If you’re not already aware, I’m a bit of a whiskey snob. Some liquors stand out for their unique bottles, while others have a great flavor.
Sometimes a whisky is considered great for its region. Hipsters of the 2010s pioneered an affinity for Japanese whiskey, although I have bottles from France, India, and other places around the globe that are just as good as my Japanese bottles.
Having tasted a lot of whiskies, the distilleries love sending me their latest bottles to try. These are the three bottles of whisky I’m in love with this holiday season. They include two scotches and a bourbon.
I got these bottles for free from the marketing departments, but my opinions are my own, and I don’t get a commission from Whisky Exchange. I just link to them to make it easier for you. The rest of the links on this page are for my internal SEO.
Talisker 10-Year-Old Scotch Whisky
Talisker is the oldest single malt from the Isle of Skye, a remote part of Scotland. It’s a rugged environment that produces a rugged-flavored scotch. If you’re not familiar with scotch, there are 10 bottles you should have in your collection. My collection’s crown jewel is Glenlivet 21, so it’s the bar I use to measure other scotches against.
Talisker 10 is the stalwart classic bottle from this distillery. It’s arguably the smoothest bottle they make, although some scotch aficionados prefer bite with their bottle. For them, Ardbeg will always reign supreme. On a scale of Ardbeg to Glenlivet, Talisker 10 lands just about in the middle.
It has some of the light, citrusy notes of Glenlivet, with a strong peaty taste of Ardbeg. The warm, peppery finish is on the surprisingly sweet side. I can’t say I’ve ever tasted a bottle like it. The coastal spice brought about by the sea salt and oyster-covered rocky cliffs give it a unique flavor that’s an instant hit for me.
Of all the single malt scotches, this is a unique dram that deserves a place in the collection. Now that I’ve opened this one, I need to actually buy a bottle myself.
Oban 14-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
The one-acre Oban Distillery stands today exactly where it did when it was founded in 1794. It only closes for three weeks a year, known as its silent period. As one of Scotland’s smallest distilleries, Oban uses only four rooms and seven people to create the expertly crafted scotch.
Oban 14 is quite pleasant on the nose, with an orange/pear/floral smell, mixed with that trademark salty peat of scotch. It has a spicy, smokey flavor of dried fig, pineapple, and nuts, with a long, smooth, honeyed toffee finish that has just a hint of salt. It almost reminds me of salted caramel and makes me want to try salted honey on something later tonight. I’m a big fan of salty and sweet. Hershey’s Take 5 bar, for example, is amazing.
This full-bodied single malt scotch won a ton of critics awards in 2018, scoring 90 points or higher in every competition. Its almost floral nose and sweet/savory finish makes it an excellent sipping scotch for the holiday season. I can easily see a dram pairing with any Thanksgiving, Christmas, or winter holiday meal.
It’s a bit pricier than the Talisker 10, but definitely worth it for fans of full-bodied scotch. Check it out at the Whiskey Exchange.
Maker’s Mark Wood Finishing Series 2019 Limited Release: Stave Profile RC6
This year, Maker’s Mark released its first ever nationally available limited-release bourbon, Wood Finishing Series 2019 Limited Release: Stave Profile RC6. This cask strength expression of Maker’s Mark® Bourbon is finished with proprietary wood staves, referred to as Stave Profile RC6. The staves amplify notes of ripe fruit balanced with layers of baking spice – a taste profile inspired by the brand’s proprietary yeast strain used to produce its classic Maker’s Mark Bourbon.
Only 255 barrels of this wood stave-finished bourbon were produced, and once it’s gone, it’s gone. Bottles began to hit shelves in select retail locations in late September. They were out of them by the time I came around, so the company sent me something (IMHO) better – a Maker’s Mark flask filled with it and wrapped in Maker’s Mark gift paper.
Maker’s Mark Stave Profile RC6 became my daily sipper because of this, and I’m glad it is. Having already tried Maker’s 46 and Maker’s Cask Strenth, this bourbon flask was filled with something I was very interested to taste.
Maker’s 46 is the first bourbon from the Wood Finishing series. It’s aged longer than vanilla MM and uses seared French oak staves in the process. It was released in 2010 as the first new expression since 1953. The aroma and taste are intense, with deep flavors of caramel and vanilla with a smooth finish.
Stave profile RC6 uses a proprietary profile of American oak wood staves developed over two years through a partnership with Independent Stave Company. The staves are seasoned outdoors for 18 months, then toasted in a convection oven to create a unique finish…but is it different than Maker’s 46?
Other than amping the alcohol content from 94 to ~110, it’s actually a completely different bourbon. RC6 is much fruitier and more vibrant with a little kick that gets pushed back at the last second by a smooth finish and sweet aftertaste. Because it’s cask strength, I couldn’t help but pull out my 112-proof bottle of Maker’s Cask Strength to see how it compares.
Maker’s Mark Cask Strength is bottled at barrel proof and nonchill filtered, making it the most robust of the MM impressions I’ve tried. It has a rich, oaky smell with almost syrupy vanilla and spice flavors. It’s like getting that first Coke after the syrup was replaced in the machine. The finish sticks with you much longer, and it’s a bit more intense.
Between the three of them, I actually really like Stave Profile RC6, which is just my luck. Like banana milk, the Arch Deluxe, and everything else I love, it’s not going to last long. Looks like I need to head out to Total Wine & More to pick up another bottle, because that flask is already basically empty.