Here’s my latest whiskey roundup for AlcoholProfessor.com. I thought I’d share it here because many of our clients ask about the latest and greatest in the whiskey world — and these are some of my favorites of the recent releases. Some are hard to find, but it’s always good to keep your finger on the pulse of the industry.
I heard a rumor once that some people pack away their whiskey in the hot summer months and replace it with Aperol Spritzes, gin and tonics, a chilled chardonnay or, dare I say, even White Claw. Thankfully, rumors are oftentimes untrue, and this one is 100% unfounded.
People love their whiskey whether they’re sitting poolside or fireside, and for proof, I offer up two sources: 1) Residing on the frontlines of Kentucky, bourbon is as popular as ever. Thousands of tourists journey here each year to immerse themselves into our native spirit whether it’s January or August, and our beloved brown water flows continuously through all seasons. 2) Whiskey releases abound!
I’ve gathered up some of the most interesting whiskey releases this summer and gleefully tasted them even on the most hot and humid days. If I hanker for something chilled, I’ll just add a rock or two. Simple as that.
Now let’s get to sippin’ some hot summer whiskey!
108 Proof | $149.99
Details: This is the newest line from the James B. Beam Distilling Co. — aka Jim Beam — that will feature rare, limited-edition whiskeys from Beam’s massive inventory of barrels. Led by Freddie Noe, who recently was named master distiller and will work right alongside his father, Fred Noe, this new brand will explore and celebrate the 227-year Beam family legacy.
Two Hardin’s Creek expressions will be hitting store shelves soon, Jacob’s Well and Col. James B. Beam, but today we will focus on one: Jacob’s Well. It’s a blend of 16-year-old traditional bourbon and 15-year-old high-rye bourbon that pays tribute to the family’s first distiller, Jacob Beam, and the well he built in 1795 to start his distillery.
Tasting Notes: Even on the nose, Jacob’s Well wafts the wisdom older whiskeys possess. It’s rich, it’s deep, it’s exactly the scent you get when walking into a rick house in the summer heat. And on the palate, you get the familiar vanilla, warm caramel and instant oak, but you also get interesting tobacco notes and soft leather — Grandpa’s old, worn, battered leather boots.
The finish is nice, peppery at first followed by gritty brown sugar. I can’t wait to see what’s next for the Hardin’s Creek line, especially if it taps into these older stocks.
100 proof | $59.99
Details: Missouri’s oldest distillery, founded in 1856, went through a $10 million renovation in 2015 and immediately laid down some bourbon for aging once the still and doubler were operational. Now that bourbon is 6 years old, and the Holladay Distillery in Weston, Mo., is launching its first Bottled-in-Bond release of the modern era.
With legit limestone springs on site that were first charted by Lewis and Clark, 7-story ironclad rick houses and a sordid history of entrepreneurship and opportunity, Holladay Distillery might as well be proclaimed an honorary Kentucky distillery and is definitely one we should all keep an eye on. Good things will be coming from this one.
Tasting Notes: The nose on this bourbon is on par with some of the best bourbons I’ve tried from the giants of Kentucky. It’s oak and vanilla, with some great floral notes mixed in. On the palate, I get a cherry bomb followed by a warm caramel drizzle and a gentle spice.
And the finish is warm and savory. While they don’t disclose the mash bill, I would guess it’s close to a traditional rye bourbon recipe with the amount of spice I’m getting from subsequent sips. It’s quite tasty, and I’m glad they let this age longer than the required 4 years for BIB products.
79.8 proof | $124.99
Details: When I first saw the news release about this whiskey that’s not really a whiskey coming out of Tennessee’s Cascade Hollow, aka Dickel, I was intrigued.
It’s barrel proof, so I was expecting a potent 120+ proof product, but then I read it’s not even 80 proof, which kicks it out of the whiskey category and into the generic “spirit distilled from grain” designation.
But I’ve learned to trust Distiller Nicole Austin for what she chooses to put out there, so who cares about what’s on the label. I want to know what’s in the bottle!
Tasting Notes: This (non)whiskey is 15 years old … let that sink in. So yes, of course there are oodles of aromas jumping from the glass on first sniff. Just because these barrels didn’t lose as much water as a typical whiskey doesn’t make them anything less. In fact, this whiskey is not only approachable at less than 80 proof, but it’s quite deep and nuanced.
