In the three years that the Dark Matter Whisky Club was in operation, 2014-2017, I sampled a wide variety of whiskeys, over a hundred in all. These were my favorites…
#10. WRITER’S TEARS
Appropriate, no? Line Producer Norman Denver contributed this ironic Irish entry, a blend of single malt and single pot-stilled whiskeys, triple-distilled and non-peated. My favorite Irish Whiskey.
Notes: Warm honey, fruit, vanilla and the long sweet finish of artistic anguish laced with leprechaun gold.
#9. LAGAVULIN 16
Another Norman Denver contribution, we enjoyed multiple bottles owing to the fact that it is, clearly, one of his favorites. I can drink Lophgraig, which my former writing partner, Paul, likens to smoking a pack of cigarettes, but the peatiness here is present without being overpowering.
Notes: Peat, pineapple, oak, and a touch of that leather belt you took off to go through airport security and subsequently didn’t realize you’d left behind until you’d already boarded your flight.
#8. NIKKA FROM THE BARREL
The first of multiple Japanese whiskeys to this list, this one is my all-time favorite blended whisky. Akemi uses the apothecary style bottle to store salt once I’m done.
Notes: Creamy banana, brown sugar, dark plums like the ones you take from your neighbor’s backyard when they’re away in Florida.
#7. KOVAL SINGLE BARREL OAT WHISKEY
From Chicago’s first distillery since prohibition, this 100% oat whisky was a pleasant find while I was searching for its sister bourbon, a delicious 2014 Gold Medal Winner at the International Whisky Competition.
Notes: Silky, floral, oatmeal, maple syrup and cream. Perfect for those mornings when you don’t have time to prepare a proper breakfast.
#6. HIBIKI HARMONY
Another beautifully balanced Japanese blended whisky, this one was gifted to us by director Amanda Tapping and once we were done, I picked up a second bottle to add to our library. Probably one of the most beautiful bottles out there.
Notes: Apricot, orange peels, chocolate, and sunshine. But mostly sunshine.
#5. AUCHENTOSHAN – THREE WOOD
Director Jason Priestley delivered a true beauty in this gorgeous triple-distilled whisky matured in three different casks: bourbon, Oloroso Sherry, and Pedro Ximenez Sherry.
Notes: Dark cherries and chocolate, toffee and toasted oak. Like liquid black forest cake for adults.
#4. BALVENIE PORTWOOD 21 YEAR OLD SINGLE MALT
Compliments of Jay Firestone after first season wrap. A handful of us were in the office, enjoying this elegant whiskey when we were joined by about a dozen first-timers, eager to see what all the fuss was about. We poured them each a tumbler of this luxurious slow-sipper – which they all downed in one shot. Lesson learned. From that point on, we always had the backup Ardbeg on standby.
NOTES: Rich and complex, fruit and smoke, cinnamon and raisins, fairy dust and candied unicorn horns.
#3. BALVENIE 14 YEAR OLD CARRIBEAN CASK
We went through multiple bottles of this Ivon Bartok favorite, with its deep golden hue and velvet rum undertones. It’s like a Scottish angel and a Black Seas pirate had a baby, and bottled it.
Notes: Creamy vanilla, mangoes and toffee, rum and rich booty (in all senses of the word).
#2. JEFFERSON’S VERY SMALL BATCH KENTUCKY WHISKEY
I fell in love with this bourbon at Martin Gero’s place that time he ordered the lobster truck for his birthday and I ended up eating a half dozen lobster rolls. Remember? Good times, good times. The Jefferson’s Ocean, gifted to me by my buddy Jeff, is equally amazing.
Notes: Spices, honey, custard, and corn, with a hint of lush presidential pardons.
#1. YAMAZAKI – 18
My all-time favorite (should you be wondering what to get me for my birthday), it was $200 a bottle a few years ago, but today you’d be lucky to find it for double that price. According to Akemi’s mother, its skyrocketing popularity is the result of it having been featured in a Japanese soap opera. Noooo! Why couldn’t it have been the bruichladdich???!!!
Notes: Dark fruit and spice and all the secrets of the universe.