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My Top 10 Whiskies Of 2022

2022 has been a packed year for the global whisky industry as it continues to transition out of the pandemic into something more ‘normal’, but without a doubt the pace of new releases remains as furious as ever especially when it comes to single casks, limited-edition batches and high-end luxury releases.

I’ve done my best to keep up, so for the seventh year in a row I’m including my top 10 picks for the year. (I’ve also included links to previous years’ choices at the bottom of the article). Some of these whiskies have been mentioned in my column here before, others haven’t. Like the past lists I’ve done, my only two selection criteria for these choices is that I first tried them in 2022 (even if they were released before then), and that they were able to be bought by the bottle. However, I’ve focused on whiskies that were first released this year, with a couple exceptions.

As before, this list comes in two parts. Part one, Accessible Whiskies, are bottles that you can still get hold of either online or in specialist shops, and should be easy enough to find and buy. Part two, Rare Whiskies, are hard to find, really limited or expensive drams (sometimes all three) that I’ve had the chance to taste, and I hope you can forgive this piece of reflective indulgence.

Here they are in alphabetical order:

Accessible Whiskies

Evan Williams Bourbon Black Label

I completely understand anyone who argues that this is a silly choice for a ‘top whiskies of the year’ list.

However, I include it because I found it on sale in a mall near me here in Poland for around $13. I then kept picking it over fancier fare as a casual drink and never regretting my choice when I did so, so I kept buying more bottles. In the end, I easily drank more of this bourbon than any other whisky this year. The balance of woody, fruity, and malty aromas and flavors is just so tasty, and insanely good value for money.

Midleton Very Rare 2022

Midleton’s annual Very Rare limited edition series sets the gold standard for what excellent Irish whiskey can taste like. 2022’s release, created by Midleton’s master distiller and blender Kevin O’ Gorman, perfectly combines floral and tannic notes mixing together single grain and single pot still whiskeys aged between 12 and 33 years old. Many (but not all) whisky geeks often dismiss 40% ABV bottles, arguing that they are too watery and hide the true character of the whisky – this is a strong counterargument.

Oban 10 Year Old Sherry Cask Finish Diageo Special Releases 2022

Every year, drinks giants Diageo issues its Special Releases collection, featuring single malts sourced from its Scotch whisky distilleries. This year’s releases are on the whole younger and more budget-friendly compared to the past, as the company aims to make higher-end single malt more accessible while showcasing a wide variety of flavors. This year’s Oban is the best of them in my opinion. Matured in a combination of refill ex-Bourbon and new oak before secondary maturation in Amontillado sherry casks, it manages to be fragrant, rich, and extremely easy to drink despite the high ABV.

Octomore 13.3

Both this and the 5th edition of the Octomore 10 year old are some of the best Octomores I’ve tried in years, but the latter is harder to find.

Made with barley grown on Islay (this is what the ‘.3’ stands for), the 13.3 manages to be more of a showcase of the art of effective cask blending than its maturation elements. The peat smoke combines carbolic and iodine but leaves plenty of room for oaty, fruity, citric and caramel notes which are typical of Bruichladdich’s (the distillery that makes Octomore) distillation style.

The Oxford Artisan Distillery Easy Ryder

I have been very happy to plug whiskies from the Oxford Artisan Distillery (TOAD) on a regular basis – not only are they excellent, the distillery has one of the most innovative and sustainable grain production systems in the industry. The Easy Ryder is its largest release so far, which also happens to be one of its tastiest and also cheapest. I’ll go as far to say it’s one of the best value for money ryes I’ve ever tried – combining maple syrup, winter spices, custard, and mineral notes into a unique whole.

Rare Whiskies

Berry Bros. & Rudd Vindöga, Nordic Blended Malt Whisky

A fascinating experiment from Berry Bros & Rudd performs two roles. It showcases the unique aromas and flavors being produced in Scandinavian whisky distilleries while also being irresistibly delicious. To the bottler’s credit, it also released single cask whiskies from each of the blend’s component distilleries so consumers can do a deep-dive into Nordic whiskies and better understand the Vindöga’s influences.

Bunnahabhain 2004 Mòine Tokaji Cask Finish Whisky, 2022 Feis Ile release

This is the best whisky I tasted this year. In general, some of Islay’s most intriguing recent releases feature well-crafted and matured combinations of heavy peat and sweet wine. This limited-edition Bunnahabhain released for Islay’s Feis Ile whisky festival is the perfect version of this concept, featuring a finish in Hungarian Tokaji wine casks for over a year before bottling. The result is truly complex – layers of tropical notes, bush fruit, malt, citrus, aromatic savory spices, oak, bonfires, roasted meat, and even more all come through clearly. There’s some still available to buy from the Bunnahabhain website at the time of writing too.

Gordon & Macphail St. Magdalene 1982 39 Years Old Private Collection

Independent family whisky company Gordon & Macphail launched a new ‘Recollection Series’ a couple months ago featuring whiskies from closed distilleries. This 39 year old from the St. Magdalene distillery was matured in an ex-refill hogshead cask and is the best of the trio that was launched (all three of them are excellent though). Green tea, peaches and marmite on toast are flawlessly combined here.

Shirakawa 1958

A very tasty piece of Japanese whisky history. Shirakawa was one of the first distilleries in Japan to make single malt, and this liquid was discovered hidden in a steel tank in a warehouse. It is the earliest-known single vintage Japanese whisky that has been bottled. It’s as good a whisky as you’ll ever taste, but it’s also incredibly expensive.

The Whisky Baron Ben Nevis 25 Years Old

This is the second time independent bottler The Whisky Baron has made my annual roundup list with one of its single cask releases. This Ben Nevis was matured in a 25 year old ex-Bourbon cask, and manages to showcase the best features of the distillery (which are highly valued in ‘Japanese’ whisky blends) and excellent ex-Bourbon casks. My favorite thing about it is how it manages to create a truly long finish with really unexpected notes.

Past years: 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016

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