Top Ten Tuesday revisited: Whisky

Back in 2009 when I used to write much more frequently than I do now I had a “series” of what you’d probably now call “listicles”, detailing various of my Top Ten things.  It’s a nice easy excuse/format to get a post together, and in some cases makes for some useful Googlejuice*.

One of them was about my Top Ten Whiskies – an interesting notion, given I’d only lived in the UK about 5 years at this point, so the only stuff I’d tried was what I’d picked up on a few travels, and the admittedly limited range of what I had access to in Australia.  We hadn’t even thought of starting Whisky Squad yet – 2009 me’s awareness of whisky seems so, so far away now.

Anyhoo – at this point I don’t think there’s any way I could build a more “up to date” top ten, because there’s Just No Way I could pick 10.  Couldn’t do it.  HOWEVER, I thought I’d have a quick run through of what I had in my list back then in 2009 and see how it sits now.

  • Bruichladdich Blacker Still – this would still be in the list, I think. Probably mainly through sentiment, but I do recall it being an Excellent whisky. As I write this, I can find records of these going for around £450-550 in auctions, which is a far cry from the £90-100 we paid for ours.
  • Bowmore Darkest – Hmm, a little less confident about this one.  I suspect my attraction to this was a combination of a weird sense of brand-attraction to Bowmore for some reason, and a secret longing to be able to try the even-then mythical, famous, and “unobtainable” Black Bowmore: a whisky which I probably could’ve gotten my hands on for a couple of hundred quid at the time and if I had opened would’ve enjoyed for all the wrong reasons.  Of the Bowmore Darkest mentioned here, I’ve still got a bottle kicking about, but the last one I had I used the last 100mL or so in a whisky chocolate cake.
  • Glenfiddich Gran Reserva – I still highly rate this 21 year old rum-casked beauty, though haven’t had one in the hoose for a few years since draining the last one.  It makes me smirk a bit to read Past Me complaining about £65 a bottle being a bit steep.  Today’s price for today’s edition is £150.
  • Ardbeg 10yo – always a stone cold classic. I really gained a new layer of appreciation for Ardbeg 10yo after pouring it at a festival for a day one year, meaning I spent an entire day nosing and sampling it and talking about it with consumers, and lemme tell you… that’s a GREAT way to get to know a whisky.  Past Me doesn’t seem to have picked up on the lemony/limey notes in it, nor the big vanilla/icecream backbone, but of course the wash of the warm campfire smoke embrace is right there.
  • Glenrothes 1991 – still a bit of an enigma, given how far this bottle seemed to stray from what my understanding of the Glenrothes “style” is. Hey ho.
  • Glenlivet 18yo – probably another case of brand loyalty, although I *do* love a Glenlivet. I’ve got a Glenlivet 12 from the 80s open at the moment and having tried it side-by-side with a modern bottling the differences are quite striking, although both were wonderful in their own way.  I remember paying about £40 for the 18yo “back in the day”, and looks like the modern variant is presently available 12 years later for £80-90. 
  • Ardbeg Supernova – golly, look at me lazily slurping Ardbeg Committee bottlings back then… oh, to be so innocent.  I maintain this was still a very decent whisky and I think I’ve still got my second bottle knocking around somewhere (I think!), so at some point I’m gonna have to make a decision whether to open it or to turn it over to the people in auctions who seem to be willing to part with £500-900+ for it.  Yeesh.
  • Glengoyne 12yo – I can see what I was doing here, going with the unpeated Glengoyne for a bit of variety. I still like it notionally, although it’s not a make I try very often these days.
  • Balvenie 21yo Port Wood Finish – THIS, on the other hand, was and is another Instant Classic.  And where 2009’s version was £72 a bottle, 2021 looks more like £175-£190.  I’m very pleased to be enjoying one at the moment, and one of my favourite whisky memories was talking with the wonderful David Stewart MBE on an occasion where someone asked him what his favourite Balvenie was, and he said “Oh, that Balvenie Portwood 21 is a very nice whisky”, and we said, “So is that what you drink at home then?”, to which he said “Oh, no no, it’s a wee bit too expensive”.  If the Malt Master of Balvenie considers it a treat, then that’s enough to reinforce my opinion.
  • Glen Elgin 12yo – whisky’s a funny ol’ business, and it’s all too easy to point people toward the rare, rarefied, and exotic (and expensive) when there are some wonderful malts out there which the self-proclaimed cognoscenti will dismissively explain away with “great value for money” and other terms of faint praise.  It’s seldom a whisky I seek out & buy for myself, but I love putting it in tasting lineups because it always wins a few ppl over, and there’s got to be some point to be taken from the fact that in 2009 it was £28 a bottle, whereas in 2021 it’s now £40.  Tell me again how whisky pricing works?
  • Brora 28yo – yes, well. Regret time.  I never bought this bottle – it was from Richie’s bottle.  And with the time machine, or being able to talk to Past Me I’d tell me to stop spanking all my coin on stupid t-shirts, and instead to ignore the expense and snap up as many of these sorts of things as I could.  Because a future where it was possible to drink Brora at all would be a Very Splendid Place… to say nothing of the economic impact of having spares about.  Oddly, the only 28yo Brora I can find reference to was the Douglas Laing Platinum one and I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the one Richie bought.  So now I’m wondering if it was the 30yo one.

If I were to write a Top Ten in 2021 it’d be a bit nauseating – I’ve been in a lucky, lucky position to try some stratospherically delicious whiskies well beyond the realms of what people like me are able to afford.  But then that’s hardly a representative top 10 of my “favourite” drams that I actually have access to.  The modern list would HAVE to feature a Clynelish (as my favourite “regular” distillery), a Lagavulin (probably a Feis Ile bottling, though I love everything they do), a 2000s-distilled indie Bowmore (I’ve said too much), and probably after squinting I’d say a Lochside of some sort because, after realising just how special those can be I’ve periodically spent borderline naughty amounts on bottles from there.  But looking around the room now there are so many experiences still waiting to be had – how could I POSSIBLY pick 10 favourites?

It amused me that 2009 Me included a photo of what I then called “my whisky shelf”.

And in a previous pre-UK post I put up a picture of my collection in 2004 (as we drained them prior to me leaving the country):

Oh yeah. VHS tapes. I wouldn’t mind having that Macallan open here right now, or the Highland Park.

I don’t know how I’d feel about posting a picture of my whisky shelves now. Although I guess here’s a shot of the bottles that a mate who visited from London this weekend & I shared on Friday & Saturday nights:

So yeah, anyway. It’s nice to keep records of moments to see how far one travels in the meantime.

* of my top 10 most viewed pieces on this thing, 3 of them were Top Ten Tuesday lists.

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