Monday, November 28, 2016

Sku's All Time Favorite Whiskeys

I often get asked what my favorite whiskeys of all time are. It's a tough question and one I've mostly avoided answering, but given that my blog is approaching the ten year mark, I thought I would take a stab at my very favorite whiskeys of all time. This isn't a buyer's guide. Most of these aren't available anymore, but these are the very best whiskeys I've tasted without regard to price, availability or anything else, listed in alphabetical order:

  • Ardbeg Provenance. I've tried two of the four releases (the two for the U.S.) and they were Ardbeg at its peaty, oily best. It captures the absolute bets of Islay. 
  • Brora 30 2007 Official Release. Brora is one of my favorites and of all the official releases I've tried, the 2007 was my favorite - smoky yet balanced.
  • Brorageddon. This heavily sherried Brora bottled for the Plowed Society is just incredible - with its matching sherry and peat notes. This could be my number one whiskey of all time.
  • Charbay Pilsner. Something magical happened in Sonoma County back in 1999 when Marko Karakasevic distilled some pilsner from the Sonoma Mountain Brewery along with some added hops. The whiskeys that resulted were funky and magical and weedy. All of the releases are great, but I especially love releases I and IV and, probably most of all, the special release they did for the LA Whiskey Society.
  • Glendronach 1972 700 Series. These perennial Malt Maniac favorites are probably the best sherried whiskeys around...yes, that means better than Black Bowmore! I've tasted casks 702, 710, 711 and 712, and they are all fantastic.
  • Highland Park Bicentennary. More than any other, this was the malt that made me a whiskey geek. I can still remember my amazement at its complexity and balance when I tasted it in the early 2000s. Does it measure up all these many whiskeys later?  I don't know, and I don't know if I want to know. I haven't had the courage to try it again. I think I prefer the memory.
  • John Gibson's PA Rye. I've been lucky enough to try quite a few prohibition era whiskeys, and the best thing I've tasted by far from that era are Gibson's ryes. Made in Pennsylvania, they have a lovely sandalwood note that you don't find in today's ryes.
  • Lagavulin 16. It's had its ups and downs for sure, ranging from exquisite to just good, but is there any whiskey that's been more consistent over the past 15 years? Is there any whiskey that's been more responsible for creating malt fanatics, peatheads and Islay lovers? I think not. Ten years ago, it was $40; now it goes for around $70, but that's nothing in terms of whiskey inflation. 
  • Willett's Bernheim Ryes (Rathskeller Rye/Doug Philips Rye, etc.). The casks of old Bernheim rye from the mid-80s purchased by Willett are legendary for a reason. They are massive spice bombs, some of the fullest bodied rye ever made. Not all of them, though, are created equal. The very best are the Rathskeller Rye bottled for the Seelbach Hotel, the two casks of Willett bottled for Doug Philips, the bottles done for Bourbon DC (Iron Fist and Velvet Glove) and LeNell's Red Hook Rye.  
  • Very Very Old Fitzgerald 1952/1964. Stitzel-Weller bourbon is widely coveted for good reason. At its height, it was amazing stuff, subtle, creamy and sweet. My favorite of them all is this 12 year old distilled in 1952 which is probably the best bourbon I've ever tasted. 
Those are my all-time greatest whiskeys.  What are yours?


My Annoying Opinions said...

This is your best satirical post yet--I can't stop laughing!

Anonymous said...

You forgot Wild Turkey, Sku.

Mark said...

Yeesh. I thought I'd tried a lot (and considering I got in to the game in early 2013 I guess I haven't done too bad), but your list is basically a list of what I'm dying to try, but likely never will.

I've still been fortunate enough to have some great stuff...a '72 distilled Douglas Laing Ardbeg, the end of a Willett C Barrel (the oxidation was magical after sitting for almost a year at about 15-20% left), and my favorite annual release, William Larue Weller, would top my list. Honorable mention to the Benrinnes 2008 special release and Vintage 21 Rye.

Anonymous said...

Are there poor man's readily available stuff that is even somewhat evocative of each selection? Understood they wont be very close at all but something to get you in the park a little.

sku said...

Sure, there are lots of them. That will be a good future post.