Friday, November 23, 2007

The Tops (so far...) Part II

Back in June, after the first 100 Malt Missions, I put together lists of the best whiskies consumed up to that point in different categories (HERE). I want to do the same today, so here are my top whisky picks from the first 200 Malt Missions. Please note I have changed some of the categories from last time.

It must be said that with the price jumps we have witnessed over the past 5 months and with the 10% increases promised to us by the heads of major spirits companies, the best cheap or budget whisky categories become more and more important to more and more people while malts that were in my top picks after 100 Malt Missions may have vanished from the lists below because of these price changes. In fact, the most Googled term that brought folks to the Top Picks after 100 drams was "budget whisky", or something along those lines. So big boys, while premiumisation is the key of the day, please don't forget about us little guys. We'll still be here after the Scandanavians and other Europeans grow tired of overpriced 5,6, and 7 year-old whiskies.

It is so frustrating to be able only to choose among malts I have tasted in the controlled setting of the Malt Mission. I wouldn't want anyone to believe that these are the only whiskies I have enjoyed over the past months. I try to make every malt count, but it's embarassing to be offered a drink at a friends house and ask for a pen and paper, or text notes into your phone, or to ask if you can take some home. Not that I haven't done all three of those things...

I should also add that coming to these top picks was not easy. In fact, the list could differ from day to day. This is part of why I do not score my malts in the mission. I try only to tell the stories of the distilleries, describe the flavour profiles of the whiskies, and leave the rest to you. Nonetheless, here are my choices of the best whiskies. (Note that drops tasted by guests tasters cannot be included in my top picks. Just wouldn't make sense.)

It was hard enough to settle on 3 per category.
PLEASE NOTE: this is not based on ALL whiskies, this is based on whiskies I have tried in the first 200 Malt Missions.

Top Three Whiskies I Would Reach For RIGHT NOW
Old Pulteney 12
Clynelish 1972, 34yo Single Malts of Scotland
Glenlivet XXV

Best Budget/Cheap Single Malt Whisky (£20-30)
Talisker 10
Old Pulteney 12
Laphroaig Quarter Cask

Best Budget/Cheap Vatted, Blended, or Undisclosed Malt (£15-25)
The Six Isles
Jon, Mark, Robbo (any)
Sheep Dip

Best Budget/Cheap Blends (£10-20)
Black Bottle
Whyte&Mackay 12 Premium Reserve

Best Value Overall
Glenlivet 30 Single Malts of Scotland
Talisker 18
Old Pulteney 12

Best Blended Whiskies
Johnnie Walker Black Label
Dewar's 18
Cutty Sark 25

Best Blended/Vatted Malt or Grain
Compass Box Oak Cross
Compass Box Hedonism (older bottling)
Ardbeg Serendipity

Best Standard Bottling Overall (current releases; ie. no single casks, discontinued, etc.)

Old Pulteney 12
Lagavulin 16
Glengoyne 17

Best Single Cask or Limited Release Bottling
Highland Park 16yo, Single Malts of Scotland
Bunnahabhain 33, 1971, Royal Mile Whiskies
Caol Ila 16yo, Single Malts of Scotland

The Three Most Missed (ie. dearly departed, no longer available/being produced, etc.)

Balblair 16
Bowmore 17
Jon, Mark Robbo (any)

Best Overall (irrespective of price, availability, or pride/shame)

Glenfarclas 30
Glengoyne 17
Talisker 18

Hot damn, that was difficult. I feel like I have left out many faves over the past 10 months... oh well. Just reminds me how huge the whisky world is. 200 whiskies? That's nothing! Here's to another 200...

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