It’s everything you want from a barrel-proof whiskey without the burn. On the palate I get lots of oak, which is expected from the age, but there’s also this buttery, silky schmear of vanilla cream with just a hint of pineapple. It’s like a forkful of pineapple upside-down cake in each sip. This one is a keeper.
114.1 proof | $139.99
Details: BBCo.’s Discovery Series is all about the blend, and this one is by far their most complex. Not only are there four whiskeys in this one, including a 12-year-old Canadian corn whisky, but they also experimented with five different oak staves to enhance the flavors.
Think of it as a layer cake of a whiskey. The others in the recipe include a 12-year-old Kentucky bourbon and two Indiana ryes aged 6 and 7 years. I love the bold experimentation of these releases, and of course I have my favorites.
Tasting Notes: On the nose, I get the delightful potpourri of walking into a bakery. There’s dark chocolate and caramel and fresh-baked pastries and powdered donuts. And on first sip, that bakery turns into a full-fledged spice rack, with splashes of black pepper, nutmeg and even a little paprika. Must be from the rye. The finish is warm and lingers, with a medley of baked goods and lots more spice.
90 proof | $69.99
Details: Metallica’s whiskey brand Blackened is adding a bit of green to its inventory with the latest release, a Kentucky Straight Rye Double Cask Finished Whiskey that is dubbed “Rye the Lightning” — a nod to the band’s 1984 sophomore album, Ride the Lightning.
Master Distiller Rob Dietrich sourced some Kentucky-made rye whiskey aged 5-8 years and finished it in both Madeira wine and Caribbean rum casks for 2-14 weeks. And then, of course, they blasted Metallica’s thunderous hits at the barrels in what they call “Black Noise” sonic aging.
Tasting Notes: Just like the band, this whiskey is loud, proud and should please the Metallica-lovin’ crowd with in-your-face spice followed by a subtle bassline of dried fruit (I’m getting some banana chips), citrus, toasted marshmallow and a whisper of that rum finish. The nose is very similar to the palate on this one, and the finish lingers like the buzz in your ears after a Metallica concert.
116.6 proof | $90
Details: The talented blenders at Barrell Bourbon have a proven track record of keeping us on our toes. This newest batch, No. 033, mixes both high-rye and high-corn bourbons — aged 5-9 years — from Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana and presents a complex and fun little cask-strength treat.
I’ve been enjoying Batch 032 all spring and summer, but now this one might take over my Glencairn in the evenings — unless I decide to finish what I started and then get to the new one. Decisions, decisions.
Tasting Notes: On the nose I get a fresh-mowed lawn — earthy and inviting. It also reminds me of smelling a bouquet of fresh-cut daisies while sucking on a butterscotch candy. On the palate, the earthiness dissolves into a mouthful of candied fruit, baking spices and just a splash of root beer.
It definitely doesn’t bite like a 116.6 proof should, and it has this nice buttery mouthfeel that tingles as it washes over your tastebuds. The finish is long and delightful, reminiscent of eating a waffle cone at the beach. What flavor of ice cream was in the cone? It has to be either vanilla bean or pralines and cream with a caramel swirl.
80 proof | $24.99
Details: For the first time ever, the world’s No. 1 selling 100% rye whisky is being released in the U.S. , courtesy of Alberta Distillers in Calgary, Alberta. Just last year the cask strength version of this came out here, so this is the flagship brand that is made from Canadian prairie rye grains grown by local farmers.
At a low 80 proof and a reasonable price point, this rye whisky is best enjoyed neat or in an Old Fashioned.
Tasting Notes: The liquid is noticeably lighter than most bourbons and American rye whiskeys, which is likely due to age (3 years minimum) and the re-use of barrels (Canadian whisky does not have to be put into new, charred oak containers).
But absent of the heavy char and oak notes, this rye is one mellow fellow. I get vanilla and a light floral note on the nose, and on the palate, I feel the warm spice from the 100% rye followed by a nice coating of smoky vanilla sugar. Just like our neighbors to the north, this is friendly, approachable and sips well with others.
This story originally appeared on AlcoholProfessor.com.