Double Oak was born of a happy accident, when a leaky barrel forced
the distilling team to transfer its liquid to a new charred oak barrel. Exposure
to that second barrel gave the whiskey amped-up flavors and lots more complexity.
This is a bourbon that has gone into overdrive, and it handles the road just fine. Its syrupy sweet texture is checked by the oak influence, and the palate opens to flavors aplenty—dried peaches, warm apple pie, Christmas spice, gingerbread, raisin cake, chocolate, and pumpkin purée. Perfect as a holiday warmer or a backyard barbecue sipper, this is a whiskey for all seasons.
Number 8 in the 2021 Top 20
Blackadder Raw Cask Red Snake [Cask ref: Redneck 111], 60.2%
Single Malt Scotch | $80
This elegant single malt evokes scents of vanilla frosting, white flowers, tangerine oils, pink grapefruit, fennel, coriander seed, and pistachio cream. Its delicious golden flavor spectrum brings out honey, lemon lozenge, baked orange, vanilla, shortbread, oak, and fluttering spices. By all means add water, but a non-chill filtered barrel pick that delivers such unbelievable drinking pleasure at full strength is pretty special in my book. (262 bottles, Glass Revolution Dram Hunter Selection U.S.A. Exclusive Release)
This is Jack Daniel’s first age-stated release in over a century, unveiled this
summer to great excitement. Does the whiskey itself live up to the fanfare? Our
verdict is that it most certainly does. Made from the same Jack Daniel’s recipe used for
the core Old No. 7, this liquid has aged well, and taken on lively, dynamic dimensions.
Sweet cherry notes and wood spice swirl around the nose and palate, integrating with
baking spice, brown sugar, candied orange, and melted butterscotch, all tempered by
espresso and cedar chest. This will be an annual release, and the plan calls for it to
reappear next summer.
Number 4 in the 2021 Top 20
An impressive start from one of Scotland’s newest single malt distillers, located on the remote Ardnamurchan peninsula in the western Highlands. Ardnamurchan Distillery produces both a peated and non-peated whisky, and then combines the two. The result is soft, pretty, honeyed profile, with gentle notes of lemon, poached pears, sea salt, and light drifts of peat smoke. Vanilla cream, ripe peaches, and apricot jam at the finish, closing with a final note of peat. Artfully made, most notably with its subtle integration of smoke.
Number 12 in the 2021 Top 20
Fresh sea-blown peat on the nose, pine tar, sea salt, seaweed, dried seashells, and a tropical note of lime. Sweeter vanilla scents emerge, along with coconut, light nuttiness, and a hint of coffee. It’s peated but light and floral. The palate is honeyed, with vanilla, spice, dark chocolate, and lemon playing above beautifully integrated charcoal and peat. The mellow peat influence integrates beautifully into flavors that are dynamic, gorgeous, and memorable.
Maker’s Mark Wood Finishing Series 2021 Release: FAE-01, 55.15%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $60
Maker’s Mark has resisted the rampant experimentation that defines some distilleries, but they appear to be making up for lost time with two 2021 releases in their Wood Finishing Series, which started in 2019. This release is enhanced by an American oak stave that has been toasted on only one side then added to the barrel. This innovation amps up the oak influence without going overboard. Fresh-sawn oak, earthiness, leather, and iced tea are balanced by caramel apple, toffee, and baking spice. A flavor-packed, oak-driven bourbon that wears its proof well. (ABV varies)
Number 2 in the 2021 Top 20
Dark and gleaming from the port pipes that contained Graham’s 30 year old tawny port, this revels in a nose of treacle tart, polished horse chestnut, baked orange, walnut, and Luxardo cherry syrup. A decadent palate of sweet orange, cherry, baked plum desserts, poached pears in cream, and a hint of nuttiness and spice, it finishes darkly with inky purple fruits, black grape, and Airheads blue raspberry chew bars. (1,318 bottles)
Smoky whisky has traditionally been the domain of Islay scotch, but Andalusia makes its own version in Texas Hill Country. Rather than using peat, the malted barley is treated like brisket—bathed in oak, applewood, and mesquite smoke. It has a caramel nose, and a sip reveals notes of Irish breakfast tea, pine, and loads of vanilla and caramel, along with solid hardwood smoke and mineral notes. The finish is long and mentholated, reminiscent of an herbal aperitif. A big, delicious Texas whiskey.
Number 20 in the 2021 Top 20
A culture of high-quality craftsmanship, innovation, and environmental consciousness sets Nordic whiskies apart from other world whiskies. Hav, Swedish for the sea, is part of High Coast’s
exceptional Origins series, and its flavor shorthand is oak spice. Wood spices, peat
smoke, vanilla cream, and orange peel on the nose precede a lush palate of fruit and spice
displaying sweet apricot, peach, honey, and dried tropical fruits, with a lengthy, spicy
finish. Matured in bourbon casks, it mingles batches of peated and unpeated spirit, with
some components receiving an accelerator period in 40-liter casks coopered from
Hungarian and Swedish oak.
