03 Jan 2013
Best whiskies of 2012
Tasting notes by Ruben Luyten - Posted in * News
A slightly late Happy New year to all of you!
Best whiskies of 2012 is a rather tacky title of course, everyone should make their own choice, but I’d like to look back at last year and look at the changes that we’ve witnessed.
Ardbeg is still the most visited brand / category on this website. Japan now takes second place, GlenDronach is in third position. Laphroaig Triple Wood is still the most visited expression (that’s four years in a row), followed by Ballantine’s 17 years (the Jim Murray effect) and Port Ellen 12th release.
To tell you my honest opinion, I had the feeling 2012 was a slightly lesser year. This is due to a number of evolutions:
- A significant decline in old whisky (the type of whisky that interests me most). A lot of independent bottlers seem to be struggling to secure 1970’s and even 1980’s whisky, and this change seems to have occurred rather rapidly. Of course stocks from a certain decade will come to an end one day or another, but I had the impression that over the last few months stocks skipped two decades and the average 1990’s whisky is suddenly marketed as pretty old or at least “old enough”. Significantly younger whiskies are now bottled in series that only included much older whisky before. Other series that stick to their concept now have a slower release rate. In official bottlings the situation is even worse, as more distilleries now indicate NAS releases as the way ahead. The occasional older cask is held back until a suitable wooden box or elaborate bottle has been designed. Has whisky become too popular?
- The ever rising prices of whisky. We complained about this before, but this year the changes have been rather drastic. Not so much for standard whiskies, which tend to have fairly constant prices, but the higher end releases have really skyrocketed in a short amount of time. Similar casks are now two or three times the value they had one or two years ago. Some bottlers introduced some kind of long due indexation in 2012 (just compare Diageo’s Special Releases over the years). I’m not entirely sure this is a simple question of demand vs. availability… a certain forced market control or market experimentation may be playing a role as well.
- A growing concentration of whisky releases. Whenever the market discovers great casks from seemingly underrated distilleries or vintages (e.g. Littlemill 1988-1992, Macduff 2000 or Tomintoul 1967-1969), suddenly you can find ten or fifteen similar versions from different bottlers. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it flattens our idea of a vibrant whisky market full of variation. Still, kudos to the German bottlers who are responsible for most of the discoveries.
- A growing interest for rum and grain whisky, bottled by whisky bottlers, sometimes very old and very good and often more affordable. Is this a cure for the growing lack of high quality old whisky and the rising prices?
After the rant, here are my most impressive whiskies of 2012, in the most expensive category (but still more or less acceptable value):
- Brora 35 years (11th Annual release)
- Glengoyne 40yo 1972 (Malts of Scotland)
- BenRiach 1979 (cask #8507 for Asta Morris)
- Tomatin 36yo 1976 (The Whiskyman & Fulldram)
- Glenglassaugh 1972 (cask #2896 for Germany)
Also, we’ve tried a couple of ultra-premiums that were extremely expensive but that also turned out to be exceptionally good: Bunnahabhain 40 year old and Old Pulteney 40 year old, as well as the Glenfarclas 1968 ‘My Tribute’ cask #5241. They deserve a solid mention for their quality, regardless of their price (I didn’t mean to write next week’s shopping list anyway).
Then the more price-conscious region. Notice how they come in pairs – similar (or shared) casks from several bottlers.
- Clynelish 22yo 1989 (Thosop) or Clynelish 22yo 1989 (Malts of Scotland)
- Littlemill 23yo 1988 (Archives) or Littlemill 23yo 1988 (Whisky-Fässle)
- Jura 1988 (Whisky Agency) or Jura 1988 (Villa Konthor)
- Ardmore 19yo 1992 (SMOS) or Ardmore 20yo 1992 (The Whiskyman)
- Glenturret 34yo 1977 (Master of Malt) or Glenturret 34yo 1977 (Maltbarn)
Once again, my best wishes for 2013 and a big thank you for following this blog! I’m suffering from a cold by the way, but I’m hoping to have my first dram of the new year really soon. Cheers.