In celebrating "World Whiskey Day", here are my top whiskies from around the world in no particular order. This is not an exhaustive list by any means - there are just too many good ones, but I tried to span the globe to feature whiskey from many different regions and countries. Whether you are a bourbon, scotch, single malt, Irish, Canadian, rye, or white rye fan, there is a little something for everybody here. There are many states in the U.S. producing some great whiskies that are pretty well unknown. In some cases, I listed tasting notes for most of the whiskies. I give a description for each one.
I will follow up with my favorite whiskey cocktails in a seperate post later this week...Enjoy!!!
Thistle Finch Small Batch White Rye Whiskey
Made in Lancaster, Pennsylvania (basically, my backyard) is located in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country and the Amish. What's in a name? Pennsylvania Dutch folk art frequently features a bird in it, that, in German, is called a “Distelfink” or Thistle Finch. The bird is a symbol of happiness and good fortune.
Thistle Finch is made from a mash of 60% rye, 30% wheat, and 10% malted barley — 90% of which is locally sourced. The company notes specifically that it mills its grains to a flour-like consistency (unusual if you’ve ever seen or tasted a typical, chunky whiskey mash), which it claims offers better conversion from starch to sugar and, thus, a more flavorful product. Distilled in a hybrid copper pot still and bottled unaged, all bottles are individually labeled and numbered.
This is an interesting and unusual white whiskey, and there might be something to the distillery’s claims that it extracts more flavor out of a flour-based mash. The nose offers classic white whiskey flavors — brisk cereal, fresh-cut hay, and slight vegetal, bean sprout notes. The body offers all of these, but it’s layered with more complexity than expected. As the grain fades out, in come waves of citrus peel, nougat, lemongrass, and butterscotch — the latter building particularly on the finish. Yes, it’s still young whiskey, but there are complex flavors here that go well beyond the harsh and funky bruising that you tend to get with the typical new make spirit. I’d try it first in a white whiskey sour. (courtesy of Drink Hanker)
Manhattan Moonshine Prohibition-Style Whiskey
Moonshine usually means hillbillies cooking up corn in a crude oil drum still tucked away in the woods, high-test hooch bottled in a ceramic jug. And then there’s Manhattan Moonshine, made “using a unique blend of four premium New York grains [including rye, spelt, and oats — but not corn] and innovative, modern production methods,” bottled in an art deco decanter, and on the shelves for 45 bucks. This is a white whiskey that offers an unaged spirit at four times the price of a bottle of Jim Beam. How does it stand up?
On the nose, Manhattan Moonshine offers some classic cereal character and plenty of raw alcohol, backed with notes of lemongrass and some oily sandalwood. On the palate, it’s surprisingly sweet — and gentle, considering the higher alcohol level. It doesn’t take long for the hallmarks of moonshine to come to the fore — intense cereal notes, some petrol character, and a pungent pepperiness. Some pet-like overtones — think about the smell when you walk into a veterinarian’s office, and I don’t mean that negatively — emerge with time. (Now, as I wrap up this tasting, it’s all I can think of.)
Overall, this is not a bad expression of moonshine (and a good mixing ingredient in cocktails) in a market that is rife with overpriced rotgut. That said, at nearly $50 a bottle, it remains a tough sell no matter how fancy it looks. (photo and review courtesy of Drink Hacker)
Wigle Organic Rye Whiskey Deep Cut
Before Kentucky Bourbon, there was Pennsylvania Monongahela Rye, a spirit that died out following the Whiskey Rebellion. Today, Wigle is the only small-batch whiskey distillery in the Western Pennsylvania region and the first one in the city of Pittsburgh since the onset of the 18th Amendment. With a subtle taste of fresh fruit, Wigle whiskey is very approachable for non-whiskey drinkers, and great mixing in cocktails. Enjoy the White Rye or White Wheat releases in your next Manhattan or Whiskey Sour.
Called “Deep Cut,” per the company, because of the “bold cuts taken on this Whiskey to create our most assertively Rye-forward, spiciest Whiskey.” The description is appropriate. A small-batch product, it’s made from local, organic grains.
Deep orange in color, it looks like an intense Bourbon. At full cask strength — nearly 60% abv — it’s a fireball in the glass. The nose is intense with roasted grains, wood smoke, and tar. Sipping it at full proof doesn’t reveal a lot — I don’t often balk at cask strength whiskey, but this one’s just too much to parse without water. Adding a healthy slug of H2O is a huge help, revealing a gentler smokiness that’s balanced by deep cereal notes, lush allspice and cinnamon. There’s a brutish core to this whiskey that is somehow balanced by its celebration of the underlying grain. It is fire and earth, both at once. Though when push comes to shove, fire is winning. (Courtesy of Drink Hacker)
Nose: Caramel, sugar cane, brown sugar, honey, molasses, banana, starfruit, floral, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, spice, nutty.
