I also managed to visit Islay and Jura, Campbelltown and a trio of very interesting american distilleries, Las Vegas, Charbay and High West
The best way to drink whisky, is to drink it with friends.In the post before this I pointed out the numerous gatherings we have had this year, which had a fantastic range of bottlings http://danishwhiskyblog.blogspot.com/2011/12/caperdonich-72.html
If I have to mention one specific it must be my co-writer, Lars, who invited all his whiskyfriend over and shared his Coleburns bottles. 14 different bottlings, from an old 1968 12yo dumpy Cadenhead to a 36yo 1970 Signatory. I was surprised of the quality of this sadly closed and very forgotten distillery..
Distillery of the Year
Lagavulin from the seaside
Lagavulin's have a standard range well chosen. Very well chosen in my opinion. They have a 16yo OB and the PX finished Distillery's Edition. Beside that they have a 12yo cask strength, a distillery only bottling, the occasional 25yo/30yo bottling and a few smaller releases now and again. The 12yo Cask Strength is a personal favourite of mine. Nothing unnecessary, but a well varied selection. But the main reason for choosing Lagavulin is the experience you have (or can have) when coming there as a visitor.
Iain "Pinkie" MacArthur
Scotland attracts a lot of whiskytourists and most distilleries do offer guided tours these days. Some distilleries even offer extended tours, verticals, manager tours or connaisseurs tour. Very often these tends to be very (too) expensive. One of the best, if not the best is the Lagavulin warehouse tour, which is reasonable priced. It's a wee vertical tasting of some cask samples lead by the very entertaining Iain "Pinkie" MacArthur. Just the experience itself and the whiskies, which you don't really have a chance to taste otherwise, makes you want to come back to Islay. I think other distilleries should follow this good example. I find this a lot more fun than those distilleris that offers extended tours with three whiskies from their standard range which you probably finished a few bottles of yourself allready at home. Give you visitors, who might have travelled from far away, something they will remember. Like Lagavulin does
I would have linked to Lagavulin's webpage but I don't like the unwelcoming and annoying agecheck they meet you with :-)
Independendt Bottler of the Year
The Whisky Exchange
Not just in 2011, but the last couple of years I have really adored a lot of wonderful bottlings from the different labels of The Whisky Exchange.
The Whisky Exchange has a series of ranges that I all find worth an award in themselves. Elements of Islay is a series of 50cl bottles, which now includes 8 of 9 Islay distilleries (I can't recall a Bowmore!). This is very high quality young Islay whiskies, bottled in batches, with older, but still No Age Statement (NAS) single cask Port Ellens as the more expensive variety. My favourites so far has been Pe2, Lg1 adn Ar2
Port Askaig is a range of Islays : the brand has so far released a NAS, 17, 19, 25 and 30 year olds. The whisky is probably Caol Ila, with the recent 30yo being one of the best Islay releases I tasted from 2011 and the bottling that turned this award toward TWE!
The standard range of Single Malts of Scotland is also worth mentioning, the magnificient 35yo Glenallachie pictured above being one example. Other series, like the 10 years online anniversary bottlings (2010) and the Whisky Show Bottlings are always worth mentioning, and don't forget the few releases you also find under "The Whisky Exchange" label itself. I just wish I tasted them all :-)
Whisky Bottling of the Year
Port Charlotte 9yo
I had a lot of good whisky in 2011, it may have been the best year for me. Quite a lot of the stuff I am so privileged to taste are older bottlings - and I want to thank all my good whisky friends - you know who you are! - who have shared their good whisky with me and their other friends
For this award, I want to focus on my favourite 2011 releases.
And the price goes to a private bottling from a cask bottled by Jørn, a very good whisky friend of mine, who simply seems to have a very lucky hand with the cask projects he gets involved in. (or skilled?)
It's a fantastic Port Charlotte, very sherried and very peaty, harmonic and powerful, sweet and peaty, and by far the best Port Charlotte I have tasted.
I had a short review of this bottling in July :
Tasting of the year
Jolly Toper's Ben Nevis tasting
Hosted by Mark Davidson from the Cadenhead Shop in Edinburgh. Well, Ben Nevis has never been my favourite distillery, and I have to admit, I didn't like a couple of the Ben Nevis's served at this tasting, but the fact that Mark choses to share a true rarity like the Ben Nevis single grain (and a dumpy Cadenhead from the 60's) at his tasting (it is very reasonable priced) just makes me wants to move to Edinburgh so I can participate in more things like this
So much "exciting" whisky sits on the shelf of collectors, but I do believe that whisky has to be shared. I am very grateful I got the chance to taste this bottling. The fact that Mark decided to share this bottle at one of his tastings is fantastic, and the fact that it could have been sold for a considerable amount instead is worth celebrating. Mark reckon's that only two casks of Ben Nevis Single Grain has ever been knowingly bottled. And by the way, the grain was very good!.
Here's a link to his tastings : http://www.jollytopertastings.co.uk/whisky-tasting-dates/ - if you are a regular you will be dragged around Scotland and the world for a great variation of whiskies, and often whisky that is very hard to get by, or you never heard of before, is included :-)
I wish everybody reading this a fantastic 2012 dramming year
PS Last year's awards can be found here: