The Top 10 $100 Whiskies!
10 delicious whiskies around the $100 mark and that we feel are equally at home in the whisky glasses of beginners and old dogs alike and represent a particularly good value right now.
As much as we wish we were made of mad money (and we probably would be if we didn't have a whisky 'lifestyle') sometimes you just want something awesome that doesn't burn a massive hole in your pocket, just your sad whisky-less existence :P
Bushmills 16 - Single Malt Irish Whiskey
Irish whisky is going through a bit of renaissance currently with quite a few new players hitting the market recently. However when it comes to sheer class and value for money this one is hard to beat.
Matured in a mix of American oak Bourbon barrels and Spanish Oloroso Sherry casks before being finished in old Port casks, clocking in at a total of a minimum of 16 years, this sadly underappreciated Irish expression does not get the kudos and attention we think it deserves. Although it's the most expensive whisky on today's list at $120, when compared with other similarly aged Irish whiskies it's a bargain. Add this to the fact that it's just damn tasty, and it's a no brainer as far as we are concerned for us to recommend you give this one a go (or get another if its been awhile!).
Nose: So much going on here - delicious buttery goodness (which we get from a lot of Irish whisky for some reason) with a tonne of fruits and malt thrown in for good measure. Fruits trend from bright tropical to heavier stewed sultanas, while the malt reminds us of cocoa pops and malted milk biscuits.
Palate: The finish on this is a masterclass. Long and nutty, not too dry but lingers pleasantly with a hint of coffee and buttered popcorn and fruitcake. The palate sets the scene perfectly with a very well rounded mix of rich sweet fruits just like the nose, with some well aged oak and malt. Seriously good stuff.
GlenDronach 12 - Single Malt Scotch Whisky
It's no secret that we're big fans of GlenDronach, but we're far from unique in that regard, as a lot of 'serious' whisky drinkers already know it's some of the best (value and balance) sherried whisky out there.
Aged for 12 years in ex-Pedro Ximenez (sweet) and Ex-Oloroso (dry) Sherry casks, bottled at 43% ABV without colouring or chill-filtration, the GlenDronach 12 is a perfect introduction to Sherry cask single malts (one of our broad categories for single malts) or to premium whisky in general.
It has a great balance of the 3 major contributions to the overall flavour of a whisky (the spirit, the cask, and the liquid that was aged in the cask before the spirit was put in to it), in that it's young enough to still contain the malty flavour of the spirit (think sweet grains), old enough for the oak influence to take shape and aged in Sherry casks where the influence is prevalent but now overpowering (think hints of raisins and savoury, dessert spices).
For all that it comes with an RRP of $99 and is commonly available from $80!
Nose: Surprisingly fruity (just like us!) with mild citrus notes, ripe pears, dark honey, lathered in rich Christmas cake dried fruits.
Palate: Rich dark fruits again with hints of toffee apple, old dusty library. Christmas in all the right ways (fruit cake, peels, sherry). Throw in some butter and chocolate and we’re there!
Bunnahabhain 12 - Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Made on Islay as a predominantly unpeated spirit, Bunnahabhain has established a rabid following in some sectors of the whisky community. One of the key differences (at least by the distilleries reckoning) is the fresh spring water source they use which has no peat content.
Ther 12 year old bottling, having been originally launched in 1979 (happy 40th!) means that older versions are still floating around but we're talking about (and drinking too much of) the most recent iteration bottled at 46.3%. The 12 year old is double matured in ex-Bourbon and ex-Sherry casks for a minimum combined total of 12 years (as the name suggests), is non chill filtered and has no colouring added.
Nose: Salted caramel drizzled over fresh, tart red apples. Dried fruits (as mix of dark and light). Very enticing (made me drool slighty)
Palate: Have yet to come across a whisky drinker who doesn't like this dram (but a lot who won't shut up about it). Super delicate smoke and salt, wood, creamy vanilla fudge and lightly caramel coated popcorn, entwined around dried fruit notes. A subtle hint of sulfur (although it might not be so sublte for others as I am partly sulfur blind).
Ardbeg An Oa - Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Ardbeg An Oa first appeared in late September 2017. It's named for the Mull of Oa, which helps provide shelter for the Kildalton shoreline (home of the Ardbeg Distillery), which is apt as the An Oa was created to be a more approachable and rounded whisky than some of the bigger expressions in the Ardbeg range such as the Uigedail and Corryvreckan. Ardbeg An Oa was at the time of its launch the first new core expression to be released by Ardbeg in over 10 years, and to help develop its more approachable profile was created primarily from a combination of casks, including charred Virgin Oak, ex-Bourbon and Pedro Ximenez, married in a bespoke oak vat, dubbed the 'Gathering Vat'. Bottled at a generous 46.6%, Ardbeg An Oa is non chill-filtered.
Nose: Orange and poppy-seed muffin with marmalade, butterscotch pudding sauce, and a good pipe tobacco odour joining the fennel, menthol and a sweet pineapple baked/glazed ham scent which is making me drool even as I type this....Palate: More restrained and not as oily as the 10 and 19m with delicious notes like a good toke on a pipe, with dark chocolate, rich buttery pancakes and slightly charred Chinese pork. Faint medicinal/herbal notes, like a good black tea steeped with mint.
