Sean Ludford is a new contributor to TaylorEason.com and a veteran in the wine and spirits industry. He has over two decades under his belt, swilling (er… tasting) beer, wine and plenty of spirits. Read his bio and be impressed.
Choosing the best of the best is never an easy task. All of us who love spirits live in the greatest era ever. Today we have a greater variety of quality products available on the shelves of our local (or online) merchants than ever before. With that said, here is my list of the most outstanding spirits that to try, presented in no particular order.
Glenfarclas 40 yr old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Scotland); 46% abv
Deep copper to amber color. The nose is rich with Sherry, figs, prunes, and dates with accents of cigar, leather, dark chocolate, candied orange, caramel, and roasted walnuts. The palate echoes the nose offering a delicious explosion of fruit, toffee, brown baking spices, and cocoa. Wonderfully balanced and luxuriously textured showing obvious signs of great maturity without being buried in wood. This great old Whisky improves greatly with 30 minutes in the glass and a drop or two of water. A rare and noble malt. $460.
Royal Lochnagar “Selected Reserve 2009” Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Scotland); 43% abv
Brilliant amber color. The nose is a virtual aroma wheel of Highland Whisky aromas carefully weaving scents of rich, sweet malt, an herb garden, fruit cake, caramel walnuts, and butterscotch. The palate is in full agreement with the nose being perhaps richer and more luxurious than the dense aromatic profile had indicated. This Whisky is impossibly lush while never becoming overly sweet and maintaining a balance that invites sip after sip. A beautiful Whisky from a distiller that is far too rarely seen in the U.S. $210.
Glenmorangie “Extremely Rare” 18 yr old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Scotland); 43% abv
Deep golden to tawny amber color. The nose is wonderfully fresh, harmonious, and complex marrying malt, grain, earth, and flora with accents of honey, orange, roasted nuts, and nutmeg. The palate fully agrees with the aromatics while demonstrating its splendor on a grander scale with flavors of baked apples, caramel, marzipan, and dark chocolate. Incredible length and beautifully rich with new wrinkles being revealed with each sip. A stunning beauty. $145.
Woodford Reserve “Maple Wood Finish” Bourbon (USA); 47.2% abv
Brilliant deep amber with touches of orange. The nose is rich and dense with scents of baked peach and apple with hints of caramel, maple, molasses, vanilla, and toasted wood. The palate is silky and vibrant with more baked fruit and accents of cinnamon, allspice, clove, toasted walnuts, and ginger. The finish lingers on for minutes with brown spice and pepper coating a velvety, maple syrup brittle. Bourbon has broken new ground today. $90.
Brandon’s Gin (USA); 46% abv
Brilliant crystal clear. The nose is simply beautiful showing a complex blend of aromatic spices that range from scents of citrus to caraway with juniper and ginger notes. The palate concurs with the nose as the silky and full spirit gives life and dimension to the aromatics. Floral, vibrant and zesty with a soft pepper note on the finish. A great martini Gin with style and charm. $30.
Ardbeg “Corryvreckan” Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Scotland); 57.2% abv
Bright golden color. The nose is rich filled with a seamless tour de force of sweet, dense malt, peat, campfire, toffee, baked apple, orange zest, and toasted nuts. The palate is a full three-dimensional expression of the nose giving waves of sweet malt and fruit, caramel, sea salt, vanilla-accented oak, and black pepper. The unctuous texture is perfectly balanced with incredible length and style. New flavor sensations emerge with each new sip. A real beauty. $85.
Tyrconnell Single Malt – Madeira Finish 10 yr old Irish Whiskey (Ireland); 46% abv
Bright amber with hints of red and orange. The nose is generous and complex marrying scents of rich, sweet malt with caramel, ripe berries, orange zest, and exotic brown spices. The palate is simpatico with the nose opening with a lush wave of malt-drenched fruit and spice that opens to a silky core. Perfectly balanced with waves of flavor including hints of dark chocolate, tropical fruits, roasted nuts. A beautiful Whiskey that showcases flashy Madeira finishing while never masking the lovely mature Whiskey beneath. A real beauty. $35.
Redbreast Pot Still 15 yr old Irish Whiskey (Ireland); 46% abv
Brilliant bronze to amber color. Immediately, the higher strength is evident on the nose. The nose is incredibly complex and seductive offering scents of caramel orange, honey, baked apples, toasted grains, brown baking spices, and toffee. The palate is equal to the nose offering a lush core of sweet fruit and spiced laced malt. The texture is more appealing than their great 12 year-old giving a perfect platform for the incredible mélange of flavors. It finishes with accents of clove, black pepper and nutmeg. Incredible and perhaps the greatest Irish Whiskey I have tasted. $75.
Coole Swan Dairy Cream Liqueur (Ireland); 16% abv
It has the pleasing and somewhat nostalgic appearance of a vanilla malt with its creamy, off-white, alabaster tones. The nose is subtle while complex offering an interplay of dark chocolate, vanilla cream, and hints of marzipan and sweet Whiskey. The palate is silky smooth and rich with subtle fruit notes as well. Elegant and wonderfully styled. As a topper, this unique liqueur is offered in a fresh, sleek, and modern package. $27.
Coeur de Lion 1990 Calvados, Pays d’ Auge (France); 42% abv
Brilliant copper to amber color. The nose is wonderfully complex and intriguing offering a vast array of scents ranging from baked orchard fruits to fig and dates, sweet sherry, honey, cardamon, cinnamon, allspice, candied orange peel, and mulled cider. The palate gives further dimension to the aromatics with an unctuous, silky rich core of fruit, confection, and spice that linger on for minutes after swallowing the nectar. A real beauty. $100.