Top 10 Whiskies from the Summer 2018 Buying Guide

Summer provides the perfect opportunity to travel, and even if you’re not planning a trip, the top whiskies in Whisky Advocate’s latest Buying Guide will transport drinkers to continents far and wide. Both single malt and blended scotches earned high marks, with Bowmore, GlenDronach, Aberlour and Compass Box highlighting the best of the nation’s distilling prowess. Meanwhile, Teeling and Jameson represent Ireland’s top single malt and blended whiskeys as well.

Those looking for a more distant experience can check out the Kavalan Vinho Barrique, which hails from Taiwan and scored 92 points. And of course, there is plenty to enjoy while staying stateside as well, with Kentucky reigning supreme. Batch 1 of Kentucky Owl’s 11 year old rye lands at the top spot with 95 points, while the latest batch of Booker’s falls in line with the high quality bourbon lovers have come to expect. Take a trip through the Buying Guide Top 10 below—and check out over 110 more reviews in the Summer 2018 issue of Whisky Advocate, hitting newsstands on June 5th.

Check out the 10 Highest-Scoring Whiskies in the Summer 2018 Issue

Kentucky Owl Rye 11 year old (Batch 1)
95 points, 55.3%, $130

Just beautiful. Long, rounded notes of caramel, cinnamon roll, taffy, butterscotch, brisket burnt ends, nutmeg, Jamaican jerk, plum pudding, ginger, light sassafras, root beer, roasted marshmallow, cotton candy, orange peel, raw honey, and pie crust. If it sounds complex, it’s because it is, and the finish just doesn’t quit, giving you a lingering taste of every note. —Fred Minnick

Bowmore 1966 50 year old
94 points, 41.5%, $30,000

The third and most exclusive release in Bowmore’s Vault Legends Collection was matured for 50 years in bourbon hogshead #5675. The nose is fragrant and musky, slightly oily, with orange peel, developing vanilla, and green citrus notes. Intense orange and peach on the palate, with black pepper, aniseed, and sweet oak. Very persistent tangy citrus fruits through the extremely long finish. No negative tannic notes. (74 bottles)—Gavin Smith

King of Kentucky 14 year old
94 points, 62.5%, $200

Simply beautiful. It’s so complex, with notes of molasses, apple butter, toffee, salt water taffy, hazelnut, burnt brown sugar, crème brûlée, caramel flan, butterscotch, crystallized ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, fenugreek, roasted almonds, and marshmallow. With a drop of water, another complex layer forms with cotton candy and burnt pie crust. In both cases, it finishes extremely long.—Fred Minnick

GlenDronach Grandeur 24 year old (Batch 9)
93 points, 48.7%, $750

A triumphant expression including whisky distilled in 1990, 1992, and 1993 and matured in Spanish oak sherry butts. The nose offers creamy sweet sherry, figs, a hint of black treacle, cinnamon, and ripe cherries. The full palate yields sultanas, tangy citrus fruit, sweet oak, roasted chestnuts, and ginger. Lingering bright fruit notes in the finish, with raisins, plain chocolate, and cigar boxes. (1,487 bottles)—Gavin Smith

Compass Box Hedonism The Muse
93 points, 53.3%, $275

Buttery vanilla, marzipan, honey, ripening melon, orange water, lavender, and muted spices lead to a gorgeous, rounded, sugar-sweet palate of vanilla, beeswax, citrus, ground almond, and shortbread. Precision-engineered to ensure the exquisite flavor never stops. (3,060 bottles)—Jonny McCormick

Teeling 34 year old Vintage Reserve Single Malt
93 points, 40.9%, $5,000

Sheer nectar, dripping with honeyed delights: baklava, maple syrup, syropiasta, vanilla spun sugar, malt wrapped in gentle oak, and a notion of Szechuan pepper. The mouthfeel is flowing and silken, radiating flavors of golden syrup, tangerine, peppercorn, vanilla, light oak, and nougat. As the flavor crests, the sweetness is evocative of Château D’Yquem. This decadent piece of Irish history originated as a Teeling family cask distilled in 1983. (U.S. exclusive, 43 bottles) —Jonny McCormick

Kavalan Vinho Barrique
92 points, 57.1%, $160

This has a seductive nose of mango, kiwi, dried tropical fruits, rich oak, silky caramels, and milk chocolate-covered cranberries. The dynamics of this cask-strength whisky play out handsomely, with an opening gambit of warm berry fruits, peaking with emphatic spices, and ending with a reflective phase of butter toffee, mocha, and Ovaltine. A dash of water encourages clove-studded orange flavors and preserves the long spicy finish.—Jonny McCormick

Jameson 18 year old
92 points, 40%, $110

Unmistakably Jameson on the nose, this is a belter of a whiskey: honey, apple, toasted coconut, creamy vanilla, and sublime pot still spiciness. This offers sweet toffee and caramel, bursting with spices, just a hint of sherry, Brazil nut, vanilla, creamy oak, and a caressing mouthfeel. A triumph that exemplifies the glories of pot still blending, and its sherry influence makes for a rich ending.—Jonny McCormick

Booker’s 2018-01 Kathleen’s Batch
92 points, 63.7%, $70

Bright and pronounced caramel in many forms, from rich caramel chews to caramel pudding. Then a spice backbone jumps out, followed by butterscotch, brown sugar, vanilla wafers, jalapeño cornbread, mustard seeds, and peach cobbler. A drop of water makes it even more complex with savory spices—sage, dried parsley, and a hint of rosemary, meeting sweet: more vanilla and butterscotch. With or without water, it finishes long and strong with a hint of pepper.—Fred Minnick

Aberlour 18 year old
92 points, 43%, $125

This has a significant proportion of sherry wood and it marks a real step up from its younger stablemates. It boasts a stylish nose of old leathery cigar boxes, vanilla, and orange marmalade. Syrupy on the palate, with oranges, sweet sherry, honey, and figs. Spicy oak, caramel, citrus fruits, and aniseed in the lengthy finish.—Gavin Smith

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