Whisky Lady’s Top 10 most memorable malts (you won’t find anywhere)

As I browsed through the thousand odd whiskies sampled over the last few years, some simply stood out as exceptional. Unfortunately you can’t find them easily – except perhaps if you are very lucky via a private collection or auction!

So at the risk of evoking much envy and frustration, I bring to you my Top 10 Most Memorable Malts! In alphabetical order as I simply couldn’t rank them…

Balblair 38 year (1966/2004) 44%

From the Highlands, one of the most memorable whiskies for two reasons: it brought together our Bombay Malt & Cigar group and it was an absolutely perfect balance of sherry elements softened by maturity into a deep, complex, exquisite dram. And come on, when are next going to stumble across a 38 year old Balblair?

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Bruchladdich 15 year “Royal Wedding H.R.H. Prince Charles” (1965/1980) 52%

The marriage of Charles and Di may not have lasted, however this exceptional dram did. Elegant spice, with light peat… it reminded me of an operatic aria – with achingly beautiful high notes from the 1st soprano, joined by rich contralto harmonies and then tenor counter point. What can I say? I grew up with a mother who sang opera!

I tasted it at Whisky Live 2016 where they shared to always check ceramic bottles weight – as they are prone to lose their precious cargo.

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Cambus Single Grain 24 year (1991/2015) Cask 55891 51.9% (Signatory Vintage) 

While technically not a malt, this grain simply had to find join this list as it remains my all time grain favourite for its floral, tempting, subtly complex nose with butterscotch ice cream, great mouthfeel with depth of character – overall simply delicious!

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Glendronach 42 year 1971 Cask 1246 (Master of Malt)

Glendronach 39 – 42 year 1972/2011, 1971/2011/2012/2013 

This was actually four small samples carefully collected by India’s own Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula. Each was singularly decadent and indulgent, no luxury spared….  Imagine a lush velvet boudoir, deep leather chair with a crackling fire, your every whim fulfilled… and when your hand reaches out for a sip of something rich, robust yet refined… one of these fills your glass!

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Photo: The Whisky Barrel

Glen Grant 64 year (24 Nov 1949/6 Jun 2014) First Fill Sherry Cask 2200 + 3185 40% (Gordon and MacPhail)

Let me start off by saying – no that is NOT a typo! This whisky really was laid down in 1949 and aged for a remarkable 64 years. Just let that sink in for a moment.

I sampled it blind and found it was a mystery – Delicate and unique. Surprisingly tangy yet sweet too. Complex yet not heavy. Clearly old yet had fresh elements also. A kaleidoscope of contradictions… that somehow worked together in weird and wonderful ways.

I kept aside just a few drops to revisit and was rewarded with an exceptional bouquet of fruits, flowers then pine. The last drop drained, returned an hour later to the empty glass to discover the most glorious perfume! Simply wafting out from the glass. Beautiful.

To then find out how truly remarkable and historic it was – wow!

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Glenturret 30 year (1987/2018) Hogshead Cask #371 55.3% (LMdW Artist #8)

At Whisky Live Singapore 2018, this particular La Maison du Whisky Artist #8 series stood out for its balance and beauty with bounteous orchard fruits and zesty fruits. I found it utterly delightful and it completely hit my whisky “happy place.”

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Ichiro’s Houou-uhi (Phoenix) 46.5%

What can be more mythical than a Phoenix rising from the ashes of not one but two closed Japanese distilleries? At least I believe it is a blend of Hanyu Distillery (12 & 20 year) and single grain whiskies from Kawasaki (30, 32 and 35 year)… It had a nuanced complexity bringing together seaweed, jasmin, cognac, pepper spices in a distinctly ‘Asian’ avatar with a refined finish. Exceptional. Even the final drop stored for nearly 4 years retained unique qualities.

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Image from Scotch Whisky Auction

Karuizawa 39 year (1973/2013) Cask No 1607 67.7%

Karuizawa is a closed Japanese distillery much coveted for its rarity. Limited remaining stock is held either with Number One Drinks (like the one I tried) or The Whisky Exchange. I personally found it hard to put into words something that just wraps you up in so many layers of richness… It was a bit overwhelming to sample such a mature, complex and yet still eminently enjoyable dram. Age and rarity doesn’t necessarily mean quality, but in this case it did!

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Laphroaig 16 year (1987) Silver Seal 16 year 46% vs Laphroaig 21 year (2008) 53.4%, bottle 18 of 750 (Heathrow T5)

I simply couldn’t decide between these two Laphroaig – each is special for different reasons… The 16 year from 1987 was memorable for its delightfully floral quality, subtle, silky, sweet herbs and honey relaxing into a light smoky peat. And the T5 21 year shone with its elegance, mellow smoothness, soft spices balancing perfectly with peat, a gorgeous harmony between all its different elements. For me, both are a very different league of Laphroaig than you typically find.

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Lochside 1981 51.2% Gordon and Macphail

As whisky flight experiences, what my companion and I shared at The Auld Alliance in Singapore remains unmatched. And this Lochside from a closed distillery was a complete show stopper with a singular finish. When asked a year later my ultimate dream dram – without hesitation I said “Lochside 1981”. Unbelievably, one of our whisky club members tracked down another Lochside 1981 46% – which was also remarkable!

While I doubt I will have another Lochside experience anytime soon, there was a tempting open collection in Swan Song, Singapore available for tasting and years ago I had the privilege of being astounded by the incredible array Sukhinder Singh (aka The Whisky Exchange) has collected. Somehow it is comforting to know that out there in the world such whiskies exist.

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So there you have it – a short list of a few memorable malts from a lengthening list of whisky explorations!

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