The Finest 20 Whiskies of the Decade

This is the best time to be alive for whiskey lovers, as aged whiskies are spicing up the market some blended in the rarest casks, and other countries like Japan showing a lot of promise.

Jim Murray, author of the Whisky Bible, and whiskey writer of the year has tasted 20,000 whiskies and released his top of the line list for 2020.

So, here are some of the utmost lavish whiskies of the new decade for 2020, (which will not contain the ones auctioned off for more than 5 figures as you probably won’t get a hold of it until another auction).

1). 1792 Full Proof Kentucky Straight $126

Coming strong as the world’s number one, according to Jim Murray, proves that price doesn’t dictate worth. It has 125 proof, NAS (no age statement), and was produced in Barton 1792 Distillery, Kentucky, USA.

Nose: Dried oak, maple syrup, burnt sugar and a whiff of nutmeg.

Taste: Burnt sugar again, with a touch of smoke in tow. Toffee pennies and spiced oak.

Finish: Lasting warmth of cinnamon and flaky pastry.

2). Benromach 1969 50 Years Old $14,810

You know what they say, some turn to vinegar and the best improve with age. And we all know where your $10k will be going and it’s not to buy vinegar. With only 125 bottles in the market, this 50-year-old single malt hails from Scotland.

Nose: Sweet sherry aromas, the sweet luxury of prune syrup, stewed raisins, brown sugar, and warm spices. Hints of butterscotch, ginger, and candied orange peel appear before giving way to undertones of gentle smoke.

Taste: A peppery opening leads to ripe apricot and peach with subtly sweet dried tobacco leaf.

Finish: Soft menthol edge and a lingering, fruity, mellow oak finish.

3). Bruichladdich Black Art 1990, Edition 6.1 $526

This single-malt scotch, aged 26 years, is unpeated and of mysterious cask origins. Head distiller Adam Hannett has surpassed expectations, its rich and bold flavour comes with a little bit of sweetness.

Nose: The aromas are deep, floral and rich with currant and blackberry jams, chocolate, plum almond paste, and lemon zest.

Taste: Layers of dates and figs, raisin, ginger, more chocolate, flan pecan pralines, and warm tobacco.

Finish: The medium-length finish lingers with exotic fruits, oak, and ganache.

4). Bunnahabhain 25 Year Old $667

Bottled without chill-filtration and colouring, 25 years aged, single-malt scotch, was hailed the best when it first came out. It is bottled in smoked oak glass, a very classic move.

Nose: Sherried; sweet toffee and polished leather followed by cinnamon and the faintest hint of cardamon.

Taste: Fruit compote doused in cream and caster sugar, this develops into roasted malt, chestnuts, and stewed raisins.

Finish: Demerara sugar, mixed spice, nutmeg and caramel lingering for long after the final sip.

5). Craigellachie Exceptional Cask Series 19 Year Old $295

Part of a limited edition release, which means it won’t be around for too long, this Scotch single malt bottled at cask strength was sherry matured. But don’t think it didn’t get the right balance, the full-bodied, nutty flavour hits you first, followed by a wave of fruity, spice sugar feel.

Nose: Heavily nutty character along with hints of dark chocolate.

Taste: A bit of sea salt upfront, while vanilla, roasted hazelnut, and molasses.

Finish: Sweeter, fruity finish reminiscent of baked pear.

6). Crown Royal Extra Rare $246

A rare batch from the LaSalle Canadian distillery, it’s crafted by Master Blender Andrew MacKay. It’s for those who enjoy their bourbon light and fresh, with fruity hints, at 80 proof.

Nose: Light but rich and complex.

Taste: Lightly sweet with spicy notes of Canadian rye.

Finish: Long, peppery and warm.

7). Elijah Craig 12 Years Old Small Batch Barrel Proof $193

If you want it straight from the barrel, with no chill filtration, then you’re in for a great treat. Aged for 12 years in charred oak barrels, this comes out at full proof (which varies by release).

