that the region becomes part of the final product. This creates this whisky’s unique flavour; bright and fruity with a subtle smoky finish.
ABERFELDY 18 FRENCH RED WINE CASK
The limited edition Aberfeldy 18 French Wine Cask Finish, launched at the tail end of 2020, is a Scotch whisky with an extraordinary journey behind it. Initially matured for 18 years in American-made bourbon, re-fill and re-char casks, it is then aged for up to five months in french wine casks from Pauillac, Bordeaux, for a stunningly complex, rich finish.
With this new expression, Aberfeldy’s signature profile of honey and creamy vanilla notes is invigorated with swathes of plush ripe fruits and rounded nutty aromas for a truly elegant Scotch.
TORABHAIG LEGACY SERIES 2017
Torabhaig, the first new whisky distillery to be built on Skye in 190 years and only the second legal distillery ever to operate on the island, is set to release a rare new arrival to the peated Single Malt market in February; the Legacy Series 2017.
Operating since 2017, Torabhaig uses beautiful copper stills whilst also choosing to ferment in traditional wooden washbacks to add complexity of flavour in the whisky and evolving a distinctive signature style. The Legacy, a 46% ABV single malt, will be the first release from the distillery and strictly limited by number to just over 3,000 bottles.
HYDE CASK STRENGTH SINGLE GRAIN
This remarkable offering from Hyde is a single grain Irish whiskey that has triple distilled in a traditional “Coffey” copper column still and made from pure corn grain. Made in small batches, it is matured for at least eight years in flame-charred, first fill, ex-bourbon casks from Kentucky.
Don't let the whiskey's eye-watering 59% ABV put you off; this spirit defies all expectations with a delicate - if somewhat spicy - profile, rich with caramel, vanilla and oak. Try it with a dash of water if necessary.
MORTLACH 21-YEAR-OLD SPEYSIDE SPECIAL RELEASES 2020
Mortlach was the first legal distillery in Dufftown, the heart of Speyside. On the nose, this is mellow, with light prickle. A hint of new wood pencil cases introduces freshly juicy, fruity top notes of green apple, green grape and pineapple, which gradually come together with a trace of lemon peel as a sweet fresh fruit salad, on a faintly mossy base.
A drop of water adds a further juicy note of boiled fruit sweets. At natural strength, there is a creamy-smooth texture and a sweet then juicy taste with traces of fondant mid-palate; deliciously buttery, hot and spicy, recalling toasted hot-cross buns. Slightly sweeter at reduced strength and buttery-soft, with enhanced pepper. Drying lightly overall. The finish is quite long, with some white pepper for a lingering warmth.
PORT ELLEN 40-YEAR-OLD
The second release in the highly collectable Port Ellen Untold Stories Series explores the story of Port Ellen's past ahead of the distillery's return, having closed in 1983 and recently given a new lease of life by drinks giant Diageo.
Each precious drop of this exclusive 40-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky is from nine rogue casks and is one of the oldest and rarest releases ever to be made available direct from the distillery, located on the island of Islay.
It offers an entirely new dimension of flavour never before seen from Port Ellen. With only 1,380 bottles of this release made available to the public, it is one of the last chances to own a part of Port Ellen’s history.
ROYAL LOCHNAGAR 17-YEAR-OLD
To mark the 175th anniversary of Royal Lochnagar, the distillery has released a special and rarely released mid-aged malt at natural cask strength, complete with gorgeous caramel apple and chocolate flavours on the tongue.
Situated on the north side of the river Dee near the Lochnagar mountain, the distillery was visited in 1848 by Her Majesty Queen Victoria during a trip to Balmoral and, suitably impressed by their whisky, issued a Royal Warrant allowing the distillery to add "Royal" to its name.
The Singleton 38-Year-Old is a rare and irresistibly rich single malt whisky from The Singleton of Glen Ord Distillery.
This stunning offering is the perfect indulgent dram for this season, bursting with layers of flavours and seductive aromas of baked apples drizzled with caramel and dusted with cinnamon spices. It is the ultimate autumnal drink to be savoured outside, around a bonfire with a special few.
There are only 1,689 bottles available globally, so hurry!
NUCKELAVEE 31-YEAR-OLD ORKNEY ISLAND 1988 SINGLE MALT
The fourth release in an award-winning series of single cask whisky bottlings inspired by the legends of Scottish Folklore, the 31 Year Old Orkney Island 1988 Single Malt is distilled at Highland Park and matured in a refill sherry cask before finishing in an ex-Rivesaltes fortified French wine hogshead.
This latest release in Cask88’s Folklore Series tells the tale of Orcadian Nuckelavee, a monstrous creature of deep sea and darkness, appearing as the flayed body of a horse fused with the torso of a man. Perfumed, woody notes on the nose give way to a gorgeously thick, sweet layer of marzipan icing and raspberry jam on the tongue.
GLENFARCLAS FAMILY CASK SET 1953-2004
We round off the list by cheating somewhat; rather than a single whisky, this is a stunning, monumental collection available from Hedonism Wines, perfect for those who find a spare £250k down the side of the sofa in time for International Whisk(e)y day.
An incredibly rare vertical assortment of whiskies from the much-celebrated Glenfarclas distillery, now in the hands of the fifth and sixth generations of the Grant family, this is the ultimate collection of traditional Speyside single malts on the market. The Family Cask whiskies are limited releases drawn from single casks stretching back seven decades, with each bottle containing its own unique aroma and flavour.
This collection contains 52 Family Cask whiskies dating from 1953 to 2004 and, to their knowledge, is the only full set available for retail in the world.
DADDY RACK SMALL BATCH TENNESSEE STRAIGHT WHISKEY
Launched this spring, Daddy Rack is wonderful Tennessee whiskey brand founded and owned by British drinks expert James Rackham. This is a classic small batch whiskey in the Tennessee style, double mellowed for a pure and smooth finish.
The spirit is made from locally sourced corn and double distilled in copper stills before being filtered through the Lincoln County Maple Charcoal slow filtration process. The result is a delightfully smooth, rich whiskey with flavours of toffee apple, oak and even buttered popcorn. Be sure to look out for this unique, satisfying whiskey upon its release later this year.
Part of the Diageo Special Releases 2016 collection, this limited edition Single Grain Whisky was distilled in 1975 at the now closed Cambus distillery, near Alloa. The oldest release to date from the distillery, only 1,812 individually numbered bottles have been charged from refill American oak hogsheads.
The nose is lively with fruity top notes of red apple, pineapple and gooseberry above strawberry chewy sweets, milk chocolate and toffee. The palate is light and drying with pine notes building in sweetness with salted caramel, pear drops and plum characteristics. The finish is short yet warm and gentle.