Whiskies of the year: Runners up

I published the post with my whisky of the year last Monday. Generally I do the runners up first, or all in one post or so, but in this case it was a brand new whisky that I had not reviewed yet and I thoroughly liked. I decided to change things up a bit.

Just before publishing last Monday’s post, I checked the entire year in reviews to see the other scores. As announced earlier in 2017 I published less reviews than in years before. There was a plethora of reasons for this, but that’s not what this post is going to be about.

I think, after tallying up the scores of the last twelve months, I should divide the whiskies into two categories: Released in 2017, and released before 2017. In both categories there are some terrific whiskies that appeared on my wee blog.

2017’s releases

2017-10-17 10.38.03

Interestingly, almost all of the most interesting releases of the year are from Dutch bottlers. I was lucky enough to receive some true crackers from Archives, The Whisky Nerds and The Duchess.

The Whisky Nerds released their Trio Usquebaugh around summer (literally around summer) with the two single casks coming out first, and a blend of the single casks following in October. All three versions were received incredibly well everywhere, and rightly so. Bram and Floris (the Whisky Nerds) seem to be on a roll and I considered myself lucky to be able to get a bottle of each one.

I scored bottle 1, 2 and 3 at 90 points each. I just couldn’t pick a favorite. Keep ’em coming guys!

Unfortunately for all those that missed out: The bottlings have all sold out rapidly and have now hit the secondary market at prices of twice or thrice the initial tag.

Speyside 2Then there was Archives! A lot of whiskies came from their headquarters in Rotterdam with a major batch of releases around their Whiskybase Gathering. The Clynelish is great, but hasn’t received a proper review from me yet. So I’m limiting myself to the threesome of 1973 Speyside whiskies. One was reviewed as whisky of the year two days ago. The earlier two were scored at 90 and 91 points and were great whiskies in their own right. I’m not sure why the third one struck a chord with me, but it just ticked all boxes.

Luckily, if you’re not in the mood to spend 400 euros on a bottle of whiskies, a lot of other whiskies are very good too, and much more acceptably priced. Generally I find Archives not too expensive compared to some other bottlers.

I hope they are able to keep this up, especially the Whiskybase Gathering festival, since that’s simply awesome!


From my whisky buddy Nils, who works at Best of Whiskies in Bussum has been focusing on the shops whisky inventory and has bottled a few single casks in the last couple of years. This year saw the initial release of their Shieldmaidens series, with a 25 year old Ardbeg. Officially it was bottled in 2016 but I didn’t see a release until 2017 (I might be wrong). It’s another expensive release at just under a grand now, but that’s what Ardbeg is about nowadays. Unfortunate, since the whisky is stellar!

It had been years since I tried an Ardbeg of this level, and when I did it mostly were older releases and none from the last few years.

One of the most impressive other releases was a fairly random Cask End from Cadenhead’s. I was lucky enough to be able to buy a sample through a bottle share club I’m in. This particular one is a Highland Park 1988 at 29 years old. It was a truly stunning dram example of what properly aged Highland Park is capable of!

I’m going to Campbeltown in April, and I can only hope stuff like this is available then!

Older releases

  • Lagavulin Feis Ile 2016, 49.5%
    17834064_10154967942231210_1741051014235439499_oIt’s always a bit of a surprise how good the Lagavulin edition for the annual Feis Ile is. Some are better than others, but they are always in the 90 points range. The 2016 was no exception with a proper 18 years of aging.
  • Glenglassaugh 1986-2015, Gordon & MacPhail’s Rare Old, 46%
    It had been ages since I had a Glenglassaugh from before the closure in 1986. This one came from the last year of production before a long period of non-functioning of the Portsoy distillery. Even though this is a 500 euro whisky, I seriously considered buying it.
  • Benrinnes 1982-2009, The Bottlers, 57.4%
    By the colour you’d say this is as fresh a sherry butt as they come, but it’s a refill. I guess the first fill was in there for all of ten minutes or so. It reminded me of good Japanese whiskies of a much high price category. Since tasting it I saw this one in a secondary market sale at about 500 bucks, so I’m not the only one thinking this quintessential sherry cask is great.
  • Lagavulin 12yo, Rotation 1978, 43%
    86604-bigIt’s Lagavulin. Distilled in the sixties. What else could you want? (Apart from a lower price per bottle…)
    This is just everything you hope older Islay whisky is, and with all the standardization that’s happened over the decades, a character that’s simply gone. A shame, since it’s a dram I’ll remember for years to come.
  • Glenlochy 1977-1996, 18yo, Cadenhead, 60.5%
    I was lucky enough to be able to get this bottle in auction at a price point that made me doubt my decision, until I opened it. It’s a character from a distillery that no longer exists. That goes for both the character and the distillery. It’s a fierce one, but one worthy of exploration. If you read The Sponge’s posts on whisky being of the land in yonder year, I imagine he’s talking about stuff like this.
  • Springbank 1969-2004, 35yo, Adelphi, 58.5%
    A rather straight forward and even a bit predictable Springbank, but with a distillery like Springbank that is mostly a good thing. Just like this one. Everyone who’s ever had a Springbank from the sixties talks about it forever, and this one shouldn’t be handled any different. It’s stunning.
  • Mortlach 1954-2012, 58yo, Gordon & MacPhail’s Rare Old, 43%
    I’m not even going to talk about this again. It’s Mortlach. From 1954. Deal with it.


And, to conclude this post. Dare I say it? No NAS releases. A lot of stuff with some decent age to it. Might that be important after all?


About Sjoerd de Haan-Kramer

I'm very interested in booze, with a focus on whisky. I like to listen to loads of music and play lots of Magic: the Gathering, and board games too. I'm married to Anneke, have two daughters Ot and Cato, a son Moos and a cat called Kikker (which means Frog, in Dutch). I live in Krommenie, The Netherlands.
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