Nose: Caramel with toasted oak, fruit notes of apple and orange

Taste: Rich vanilla, caramel, and butterscotch along with spices of black pepper and cinnamon at the back of the palate

Finish: Nicely layered showcasing all flavours, fades slowly then lingers as it cools

8). The GlenDronach Master Vintage 1993 $490

What could be better than being distilled in 1993 and matured for 25 years in Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso sherry casks, coming out with 48.2% ABV? Nothing, absolutely nothing.

Nose: Rich brandy-laced fruitcake and marzipan on a base of smoked walnut and toasted sultana bread.

Taste: Sip cocoa-dusted coffee and sultana brioche enlivened by a twist of baked orange rind and the juiciness of prune oil.

Finish: Savour the long velvet taste of rich cocoa and dates as pecan toffee lingers into the sumptuous finish.

9). Glenfiddich 21 Year Old Scotch Whisky $257

Matured for 21 years and coming from a rum-soaked cask, there is no way you won’t note the Caribbean origins of the rum. Perhaps this is what makes it sumptuously sweet and yet traditionally Glenfiddich.

Nose: Intense and vanilla sweet. Floral, hints of banana, figs, rich toffee, new leather, and oak.

Taste: Initially soft, then brisk, vibrant and drying. Peppery with a touch of smoke, oak, lime, ginger, and spices.

Finish: Very long, warming, dry and spicy.

10). The Glenlivet Winchester Collection Vintage 1967 $44,415

It’s not vintage if it hasn’t been aging for 50 years. And it won’t cost as much either if it weren’t crafted by former Master Distiller, Robert Arthur. This single-malt scotch was bottled at cask strength, with only 150 bottles released.

Nose: Rich and fruity with notes of apricot jam and sweet ripe peaches and a hint of toasted almonds.

Taste: The perfect combination of the spirit and the American oak cask, releases a wonderful array of flavours.

Finish: Long and luxuriously sweet.

11). Glenmorangie Grand Vintage 1991 $1,111

They said that you can’t marry two whiskies together without creating chaos, but it seems like the effect is the opposite for this single malt scotch. Aged for 26 years, one in oloroso sherry casks and the other in Burgundy casks.

Nose: Invitingly fruity. A rich plum crumbles made with exotic spices, dusted with vanilla sugar and served with generous scoops of raspberry ripple ice cream. Sugared almonds and a glass of sauternes on the side, with flashes of mint, coconut, honeycomb, and bark underneath.

Taste: Sweet and viscous, balanced by dry wood tannins. Sweetwood notes lead into lashings of candied fruit, apricot, and papaya in particular, alongside cherries, singed raisins, and vanilla. Purple jelly babies are also out in force, bringing with them chocolate, nutmeg, and hints of citrus.

Finish: Smooth and lingering, with notes of oak, hazelnut and that sticky, rich mix of dark fruits.

12). Hakushu 18 Year Old $711

This 18-year-old Japanese whisky from the Suntory – Hakashu distillery is a rare find – it’s aged in three different types of oak casks, American, Spanish and Japanese. The location of the distillery is outside of Kyoto, Japan which provides them with pure water and a perfect environment to concoct such a piece.

Nose: Ripe pear, dried mint, oregano, a hint of smoke.
Taste: Jasmine, mango, quince, menthol.
Finish: Long, pleasantly smoked, a hint of bitterness

13). J.P. Wiser’s 35 Years Old $297

This Canadian whisky, 35 years aged, is bourbon-barrel-aged corn whisky and virgin-oak-aged rye whisky. It’s quite a rare treat to have an aged Canadian whisky this good.

Nose: Light oak, old rye, black tea, roasted root tea, arugula, blueberry, rich old corn whisky, slate, tobacco, molasses, toffee, burning oak, boiled tomato, amber beer, and complex underlying vegetal notes.

Taste: Floral, with lilacs, aged tea notes, and spices – clove, cinnamon, fiery arugula, and also oak bringing with it light tannins and smoky notes.

Finish: Full, rich, and encompassing – with luxurious blueberry, green apple, tea, roasted fennel seed, and clove.

