The Top 25 Selling Spirits of 2019 – KWM’s Whisky Year in Review

by Evan

If you have visited our shop before, you can probably assume our best selling whiskies and Single Malt Scotch for the year are going to be a LOT different than your typical shop. We don’t pallet loads of your standard 12-year-olds from Speyside that start with Glen – in some cases, we don’t even stock them on a regular basis. This is not necessarily because they aren’t good whiskies and it definitely isn’t because we are trying to be snobs in Championship Vinyl fashion. We simply don’t have the space to carry each and every whisky available.

I love High Fidelity, but I hope we never come off like that at KWM! We try to be whisky inclusionists, but there is so much good stuff out there that we can’t carry it all. When push comes to shove, we will take that indie label exclusive that you can’t find elsewhere over the regular bottling that you can find everywhere. Because those single casks and indie labels are the ones that really excite us. That is why this list is so far askew most top sellers lists.

So, without further ado, here are KWM’s Top 25 selling spirits (we might as well just say Whisky – you have been to our shop, right?) for 2019. For bottles that are still available at the time I wrote this, I have linked to our web page for purchasing them.

25. Balblair 1990
Every once in a while, we are offered a deal by importers on some older stock that they need to move in order to make room for a newer product. This sometimes happens when a distillery is undergoing a rebrand, as it did with Balblair. We don’t take every deal that comes our way, but in the case of the Balblair 1990 we knew it was a very good whisky and the price was right.

Potential Alternatives: Balblair 18 Year, An Cnoc 24 Year

24. Coole Swan Irish Cream
This Single Malt… Wait a minute… How could this be? What is a LIQUEUR doing in our top 25 spirits list when the rest are all whiskies?!? Well, if you are turned off of the idea of Irish Cream by Bailey’s I don’t blame you. But don’t let that lead you to believe that all Irish Creams are created equal. Coole Swan (and the more recently released and also excellent Five Farms Irish Cream) are made with actual, real cream and don’t taste like liquid plastic. Only the lactose intolerant shouldn’t enjoy this stuff.

23. Shelter Point Rye KWM Cask
The number of bottles we have left of this amazing single Cask of Alberta Distiller’s Rye is dwindling, and I will be sad to see it go when it sells out, which should be soon. As I write this there are 25 bottles remaining This is a stunning 100% Rye Whisky at nearly 60% ABV – and I am not just saying that because I helped pick the cask.

22. Scotch Malt Whisky Society 72.65 – 100mL
Having a Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottle hit the top 25 list is near impossible because we receive nowhere near enough of most bottlings for that to happen. This guy found a loophole though, because:
- It is a mini bottle
- we received way more than we needed for our 2018 KWM Whisky Calendar.
Therefore, we had plenty of extra bottles to sell and that is why it made the list! Eventually, this will all be gone, and there is not enough left to even come close to making the top 25 list for 2020.

21. Arran 1996 KWM Cask 56 22 Year
Sold out, but we still have a bit left of its sister cask that sits at number 16 on this list!

20. Berry’s 40 Year KWM Blended Scotch
Talk about a bottle we are all sad to see go! After selling through hundreds of bottles of this amazing 40-year-old, it is now gone for good.

Possible Alternative: If you help get the right aftermarket components to fix the flux capacitor on his DeLorean, Doc Brown might be able to hook you up…

19. Ileach Cask Strength
This consistently well-priced cask strength Islay Single Malt is perennially a top-seller for us. The only years it doesn’t end up one of our top 25 is when we don’t receive enough of it for it to be so.

18. Port Askaig 10 Year Anniversary Ed.
Man, did I love this bottle, and oh boy do I wish there was more of it. Speaking of well-priced Islay Single Malts, for less than one hundred bucks this guy was exceptional. I am saddened by the empty space it left on our shelf when it ran out, and not only because I didn’t pick one up myself.

Potential Alternative: AD Rattray Williamson 8 Year Old

17. Ardbeg An Oa
While this is not my personal favourite Ardbeg in their regular lineup, it is definitely no slouch. The fact that it made our top 25 best seller’s list shows that Ardbeg was onto something when the release this approachable bottling. Don’t call it entry-level because that would do it a disservice, this is a solid addition to the Ardbeg line.

Also available in mini bottle format

16. Arran 1996 KWM Cask 559 21 Year
Arran always sells well for us, and not just because we have been able to get some great single casks such as this one here. We love Arran here at Kensington Wine Market, but we are obviously not the only ones, as evidenced by how well the flagship line and single casks such as this move at our shop.

