2019 has been a year which has seen me cut right back on both buying spirits as well as drinking them.
To be honest I think I had a bit of a problem, I was collecting for the sake of it, even the collection I am building for my daughter’s future was getting out of hand so the last few month has seen me send a couple of dozen bottles off to auction even if that process has seen me buy from auction again after a hiatus of around eighteen months.
I even briefly flirted with the idea of shutting down Whisky Apocalypse and walking away from the whole thing, the pressure on me, from myself, to keep the site up to date was rather overwhelming. So of course I then started a Patreon page and started doing a few audio podcasts and YouTube videos.
My plan now is to keep the site going with reviews from which I receive freebies being on Whisky Apocalypse and my Patreon page will be for opinion pieces and the occasional review of a whisky which is either outstanding or woeful.
I’ll not be doing video reviews there are enough out there already, most are shite but some are good and I don’t think I’d really be bringing much to the table.
On the subject of shite I see more and more bloggers and Youtubers just so desperate to get either free stuff or get work within the industry that they continue to whore themselves out, and that would be fine apart from the fact that people read these articles or press releases and believe the writer and that makes me sad, but for now I’ll keep going.
For the second year running I’ve bought almost as much Spanish Brandy as I have whisky but this year has seen me buy some truly wonderful bottles. I have finally laid my hands on a bottle of George T Stagg, I don’t like numbers or lists but this is easily in my top half a dozen things I’ve ever tried, it is wonderful, I even did a whole video on just how to enjoy it properly because necking it down is just the wrong way to go.
I’ve had a couple of real surprises this year too. J.Gow are a rum distillery in Orkney and I was invited to try their Chestnut cask rum by Roddy over at Good Spirits and I couldn’t get my head around how good it was, it was just utterly wonderful, everyone I know who has tried it loves it too and you should make the effort to find it, it’s called Fading Light and if I had to pick one rum to drink forever it would probably be this. Oh aye, and their Spiced Rum is lovely too, it’s not cheap and I’m never sure spending over thirty pounds on a rum and then flinging it in to cocktails is the way forward but it’s perfect just sipping it too, I look forward to seeing what they produce over the next couple of years because so far they’ve been outstanding.
Another curveball was a Cask Strength affair from Port Askaig. The 100 proof bottle blew me away, I picked it up because I wanted a punchy Islay Single Malt and this gave me everything I could have asked for, still not got around to reviewing this but I might if I can be bothered, but aye, if you like a massive peat explosion then this might be what you’re looking for. It’s the Glenfarclas 105 for the peat heads.
Another head turner for me came out of the blue but really raised my spirits so to speak. The Lakes Distillery have done nothing for me so far, over priced and nothing exciting and the less said about Steel Bonnets the better but gosh their latest run has been outstanding. Both the Whisky Maker’s Reserve No.1 and No.2 are both well priced and excellent whiskies and the Port Cask Finish Blend is absolutely brilliant, what a star of a whisky, hunt this down and buy it, buy it all, you’ll thank me later.
Best expensive blend is going to Berry Bros and Rudd. They released a range of age statement blends and none of them were cheap but the 21 Year Old Perspective Blend is excellent, one of the finest examples of an age blend you’ll find, okay, I’ll grant you that ninety pounds isn’t loose chain for a blend but why not do a bottle share or try and find this in a swanky bar because honestly, it will change the way you think about blends.
Cheap blends are really circling the drain for me, if it’s not from Aldi and Lidl then I head to Grant’s for the Smoky bottle, when on offer it’s around fifteen quid and is a perfect mixer, other than that there is almost nothing worth reaching for, which is a real shame, still if you’re in Europe you can still get Black and White, White Horse (which isn’t what it was but it’s okay) and any other number of excellent cheap blends, the UK market though is shite.
So what else? There has been a lot over the last twelve months, I have stayed away here from my love of Spanish Brandy because these are probably too expensive seeing as they are half the price in Spain than here and I probably wouldn’t bother with them if I didn’t go to Spain to buy them. I finally bought a bottle of Spanish Grappa called Mars, an interesting spirit with a wonderful nose and unusual taste.
Kingsbarns released their first Single Malt and it was very nice indeed and far more sensibly priced than some other new released offerings.
Ailsa Bay released a new expression and it was excellent once again showing that Islay doesn’t have the monopoly on peated whisky, worth hunting down online for sure.
Another distillery I’ll be keeping more of an eye on is Mackmyra. A Swedish distillery which might appear as a bit of a gimmick at first with their funky barrel types but much of their range is top quality whisky and I’m hoping to explore the range further next year.
I did attempt to get my head around Irish Whiskey this year but just ran out of interest. Yes there are some fine Irish Whiskies out there but very few are worth the incredible prices much of it is put out at, and lots of it is just bang average spirit, no less boring than half the Scotch being put out, in fact my miniature of Paddy’s was so meh it was impossible to write it up, it just tasted of fuck all, which seems a waste. I go back to Irish Whiskey one but I very much doubt it will be any time soon.
My final thing is that I’m now open to using Single Malt in Cocktails, this has slowly become a thing but I was recently invited to a Glen Moray thing which allowed me to make cocktails at will and I had a great time, the core Glen Moray range mixed with the Fired Oak is actually a very decent range to work with and you could if you looked about get the four bottles, Peated, Classic, Port cask and Fired Oak for a hundred quid the lot and remember some distilleries are asking that for a 3 year old bottle, so yeah, thanks to Glen Moray for the opportunity to explore, let my hair down and create some really nice drinks, and I’m not just saying that because I won cocktail of the night, honestly.
Right, I’m now getting to that stage where I’m going to start writing up every bottle I’ve enjoyed this year and you can read the website for that, so I’ll wish you a Merry Christmas if that’s your thing and Hail Satan if it’s not.
Oh and if it really matters to you, the George T Stagg wins the bottle of the year, it is perfect.