Today (15 May) is World Whisky Day – a global celebration of all things whisky established in 2012 by Blair Bowman when he was a student at the University of Aberdeen.
Held on the third Saturday in May every year, WWD is normally a heady mix of events, tastings and get-togethers, although current Covid-19 restrictions have rendered most of these virtual and distanced.
But that doesn’t detract from the central message of the day, which is to celebrate the best whiskies: wherever it comes from and however you like to drink it – neat, with water or ice, mixed or in a cocktail. Anything goes, as long as it’s fun and accessible (and, of course, responsible).
It’s the perfect time to get acquainted – or reacquainted – with whisky friends old and new, so here’s a globetrotting selection of new releases, from the Highlands to Vermont.
Best new whisky releases: Eight to try
Aberlour Distillery Reserve Collection 16 Year Old
If those cold spring nights return, dig out this beast of a Sherry cask single malt from Speyside. Darkly meaty and savoury, it’s bottled at a formidable strength, so don’t be shy with the water and you’ll tease out some orchard fruits and grassy notes to lighten an unctuous mix of dark chocolate, hazelnut praline and tarry liquorice. Alc 59.1%
Blair Athol 2009 11 Year Old
Another distillate of huge character, in relatively understated form here as part of independent bottler Single Malts of Scotland’s Reserve Casks Parcel No 5. Breezy cereal and citrus at first, then cinnamon-spiked pear, before the structure and grip show themselves in polished teak, cowshed and rich beef stock on the finish. Alc 48%
Method & Madness Mulberry Wood
Now here’s a curiosity – an experimental single pot still whiskey that spent three to eight months being ‘finished’ in small, 50-litre mulberry casks sourced from Hungary. It’s a bit weird, but in a good way: aromas of honeysuckle, herbs and lanolin, and a palate of fiery black pepper and spice overlaid on honeyed pear. Alc 46%
Nikka Whisky Taketsuru Pure Malt
Named after one of the pioneers of Japanese whisky, this combines distillates from Miyagikyo and Yoichi. The light spice and bright, creamy citrus on the nose is all Miyagikyo, the tangy, savoury smoke-tinged Plasticine on the palate Yoichi. Together they make for a characterful insight into the Japanese art of whisky making. Alc 43%
The Oxford Artisan Distillery Oxford Rye Whisky Batch #1
A rye-heavy mix of heritage grains, an idiosyncratic production process and three years in virgin American oak make for an obviously youthful but highly distinctive English whisky, with warm spices, black banana and vanilla spiked by feisty rye pepper and spice. More batches to follow – and each will be subtly different. Alc 46.3%
Waterford Grattansbrook 1.1
This ‘Single Farm Origin’ whiskey uses Taberna barley harvested in 2015 at Grattansbrook Farm in Co Kildare, spending almost four years in a mix of cask types. Sweet, oily and appealing, with a scented nose of light cereal, zesty tangerine and fragrant lime flower, then honeyed banana, fruit syrup and the grip of wood tannin on the palate. Alc 50%
Whistlepig Single Barrel 10 Year Old Rye Whiskey
Distilled in Canada and matured in Vermont by late Whistlepig Master Distiller Dave Pickerell, this Jeroboams’ exclusive is more subtle and elegant than many ryes, combining high-toned red fruits with scents of caraway and herbes de Provence. The texture is glorious, and the mouthwatering finish shows light toffee and Jamaica gingerbread. Alc 55.8%
X by Glenmorangie
A single malt explicitly created for cocktails and mixed drinks in partnership with bartenders, this is a richer, sweeter riff on the regular Glenmo style, with stewed apples, orange cordial and hot buttered toast with a slathering of honey. It is great for cocktails – but you shouldn’t be shy about doing that with single malts anyway! Alc 40%