The 10 Highest-Scoring Whiskies in the Winter 2018 Issue

The Winter 2018 issue of Whisky Advocate includes over 175 reviews across all styles, including several special sections: the 2018 Top 20, dozens of private-label whiskies from big-box stores like Costco and Trader Joe’s, the 2018 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, and the 2018 Diageo Special Releases. While some of these whiskies rank among the highest scores in the Buying Guide, they aren’t included on this list; rather, we’re calling out the scotch, bourbon, and Irish whiskies that scored 94 points and above.

Bushmills 21 year old Single Malt Irish Whiskey
96 points, 40% ABV, $150

Bushmills’ sumptuous magnum opus spins aromas of sultana, brown sugar, walnut oil, date slice, chocolate-covered cranberries, leather gloves, and a hint of espresso. The dark, crepuscular mystique continues in the syrupy mouthfeel redolent of forest honey, banana bread, nuts, browned butter, sultana, date, and blackberry. Utterly beguiling, the Madeira finish works wonders here, right through to the last moments of the smooth, sweet finish. A must-try for all. —Jonny McCormick

Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey
95 points, 46% ABV, $260

This is mastery of American oak! Polished wood, cinnamon cereals, dry spices of pepper, allspice, and paprika, and a riot of mostly overripe fruit: custard apple, mango, brown banana, baked apricot dessert, and fresh fig. Caramel, date slices, treacle, and cracker bread flavors are bathed in feisty pot still spices and fleeting green apple, before a lush, rich sweetness of banoffee pie, vanilla, and cinnamon descends. The finish is seemingly eternal. —Jonny McCormick

Redbreast Cask Strength 12 year old Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey (Batch B1/17)
95 points, 58.6% ABV, $80

The latest release pits plum, damson, fruitcake, and rosehip against wild, untamed pot still spices straining at the leash. Clove vociferously trumps raisin as the mouth-drawing power is realized; spices deflect off the tongue’s surface like sparks off an anvil. As its grip slackens, the fruit ripens, bruising slightly, yet sweetening deliciously, and vanilla pod, toasted stave, and cinnamon bark emerge. I swear you feel more Irish with every sip. —Jonny McCormick

Highland Park 50 year old Single Malt Scotch
95 points, 42.5% ABV, $15,000

The nose of this veteran is hugely enticing; rich, with old leather, soft spices, sultanas, figs, polished oak, and dunnage warehouses. Tangy orange develops in time. The orange carries over onto the palate—amazingly vibrant and youthful fruitiness—followed by soft toffee, woodsmoke, and a sprinkling of dusty oak. The finish is extraordinarily long, with licorice and fruit-laden old oak. A true classic! (77 bottles in U.S.) —Gavin Smith

John Walker & Sons King George V Blended Scotch
94 points, 43% ABV, $600

Highland toffee, dried banana, salted caramel, seashells flipped from rock pools, and crispy-skinned oily fish barbecuing over a fire. Sweet toffee meets cinnamon, pepper, and clove, as an express train of smoke clatters through, leaving intense citrus peel oils and green fruits in the backwash. A spasm of spice marks the finish: arid, amid baked fruits and toffee. Leave me now, I have everything I need. —Jonny McCormick

Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare Port Ellen Edition Blended Scotch
94 points, 43.8% ABV, $350

This uninhibited, tempestuous expression of Blue Label highlights the artistry of the blender through the judicious use of closed distillery malts and grains. Coastal notes of sea spray, lemon, dirty peat smoke, cookies and cream, After Eight mints, caramel, and dry-roasted spice aromas. Combining lemon bonbon, waxy orange, cookie dough, fondant icing, and chocolate, with tobacco smoke, hints of peppermint, and grapefruit notes, this flagrantly outclasses the Brora variant. —Jonny McCormick

Russell’s Reserve 2002 Straight Bourbon
94 points, 57.3% ABV, $250

Lovely aromas of warm banana bread with toasted nuts are met with oak and underlying savory notes of garden soil, mushroom, barnyard, and menthol that build layers of complexity. The flavor similarly melds sweet and earthy notes, as Bit-O-Honey and grape candy yield to zesty lemon, drying tobacco leaf, and polished oak tannins. The sweetness, perfectly permeated with earthy complexity, is totally captivating, made complete by a long and satisfying finish laced with spices. —Jeffery Lindenmuth

Compass Box Flaming Heart Blended Malt Scotch (2018 Edition)
94 points, 48.9% ABV, $150

Refined elegant smoke, quayside ropes, liniment oil, waxed lemon, cake mix, ripe peach, and a buoyant maltiness, as Flaming Heart roars back with a vengeance. After the controversy surrounding the 15th Anniversary edition, this time it’s all about the whisky. Sweet tangy orange, bitter peel oils, dark chocolate, clove, peppercorn, and nutmeg glide into menthol, spice, beeswax, and espresso on the finish. Solid gold: this is what they do best. (15,050 bottles and 800 magnums at $330) —Jonny McCormick

Knappogue Castle 21 year old Single Malt Irish Whiskey
94 points, 46% ABV, $200

A limited-release vatting of triple distilled, bourbon cask-matured spirit distilled in 1994 and 1996. This immersive and intense whiskey has waves of honey and fruit sweetness, floral and herbal notes, melting butter on fruit scones, macaroon bar, vanilla pod, candied grapefruit peel, and faint wood spices. Sharp orange, kumquat, and lime flavors mingle with honey, vanilla fudge, and barley sugar. Spices peak and retreat ahead of a sweet finish. —Jonny McCormick

Powers John’s Lane 12 year old Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey
94 points, 46% ABV, $70

Brooding, primal, and robust thanks to its fat, rolling, oily notes, slightly fermenting Bramley apples, oolong tea, green banana, hint of sherry, and purposeful delivery of allspice, peppercorns, and star anise. The fruit and chocolate stay one step ahead of the spices; orange, chocolate, coffee, apricot, boiled candy, marmalade on buttered toast, and barley sugar meet a finish of heavier spices, bitter chocolate, and dusty cocoa. Unmistakable, epic whiskey. —Jonny McCormick

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