Shock and awe at Best of the Best 2021

Posted by John Shearlock on

It was a night that had it all.

A $40 blend derailing a Rolls Royce single malt, a jaw-dropping shocker of a mystery whisky and an ode to a fart… what more could you ask for!

I’ve facilitated a few of these now and thought I had seen it all… but there’s never a dull moment with whisky. It keeps you on your toes and often when you think you’ve got it sussed, it does something strange.

Ok, let’s be fair, it wasn't the lineup we would have picked at the start of the year if we’d had our way, but there were certainly some intriguing dueling pairs that found themselves sparring on the night. A 10yo Signatory Caol Ila 2010 versus the 12yo Cask Strength Lagavulin 2019 for example, or the Macallan 15yo versus the Bunnahabhain 18yo, not to mention an intriguing battle between elegant low abvs and cask strength brutes. The Bunnahabhain 18yo had scored so high earlier in the year, could its elegance and finesse possibly pull off a shock win?

Alas no… the shock came from elsewhere.

If there’s one thing you can rely on in life it’s a Glendronach Brown and Gold right? So slipping one in as a mystery whisky seemed a pretty safe bet. A port pipe too, at 26 years of age and with an abv of just under 50% that sat nicely between the lower abvs and the higher strengths. I suppose the port pipe part of the story was a slight unknown, but if you were lucky enough to make it to the last Glendronach tasting at RW, you will remember an absolute cracker which was more oloroso than most oloroso casks. But I guess you should never judge a book by its cover. It certainly wasn’t awful, but nosing it was more like nosing the box in which the whisky had come, and the end result was more dolorous than oloroso.

But life must go on, and one whisky will never define a tasting.

With four unpeated sherried whiskies starting things off, this really was a tasting of two halves, which sprang to life with the Lagavulin, a ray of sunlight breaking through a slightly overcast sherried cloudscape. Following this was the 60% Signatory Caol Ila; now our palates really were awake. The Lagavulin did its best to ape an OB Caol Ila with a big bourbon lick of limoncello, whilst the Signatory Caol Ila was more like a deconstructed, undiluted Lagavulin 16yo. Two great examples of bourbon and sherry combining with peat to full effect, absolutely gorgeous stuff and so gorgeous in fact, that the Caol Ila won the night. That’s right, a peaty whisky winning Best of the Best! I wonder how far back you would need to go to discover when that last happened...

So a night of shock and surprise.

Or, did it actually run more true to form than initially meets the eye?

Let me explain. An expensive Macallan ripped to pieces and pipped into last spot by the Adelphi Blend, and the winner the highest strength of the lineup and from a sherry cask. We’ve been there before, right? This tasting raised an eyebrow or two in more ways than one… but show me a bourbon cask aged peated whisky under 50% winning best of the best… then I’ll truly be shocked.

Thanks to all those who have participated with the regional tasting programme or have bought whisky from us this year. You rock.


Here are the scores for those who are keen, plus links to purchase…

Macallan 15yo Double Cask 43% 7.6
Glenallachie 10yo Cask Strength Batch 56.1% 8.83
Mystery Whisky - Glendronach 26yo Batch 17  #5896 1992 49.3% 700ml 7.72
Bunnahabhain 18yo 46.3% 8.23
Lagavulin 12yo Cask Strength 2019 56.5% 8.34
Signatory Caol Ila 2010 10yo 60.3% 9.24
Longrow Red 10yo 52.5% 8.81

Welcome dram - Adelphi Blend 7.64

And here are some photos from the night - thanks to Richard for the snaps.



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