15. Glen Scotia 1999 KWM Cask No. 359
This whisky was my gateway to my love for this distillery. There is a good reason for that, as this cask is astounding, throwing around dark fruit and dirty engine oil notes like they are out of style. But how could they?! I have not been big on the Sherried whiskies as of late but represents exactly what I want in that aspect. The Sherry doesn’t dominate the distillery’s Campbeltown character, instead, the two manage to couple and form a whole greater than the individual parts. As I write this, we are down to the last 30 bottles of this cask. Make sure to pour a dram out for this one when it’s gone…

Possible Alternatives: Stick to Campbeltown and check out other releases from Glen Scotia, Springbank, and Kilkerran/Glengyle. Oh, and Loch Lomand 18 Year. It is not in the exact same style, but it is wonderful.

14. Old Malt Cask Mortlach 11Y KWM Cask 50ml
There was a SNAFU between ourselves and the importer on this one – the result being we received more mini bottles than we expected. Not a bad thing to have when it is your own single cask though!

13. Elijah Craig KWM Single Barrel Bourbon
Single Barrel Bourbons seem to be hard to source right now, and it took a while for this guy to makes it

Possible Alternatives: Jefferson’s Reserve KWM Single Barrel, Jefferson’s Ocean KWM Single Barrel

12. Alexander Murray Glen Moray 12 Year
This is one of those right place, right time situations. After the entire stock of Alexander Murray whisky had collected dust in St. Albert Warehouses for three years or more, the bottler decided to cut ties with their Alberta importer that had done less than nothing to promote the company’s whisky. In order to cut ties, they had to run through the remaining stock and to do this, they cut most of what was available by a great margin. Liquor stores gobbled up any and all remaining cases – something that we did ourselves with the Alexander Murray Glen Moray 12 Year. We picked the Glen Moray to bring in heavily because it was at high strength, showed very nicely, and was downright CHEAP. Sadly, it is now gone. Will we see any more Alexander Murray bottlings in the future? Possibly. Hopefully, if we do they will be as solid as that Glen Moray. But they won’t be at the same fire-sale pricing.

Possible Alternatives: AD Rattray Knockdhu 10yr KWM Edition, AD Rattray Tamnavulin 10yr KWM Edition

11. Compass Box GKS KWM Marrying Cask
Easy come easy go. This was our second special cask from Compass Box. Long story short: It was good – a slightly more potent and flavourful version of the Compass Box’s Great King Street Artist’s Blend. Good news though: We do have another Compass Box bespoke cask coming to us – hopefully arriving before or during the Spring of 2020. This time around it will be a marrying cask of the other Great King Street: the Glasgow Blend. If you want a bit of Sherry and a touch of peat in your blend, all at a respectable price, then hold onto your wallets!

Possible Alternative: Compass BOX GKS KWM Marrying Cask II

10. Lismore The Legend 21 Year Single Malt
Ahh, Lismore – the Secret Speyside Single Malt that comes from distilleries unknown, but also happens to be owned by the same Grant family that owns Glenfarclas distillery. Now, all batches of the liquid in the different Lismore ages (including the 21-year-old) may or may not be made from Glenfarclas stock, but regardless of where the distillery source is those Grants seem to know a thing or two about releasing good single malts.

9. Kilchoman 2012 sinDicate Cask
This one is a bit of a cheat, as most of the bottles from this cask were sold through Curt Robinson and his sinDicate Whisky Club members. It is still worth mentioning because Curt and his crew picked a damn good cask of Kilchoman. Also: we have the remaining bottles that they didn’t purchase available for purchase at our shop. Grab one well you can, or nab our own Kilchoman KWM Cask instead – both are excellent!

8. SMOS Imperial 1995 KWM Cask
In 2018 we had our fasted selling single cask ever, with a Bruichladdich Single Cask that sold out in just under two weeks if I recall correctly. This Imperial single cask demolished that record, selling out in eight days flat. We will hopefully have a sister cask available for sale later this year, but it will be a touch more expensive and we will likely have to limit the number of bottles we sell to each customer, just to hopefully spread the love around a bit more this time around.

7. Berry’s Ardmore 2010 KWM Cask
Ardmore? In a top sellers list? Surely you must be joking. Either that or Ian Snow won the lottery. This was the second Ardmore single cask we have ever had bottled for KWM. Hopefully, it won’t be the last, because it was a great peated malt at a very good price.

Possible Alternative: AD Rattray Williamson 8 Year Old

6. Glenfarclas 21 Year KWM Cask Strength
This is the third batch strength Glenfarclas we have gotten in the past few years, and luckily it won’t be the last. It also marked the first edition in what will be the ongoing but limited “Andrew Ferguson Ego Series”, so that makes it a collectible (right?)! A note to collectors: in the future, you will be able to identify this bottle as being the first in the Ego Series because Andrew’s head is smaller on this label – it will get increasingly larger on each new release. Don’t believe me? Keep an eye out of Ego Series II which should hit shelves in the next few months.

5. Berry’s Orkney Islands 2000 Quaich Cask
Like the Kilchoman sinDicate cask sitting at number 9, this is a bit of a cheat since most of the bottles were sold to the local chapter of the Companions of the Quaich, but it was a very good cask and a fun companion to number 3 below, so I am keeping it in.

