TOP 5 WHISKY LAUNCHES OF 2015 05/01/2016 in Musings

IT’S been a year of opening ‘bottled up souls’, tasting, toasting, testing, teasing, trying the best out there. As 2015 comes to an end and 2016 rises, I take my seat at the bar, and raise a toast – to the spirits gone, spirits raised and spirits to be summoned. While, at this rate, I can assure you my New Year’s forecast is likely to be mostly drunk with a slight chance of passing out, my New Year resolution is to be more optimistic by keeping my cup half-full with whisky.

So people, pledge me your sloshed souls,

Pledge me your head stays sober. Yet Drink. Drink some more.

Pledge me you’ll dare a new dram

And if you’re done, then I’ll be damned!

Pledge me, you’ll drink smarter,

Take up a new habit – try new spirits, meet friends & strike a barter

And for those overpriced restaurants, fight to ‘bring your own bottle’, for starter!

In the meantime, for those who missed out, here’s a whisky trail you can pick from our top five choices of the year:

MONKEY SHOULDER

THIS is one unusually christened whisky that actually means ‘monkey’ business, especially for those who feel like swinging to the blended malt section. Definitely the newest and certainly the quirkiest scotch on the block, Monkey Shoulder has been creating quite a buzz lately. Edgy and disruptive with its mixability quotient, this goes beyond the stately gentlemen in their three piece bespoke suits club who like to slip into their Chestnut leather sofas, smoke a Cuban cigar or two, and sip on their drinks by the fire in grand library bars. Here’s a scotch with youthful exuberance about it, a spunky attitude, one that markets itself as the triple malt – a blend of three different malts. But hey, these aren’t just any single malts; they come from the famed houses of Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie. The resultant scotch is a spectacular amalgamation of toasted barley, whiffs of vanilla with lingering hints of dried apricots and spicy oak. Why Monkey Shoulder? Well, this peculiar name derives its inspiration from a condition that the ‘malt men’ developed way back, when barley was turned by hand. Labouring over long shifts would, at times, cause their arm to hang down a bit like a monkey’s, hence the nickname, ‘monkey shoulder’. The brand lives on as an affectionate tribute to the hardworking Malt Men.

CHIVAS EXTRA

AS the name suggests, this old timer has gone that special ‘extra’ mile, and is the spanking new release from the house of Chivas Brothers. Smartly positioned between Chivas Regal 12 Year Old and Chivas Regal 18 Year Old, Chivas Extra is, what I call, a ‘well brought up bottle’. That it has been aged in the rich and intense character of sherry casks is heartwarming for it springs up a picture of good ol’ days, dog eared books and vintage leather jackets. Chivas Extra is a delightfully exceptional blend of rare whiskies combined with Malt Whiskies aged in sherry casks from the Oloroso sherry bodegas in Spain. The x-factor, therefore are the sherry casks, lending a flavor packed with dark fruits and rich chocolate, balanced with herbal honey, spicy ginger and overall deeply aromatic. Overall a rich and luxurious blend. 

JACK DANIEL’S TENNESSEE HONEY

Light, sweet honeyed aroma with an undercurrent of classic sugar maple, charcoal mellowed Jack Daniel’s whiskey underneath, if anyone presumes this JD is only for the faint hearted or the newbie, i’d say you’re just being judgemental without giving it a try perhaps. A fancy variant from the cult house – Jack Daniel’s, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey is a blend of the house style classic Whiskey and a unique honey liqueur of their own making, for a taste that’s one-of-a-kind and unmistakably Jack. A brand that gives versatility a big push, its a new arsenal with the inventor head of the mixologists of this era. That apart, the folks at Jack Daniel’s are promoting it as a cold shot and a sipping whiskey. With hints of honey and a finish that’s naturally smooth, Jack Daniel’s Honey is something special.

JACK DANIEL’S SINATRA CENTURY

Jack Daniel’s on ice. Frank loved Jack and Jack loved Frank. It was a partnership that lasted more than any marriage! By now you’ve gauged that if the legendary and scandalous American entertainer loved anything and socialized with seven days a week, it was his scotch. Drink like a man, and by that he usually meant JD. The fuel that powered him, he called Jack gasoline, was chosen by Sinatra, the sultan of cool and style, because it was distinct and rare. “Basically, I’m up for anything that gets you through the night – Be it prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniel’s,” said Sinatra. And those who’ve shook Sinatra’s hand, know better. As a salute to a century of Sinatra, the JD Sinatra Century is the newest ultra premium Limited Edition Expression with only 100 barrels being made available globally. This collector’s item also comes with a selection of previously unreleased Sinatra tracks called “Sinatra Live at the Sands in 1966”. Here’s some trivia to sip on –

First recommended by friend Jackie Gleason, the Tennessee Whiskey quickly became Sinatra’s signature drink.

During performances, he kept a glass of Jack Daniel’s on a nearby stool on stage.

Aged in specially selected “Sinatra” barrels hand, this edition has a pleasant smoky and rich oak aroma that Sinatra was known to adore.

THE GLENLIVET FOUNDER’S RESERVE

From Mr Sinatra to Mr Smith. It’s back to the future for the next tribute is to the pioneering founder of The Glenlivet, George Smith. A man known for experimenting and exercising immense freedom in picking casks of all ages to mature his whisky in, The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve is their newest expression and a salute to the original ‘free world’ vision of Smith. With this, one gets a taste of two centuries, the vintage and classic tempered with the new age and contemporary. It’s kind of like a Broadway musical high with an undercurrent of rock and roll. You see, whiskies is all about a grand production, one that takes time to achieve a certain form – the more defined, the more fun one has relishing every bit of it. By marrying together a selection of the aged oak casks and American first-fill oak casks, the makers have added a little contemporary twist to tease this classic single malt and delivered a distinct, smooth and fruity taste Smith first envisioned in 1824. Smooth, creamy sweetness that mingles harmoniously with the delicate flavours and complex fruity tones, the delicate aromas of citrus fruit, hints of toffee apple and candy make the whisky exceptionally well-balanced and deliciously satisfying dram.

So whisky lovers, here’s –

To head spinning cocktails and knock out shots,

To bottles of scotch and booze brewing in pots,

To deliciously layered liqueurs and fantastically flavoured whiskies

May there always be a drink in your hand, and may you two always go together, like a wink and a smile ☺