Skip to main content

Our top 10 whiskies of the year 2023

There was so much whisky launched in 2023 that it can be hard to keep track of all the big releases. Luckily we’ve been keeping a beady eye on the best of the best from the past year and have decided once again to pick out a few choice favourites. 

The whiskies below were all released in 2023 and also tick the magic boxes in that they haven’t sold out or weren’t distillery exclusives… Basically, they’re all whiskies that we can still actually sell to you. It would be mean to single out a load of great spirit that you can’t taste. Nobody would want to read all about ten brilliant ice creams that have already melted, would they? 

Here’s our top 10 whiskies released in 2023. What was your favourite?

Our top 10 whiskies of the year 2023

Benrinnes 17 Year Old (Master of Malt Exclusive)

Ah, big, bold Benrinnes. We love whisky from this distillery. So much so that we bottled some up ourselves, straight from a refill bourbon hogshead. Expect lots of fruity and meaty new make character, with the sulphury note softened by 17 years in the wood. It’s a lot of whisky for the money and classic Benrinnes. 

Compass Box Metropolis – The Extinct Quartet Whisky 

The third whisky from Compass Box’s range The Extinct Quartet, is made up of blends inspired by the whiskies of yesteryear. The theme for Metropolis is a nod to the industrial past of blended Scotch and the recipe is a corker: 25.8% blended malt Scotch whisky aged in a refill sherry butt, 25.1% Aberlour single malt aged in a re-charred American oak barrel, 20.5% blended grain parcel aged in refill bourbon barrels, 16.6% Miltonduff single malt aged in first-fill bourbon barrels, 7.1% Bowmore single malt aged in a refill bourbon barrel, and 4.9% blended Scotch parcel aged primarily in a first-fill bourbon barrel. A refined example of how magnificent a proper blend can be.

Balblair 21 Year Old

With its velvet texture and clever maturation profile, Balblair 21 Year Old stood out for us this year. Its second-fill bourbon to first-fill sherry cask pathway allows the first 15 years of ageing to bring out the Balblair DNA in all its glory before quality sherry casks add another dimension of flavour and character. It hits the mark of what you want from an older Balblair. 

Balvenie 19 Year Old – A Revelation of Cask & Character

Balvenie’s Stories Collection is a regular on our blog because they always tell a good story themselves and A Revelation of Cask & Character was no different. Matured entirely in sherry casks and was created as a tribute to the coopers who work at the Speyside distillery’s on-site cooperage, this is the first whisky creation that hasn’t been overseen by the legendary David C. Stewart MBE, who stepped aside as malt master to assume an ambassador role. The first solo project for new malt master Kelsey McKechnie shows the old distillery has a bright future.

Wormtub 12 Year Old Single Cask – Batch 4 Whisky

What box doesn’t this whisky tick? It’s a single cask, cask strength single malt Scotch whisky bottled with no added caramel after several months of finishing in first-fill oloroso casks with an RRP of under £75. If heavily-sherried, full-bodied, richer than a Dubai Doubloon whisky is your jam, then Wormtub 12 Year Old Single Cask is ready to spread to the love. 

Cutty Sark Centenary Edition Whisky

A whisky launched to celebrate a century of Cutty Sark should be a standout and the Centenary Edition is just that. It’s a blend of 23-year-old malt and grain whiskies from some of Scotland’s most famed distilleries. The grain component includes spirit from the 1970s and the malt whisky was aged initially in oloroso casks for 17 years and then matured further in Port casks for the final five years. The two parcels were then married together for 100 days in Port casks before being bottled at 52.2% ABV. It comes presented in a special Centenary gift box that is designed to resemble a mainsail, with a white rope and golden eyelets in a nod to the Cutty Sark ship. The bottle’s stopper was also designed in the shape of a ship’s cleat. It’s a real showstopper.

Tobermory 25 Year Old Oloroso Sherry Cask Finish 

This is the third release in the Hebridean Series following on from the 23 and 24-year-old bottlings. The whisky began life as a very popular 15 year old which proved so popular that it was discontinued. But some were kept back and spent ten years in Gonzalez Byass oloroso sherry casks before bottling at 48.1% ABV with an outturn of 5,298 bottles. It’s a massively fruity and rich drop, master distiller Brendan McCarron described it as jammy, the quintessential after-dinner single malt. From the same distillery, I also loved Tobermory 21 Year Old and the peated Ledaig 18 Year Old

Port Charlotte Islay Barley 2014 

Port Charlotte is the peated expression from Bruichladdich and this version is made entirely from barley sourced from eight farms on Islay, hence the name. It was distilled in 2014 and aged in 84% first-fill bourbon casks, 8% in second-fill virgin oak, and 8% in second-fill Bordeaux wine casks, and bottled at a nice punchy 50% ABV. Peating levels are 40 ppm. So what’s it like? Well, it’s a young whisky, so you’re not going to get a long-aged richness but it really is a lovely dram. Initially, there’s sea spray, wood smoke, and vanilla, but time brings out fruit and a distinct herbal note. But what’s most noticeable is an unctuous creamy cereal quality which suggests the quality of the raw materials. Could I taste the terroir? It would be really interesting to try it side-by-side against the standard Port Charlotte of a similar age.  

Bunnahabhain 1998 Manzanilla Cask Finish – Fèis Ìle 2023

You don’t often see whisky aged in casks that used to contain manzanilla, a salty dry wine from Sanlucar de Barrameda. This was distilled way back in 1998 meaning that it is 25 years old and it spent six years in the manzanilla cask before bottling at cask strength with an ABV of 52.3%. The sherry influence is very strong. Take a sniff and it’s like smelling a particularly fine aged manzanilla with notes of salty toasted almonds. The palate is initially raspingly dry and salty, like an old amontillado sherry, and then gradually the sweeter notes come in. This is a very fine and rather sophisticated whisky.

Inchdarnie Ryelaw

Scottish rye whisky is happening. This year I tasted a superb Bruichladdich which was made from 55% Islay rye and 45% malted barley but it was the inaugural release from InchDarnie in Fife that really took the spicy ginger biscuit. It’s made from 53% malted rye and 47% malted barley, which have been hammer milled to finely grind the grains, and then fermented using a rye-specific yeast to bring out the best of the rye flavour. The result is a big, aromatic whisky bursting with orange, cinnamon, and ginger with a distinct Dr. Pepper flavour. Delicious neat or in an Old Fashioned. 

The post Our top 10 whiskies of the year 2023 appeared first on Master of Malt Blog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.