4. SMOS Ben Nevis 1996 KWM Cask
Like the Ardmore at number 7, Ben Nevis is an unlikely distillery to see and any top seller’s list. The distillery sees most of its whisky shipped off to Japan for use in various Nikka blends of “Japanese Whisky”, but luckily that didn’t happen with this cask. I mean, imagine the price for this if it was put into a Japanese Pure Malt Whisky! Some guy in a fedora would likely have declared it his Japanese Whisky of the Year and then you never would have been able to track down a bottle going for less than four figures at auction. Luckily for you, Elixir Distiller’s purchased this cask, then we at Kensington Wine Market selected it and had it bottled just for us. If we still have any bottles left, it will only cost you $180. Considering what I wrote above that seems to go just slightly beyond reasonably priced and into irrationally inexpensive territory, doesn’t it?

Also available in mini-bottle format

3. Berry’s Orkney Islands 1999 18 Year KWM
Along with the Berry’s Orkney Quaich Cask at number 5, this was one of a pair of Indie Orkney’s that we had for sale at the same time. I say “Orkney”, but it has to be Highland Park, right? Right. The pricing on these indie HPs was phenomenal, and the casks themselves were better than any official distillery bottling have been in years by my estimation.

2. Glenfarclas 15 Year KWM Cask Strength
This 15-year-old batch strength Glenfarclas was the second bottling we had gotten from the distillery – the first being a wonderful 25 year old back in 2017. The 15, like the 25, is now long gone.

But wait! We have another batch of Glenfarclas 15-Year-Old KWM Cask Strength coming our way soon – and this one will be the 2nd release in the Andrew Ferguson Ego Series mentioned above!

1. KWM 2019 Whisky Advent Calendarâ„¢
It is not too surprising that this would top the list, is it? We made just shy of 400 of these for 2019 and considering how quickly it sold out we may have to increase that number slightly for 2020. Before we figure that out though, we need to get to sourcing minis for the latest edition, which is something that is actually a year-round endeavour. It may seem like Andrew doesn’t start to stress out about this until we have to build them in the fall, but perhaps you don’t spend as much time around him to notice as his wonderful and irreplaceable staff do… Anyhow, these tend to sell well and fast for us each year, so I doubt we will stop spending time making new ones each year. If you missed out, you can always put your name into pre-order the 2020 version!

Other Notable Top Sellers:

- Macallan Edition No. 4
This was just outside of the top 25 – I was almost tempted to make the list a top 26 to include it. The Macallan Edition No. 4 and Edition No. 3 are both still available as I write this, and in my opinion, they are easily the best bottles available from the distillery for under two hundred bucks.

- Berry’s Mystery Speyside 1995 KWM Cask
By this point, it must feel like anything with the word ‘Berry’s’ in it automatically becomes a best seller at our store – and that is not too far from the mark. The combination of quality bottles and great price points make them all easy to recommend. In that respect this Glenrothes – I mean “Mystery Speyside” is not different.

- Macallan Edition No. 3
See my notes on Edition No. 4. This is my personal favourite between the two Macallan bottlings, as it shows more nuance and complexity.

- Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye Whisky
This bottling is PHENOMENAL, and if you are a Rye fan (of the American or Canadian variety), you need to try it out. At $62 bucks or so, you almost have nothing to lose. I said in my tasting notes when it was released that it would win awards, and the Canadian Whisky Awards announced just a week ago as of this writing proved me right. This bottle would have been much higher up on the list if it had been released earlier in the year than October.

- Arran 18 Year
This is not a special release and thank goodness for that. The Arran 18 is an excellent official bottling and one of the most well priced 18-year-old Single Malt Scotch bottles available right now. If it didn’t go out of stock for the province every now and then, it likely would have been in our top 25 for the year.

- Ardbeg Drum, Ardbeg Drum Committee, and every other Ardbeg special release.
The only limiting factor that keeps just about every Ardbeg special release from being in our top 25 is the number of bottles we receive to sell. Ardbeg fever is a real issue – just ask Curt. He has been afflicted with the condition for more than a decade now and he definitely is not alone. The tip for getting any Ardbeg special release seems to be: get your pre-order in as early as you can because we almost never receive enough bottles to put it on the floor even when we limit it to one bottle per customer. Being an Ardbeg Embassy still doesn’t get us enough of these bottles to go around sadly.

Possible Alternative: Get a pre-order in as soon as possible, or come to the realization that indeed, there are other Islay distilleries that also make really good whisky.

(I am only half kidding on that last point. There is, of course, only one Ardbeg. Please put that knife down, Curt…)

Welcome to 2020. What will this year bring us? The new casks and exclusives are already arriving, so we won’t have long to find out!

Cheers and until next time,
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