14). Knappogue Castle 16 Year Old Twin Wood $138

This single malt Irish whiskey was aged for 14 years in bourbon barrels. It was finished in Oloroso sherry casks, giving that slight hint of fruitiness at the end.

Nose: Aromatic, malty and fruity.

Taste: Deep and complex with sherry maltiness along with fruity and slightly sweet notes.

Finish: Long with some sweetness lingering.

15). The Macallan Triple Cask Matured 18 Years Old $489

Its triple cask includes European sherry seasoned oak casks, American sherry seasoned oak casks, and American ex-bourbon oak casks, matured for 18 years. The Macallan distillery is hailed as one of the best in the world, so you know you’re in good hands.

Nose: Exotic dried petals with coconut and vanilla orange citrus.

Taste: Soft and velvety with orange citrus, vanilla, nutmeg, and cinnamon.

Finish: Lingering with chocolate orange and a hint of wood smoke.

16). Michter’s 20 Year Single Barrel Bourbon $5,185

Using fire-charred, new American white oak barrels, this 20-year-old bourbon from Kentucky, USA, graced the market with only 444 bottles. At the time of the release, the retail price was at $700 and has marked up ever since.

Nose: Oak, roasted grain, Smarties, toffee, minerality, complex baking spice, sour cherry candy, dried fruit, and vanilla.

Taste: Oak, toffee, roasted grain, sour cherry candy, cinnamon heavy baking spice, minerality, buttery brittle, powdered sugar and a touch of mint.

Finish: Long fade of dark fruit, roasted grain, spice, and oak.

17). Middleton Very Rare Bot. 2018 $282

It’s Irish, aged 12 years in lightly-charred ex-bourbon barrels. Master Distiller Emeritus Barry Crocket crafted this batch in 1984, hence its coined as a vintage release.

Nose: Vanilla sweetness with a light floral perfume. Some citrus zest combines with fresh herbs and sweet spices complimented by a touch of black pepper and charred oak.

Taste: Mouth-coating sweetness of vanilla, cinnamon, and clove, enriched with a hint of green apple and unripe banana. Peppery pot still spices, along with charred American oak, add complexity.

Finish: Soft sweet spices fade leisurely leaving the final say to the charred oak and barley grains.

18). Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond: Spring 2019 Release $889

Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Decanter Series is award-winning, and that’s all you need to know. It was produced in 2005 and bottled in autumn of 2019, and bottled at 100 proof.

Nose: Complex, very spicy for a wheat bourbon.

Taste: Starts with the spices that were in the nose but becomes soft and gentle with honey and cake notes. Vanilla and oak follow with a delicious caramel tail.

Finish: Warm, long, sweet.

19). The Yamazaki 12-Year-Old Single Malt Whisky $189

This Japanese single-malt whisky is history in a bottle. Yamazaki is Suntory’s flagship brand and it’s the first whisky distillery in the country (1923) which comes as no surprise why it’s the number whisky brand in Japan.

Nose: Peach, pineapple, grapefruit, clove, candied orange, vanilla, Mizunara (Japanese oak)

Taste: Coconut, cranberry, butter

Finish: Sweet ginger, cinnamon, long finish

20). W.L. Weller 12 Year $193

Hailing from Buffalo Trace Distillery in Kentucky, USA, this bourbon used wheat instead of rye grain giving it that smooth taste. It’s a multi-awarded spirit at 90 proof, winning gold medals (2019) from New York World Spirits Competition, Los Angeles International Spirits Competition, and San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

Nose: Lanolin, almond, creamed corn, and toasty vanilla

Taste: Heavily wheated, layered and moderately sweet

Finish: Long, oaky, and intensely smooth

While this list might not appeal to every single individual who will read it, let’s take a deep breath and remember what Tom Tardie praised about whisk(e)y, “The great things about whiskey are that it is so diverse and can appeal to a very broad range of palates.” He adds, “Bourbon, rye, single malts, blends — they’re all whiskey.”

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