As much as I love year-end lists, I’m beginning to realize that I like reading them far more than I like putting them together. I would happily skip writing such a list if it weren’t for my unfortunate love of trite traditions. Alack, here we are again, stumbling blindly and listing a bit to the left, hopeless and grizzled, tripping over the well-intentioned detritus of another year, our inchoate dreams for the coming months just beginning to come into focus. The new year is like putting on a pair of warm pants fresh out of the dryer, the end of the year is like realizing that you’ve already almost worn the knees ragged, and that unfortunately placed wine stain is never going to come out. Time for a quick look back, while already trying to look ahead…
- Best Whisky of the Year: I don’t know who said it first, but some something along the lines of “the best whisky is always the one in front of me” rang true for me more than usual this year. I drank some very good whiskies this year but nothing that knocked my woolen knickers off. Truth is, I have neither the time, nor money, nor interest in chasing those whiskies that may or may not succeed in knocking off clothing. It’s just whisky. Sadly, it seems the more I have, the more I learn, the less likely I am to be truly, deeply moved. Whisky was the best whisky I had in 2015, let’s just leave it at that.
- Worst Whisky of the Year: Goddammit, that Haig crap is awful. I tried it several times in 2015, trying to find something positive to say about it. I found nothing. Good thing it’s so expensive. A certain hirsute, Crown Royal-sponsored personality would’ve made this list if he were a whisky. Sadly, he’s just a person.
- Best Reasons to be Excited About Whisky and Booze in General in Minnesota in 2015:
- This past year saw two large-scale whisky shows debut in Minneapolis, Whiskey on Ice and the Mill City Whiskey Review.
- A plethora of distilleries are up and running with some (11 Wells, Tattersall, and Far North Spirits to name three) already producing some very, very good booze.
- The already impressive burgeoning beer scene continued to burgeon impressively.
- Lots of very worthwhile local coverage of spirits, beer, and wine, ranging from print to radio to film to new media.
- Pleasant Moments in Affordable Whisky: I had a few. Thanks to its soaring popularity, the price of all kinds of whisky soared as well…the same cannot always be said of the quality. Still, there are some good values to be had. Among those that stood out for me this year: Benromach’s 10 Year Old, 100 Proof, and Peat Smoke, Glen Moray’s Port Cask Finish, Bowmore’s Small Batch, and a good, cheap bourbon I’d never had before, Very Old Barton. A person always needs good cheap bourbon.
- Better Read Than Dead, pt. II: A positive by-product of all this whisky popularity is the increase in good whisky-related books. This year saw worthy additions of editions for your shelves like Fred Minnick’s Bourbon Curious, Reid Mitenbuler’s Bourbon Empire, and ‘s A Glass Apart, just to name a few.
- One of the Best Things to Happen in 2015 that had Nothing to do with Whisky: The Minnesota Institute of Art celebrated its 100th anniversary this year, and they celebrated all year long with pop-up masterpieces, special events, and fantastic exhibits like Mark Mothersbaugh’s Myopia, the Well’s Collection of Japanese Woodcuts, DaVinci’s Codex Leicester, and Delacroix’s Influence. See, nothing to do with whisky, and I don’t care, the MIA was one of the best parts of my 2015.
- One of the Best Things to Happen in 2015 while cringing and anxiously gulping Whisky: The wife (let’s call her Sherry Butts) and I running through The Walking Dead. Though she’s jealously shaking her head at the idea, I’d like to invite Daryl Dixon over for a few glasses whenever he gets a spare moment.
- Looking Ahead at a Reason to be Excited About Whisky and Booze in General in Minnesota in 2016: An alley-way door in Northeast that leads to a rustic, cozy spot in front of a fireplace…
There you go. I hinted this wouldn’t be much of a list, and now that I’ve gone back and read through it, I’ve pretty much confirmed I was right.
Happy New Year.