Whisky Tasting #19: Heavy Hitting Twelves

The 12-year-old age range has long been considered “entry level” for whisky, if not in terms of price then in terms of complexity. The idea is that younger whisky poses less of a sensory challenge, making them pleasant, easy drinking drams for newcomers.

Wrong! While it’s true that the basic expression from many distilleries is usually 10 or 12 years old, and usually the cheapest of the range, it’s not true that every distillery sticks to the soft-sipping style of Glenfiddich, Glenlivet or Glenmorangie. Some distilleries show their true colours right from the get-go, but rarely have the chance to outshine their 15, 18 and 21-year-old siblings.

This month we rounded up a bunch of heavy-hitting 12s to appreciate and ponder. Here we go!

The Lineup

First up, a cheerful cheapie in the form of The Private Barrel Company’s No. 68 (43%), a 12-year-old “odd bin” style mystery malt. While Speyside in style, this one packs a decent punch, with layers of bourbon wood and a spicy finish. And at a price that’s too good to be true.

Next, Glenfarclas 12 (43%), the little brother to the legendary Glenfarclas 17. An all-sherried little beauty, but certainly not a sherry monster – you still get plenty of the rich malt character of the distillery without drowning in Spanish casks. Great stuff.

On to The Macallan 12 “Fine Oak” (43%). While many lament the disappearance of the all-sherried Macallan 12 in the local market, most of us here at the whisky club thoroughly enjoyed the sherry/bourbon Fine Oak series, with this one marking a truly epic introduction and the best value in the range.

Next, where sherry meets peat… Bowmore 12 (43%), one of the few lightly peated, sherried whiskies around and an absolute favorite of the evening with it’s soft wood-fire smoke and red fruit flavours.

Finally, something that broke the 12-year-old rule, but we couldn’t resist – Ardbeg Kelpie (46%), the most recent special release for Ardbeg Day. True to nautical-themed bottling, this one is saltier, drier on the platte and distinctly briny. Fruiter than the typical Ardbeg as well, although not without sacrificing a little peat. A great dram, although most hearts still belong to Ardbeg 10.

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