The BenRiach 15 Year Old (Madeira Finish)
Aged in barrels from the venerable Henriques & Henriques Company of the island of Madeira. Immediately, the nose detects cocoa, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The flavor has a milk-chocolate sweetness to it, but what lingers in the mouth is bittersweet cocoa powder. The perfect after-dinner drink on cool nights and, I would imagine, very good with rich chocolate desserts. Exceptional length. Only 2,400 bottles available worldwide.
Laphroaig 10 Year Old Cask Strength
This Islay was awarded by Whisky Magazine as the Best Single Malt in 2005. As with the Ardbeg, the peaty band-aid nose is immediately apparent. It's slightly medicinal with a salty marine influence, plus some smoky bacon fat as well. Notably, Prince Charles is a big fan of Laphroaig and has bestowed his Royal Warrant on the distillery.
Glenfarclas 15 Year Old
Glenfarclas, which means "Valley of the Green Grass," is a big malt, perhaps reflecting the fact that it has the biggest stills in Speyside. The nose shows some baking spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. Mouth-filling flavor with candied fruit coming through. A long, dry, but creamy finish.
Isle of Arran 10 Year Old
Founded in 1995, the only distillery on the Isle of Arran. The hue is white-gold with a sweet, cereal-like nose. The sweetness carries forward onto the palate. Quite light and dangerously easy to drink.
Springbank 10 Year Old
Springbank is from Campbeltown which was once the whisky capital of Scotland. Now, only three distilleries survive. Very sweet and rich, with a touch of citrus giving it lift against a backdrop of light smoke. All combine in what noted Whisky author Michael Jackson says is "...all of Scotland's malt styles in one package."
Auchentoshan Three Wood
A Lowland malt with a distillery close to Glasgow. Matured in Bourbon, Oloroso, and Pedro Ximenez casks, hence the "Three Wood" designation. Triple distilled in the typical Lowland fashion, this method is thought to yield a lighter flavor than the more robust malts from the rest of Scotland. The sherry oak is readily apparent on the palate and the sweet Pedro Ximenez is reflected in the candy-toffee flavors. Some coffee notes also make an appearance. The texture is creamy and rather soft.
The Macallan 18 Year Old
I can't think of anyone I know who has tried Macallan and not immediately proclaimed it as one of their favorite malts. Somewhat smoky with a touch of wood, this iconic Speysider has an oiliness and some weight underpinning the dried fruit, citrus peel, and wood spice flavors. The year a whisky is distilled is said to make a difference in taste, making vintages avidly sought after by collectors. Whisky authority Jim Murray believes that the 18 Year Old shows superstar quality.
Photographs by Pat Mateo
This story first appeared in Vault Magazine Issue 2 2011.