Each January, it's customary for booze scribes to write a few prophetic words on what's going to be new and hot in the year ahead. But the whisky tragic in me is approaching 2017 in a more solemn fashion.
No predictions or resolutions, instead I'm already thinking about all the whiskies we're going to lose this year. The discontinued expressions, the bottles put out of reach due to scarcity, price hikes and stock shortages; the whiskies made unicorns because some bloke(s) decided they were the best in the world.
Like any whisky drinker, I've got my own pipe dream drams. Most of mine were made decades ago: a peated Old Pulteney, some pre-Prohibition bourbons, and I'd give my right arm to try some Old Court Whisky – a pure malt made in Melbourne in the 1920s. (If you find a bottle, please get in touch to exchange it for my right arm.)
Of course, part of the charm of drinking limited aged spirits is the ephemeral nature of the experience. But seeing as 2016 mastered the art of losing, I thought I'd suggest a few vital whiskies you should try this year before they're either all gone, or you have to sell both arms to pay for them.
Glendronach Single Malt Whisky 15 Year Old
For the price, this is one of the best sherried single malts coming out of Scotland. But the distillery wasn't producing whisky between 1996 and 2002, and this has put pressure on their 15 year old bottling, which was discontinued a couple years back until supply catches up to demand. The distillery also went through some production changes in 2005, so hopefully the 12, 18 and 21 year olds that comprise the core range – and are all solely matured in sherry casks – will continue to taste as good as they do now well into the future. Another reason to #drinkmoresherry this year.
Glenfarclas – The Family Casks
Glenfarclas is one of Scotland's most renowned family-owned distilleries – it's been owned by the Grant's since 1865. The Family Casks range was introduced in 2007 and is made up of single cask expressions, nearly all sherry matured, drawn from consecutive years running all the way back to 1952. They've become highly sought after in recent years, and their price has steadily increased as some vintages come close to selling out – many already have. So get on it. But you can also try a brilliant Glenfarclas expression in the same vein that's been bottled by Andrew Derbidge – the cellar master for the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in Australia – and is still available here at a reasonable price.
Yoichi Single Malt Whisky
It pains me to mention this one, because it's difficult to find even now, and I want to drink it all by myself. But when Nikka announced last year that they were discontinuing their entire line-up of age statement single malts (Miyagikyo included), the price of these whiskies naturally skyrocketed. The 10, 12, 15 and 20 year olds are very difficult to come by as a result, but if you don't taste them in 2017 (a few Aussie bars still have them on pour, just be careful what they charge you) then you'll likely have to wait years, maybe a decade, before you get another chance to try one of Japan's seminal age-statement malts.
Smith's Angaston Single Malt Whisky
This Australian single malt has been a well-kept secret since it was first produced in 1997 at Yalumba in the Barossa Valley. Since that date, production has been limited, with fairly random distillations carried out over the last 20 years. New releases trickle out every now and then, mainly matured in casks that previously held Aussie fortified and table wines. But these rich and hugely flavourful whiskies are worth looking out for, particularly as single malt production in South Australia is taking off in a big way.
Parker's Heritage Collection
With the tragic death of Parker Beam in the last week, the Master Distiller for Heaven Hill Distilleries in Kentucky, you'd do well to commemorate his passing by exploring the Parker Heritage Collection that honours his name. This will be the 11th year of the series, with proceeds from sales going towards research and patient care for those struggling with ALS, the disease that afflicted Parker. The expressions vary in style year on year, but all of them are worth seeking out.
Booker's Bourbon, long a quality barrel proof whiskey, has been in the headlines over the last month. Beam Suntory, the company who owns the brand, recently announced a 66 per cent price increase effective January 1, 2017. But after intense criticism from consumers and retailers over the festive season, the company backtracked and now says it will increase the price gradually over time. But they also revealed that less Booker's will be released in the next few years, so either way, the price is going up and there's less of it around. So if you love a Booker's, the time is now.
Check out the gallery above to see the list of whiskies you should be investing in.
A professional barman in one of Australia's most revered whisky establishments, Luke McCarthy has also travelled the world to learn more about the spirits he serves. The result is two parts drinks culture and one part global trends, served with a dash of critical assessment. His book, 'The Australian Spirits Guide', was recently published by Hardie Grant Books.
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