As 2017 comes to an end, it is time to do the almost obligatory “Best Of” list. I’d like to start off by saying these lists are highly subjective. If you’re a long-time follower and my palate has led you in the right direction on a regular basis, then you’ll probably enjoy what’s on my list. If you have a different list, that’s okay. There’s a whole big, wide world of whiskey out there.
My list is made of categories you may not expect...
BEST SURPRISE of 2017
There were two contenders for this category… Old Weller Antique and Noah’s Mill. The reason these are surprising is that for the last several years, I’ve been avoiding both. I hated them. Or, at least I thought I hated them. I drain and poured my first bottle of OWA. I hated Noah’s Mill so much I wouldn’t even buy a bottle. This year, however, I fell in love with both. The fact that some call Noah’s Mill the Frankenstein of Bourbon led me to choose it over OWA for the best surprise of the year.
BEST DISAPPOINTMENT of 2017
I say “best disappointment” because it is a truly delicious Bourbon. But, for the price tag, I was expecting more from Knob Creek 25th Anniversary Edition than what is basically a great private barrel of Knob Creek 120 at three times the price.
BEST FINISHED WHISKEY of 2017
This is a big, beautiful category and I love the ingenuity of the whiskey artists involved. High West is probably the best-known, and they’re absolutely consistently impressive. But, they also source Bourbons and Ryes and then make them their own by finishing them. I don’t badmouth sourcing at all, but, on the flip side, J. Henry & Sons grow their own corn, rye, and wheat to create their mash, they age everything in their own rickhouse, and then take their Bourbon and finish it in ex-VSOP cognac casks. As such, their Bellefontaine Reserve takes the award.
BEST EXAMPLE OF WHY THERE’S A BOTTOM SHELF in 2017
William Faulker said, “There’s no such thing as bad whiskey. Some whiskeys just happen to be better than others.” Faulker may have been a talented writer, but if alive today, I’m sure even he would retract his statement. I’ve run a #RespectTheBottomShelf campaign for several years. I’m a big fan, and there are a lot of gems down there. Then, there’s Trader Joe’s Kentucky Bourbon Straight Whiskey.
2017’s WHISKEY OF THE YEAR
And now, the item that everyone looks forward to from anyone, their whiskey of the year. I’m going to start off by saying that this isn’t the absolute best whiskey I’ve tried in 2017, and that’s why I’m not saying Best Whiskey of 2017. I’ve had some amazing allocated choices. But, naming an allocated bottle Whiskey of the Year does nothing but cause aggravation to those who will never be able to taste it. I also won’t include private barrels in this list, again, for the same reason.
In my opinion, Whiskey of the Year is something truly excellent that the average whiskey fan should be able to get their hands on and have a chance to enjoy.
While most of my reviews are Bourbon-centric, you might assume I’d name one as the winner. But, this year, I’m looking across the pond to Ireland.
I tasted many Irish whiskeys this year. Irish whiskey is enjoying a massive, well-deserved surge in popularity. I know that many Irish whiskey fans would look to Redbreast 12 as an obvious choice, but Prizefight is new to the market this year, came out of nowhere, and as such, earns the award.
ONE FINAL WORD…
Thank you for all of your support this past year. As I stated earlier, I’ve tasted some amazing whiskeys this year and made a lot of new friends in this wonderful industry. There are things coming down the pike in 2018 that I am very excited about and look forward to sharing my experiences with you. Cheers!