Just for fits and giggles, a whisky post/lesson in futility. A top 10 list of distilleries, annotated.
- The Macallan
- Port Ellen
- Highland Park
- Caol Ila
It’s fair to say that I love almost everything they do, for one reason or another. I have something like 10 different expressions in the cupboard. They do make the occasionally silly decision — replacing the 15 yo with the 18 yo was not to my palate at all, and why don’t they sell the cask strength through their online shop at the moment? Overall sublime, from the 30 yo to the Quarter Cask (just don’t mention the 18 yo).
Again, everything they do is sublime. Wonderful, powerful whiskies. Only problem is that when they excel, it’s with either wonderfully expensive whiskies that are hard to find, or wonderfully expensive whiskies that are really hard to find (Lord of the Isles, anyone?). I’ve never had a bad dram yet from these good folks.
3. The Macallan
Points for having a solid base-grade 10 yo that hits the spot and can be found in many places. Never had a bum dram from these folks, only issue would be that I’ve not had a larger sample size to base this opinion on.
4. Port Ellen
Would be No. 1 if they still operated. Sublime. Sublime. Sublime. There are two problems with this distillery. The first is that they stopped producing in the early 1980s. The second is that as they no longer produce, their whisky is getting expensive. Always worth it.
Rollercoaster. I wouldn’t clean with the base malt, it’s a horrid wretched thing that serves no purpose other than to identify folks with less discerning palates. Then comes the 15 yo, a wonderful dram that is sweet, fruity and delicious. Default choice if I’m looking for a quick duty free dram. I’m not sold on the 18 yo, it doesn’t hold a lot for me. The 21 yo Gran Reserva, yes please! Mighty fine.
6. Highland Park
I don’t believe there’s a better 10 year old out there for all-round drinking. The supreme all-rounder, and for $60-70, there is no other contender. Every other aged dram I’ve had is great, just harder to find and a lot more expensive. The 10 yo is just too good, making me loathe to go older.
Another good one gone. I’ve only had one of their whiskies, and it was mighty fine, light, floral, something I mentally savour now the bottle is long gone.
All good stuff from these guys. Some wonderful wood varieties that take the whisky to new and fine places. I’ve never had a dud dram, but for reasons I can’t explain they’re not top 5. A feeling that all of their stuff is consistently 9/10, never 8/10 but never 10/10 either. Bonus points as these guys do it all, from malting to bottling.
Kind of a one trick pony, but that one trick is just amazing, the full on punch in the face ocean and iodine and seaweed and oil and peat better than anyone else. Drink the 16 yo, and only the 16 yo.
10. Caol Ila
Wanted to sneak these guys in because I know how to pronounce them — “kull eela” I’m told. Lighter than their southern Islay cousins, these folks produce solid, possibly underappreciated drams full of the fresh sea. Totally worth it.
There you go, another pointless exercise in list-making subjectivity and futility. There are a bunch of distilleries I thought about and excluded because of various reasons:
1. Those with big, varied ranges that I’m not up to speed on (I’m mostly looking at you, Bruichladdich, but Glenmorangie also gets a nod).
2. Those with one fine whisky that stands head and shoulders over the rest of the range (this one’s for you Bowmore, love the Darkest, hate the 10 yo and the Legend to pieces, nods to Dalmore and Jura).
3. Those I haven’t had recently enough (Glengoyne, Glenfarclas, Cragganmore, Bunnahabhain).
4. Those I’ve sampled two or less good but not totally sublime drams (too many to name, includes Glenkinchie, Blair Athol ).
5. Talisker — a one trick pony like Lagavulin, full on flavours of the sea, just pipped at the post but try the 18 yo and 25 yo if you can.
6. Distilleries delivering a fairly generic Speyside flavour (a little nutty, a little malty, a solid 7/10 nothing special but nothing regrettable drinking experience; Glenlivet sits here until I better explore their range; kind of the benchmark for a good dram).
7. Distilleries outside of Scotland (another post for another year when I feel in a better position to judge).