This month’s batch of reviews to see out the year almost entirely feature limited edition whiskies. Some consist of thousands of bottles, some are just single cask releases, and all of them are hard to find and in demand.
Here’s my usual disclaimer. These reviews reflect my personal views on the whisky and that these are not requested nor considered official by Forbes in any way. Often, but not always, I’ll be sent a sample or have a chance to try it at a tasting, but opinions are always my own.
A quick note about my (loosely applied) criteria. In choosing whiskies to review, I don’t have much of a requirement beyond the fact that the whisky ideally should have been released within the last few months, and that the bottles are available to buy for the general public, preferably to a global market. Also keep in mind the prices I include here may also not be the same in other places you might find the bottle.
I’ll also include some links at the bottom of this article to my past review roundups as well.
Here’s a guide to my scoring system. I grade whiskies out of 10 to the nearest half-point:
0-4 – Avoid this bottle
5/5.5 – Barely passable
6/6.5 – Decent enough, not really for me, but you might like it
7/7.5 – Good
8/8.5 – Extremely good
9-10 – Absolutely superb
The whiskies are listed in alphabetical order:
Creek Water Sometimes Y 18 Year Old, $399.99, 48.95% ABV
Description: Creek Water is a whiskey brand created by rapper/singer Yelawolf produced at North Carolina’s Next Century Spirits Distillery. The truly ancient (for a rye) Sometimes Y is a limited-edition release celebrating Yelawolf’s collaboration album with singer-songwriter Shooter Jennings.
Nose: Smells almost like a Cognac. Typical Cognac notes like coca cola, root beer, cherries, and plenty of oak first emerge, before darker citrus notes including grapefruit and sweet vegetables – sugarsnap peas and celery – take charge.
Taste: The oak wasn’t intrusive on the nose, but unfortunately it is here. All subtlety is lost as the palate is simply too woody. Winter spices, coca cola and root beer notes do squeeze through a little but the overall balance of this whiskey is off.
Overall: I want to love this whiskey and I very much want this brand to be successful. I spend a lot of time combining music and whisky professionally, so I can relate to Creek Water’s mission. However, this release doesn’t cut it. 5
The GlenAllachie Billy Walker 50th Anniversary 4 Years Old Future Edition, $102, 60.2% ABV
Description: Speyside operation GlenAllachie released a trio of whiskies to celebrate distillery boss Billy Walker’s 50 years in the industry. The final chapter of this trilogy is the distillery’s first-ever peated offering. Good luck finding a bottle though!
Nose: The peat combines bonfires with sweet and sour pork, and a rich vein of sweet rich aromas continues with frying ginger, tamarind, and caramelized onions. A soft lemony note as well as coriander adds brightness, and sweet horseradish brings additional and welcome bitter depth.
Taste: You can taste the youth of the whisky, but it’s very good. Pears dominate alongside marshmallows and chocolate chip cookies. Some tropical notes creep in as well as lemongrass while the bonfire smoke is a welcome and robust addition to the overall profile.
Overall: A superb young peated whisky. 8
The GlenAllachie Billy Walker 50th Anniversary 16 Years Old Present Edition Mizunara Cask, $479.99, 48% ABV
Description: The market price on this one is usually around $335 but as it’s sold quickly it’s often more expensive when it is available somewhere. This second release of the trilogy was matured in a combination of Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso sherry casks before secondary aging in Mizunara casks, which is a rare type of Japanese oak greatly respected in the whisky world.
Nose: There’s slightly leathery and mineral notes which are wonderfully balanced out by sweet paprika, green tea, rice krispies, and fresh basil. It’s very summery and green.
Taste: The complexity from the nose is unfortunately gone here. There’s nice goopyness and dryness, but the whisky feels too tight. Fruits like apples and cherries come through but even with water I’m having trouble digging out clear notes, and the finish fades too quickly.
Overall: Lovely nose, but the palate doesn’t live up to it. 6.5
Hibiki Blossom Harmony 2022 Edition, $700, 43% ABV
Description: The price quoted above is not the original retail price (which was originally around $210), but this limited edition bottle is almost impossible to find already despite its recent release. This whisky, created by Suntory master blender Shinji Fukuyo, is a blend finished in casks made of Japanese cherry trees.
Nose: Soft and meadow-like. Sweet elements include blueberries and lavender but also a light musty hay-like note as well as greener cut grass. Almonds and limes provide additional depth while retaining the lightness.
Taste: An initial sweet hit on the palate superbly combines cream and elderflower alongside a healthy helping of vanilla and a little bit of aromatic candied roses, but then fades very quickly, which is a shame.
Overall: This whisky had the potential to be unbelievably good, but it’s too shy. 7.5
Lagavulin Jazz Festival 7 Year Old 2022, $114, 59.5% ABV
Description: Every year, Lagavulin releases a special bottling to celebrate the Islay Jazz Festival that takes place every year on the island. This year, there’s two releases. This 7 year old is only available online on Malts.com, and is matured in ex-bourbon casks.
