Winter 2018 Editors’ Choice: Mortlach, Compass Box, Redbreast

There are whisky trends, and then there are staples we hope never go away—like cask-strength whiskies, or 16 year olds that cost just $100, or blended malts whose quality and flavor blow the single malt competition out of the water. If you can’t find us this winter, odds are good we’re laying low with one of these excellent drams. These are the issue’s most impressive whiskies considering score, price, and availability. For all whiskies reviewed in the Winter 2018 issue, visit our Buying Guide.

Redbreast Cask Strength 12 year old (Batch B1/17) Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey
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

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

Mortlach 16 year old Distiller’s Dram Single Malt Scotch
91 points, 43.4% ABV, $100

One of three Mortlachs introduced in 2018, this has much to live up to, as the classic Flora & Fauna Mortlach was also 16 years old. The whisky has been aged entirely in sherry casks. The nose offers malt, gingersnaps, baked apple, and a delicate savory note. Quite full-bodied, with toffee apples, gammon, and old leather on the palate. Cocoa powder and tinned peaches in the finish. —Gavin Smith

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