The Malt Advocate
released its picks for Best Whiskies of The Year" in its new Spring issue. Like many of these rankings, there is a little to go around for everyone to argue about, as well as a surprise or two.
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.