Nose: Rich and citric, with plenty of that all-rounder Lagavulin smoke combining meat, bonfires, and iodine. Oranges, grapefruit and rooibos tea feature here as well as honey sweetness. However, there’s a slight play-doh rawness that gives away the youth, and not necessarily in a good way.
Taste: It tastes how you’d expect young Lagavulin to taste. It’s good. Plenty of caramel, cashews and coconut are supported by that superb peat smoke, but like the nose a raw waxy note sneaks in and is slightly jarring.
Overall: By Lagavulin’s lofty standards, not the best from this excellent distillery. It’s worth trying though. 7.5
Lagavulin Jazz Festival 14 Year Old 2022, $348, 55.4% ABV
Description: This older and more expensive release from Lagavulin celebrating the Islay Jazz Festival is only officially available for purchase at the distillery itself, or for inflated prices at various stores and auction sites. Also, it is one of the few brandy cask-finished whiskies out there, and the only Lagavulin so far.
Nose: While there’s plenty of smoked salmon and fried butter here, as well a strong antiseptic tang (which is a good thing), perhaps the strongest and most surprising note are the peanut shells that permeate the nose. It’s fascinating and works well. Limes, oregano, freshly cut tomatoes, and a little bit of mango round out the profile.
Taste: The palate features a delicious silky texture, like good soba noodles. The smoke becomes more carbolic in nature. The peanuts are still there but sweet barbecue sauce and baked apples are more prominent now, along with a gentle hint of chai tea syrup.
Overall: Keeps all the great things about Lagavulin while adding a fun twist. 8.5
Macallan A Night on Earth In Scotland 2022 Edition, $100, 43% ABV
Description: This limited-edition (and relatively budget-friendly) Macallan combines ex-Sherry and bourbon casks to comemorate the Scottish new year’s celebration of Hogmanay.
Nose: The marketing copy for this whisky emphasizes the shortbread notes and it’s not wrong. However, I find that it’s grape juice that dominates the nose, with supporting roles played by vanilla, pears, caramel and malty cereal such as Shreddies.
Taste: A very nice combination of vanilla and grapefruit is supported by grapes, demerara sugar, pecans, and apple crumble.
Overall: Solidly indulgent. 7.5
Sagamore Spirit Reserve Series Sherry Finish Rye Whiskey, $75.99, 53% ABV
Description: What started as a popular distillery-exclusive release is now more widely available. Sagamore’s 4 year old whisky spent an additional 18 months in Pedro Ximenez sherry butts for added fruity notes.
Nose: Root beer and chlorine are poured over a bush fruit salad. Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and cherries are strong here. Darker elements including liquorice, oak and sawdust provide additional depth.
Taste: Ticks off a lot of typical high quality rye whiskey notes. Caramel, cocoa and winter spices lead the way, and they’re supported by strawberries, cranberry sauce, and demerara sugar. A little bit of rosemary adds an aromatic tang.
Overall: I’ve found that Sagamore does a great job of consistently delivering high quality fruity ryes. This is no exception. 8
Whisky Baron Bowmore 25 Year Old, $475, 47.7% ABV
Description: Independent bottler The Whisky Baron coaxed 134 cask strength bottles of whisky from an ex-Bourbon hogshead of made at this in-demand Islay distillery.
Nose: Ticks all the boxes of an older ex-bourbon cask Bowmore. This is a very good thing because older Bowmore is usually wonderful. Tropical notes including pineapple, mango and papaya are served alongside smoked fish and the overall dish is then sprinkled with basil, saffron and a little bit of lemon juice. Very classy.
Taste: Delicious. The smoke becomes more like burning cigarettes than smoked fish, and tropical notes become softer in favor of caramel, peaches, and cut grass. Ripe avocado, cut grass, and fresh basil add a green dimension to the profile.
Overall: The combination typical of high quality Bowmore – gentle, slightly fishy ash and tropical notes – is on full display here. 8.5
Whisky Baron Ben Nevis 25 Year Old, $390, 49.5% ABV
Description: Another Whisky Baron bottling, this older release consists of 180 bottles also drawn from an ex-Bourbon hogshead.
Nose: Superb. Peaches, pears, and coconut cookies are given a little bit of hearty weight with an oatmeal note. However, lighter layers incorporating orange blossom, mint, limes, and roses really makes the overall aroma sing.
Taste: This is so good. It’s aromatic and soft. The more typical notes of vanilla, pears, and coconut are then transformed into lemongrass and lychee. It’s thick and creamy but doesn’t get goopy, and the finish is wonderfully long but manages to stay light and fragrant, like a Thai green curry.
Overall: A world class whisky. 9.5
Past reviews: November 2022, October 2022, September 2022,