Note: I recently wrote this piece for AlcoholProfessor.com on some of the newest American bourbon and whiskey releases this spring. They’re all delicious if you can get ahold of them!
Spring has certainly sprung in the whiskey world, with new releases pushing up through the soil quicker than I can remove winter’s gook. There once was one big release period in the fall, but it seems nobody’s holding back their bourbon-soaked bounty for that anymore.
So let’s take a look at some of the latest crop looking for a little sunshine and sippin’.
107 Proof | $249.99
In 2013, Angel’s Envy came out with rye whiskey finished in Caribbean rum casks that was — and still is — phenomenal. There truly is nothing at all like it in the marketplace today, so it’s no surprise they didn’t mess with it for nine years. Until now. As part of the Cellar Collection, this release finishes the Angel’s Envy rye (sans the Caribbean rum) in ice cider casks from Vermont-based Eden Specialty Ciders for 364 days.
The rye whiskey is 7 years old, so it’s solid even without the cider finish. You definitely get that hint of apple on the nose, and then once you sink your teeth in — er, I mean sip — it’s like Grandma’s apple pie. Straight up baked apple with drizzles of caramel, sprinkles of cinnamon and even some roasted cashews thrown into the mix. The price tag for this spring release is a bit steep on this one, but if you’re a rye and cider fan, this is your golden goose.
118.4 proof | $149
Uncle Nearest Tennessee Whiskey first came onto the scene in 2017, and as founders Fawn Weaver and company conceptualized the welcoming distillery in Shelbyville, Tenn., they were smart to lay down some of their own distillate before ground was ever broken.
Now, that whiskey is about 5 years old, and the company will be switching over to that juice, which is 100-percent distilled, aged and bottled by Uncle Nearest. They’ll also be adding to their lineup of offerings, including some rye whiskeys, but first they celebrated the milestone with the release of the Uncle Nearest Master Blend Edition, which is only available at the distillery.
There’s a reason Uncle Nearest is the most awarded American whiskey company for the last few years, and once you pop the top on this bottle, you’ll know why. The whiskey titillates with butter pecan, dark fruit and toffee notes — and that’s just in the aroma. The flavors are very impressive for a 5-year-old whiskey, and the notes I just mentioned are all heightened in that first sip, along with hints of butterscotch and caramel corn. The whiskey is thick and leaves you thirsty for more.
124.4 proof | $49.99
This is the first release of the year for Heaven Hill’s barrel-proof Larceny, as indicated by the A122 code on the bottle (January 2022), and it comes in at a whopping 124.4 proof. Larceny is a wheated bourbon, as you might know, and in 2020 this barrel-strength iteration took home Whiskey of the Year, according to Whisky Advocate.
Heaven Hill also released its barrel-strength Elijah Craig, as well as the highly sought-after and coveted Old Fitzgerald Bottled-In-Bond spring release (17 years old) and a new ultra-premium Heaven Hill Heritage Collection 17-Year-Old Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Shoo!
Larceny is a great representation of Heaven Hill’s wheated bourbons, and its aroma is truly intoxicating with notes of fig and bright vanilla and caramel. The barrel has imparted just enough oak flavor in the softer whiskey, and this one tingles as it mingles with your tastebuds. I let my sample breath in a Glencairn glass for about an hour before I tasted it, and it seems to have really opened up. This is truly a delight I could sip on all afternoon.
110 proof | $159.99
The latest in Bardstown Bourbon Company’s Collaborative Series has them teaming up with the beloved Michigan beer company Founders Brewing. The finished whiskey began as a 10-year-old Tennessee bourbon and then was put into Founders Brewing KBS Stout Barrels for 15 months. As with most of these collaborations, the results are phenomenal.
This spring release is one that reveals new flavors with each sip. On the nose you get wonderful notes of coffee, cocoa and orange peel, most likely from the stout finish. And then that first sip explodes with black cherry, dark chocolate and even more coffee. It may sound complex, but the bourbon and the stout have intermingled well, making it a fun experiment and treat for both beer and bourbon lovers. I’m thinking about adding this to my coffee to see if those mocha notes come out even more.
129.6 proof | $150
And speaking of great collaborations, here’s another one. Kentucky’s first female master distiller in modern times, Marianne Eaves, is well-known for her time at Old Forester and Castle & Key, but now she’s getting into the collaboration field and having a fun time doing it — if this release is any indication. Eaves teamed up with the 291 Colorado Whiskey folks to help curate a blended bourbon (from only 291 whiskey) for her company Eaves Blind. The high-proof bourbon is available on her website and at the 291 Distillery in Colorado Springs, Colo.
After a quick nose and a couple of sips, I said to myself, “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kentucky anymore.” This is straight-up Colorado bourbon that is finished with Aspen staves, and it’s a great example of the many ways one can make whiskey. You get the typical caramel and toasted marshmallow notes, but they disappear quickly and leave behind smoky grain notes, oak and lots of bright fruit. There’s also a nice spice that lingers on the tongue on this spring release, but overall the smoke wins the finish.
90 proof | $34.99
Before Prohibition, Owensboro, Ky., was a bustling bourbon town, with more than 20 distilleries in the city. One of those distilleries was Green River Distilling Co., and it recently has been revived, making it the 10th oldest distillery in the state.
Green River Bourbon was once known all throughout the world, and now it aims to restore its glory days with a delicious and affordable bourbon.
With a mash bill of 70% corn, 21% rye and 9% malted barley, the bourbon has a nice spice from the rye and packs some rich flavors of caramel, nutmeg and apricot for being 5 years old. Hands down this will make a fine Old Fashioned, and it’s not too shabby as a sipper, too. With the intricate bottle design featuring a horseshoe on the bottom, I’m truly surprised at its low price point. But I’ll take it!
103 proof | $279
This is the newest bourbon to hit store shelves (in Kentucky only, sorry folks), and yet it’s the oldest one at 14 years old. 15 Stars is a new brand named in honor of America’s 15th state — you guessed it, Kentucky!
The father and son team of Rick and Ricky Johnson sourced barrels for this blend, called Timeless Reserve, and they recently revealed the website, which also highlights many historical artifacts from 1795. Although Kentucky was founded in 1792, it took three more years for a 15-star flag to debut. The Johnsons will continue to put out sourced blends as well as some of their own bourbons and whiskeys they’ve distilled with the help of Bardstown Bourbon Co. using various types of heirloom corn.
At a perfect and deliberate 103 proof, this Kentucky bourbon truly is timeless, reminding you just how delicate and nuanced whiskey can be as it ages on past a decade. You get a little of that oak on the nose, along with a nice maple and butterscotch. And after that first sip, it’s a spring bouquet of fresh flavors bursting in your mouth. It’s got that viscous mouthfeel from its time in the oak, plus a few dark chocolate and roasted almond notes, along with hints of sweet vanilla and warm caramel. It’s a high price point, but it’s 14 years old!
This story originally appeared on AlcoholProfessor.com.