Fall is the most exciting season for the whiskey obsessive who salivates over the annual harvest of limited-edition bottlings. This year’s haul is loaded with big rye whiskeys, smoky Scotches and high-octane bourbons — even an unusual collectible from down-under. So whether you add some bottles to your holiday wish list or pick some up for your favorite fan, drinking a special whiskey during the holidays makes everyone just a little bit happier.
Speyburn 15-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch
This annual 15-year-old expression is known as a high-value, easy-drinking single malt. Distillery Manager Robert Anderson matures Speyburn’s signature distillate in American oak and Spanish Oloroso casks to deliver chocolate, orange and jammy aromas with citrus flavors and a viscous, creamy mouthfeel.
Proof: 92 (46% ABV)
Little Book The Easy
Freddie Noe, the son of Beam’s Master Distiller, is behind the inaugural release of their blended-whiskey franchise, Little Book. The Easy is a cask strength mix of 13-year-old corn, six-year-old-rye and malt whiskeys that are blended and cut with four-year-old bourbon. A creamy mouthfeel takes the edge off the high proof and opens nicely with a few cubes. Malty notes are present from the nose through the back of your throat, before a spicy rye finish.
Proof: 128.2 (64.1% ABV)
Laphroaig Cairdeas Quarter Cask 2017
It used to be only the luckiest “friends” of Laphroaig could score a bottle of Cairdeas, which means “friendship” in Gaelic. But in 2011, Distillery Manager John Campbell and company threw us a bone by releasing a few cases of Cairdeas in-store. Customer demand inspired 2017’s cask strength, non-chill filtered bottling of Laphroaig’s Quarter Cask — classic smoky single-malt aged in ex-bourbon barrels and finished in quarter casks. The payoff is vanilla, mint and old hay aromas. That’s followed by sweet licorice flavors enveloped in a thick haze of peat-smoke that opens nicely over ice or with a few drops of water.
Proof: 114.4 (57.2% ABV)
New Zealand Whisky Collection: Dunedin Double Cask 18-Year-Old
The folks at Anchor Distilling specialize in importing the unexpected, and here is a collectible from down south — way south. This Dunedin Double Cask is a pot-still whisky distilled in 1994 at the now defunct Willowbank Distillery in Dunedin, New Zealand. The 70/30 percent malt to grain blend is aged six years in American oak before resting over a decade in French oak wine barrels that contained Pinot Noir and Cab Sav. In the glass, New Zealand Whisky Collection’s Double Cask has a deep color and robust viscosity, while the flavors focus on intense dried fruits and spices.
Proof: 80 (40% ABV)
The Macallan Edition No. 3
To create 2017’s Edition series, The Macallan’s Master Whisky Maker Bob Dalgarno teamed up with Master Perfumer Roja Dove to pull off something slightly different. This year’s collaboration focused on the olfactory. Dove singled out aromas in the cask, and Dalgarno used blending techniques and eight styles of casks to capture the scent as a flavor. The effort paid off with this floral, honey, and fruit-laden whisky with distinct sherry notes that stands tall with Edition No. 1 and 2, which were both excellent.
Proof: 96.6 Proof (48.3% ABV)
Woodford Reserve Masters Collection: Cherry Wood Smoked Barley Bourbon
Woodford’s Master Distiller Chris Morris puts an experimental twist on a small batch of his classic bourbon to create the Woodford Reserve Masters Collection. The program’s 12th bottling employs Cherrywood smoked barley in place of the traditional malt in the mash bill. The result is a rich, complex nose and smoked almond flavors, underscored by a sweetness that lingers through its long finish.
Proof: 90.4 (45.2% ABV)
Compass Box No Name
Compass Box Master Blender John Glaser has a whisky for the smoke-obsessed; No Name is his smokiest expression to date. This single malt-dominant recipe is mingled with un-peated Highland whisky and a hint of French oak aged juice to balance this “burned down house” beast. Glaser named this whisky “No Name” to allow the expression to speak for itself. But it doesn’t speak, really; it roars.
Proof: 97.8 (48.9% ABV)
Four Roses 2017 Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon
To procure this year’s Limited Small Batch Bourbon, Four Roses Master Distiller Brent Elliott worked with three low-rye mash-bills, aged the whiskey 12 to 15 years, and bottled it full strength. Look for a classic vanilla nose with rich fruit on the back, while bright raspberry and cherry flavors devolve into a sweet and spicy finish. With only 13,800 bottles released, now is the time to score this collector’s trophy.
Proof: 107.3 (53.7% ABV)
Lock, Stock & Barrel 18-Year-Old Rye
Not many batches of rye age gracefully for 18 years but Lock, Stock & Barrel has had a good thing going since they released this Alberta Canada rye as a thirteen-year-old in 2013. The unfiltered, high proof collectible opens with distinct rye, oak and citrus notes on the nose. A sip reveals intense fruit and gingery spices that coats the mouth with a buttery mouthfeel that somewhat tames this cask-strength monster on its way down.
Proof: 109 (54.5% ABV)
Whistle Pig Boss Hog IV The Black Prince
The Black Prince is Whistle Pig’s fourth and most impressive Boss Hog release. Master Distiller Dave Pickerel selected a stash of 14-year-old, 95 percent rye and finished it in rare Armagnac French Brandy casks — the first of its kind. Bottled at full strength, The Black Prince is a spicy, fruity swallow that, despite the high proof, finishes gently with oak, dried fruits and sweet char.
Proof: 124 (62% ABV)