Tasting Report: WhiskyFest Washington DC 2018

As with each of DC’s past three WhiskyFests, everyone in the room looked like they could use a few drinks. Thankfully, there was no shortage of unique whiskey options, from Knob Creek Single Barrel samples that were pulled directly from the barrel(!) to a young Tennessee whiskey whose distillery still doesn’t have a name. I spent a good chunk of time in pursuit of Scotch. The “Beacons By the Bay” seminar hosted by Simon Brooking, Laphroaig’s Master Ambassador, was a great chance to escape the crowds, stare at a pretty PowerPoint of Islay, and drink my fill of rare, old, and very expensive single malts. Notes on those, and everything else I sampled, are below.


The Arran Malt 10 Years Old / A- / grain-forward but balanced with a big helping of honey and graham cracker; an underrated single malt
Bowmore 18 Years Old Manzanilla Cask Finish / A- / I happily keep finding this one at festivals this year; still loving the rich and creamy dark fruit notes
Bowmore 25 Years Old / B+ / massive tropical notes of lychee fruit, pineapple, and mango; a bit overwhelming
Bowmore 26 Years Old / A- / a wine heavy nose with a bit of salty peat; rich dark chocolate and stewed tropical fruit notes on the palate
Compass Box No Name / A- / a light and barbecued nose with briny, floral notes on the palate; a Drinkhacker Top 10 from 2017
Compass Box Phenomenology / A / big and complex; notes of honey-dipped orchard fruit, coconut, and a waxy earthiness
Compass Box Hedonism The Muse / A / a blend of grain whiskies in celebration of this year’s International Women’s Day; crème brûlée on the palate with an interesting peach note
Laphroaig 25 Years Old / A / restrained smokiness with a surprising amount of baking spice and bright citrus; another standout of the evening
Laphroaig 27 Years Old / B+ / smells like a younger Laphroaig with the typical brine and barbecue aromas, but the palate is clearly more mature and complex
Laphroaig 18 Years Old / A- / a great sweet and salty dram that is sadly discontinued; I miss this one more and more every time I find it
Old Pulteney 35 Years Old / A+ / honeyed and full of juicy flavors from fruit to old leather; a stunning whisky and probably the best of the night
Big Peat / B / an enjoyable, if straightforward, blend
Rock Oyster / B+ / light, briny nose; the body is buttery with honey, mineral, and coastal notes
Scallywag / B+ / a candy sweetness balanced with a piquant, almost gamey, quality
Scallywag 13 Year / A / 100% sherry aged; brûlée sugar and jam but more savory than sweet
Timorous Beastie / A- / sugar cookie and bright notes of honey and lemon peel
The Epicurean / B+ / light and buttery; grassy on the palate with some interesting tropical fruit notes


Abraham Bowman Wheat / A- / a great heat with cinnamon RedHots, black cherry, and cream soda on the palate
Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond 11 Years Old / B+ / earthy and corn sweet with big caramel notes; not overly complex for an older, high proof wheater
Parker’s Heritage 11 Years Old / A / thick and chewy with honey, spice cabinet, and citrus; a favorite of the night
George T. Stagg / B+ / not as punchy as past releases; rich and chewy with a big black cherry note and a borderline harsh finish
Wild Turkey Decades / B+ / corn heavy with chewy caramel and clove; a little too sweet
Wild Turkey Longbranch / A- / if Matthew McConaughey really did have something to do with this one, he should have been at Wild Turkey all along
Elijah Craig 23 Years Old / A- / previous releases have been oak bombs, but this one is nicely balanced with oaky sweetness, buttery toffee notes, and a little coffee bean
Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch 2017 / B+ / less fruity than past releases with a lot of wood and grain notes
Knob Creek Single Barrel Cask Strength / A / 13+ years old at 122 proof from a low rick in the dead center of Rickhouse I; how could this not be good?
Yellowstone Ltd. Edition 2017 / A- / the first Yellowstone release to have a portion of Limestone Branch’s own distillate in the blend; enjoyable with lingering chocolate notes
Blood Oath Pact No. 4 / B / big and burly; complex but it’s almost too woody to notice
John Drew Rye / B / a 7 year Canadian rye that drinks probably younger than it should; full review on this one is forthcoming
John & Alisa’s 8 Month Aged Tennessee Whiskey / NR / a baby Tennessee whiskey from Sazerac that shows surprising body and complexity for its youth; watch out Jack and George

Other Whiskey

Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt 21 Years Old / A / lemon, gingerbread, and honey on the palate; beautiful balance
Nikka Yoichi Single Malt / B+ / light with sweet grain, a little salty smoke, and lemon peel; surprisingly Scotch-like for a Japanese whisky
Knappogue Castle 16 Years Old / A / rich and buttery with great dark fruit notes
Tyrconnell Single Malt 16 Years Old / A / fruity and creamy; my favorite Irish whiskey of 2017

Drew Beard is assistant editor for Drinkhacker and winner of several booze-related merit badges, including Certified Specialist in Spirits and Executive Bourbon Steward. A former federal employee turned hotelier and spirits journalist, he looks forward to his next midlife crisis.

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