Wednesday, October 9, 2013

7 whiskies to taste before you die

A lot of the lists I see floating around the internet, books etc., "best this", "try that"," read now", "die later" seems quite random and made by people who just shouldn't have made a list. My problem is usually not what is NOT on the list, but what's on it!

I decided to make some lists for others to disagree with. Here's the first!

7 whiskies to try before you die
and a few extra recommendations

This is the real thing. You ain't gonna turn around in your grave if you miss out on Jim Beam Black whatever Ian Buxton says

The seven whiskies is more a catagory or groups of bottlings, than a specific bottling. 3 specific great whiskies to search for is mentioned below though.

1. Ardbeg from the 70's
Around the turn of the millenium there was quite a big stock of old Ardbeg lying in their warehouse. This was before Ardbeg was the talk of the town and before Ardbeg was one of the most popular malt whiskies out there. So a lot of quite old Ardbeg was bottled, a lot cheaper than today. The best were those distilled in the 70's, early 70's particulary.

Here's a few legendary bottlings: Lord of the Isles, Ardbeg Provenance, Old Malt Cask did a range of bottlings, like the Ardbeggeddon for the PLOWED society and the distillery itself did a range of single casks.

2. Brora
Short version: Clynelish distillery was "copied" in the late 60s and the owners renamed the original version Brora, and kept the name Clynelish for the new modern distillery next door. Brora, the original Clynelish, was closed in 1983.

In the early 70's, while Caol Ila was being modernised by DCL (now Diageo), they used Brora to produce some peated whisky for extra supply. While Clynelish and Brora are similar, but still different whiskies, they differ a lot in this period, when one was peated and the other not. Personally I found Brora around 1972 to be the most peated. Brorageddon from the PLOWED society and OB 30yo 2002 are my two favourites, but I sure wished I bought more of this, but who doesn't ?

3. Bowmore from 60's
Bowmore from the 60's is legendary. It's not just the super-expensive Black Bowmore, White Bowmore and Gold Bowmore, but also Bowmore like the 1964-1979 Bicentenary:

Most people, but not all, agree that something went wrong with Bowmore in the late 70's up to mid 90s, particular in the 80s, but they seem to be back on the very right track now. I wonder if they dare to make a bottling called "Phoenix" one day!

4. Caperdonich 1972
Duncan Taylor was essentially based on a huge stock of "forgotten" casks. Amongst them were quite a large amount of Caperdonich casks filled in 1972. These were bottled more or less one by one over a period of around a decade. From being a distillery that was regarded as a nothing, Caperdonich became one of the recent legends in the world of whisky. It's not just Caperdonich 72 that is great whisky, aged Caperdonich in general is marvelous. There just happened to be a lot more from 72 around than other vintages. Caperdonich was mothballed in 2002 and is demolished today.

5. Stitzel-Weller
Stitzel-Weller was closed in 92 and is arguably the most legenday bourbon distillery. The blame or cause for this is probably the bottles released as Pappy van Winkle. Pappy van Winkle is a brand, and as the stock of old Stitzel-Weller is dissappearing the whiskey is replaced by similar aged whiskey from other distilleries. It looks like there is no problem keeping the quality up, basically telling us that the recipe combined with carefully cherrypicked barrels is the key, not the distillery itself. But the legacy is there, and it is there for a reason. Look out for older bottlings of Pappy van Winkle 15 and 20 and Jefferson Presidential Select labeled as Stitzel-Weller. The original brand from Stitzel-Weller was Old Fitzgerald (now owned by Heaven Hill) I hope I one day will be able to try bottlings like Very Old Fitzgerald, Very Xtra Old Fitzgerald and Very Very Old Fitzgerald from Stitzel-Weller. And hey, rumours says Stitzel-Weller will reopen!

6. A. H. Hirsch
A. H. Hirsch is a range of bottlings from a distillery in Pennsylvania, all distilled within the same week in 1974 and most of it dumped from the barrels in 1990 as 16yo. I recommend that you read Chuck Cowdery's book "The best bourbon you'll never taste" for further info.

7. Rosebank
To me Rosebank is THE legendary lowlander. Closed in the 90's. Triple or 2½ times distilled (or both, people are arguing about this). When people are talking about the Lowland catagory and how it's supposed to taste, they basically talk about how Rosebank tastes. Or did taste. The rest of the Lowland is more or less as different as the rest of Scotland without being peated.

If you think Old Benriach, Port Ellen, Convalmore, Lochside, St. Magdelene and Old Glenglassaugh should have been on the list, I can't really disagree

Should this rare rye have been on the list. I think so

You don't have to go way back in time to find spectular AND affordable whisky.
SMWS 35.71 "like a hug from your mom", released 2012

Benromach 55yo.
I wish I had a bottle
(Photo stolen from TWE)

Martin Mills. Best bourbon I ever tasted. Who wants to sell me a bottle ?

Next list will be: Things to do in Edinburgh, especially  if you like whisky!


  1. I'd submit Macallan from the 50s (not to be confused with Macallan Fifties) as a bonus option. I'd put Bernheim above Stitzel-Weller though (personally), some of that early 90s stuff is crazy good.

  2. This is probably the best list of this type that I've seen. I could quibble here and there (old Bernheim rye is a favorite, but I don't know if you guys even get that in Denmark and I'd probably put St. Mags in for Rosebank), but it's pretty flawless. Nice work!

  3. Aye, you guys tasted a lot more bourbon than me. I mention the van Winkle rye below, afaik it got old Bernheim in it. I could also have picked St. Magdelene over Rosebank easily myself, but decided on Rosebank

  4. True, Van Winkle Rye is a blend of old Bernheim and Medley.

  5. Medley, thats the name, forgot it momentarily, and I was on the swimteam when I was young!