Ah, such is the charm of the annual production runs of single malt whisky -
in that subtle to dramatic changes can occur from year to year, for better or worse, just like the annual vintages of fine wine (verses the unwavering consistency of homogenized blended whiskies).
Your tastes may not have changed as much as you think. It could very well be the particular year of the bottle you own.
One good example is the standard 10yo from the tiny Edradour Distillery. This is a delicious little malt, oozing with rich caramel and rum raisin flavours, so creamy as to be almost chewy. Most of the time. It is such a small operation it is bound to have inconsistencies. As such, I have also sampled bottlings that were quite weak and light in flavour; a thin, transparent, uncomplex cereal grain, some even with a hint of that dreaded Midlands’ “minty-soap” palate. I have had similar experiences with the revered Talisker, where one particular year the usual zingy spiciness had somehow receded with the Loch Harport tide, revealing a pleasant if rather simple barley malt center. When this happens you can simply say, “There is always next year!” Such is the charm of single malt whiskies.
On the flip side of things, with the epiphany in malt whisky’s popularity over last 15 years, improvements in the quality of single malt offerings has been noted throughout the industry, even from a number of erstwhile primarily “straight to blends” distilleries. A few examples from the short list might include:
Achentoshen – the standard 10yo is much better today than the “Lowlands firewater” of the mid-1980s.
Aberlour – some may say their superb A’bundh natural cask-strength bottling is merely a “re-release’ from 1892. Perhaps, but it wasn’t readily available even ten years ago. I would guess it is already among their best selling newer expressions.
Dalmore – substantially improved from even ten years ago; their standard 12yo is a much more balanced malt with now even a lovely sherry finish. (Although I can’t say as much for their Cigar Malt, every succeeding bottle I’ve tried has been less pleasant.)
Caol Ila – the new official distillery-labeled 12yo and 18yo bottlings are wonderful, very high quality expressions, infinitively more palatable than many older independent bottlings that often brought out the worst in this heavily peated Islay.
Oban – the latest bottlings sampled seem altogether more enjoyable and intriguing than when my father used to keep an ongoing house bottle of Oban in his duck cabinet throughout the 1980s and ’90s.
So, as said earlier, your tastes may not have changed as much as you think. It could very well be the particular year of the bottle you own.