A 100% Honest, Highly Opinionated Guide to the Upcoming BCL Spirits Release

Just the boozy facts, ma'am.

While we all breathlessly wait to see who the lucky sod is who gets the “opportunity” to purchase four bottles of Scotch for a cool $200,000, lets maybe come back down to reality and have a look at what bottles might be on the radar for mere mortals. 

Read More; $200,000 for 4 Bottles Might be a Good Deal

As a starting point… it’s not a great spirits release. There are only a few bottles that are really interesting and for the most part the pricing is exactly where it’s supposed to be—which, to be fair, is the job of the BCL. The reality is that in the past few years the local spirits community has gotten very savvy, both in terms of price and real rarity, so the days of swooping in and picking some gems while the uninitiated ooh and ahh over some 50-year-old wood bomb are over. 

But all is not lost—here are a few bright stars that are worth investigating before the Nov. 13 release.

Abelour A’Bundadh Alba $126

The original A’Bundadh (weirdly pronounced A-Boon-Dack) did more to establish cask-strength whisky than arguably any other bottle, so a new expression in this seriously conservative range is interesting. This is aged in bourbon casks (rather than the originals sherry casks) and the result is a “cleaner” whisky—less overt sweetness, more vanilla and pear. And this bottle sells for $115 at US mega-retailer Total Wine, so this is well-priced up here.

The Macallan Rich Harmony Collection Rich Cacao $205

There are plenty of pretenders to the throne, but the reality is that The Macallan has zero plans to relinquish its perch from a top the collectable whisky pyramid. They also seem to have an endless ability to raise their prices with little pushback from their adoring fans (and to be fair, have a big party and set out 10 bottles of whisky and I guarantee The Macallan will be gone first, regardless of what bottle it is—that’s brand power). This bottle is here because its packaging is so flipping compelling. I haven’t tasted what’s inside, but tbh, it doesn’t really matter in terms of collectability. It’s already sold out on The Macallan website.

Glenmorangie 15 Cadboll Estate $140

This is not a hugely rare bottle: it’s readily available at multiple retailers in Canada, but it is a particularly well-made bottle of whisky. At a perfect age, it offers lovely creamy notes of peanut brittle (I stole that one, but it’s true) and ginger and orange zest. Of the major brands, I have found that Glenmorangie has consistently brought the best value across all bottling over the past few years (parent company LVMH ain’t exactly strapped for cash). And this is well-priced—$7 less than at Calgary Willow Park, which is one of the great whisky stores in the country.

Highland Park 15 $136

I love Highland Park so much that I’ve actually been to Orkney to visit the distillery (which puts me ahead of 98 percent of most Scots). But even I have to admit that they gotta pump the brakes on how many expressions they keep cranking out. It’s not that they’re bad, it’s just that keeping track of them is a full-time job (there are 15 different expressions just at the BCL!). But even in the crowd, this bottle stands out. The 15 is such a great balanced expression for Highland Park that several years ago I hand-carried one back from Willow Park as a gift for friend. But this new opaque bottle is also a stunner; from 30 feet you can see something different is going on.

Alberta Premium Cask Strength $66

This is the best bottle in the whole shebang. A low key bottle from the most low-key distillery in North America… heck, maybe the world. This spicy, troublemaker of a rye is so pure, with a grainy swack of a flavour profile, that if it were American, it would be easily—easily!—twice the price. Maybe triple. Every Canadian who drinks brown spirits should have a bottle of this in their cabinet, if only to show that we bow to no country when we set our mind to it.

3 Headscratchers 

The Glenlivet Spectra $160

This pains me. The Glenlivet is one of the OGs of whisky—so how come they don’t know that nobody wants three little (200ml) bottles of anything? They look ridiculous and they are loathed by collectors. “Released without tasting notes.” Seriously? And no age statement either? I hate to break it to you pals: notwithstanding the “The”, you are not The Macallan, which is likely the only brand (with maybe Ardbeg) who could pull off a flex like this.

Diageo Rare by Nature Series from $125

I have mad love for both Lagavulin and Talisker, two of Diageo standard bearers that show up in this not-all-that-rare collection, but can you tell me why you want me to pay $170 for a 12-year-old Lagavulin when the 16-year-old is $145? This may be my bitterness at having a full set of Diageo’s Game of Thrones special release—which features many of the same brands—collecting dust in my basement waiting for the price explosion. The lesson is: drink, don’t speculate.

Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select $275

It’s not fair given how iconic Jack, is but the reality is, it’s the same today as it’s been for four decades. No one is interested in premium (let alone ultra-premium) Tennessee whiskey. They just aren’t.