Number 6 in the 2021 Top 20
This Tennessee bourbon’s packaging has an old-school look and name (referring to dressing up, perhaps in your Sunday best), but in reality it’s rather new, first brought to market in 2014. Despite its lack of pedigree, at 6 years old this is lip-smacking whiskey, with a color of caramel, and an alluring aroma of sweet baking spices. There are bold, bracing tannins of cigar box and menthol that balance out the heavy sweetness of orange jam and long-stewed fruit. Intense, tasty, no-nonsense bourbon.
Number 14 in the 2021 Top 20
Deep layers of vanilla and mizunara oak with sugar sprinkled pastries, incense sticks, oiled wood, tatami, dried apricot, golden sultana, and faint smoky spiciness. Nectarous mouthfeel with honey, barley sugar, dried citrus, orange peel, and delicate spices, it continues to sweeten beautifully showing vanilla, sugared almonds, banana custard, with hints of ginger and gentle oak. Slightly gummy finish as the vanilla quenches little eruptions of wood spices.
Nicole Austin hasn’t rested on her laurels since George Dickel Bottled in
Bond won Whisky of the Year in 2019, continuing to create great and afford-
able whiskeys at Cascade Hollow Distillery.
This is notably a bourbon rather than a Tennessee whiskey, though the criteria for the
two styles mostly overlap. The nose is nutty and well spiced, with caramel corn, toasted
pecans, cinnamon graham crackers, cherry tart, and butterscotch candies. There is a
friendliness to the palate that makes it ideal for outdoor imbibing, with notes of spearmint,
mixed berries, nougat, and honey. Big spice on the finish makes this a memorable sip.
Number 5 in the 2021 Top 20
Glenfiddich 21 year old Reserva Rum Cask Finish, 40%
Single Malt Scotch | $210
Rich, sweet, and fruity with baked apples drizzled in honey, crisp white pear, honeysuckle, dried banana, vanilla fudge, and pecan pie. This works so well with the nascent Glenfiddich spirit; lime zest, vanilla, foamy meringue, honey blossom sweetness, and pepper transitioning to lime shred marmalade, soft oak, and a dry spicy finish. Vibrant, stimulating, sophisticated, and so well balanced that it never risks becoming overly sweet.
Matured in bourbon barrels and finished in virgin American oak. Deliciously smoky like autumnal garden bonfires, with aromas of banana and treacle muffin, papaya, gingerbread, antique oak, worn leather, vanilla pod, oak tannins, and walnut shells. Flavors of baked apple, chocolate-chip cookies, woodsmoke, ginger, dark honey, clove, allspice, and pepper, then marzipan and more oak, before becoming a touch leathery. It finishes with feisty spices and tobacco smoke, plus flashes of lemon curd sweetness.
There’s a father-son dynamic at work between Wild Turkey’s two master distillers on this release—with the patriarch Jimmy Russell preferring 8 to 10 years of aging and son Eddie favoring the older stuff. The final blend thus combines 8 to 10 year old and 14 year old bourbons, and that blend was then finished in a mix of toasted and new charred oak barrels. Refined maturity becomes apparent on the first sip. It’s creamy and well spiced, with flavors of chocolate-covered marshmallow, caramel, cotton candy, and marvelous touches of aged tobacco leaf. This is a big whiskey that carries its age with grace and balance.
Number 10 in the 2021 Top 20
This malt professes to be “heavily peated,” but fear not: peat is but a single brush stroke on a much broader canvas. Scottish grain evokes Honey Nut Cheerios and warm porridge, while the peat suggests grilled vegetables and molten campfire marshmallow. There’s briny smoke wafting from a beach bonfire, girded by bright berry and cherry fruit from time spent in red Bordeaux wine casks. Fine oak tannins meet heaps of sweet vanilla on the finish. A captivating malt that seems to have it all.
Number 11 in the 2021 Top 20
The third installment in Compass Box’s gothic exploration of smoke, or the whiskies that shall not be named, builds upon their bewitching sequence of distillery duets. Pairing Ardbeg with Caol Ila, then Caol Ila with Talisker, blender James Saxon invited Laphroaig and Bowmore to dance for No. 3, underpinned by the familiar Compass Box foundation malts. There’s a charming balance of sweetness and peat, as the hardy coastal smokiness of Laphroaig is quelled by the ripe tropical fruitiness of Bowmore. The mouthfeel is satisfyingly creamy, with orange fondant, chocolate, honey, and apricot flavors tightly bound together by tendrils of smoke.
Number 9 in the 2021 Top 20
Peerless Single Barrel Straight (150812100), 55.7%
Rye Whiskey | $124
The nose is filled with depth and spice, melding with blackberry and other cooked dark fruit notes. On the palate, rice pudding, vanilla cream, rich dark chocolate, and blueberry pie are laced with savory spice. The mouthfeel is smooth and creamy, with little hint of the high proof. It’s even smoother with water, unlocking cinnamon spice, grape jam, and more chocolate. The finish is deep, jammy, and long, with loads of spice.