A few weeks back I had an email sent my way asking if I had ever posted my top five or ten whiskies, or if there was a way to search the site for this information. The question was intriguing enough to send me back to the matrix I keep of all malts tried (or those I can recall anyway). From there a quick sort on ‘scores’ brought the cream to the top and it was just a matter of throwing a few words and pictures together. All of the whiskies below have been reviewed here on ATW at one time or another, and the photos are all rehashed, but really this is nothing more than a ‘greatest hits’ collection, right? We don’t really expect new material when we buy a compilation album, do we?
Having said that, let’s dive in. And remember…I’m not saying these are the best whiskies in the world; just my favorites so far.
Here they are, in order:
1 Black Bowmore 1964 42 y.o. (40.5% abv) (97/100) – This is such in utterly incomparable whisky. The closest analogy I can draw (and have drawn) is to a smoked glass of Five Alive. The tropical notes here are mindboggling. The sour, sweet, smoky combination is to die for.
2 Ardbeg Double Barrel Cask #1745 (49.0% abv) (95/100) – This one pips cask #3151 (#3 on the list) by a just a smidge. Its light and delicate nature is so paradoxical for an Ardbeg that its anomalous nature makes it unforgettable. Again…rather tropical.
3 Ardbeg Double Barrel Cask #3151 (47.7% abv) (95/100) – The darker femme fatale version of the previously mentioned malt. This one shines through the dark with richer, more sherry-influenced nuances. Seems a little less delicate than its sister cask, but that’s splitting hairs.
4 Ardbeg 1977 (46.0% abv) (94.5/100) – Until a fortuitous meeting with the two Ardbeg listed above on a dark stormy night this was the holy grail of Ardbeg releases for me. Fruity and smoky, complex and almost beyond compare, this one is still a favorite and has some great memories associated with it. Wish I could get my hands on more.
5 Brora 35 y.o. 2013 (49.9% abv) (94.5/100) – Brora continues to climb the ladder of favorite malts for me. I’ve not yet met one I didn’t like, but this one leaves the others in its wake. I went in with high expectations, but even they weren’t high enough to meet this towering beauty. This is a sophisticated whisky that is immediately alluring, but deserves a lot of time to work out the intricacies.
6 Mortlach Generations 70 y.o. Gordon & McPhail (46.1% abv) (94.5/100) – One of the world’s oldest whiskies. I was fortunate enough to try both the 70 year old Mortlach and Glenlivet, but it was the Mortlach with its creaking notes of ancient books, wax and fuel that won me over. Mindboggling that this one survived to this age in the barrel.
7 Amrut Greedy Angels (50.0% abv) (94/100) – Some may attribute personal bias here, but I fell hard for this one. Really hard. This was the first edition, offered up at eight years old, but nosing and tasting like a malt probably two decades older than that. The amount of intrigue and magic Amrut managed to capture at such a young age (relative to Scotch, that is) is simply brilliant.
8 GlenDronach 1972 Cask #711 (49.8% abv) (94/100) – I like this one the first time I tried it. On all subsequent meetings I loved it. Deep, deep resonant sherry, rich in dark stone fruits, notes of tropicalia and spice by the bucket. This is a syrupy, meditative dram. The team of elite Calgarians that selected this cask deserve endless accolades. This is the heights of GlenDronach.
9 Talisker 35 y.o. 2012 (54.6% abv) (94/100) – Tasted due to the generosity of one very kind – and very anonymous – individual, who managed to pull together an incredible night of Talisker for a very privileged few. This is an absolutely incomparable malt. Peat meets sweet meets seabreeze and pepper. Amazingly deep and probably not to be matched by this distillery again.
10 Talisker 20 y.o. 2002 (62.0% abv) (94/100) – Tasted at the same time as the afore-mentioned Talisker 35, this one is much younger, but bottles at a time when there were perhaps older barrels thrown in the mix. ‘Cause let’s face it…a twenty year old should not taste this good. Brilliant, brilliant whisky that shows a playful young heat to go with notes of maturity beyond its years. The 62% abv is misleading. This was an easy drinker. An incredible whisky, to be sure.
Unfortunately, yes…I do realize this list reads like malt porn. Anyone hoping the top ten would include a few everyday affordable malts…well…sorry ’bout that.
Feel free to drop a line or two below sharing some of your favorites malts from throughout the years. I’m looking forward to hearing what lights you up.
That list looks fantastic. In ontario, where I live, they are near impossible to find (perhaps the Talisker or Amrut might make an appearance at some point). You’re fortunate to have tried as many rare and aged whiskies as you have.
Sorry Dave, the Pod Bay doors are closed on that Amrut. LCBO will NEVER carry Greedy Angels, and I think the one described here is the first batch. I tried David’s sample that he got from Ashok at SOT 2014 (oops, he wasn’t supposed to know that!), and it was good, but I don’t think it was the best Amrut I’ve had…CS and Peated CS would score higher for me. And maybe a single cask or 2. But definitely unique.
I think most of us would be lucky to try even one of those on the list, so Good on You Curt, I think you’ve had a pretty good run of it…so far. We expect to live vicariously through you for a number of years yet!
Unquestionably I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve put in a lot of time and effort (and money) to be able to reach a point of tasting these, but so have many others who simply haven’t had the run of fortune that I have. I don’t for a minute feel anything but grateful and fortunate for circumstance.
Boring 1969-release movies aside… I am interested in your number 1 pick..the 1960s Black Bowmore. Have you tried the original releases in the 1990s? I may have the opportunity to try the 30 YO version, and would be interested in how they compare.
I’d be interested in tasting either of them, let alone compare…
What a dream list.
I have samples of Black, White and Gold Bowmore put aside still. In fact I have two different versions of the Black, so will be able to compare. A proper ‘Trilogy’ piece will be coming some day. As you can imagine, it is one of those things that requires waiting on ideal circumstance and a pristine palate. Still waiting on the right occasion.
Thanks for this list. I have decided to remortgage my house to obtain these bottles. JK…
Seriously how about another top ten list… Like top ten bang for your buck list?
Would love to see a list of widely available malts. The above list is unbelievable.
I’ll second that Collegiate and Dave.
Sure. Will do it the same way. Simply filter my list and see what comes up (with a few exemptions and some logic applied). Hang tight. Maybe in the next day or two.
Can I suggest you include NAS in your list if appropriate? It’s not a review. It’s a list of the past ACCESSIBLE malts you’ve had with the highest scores. In the past. So it doesn’t break your rule.
Of course. I had to by nature.
1. Amrut unpeated CS
2. Amrut unpeated CS
3. Caol Ila Cask Strength
4. Bladnoch 10 YO Sherry cask 55%
5. Springbank 12 YO CS
6. Springbank 12 YO claret wood
7. Laphroaig Quarter Cask
8. Macallan Cask Strength
9. Aberlour A’Bunadh (batch 33, 44)
10. Bowmore Laimrig
This are just off the top of my head and not in order. If I had to pick my favourite of these malts I would likely go with Amrut peated CS, a great A’Bunadh batch, and Bladnoch 10 .
If we allowed non- single malts….well,
Well let’s see if anyone goes there.
I’ll push you on the Bladnoch…not expensive but not readily available unless the new owners put out the same high quality as Armstrong did.
Mac CS is gone
And the A’Bunadh is variable, and the great batches are not widely available.
Plus, Jeff will complain that 6 of them are NAS.
Now if we were looking at other than malts… I would put in Booker’s 2015 releases ( I had the -01 but hear the others are great too) – phenomenal! I’d add George T Stagg 2010 but not cheap and not available…but any Stagg would do.
And Forty Creek Heart of Gold…but no longer around.