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Team Ardvark - 10 Whiskies That Changed Our Perspective

Updated: Jun 3

whisky perspective

Occasionally, we come across whiskies that makes us see the whisky industry in a different light. But what were those magic whiskies?


Simply for entertainment and to start a conversation, the Whisky Aardvark team has compiled our top 10 (five each) releases that changed our perspective about the spirit category, enticing us in a new way in our whisky journey.


We want to invite our readers to take part in the conversation. Please let us know your own top five revolutionary whiskies by sending an email to miona@thewhiskyardvark.com and share your thoughts. We would like to compile articles at a later date to share our readers' experiences. We can't wait to hear from you!


We welcome all entries. If you are a fan of whisky, please state the year you got involved and where you are from.


If you work in the spirits/whisky industry, please include your job title, the company name you want to be associated with, and the year you started in the industry. This will help our readers better understand you. Additionally, you can also attach a photo of yourself to be included in the article.


But to kick off the conversation, here are our picks.



 

Miona Madsen - Editor

Spirits industry since 2006, turned to whisky in 2015


Eagle Rare 10-year-old Bourbon

'I used to be one of those people who did not like whisky. My only experience with whisky was pouring Laphroaig 10 for customers in nightclubs and bars and getting a terrible headache from the smell. However, when I moved to London and started working at a cocktail bar, I had the opportunity to attend a whisky tasting. That's when I tried Eagle Rare 10-year-old for the first time, and it completely changed my perspective. After that, I felt motivated to visit my first Whisky Show, where I discovered a wide range of whiskies, and I never looked back since.


P.S. I do love Laphroaig now.'


Lagavulin 16-year-old

'Soon after I started dedicating my time to whisky, I came across the classic Islay malt Lagavulin 16-year-old. I was blown by the combination of peat smoke balanced by sweetness from the sherry casks. These two complemented each other so well, and for my surprise, it did not give me a headache. Instead, Lagavulin was the one that made me fall in love with smoky whiskies. The 16-year-old is still one of my go-to single malts on a good night out.'


Caledonian 'The Cally' 40-year-old Special Releases 2015

'Even though The Cally 40-year-old was not the first grain whisky I tasted, it definitely made me look at the often underappreciated whisky category differently. Released in 2015 as part of Diageo's Special Releases, the whisky stuck in my mind as a 'vanilla, caramel, toffee, and biscuit-filled dream.' This whisky expanded my love for grain whiskies, leading me to discover other hidden gems, including Cambus and Port Dundas, which are now unfortunately closed distilleries like Caledonian.



Convalmore 1984 32-year-old Special Releases 2017

'Convalmore distillery was one of the distilleries lost in the 1980s, closing in 1985. Before and during 2017, everyone seemed to talk about the other closed distilleries, Port Ellen and Brora. However, for me, Convalmore stood out with its complexity and finesse. The 32-year-old 1984 Convalmore is still one of the best whiskies from closed single malt distilleries I have encountered. It sparked my interest towards the industry's history since it literally represented history in a bottle.'


Private Cask - Teerenpeli Distillery, Finland

'Not all experiences with whisky are pleasant, but on rare occasions, you will never forget them.


During my visit to the lovely Finnish single malt distillery, Teerenpeli, I was offered a taste from a private cask whose owner had not taken the advice of the distillery. By the customer's choice, the whisky, known for its light style, was aged in a sherry cask for around seven years until the distillery recommended that the whisky was at its peak and should be bottled. The customer declined the offer since he wanted to have a whisky with a minimum of 10 years of age.


Not willing to listen to the distiller's advice, the whisky was laid down for three more years—in a first-fill sherry cask, again at the customer's request.


The result was an overly sherried whisky with extremely concentrated flavours, ready to turn to vinegar and tannins, which was nicely put 'undrinkable'. The funny part was that the customer ended up with over 200 bottles of the 'stuff'.


This 'travesty of a whisky' made it to my top five whiskies, which changed my perspective because it taught me that not all whisky turns out perfect. There is a learning curve, and we should listen to the experts who have dedicated their lives to producing amazing whiskies. It truly is an art form.'

Miona Madsen five whiskies that changed my perspective

Image by The Whisky Ardvark



 

Duncan Ross - Senior Advisor

Spirits industry since 1994, turned to whisky in 1998


Glenlivet 12-year-old 1990s

"I was not a fan of whisky, and it used to give me a headache. The first whisky that made me explore the whisky genre more seriously was the Glenlivet 12-year-old. It was soft and easy to drink, unlike others I had tried before and disliked. It made me realise, that there is no one style of whisky but maybe even a spectrum of options."


Ardbeg 1974 Bot. 1997 G&M Connoisseurs Choice

"I came across this whisky in the first years of working with the spirit category. At the time, no official bottlings of Ardbeg were available on the market. This independent bottling from G&M blew me away with its contrast - a brilliant explosion of flavour with smoke and bonfire. Ardbeg 1974 Connoisseurs Choice converted me to a huge Islay fan."


Compass Box Hedonism First Release

"Few years later, I moved down to London. At the time, I was working in a whisky shop when an American man walked in and offered me a taste of a whisky he said he created himself; it was a blended grain. That man was John Glaser, and the whisky was the first draft of Compass Box Hedonism. I tasted it and immediately thought that maybe grain whisky was not as mundane and boring as I had thought and had been made out to be. John definitely opened a lot of eyes on the category, not just for me, but for many people."



George T Stagg Bot. 2002 First Release

"Not long after, at a Whisky Live event, I heard about a new whisky that was ridiculously high in alcohol, came from the United States and had a limited availability. I thought the almost 70% ABV was just mad and had to try it. That was when I first tried George T Stagg, and it was just mind-blowing.


I was unable to speak for a couple of minutes after taking a sip. It was so potent but also full of flavour, with lovely vanilla and fruity notes. Of course, that made me explore the other expressions released under the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection.


George T Stagg was the first premium bourbon I had tried, and it made me realise that American whiskey was not just about the big names like Jack Daniel's and Jim Beam, but there was much more to explore."


Wild Turkey Rye

"In the late 1990s and the early 2000s, we did not have a lot of rye whiskey in the UK. I remember reading a book about rye whiskies, and the author (who shall not be named) praised a 100% rye called Old Overholt. I managed to get a hold of it in one of my US visits and expected it to be as good as the author had said. I thought it was terrible and overly dry and nutty, and my palate was not tuned to receive it - of course, things have since changed.


Fortunately, I managed to find a lot more palatable ryes that were more suitable for sipping since, at the time, I wasn't thinking about mixing cocktails; I was sipping whisky. The one that redeemed the category for me was Wild Turkey Rye. Compared to other ryes I had encountered, it was much more drinkable. Again, it was a real eye-opener that taught me not to judge a whisky category by the first sip but to keep exploring what else it might offer. Today, I use rye a lot in cocktails as well as in cooking."


Duncan Ross five whiskies that changed my perspective

Image by The Whisky Ardvark

 

Thank you for reading The Whisky Ardvark. Please check out some of our other articles listed below, and tune in for more top five whisky articles in the future.





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