Twelve whiskies entered, six left. Our proud winners: Auchentoshan 3 Wood, Highland Park 18, Longmorn 16, Ardbeg Corryvreckan, Glenfarclas 21, Balvenie Single Barrel.
Our losers, stripped of their packaging and placed upon the table of shame: Bladnoch 20, Talisker 18, AnCnoc 16, Bruichladdich Infinity, Aberlour 18, Dalmore 15.
Some general observations. Firstly, glencairn glasses, or proper tasting glasses of some kind, make a massive difference. Truly revelatory compared to a tumbler. Secondly, the effort of comparison itself is useful. I actually notice a lot more about something when contrasting it with something else. Thirdly, I started off thinking that my taste generally ran towards the gentler, more easygoing end of the whisky spectrum, as a result of which the dozen bottles I bought were tilted towards Speyside and the Lowlands. I haven’t actively disliked anything but, in the end, with the exception of the Balvenie, I found the Speyside and Lowland whiskies very drinkable but a bit unexciting, perhaps a bit similar to each other, and it was the smokier, more powerful whiskies that tended to float my boat more. Perhaps it’s the case that they fair well in a comparison test but you wouldn’t necessarily drink them every day, but even so.
Some of the bouts, like Talisker vs. Highland Park, have been titanic affairs. Others, like Longmorn vs AnCnoc, have been a little lackluster. Some of the competitors may have gone before their time, others have had easy rides. So in order to give us a field of eight, I’m going to put through my two favourite losers as wildcards. The Bladnoch wasn’t my cup of tea, too much soft banana. The AnCnoc was perfectly pleasant but a little forgettable. The Aberlour was very nice but ultimately a bit similar to, but not quite as good as, its vanquisher Glenfarclas. I shall greatly enjoy finishing the Dalmore, and I’d definitely try other efforts from the distillery, but this 15 was just a tad underpowered. Which gives us fruity, smoky, balanced Bruichladdich Infinity and bruising sea-dog Talisker 18 as our two Wildcards.
To prolong the overpowering excitement I’m also going to seed my four favourite winners, that they should not meet too soon. My choices there, in no particular order: The mind-expanding sorcery of Ardbeg Corryvreckan, the classic sherry smoothness of Glenfarclas 21, the complex genius of Highland Park 18, the beautiful yet deadly Balvenie Single Barrel. With the help of a little randomisation, our quarter finals look like this:
Ardbeg Corryvreckan vs Talisker 18 (my mouth hurts already)
Glenfarclas 21 vs Auchentoshan 3 Wood
Highland Park 18 vs Longmorn 16
Balvenie Single Barrel vs Bruichladdich Infinity
Ooooh, can you taste the excitement? Some mouth-watering battles in the offing…