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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

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Drew Beard

Drew Beard is Assistant Editor and Social Media Manager for Drinkhacker. He has studied and written about beer, whisk(e)y, and other spirits since he first started drinking them, earning several booze-related merit badges along the way, including Certified Specialist in Spirits and Executive Bourbon Steward. In addition to his work with Drinkhacker, Drew is also Spirits Editor for Santé Magazine. A recovering Federal government employee, he is happy to have finally found a career where it is acceptable to drink on the job.

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