Hakushu Distiller's Reserve - Japanese Single Malt Whisky
Hakushu distillery located in the (stunning scenery of the) foothills of Mount Kaikomagatake was founded in 1973 and seems to be the peated whisky house for Suntory (although in a very Japanese way, as far from Islay peat as you could get).
Hakushu Distiller's Reserve is our pick of the relatively recent Non-Age Statement Japanese core range releases from Suntory, designed to help alleviate cravings for Hakushu 12 with a more affordable offering, less reliant on age and more so on nose and palate. A truly worthy addition and objectively good whisky for the price.
Nose: Main notes nosed consist of fresh pine needles, honeydew melon, fresh peppermint and bee keepers smoker (smouldering pine needles and raw honeycomb and wax in this case).
Palate: One of the few whiskies where the palate faithfully delivers what is promised on the nose. Throw in a touch of citrus (ruby grapefruit or fresh yuzu peel). Revisit the whisky a few months after opening and it just gets better and better as the flavours 'deepen'.
Starward Nova - Australian Single Malt Whisky
Made in Melbourne by Australia’s rock stars of affordable homegrown distilled malt beverages using 100% Australian barley aged in a selection of varying styles and sizes of Australian Red Wine barrels from (we have been told) South Australia. Previously bottled as Starward Red Wine, the consistency and quality has been maintained, which is the important thing :)
Nose: Dried sour cherries, plums, marzipan, golden syrup.
Palate: Dark chocolate, plums, shortbread, liquorice, faint black pepper and a fresh, young Shiraz.
Redbreast 12 - Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey
Redbreast 12 is the whiskey that really opened our eyes (and palates, wallets and minds) to Irish Whiskey as a serious option for a good sipping whiskey. Made traditionally like most Irish Whiskey from a mix of malted and green (un-malted) barley, in a copper pot still (not traditional, but extra points) and then aged a minimum of 12 years in a mix of ex-bourbon and Oloroso sherry casks, Redbreast 12 ticks all the boxes and then some.
Nose: One of the best Irish Whiskies to nose. Creaming Soda, White pepper, rye bread and and a ‘fruit tray’ aroma.
Palate: Dried fruit (apricots and sultanas), liquorice on the back, malty toffee and sherry everywhere else. Unctuous, oily and big in all the right ways.
Kilkerran 12 - Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Distilled at the Glengyle distillery in Campeltown which was resurrected in the early 2000’s by the the modern day owners of Springbank, J & A Mitchell & Company.
The Kilkerran 12 is the first core release from Kilkrerran, and it continues the J & A Mitchell & Company philosophy of non-chill filtering and natural colour. Lightly peated in makeup and aged in a combination of bourbon and sherry (70/30 respectively). Reminds us of Highland Park 18 in all the good ways, but at a much sharper price point (and very much its own beast)
Nose: Quintessential Campbeltown goodness - soot, toasted marshmallows, tiger balm, Christmas pudding and a lot of damp oak.
Palate: Marmalade toast up front, honeycomb (wax included) and McVitties biscuits with a dollop of vanilla syrup. Marshmallows on the nose have morphed into a salty lemon meringue by the end.
Ailsa Bay 1.2 'Sweet Smoke' - Single Malt Scotch Whisky
One of the newer kids on the block in Scotland Ailsa Bay is a perfect example of the 'exception to the rule'. Owned and operated by William Grant and Sons (Glenfiddich, Balvenie) and housed on the same site as their Girvan grain distillery (in the Scottish Lowlands) pretty much on top of the now defunct Ladyburn distillery, Ailsa Bay was built to take some of the production pressure off Balvenie. The distillery was constructed in 2007 and released its first (Non-Age statement) 'heavily' peated whiaky in February 2016. The Aisla Bay 1.2 is the followup to the first release and the smoke and sweetness the distillery aims for (using some innovative production techniques) has been ramped up.
Nose: A perfect blend of campfire, honey, black tea and orange blossoms. The black tea and honey seem to evolve into an rich earthy sweet heather peat note.
Palate: Ailsa Bay aim for a perfect balance between peat smoke and sweetness (even coining a new method of measuring and reporting sweetness) and its working. The sweet oak and vanilla characters from the casks has married with the fruits, toffee, jersey caramels and toasted oak and waves of delicate honey, heathery smoke. Crazy to think this is only the distilleries second mainstream release.
Eagle Rare 10 - Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky
Distilled at the Buffalo Trace distillery according to the recipe referred to as Mash-bill #1.
Previously released as a ‘Single Barrel’ offering, technological upgrades to the bottling line mean that some bottles were conceivably receiving the last ‘juice’ from one barrel and the first bit of the next so the wording ‘Single Barrel’ was removed. Seeing as we are looking at a straight bourbon here, the wood has to be virgin (american) oak.
In all seriousness though this is still one of the best value propositions for those determined to drink something American with an age statement (which is helpfully hidden on the rear label these days…) and is a simple but tasty choice in it’s own right.
Nose: Orange and poppy seed muffin. Bounty bar (left out on the counter on a hot day?—?think coconut oil, chocolate and dried coconut). Peeling varnish on an old leather armchairs wooden back.
Palate: Honey on buttered bread, maple syrup, some dried raspberry and raw macadamias.
TWL Top 10
"twl/Top 10 $100"
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