Colorado Whiskey Joins Scotland and Kentucky For Malt Advocates' Best
Top of the list for pleasant surprises is Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey. This young distillery, opened in 2004, has been a stand out since getting started, but it is also up against dozens of emerging micro-distilleries popping up all around the U.S. It used to distill from beer wash obtained from Flying Dog Brewery, but is now making its own. batch 49, honored by Malt Advocate, contains whiskey as young as two years old, but no older than five. At $55 a bottle, it's a buy, with an eye toward putting one away for future auctions. On the palate, you should find notes of English toffee, maple, roasted chestnuts and a bit of tobacco.
"Best Buy" of the Year went to The MacPhail's Collection; 8-year old expressions of Highland Park, Glenrothes and Tamdhu. At $30-$35, it was a solid choice. It's hard to find age stated whiskies this good, and nicely packaged. All are aged in refill Sherry casks. There are whiskies I like as much at the lower end of the range: Ardmore 'Traditional Cask" comes to mind, but for a few dollars more. That makes The MacPhails a worthy winner.
The American Whiskey of the Year went to Parker's Heritage Collection "Golden Anniversary." This expression was developed to mark Parker Beam's fifty years of service at Heaven Hill Distilleries. The blend was created from whiskies from the last five decades. With so many ages mingles, its not surprising to find a very complex, layered taste: vanilla and cocoa, but with very definite notes of citrus and cinnamon. At $150.00, I'd have to say it's right priced.
The Canadian Whisky of the Year is Crown Royal Cask No. 16. This is not surprising, but perhaps a little disappointing. No. 16 is a fine whisky to be sure. But the choice is disturbingly predictable because of the seeming lack of innovation coming out of Canada compared with the U.S. and Scotland. A close competitor in my tasting book would be Canadian Club 30 Year, at $200.00. To be eligible for Malt Advocate's ranking, the whisky has to have been sold in the U.S. in the previous year. The problem with some of the better, smaller volume Canadian whiskies is that they are not sold in the U.S., and they are often priced lower than they deserve, making comparisons with high-end Crown Royals and Canadian Clubs difficult for many taste testers.
Gallery: Whiskies of The Year
The Scotch Whiskey Blend of the Year is Compass Box Peat Monster. Let's face it, peat is in right now. Everywhere I turn, it seems that very peaty Scotches are the fashion. Younger drinkers, especially, seem taken with the imagery and traditions of Islay whiskies a bit more than those from the Highlands or Speyside. This is a blend of malted whiskies from various distilleries. At $60, it is a very good value for such a complex and highly rated whiskey.
And speaking of peat and Islay, it seems no top ranking is complete these days without an Ardbeg. The Single-Malt Whiskey of the Year is Ardbeg's Corryvreckan. Malt Advocate noted in its award Ardbeg's innovation of coming up with big flavors wither resorting to long aging, or even age-statements on the bottle to denote prestige or excellence. At $85.00 a bottle, one might expect an 18-year old. No matter how old the whiskey, Corryvrecken was surely one of the best of 2009. Choosing one single-malt, though, as 'Best" last year, was a tough errand given the number of expressions on the market. Master distiller Bill Lumsden plays with big, bold flavors without a net, and he is seldom wrong. Look here for smoke, seaweed, black cherries, espresso, along with medium tobacco and leather to roll it all out on the tongue.