Palate: Brown sugar, sugar cane, honey, nougat, treacle, dried fruit, orange zest, cinnamon, pepper, green pepper, black pepper, spice, peppermint, cut grass, wood.
Finish: Cola, lemon, tobacco, spicy, pepper, creamy, smooth, gentle fade.
Hudson Four Grain Bourbon Whiskey
Tuthilltown Spirits, based in Gardiner, New York, has been on the forefront of craft distilling since its launch in 2005. Today, Tuthilltown markets four whiskeys in its permanent lineup, plus a variety of seasonal releases. Here we look at two of them, including Hudson Four Grain Bourbon and Hudson Baby Bourbon, the first bourbon distilled in New York.
Made from a mash of corn, rye, wheat, and malted barley, double distilled and aged under four years. This is a gentler whiskey than the Baby Bourbon — as it should be, due to the addition of those other grains beyond straight corn. The nose is lightly minty, and adds notes of chocolate to a slightly corny base. The body is quite pretty, with a buttery and mouth-filling richness to it, offering notes of creme brulee, intense vanilla, some dried tobacco, and fresh-cut timber. On the finish, touches of popcorn re-emerge to remind you that, four grains or no, you’re still drinking bourbon, and a good one at that. (Courtesy of Drink Hacker)
Sons of Liberty "Battle Cry" American Single Malt Whiskey
SOL is a distillery based in the state of Rhode Island who see themselves as leading the craft spirit revolution in the US and redefining the American single malt whiskey category. This American Single Malt Whiskey is born from a Belgian-style ale. Using 100% malted grains, Battle Cry incorporates rye malt and honey malt, for added spiciness and sweetness respectively. Fermented with a Trappist-style yeast strain and aged in newly charred American Oak Barrels, Battle Cry is a unique experience from beginning to end - hints of dark fruit and spices, such as anise and black licorice, with a distinct sweetness.
Photo courtesy of simplecocktails.com
Brenne French Single Malt Whisky
“Brenne” is a name from the French word, brin, meaning a blade of grass, or, in their case, barley. Brenne Single Malt Whisky is full of fruit-forward and complex-sugar notes. We so rarely get to check out the whiskeys of France that when one arrives it’s always greeted with a bit of mystery and awe. Even among French whiskeys, Brenne is something completely unique. It starts as single malt, with barley harvested on the distillery’s own farm in the Cognac region of France. It is double distilled in alembic stills, then aged first in new French limousin oak, before being finished in ex-Cognac barrels. No age statement, but the company says the typical bottle is 7 years old — 5 years in new oak, 2 in the Cognac barrels.
Brenne’s releases are all single-barrel releases, and while I have just sampled one — barrel 261 — they are said to vary widely from one barrel to the next (in part owing to the variations amongst the Cognac finishing casks).
Nose: Immediate apricot coming from the cognac finish with a hint of green apple which quickly relents to malted milk balls and softer notes of chocolate and cream.
Glenmorangie Nectar D’or 12 Year Old (Highland Whisky)
Nectar D’Or is a reference to the golden nectar that was previously held in casks used to finish the whisky. This is a Sauternes-finished single malt and a fruity, vinous release from the Highland distillery. For sheer dessert pleasure, this is best I have tasted with desserts.
Nose: The character of dessert wines. Ripe fruit, floral, and herbaceous qualities, as well as a little fruitiness with barley sweetness.
Taste: Full with more dessert wine notes and clover honey, but with cereal notes and barley, a touch of malty spice and berry fruits with good oaky tannins and little herbal notes. It tastes like a dessert wine on fire. When developing, some spiciness, cinnamon or nutmeg and vanilla.
Finish: Medium-long with a good oaked note, noble rot, and cereal notes. A lingering hint of the spice vanilla chai emerges.
The Yamazaki Single Whisky 12 Year Old
Photo courtesy of Whiskey Catholic
Yamazaki is the first Japanese distillery established in 1923. This 12 year old from Yamazaki came onto the market in 1984 and was the first seriously marketed Japanese single malt whisky. The appearance is a faint orange hue that is very appealing.
Nose: Good body with plenty of nut oils and zest, pleasant floral character with fruit tones, a little tropical fruit, green banana, mango, honeydew, pear, and rooty spice followed by a thick layer of pink bubblegum.
Taste: Nicely viscous, medium body, and honeyed in style. A little bitter to start, then some banana and toffee and a slight suggestion of old oak appears. Smooth and soft with good sweetness, vanilla with apple fruit and jasmine freshness, but is made complex thanks to notes of candied orange peel, cinnamon and clove spice. A lovely citrus note develops with more tropical fruit notes and a little rum.
Finish: Medium with fruit and zest.
Amrut Single Malt Whisky Intermediate Sherry
Photo courtesy of Drink Insider
According to Indian Mythology, when Gods and Rakshasas - the demons - churned the oceans using the mountain Meru as churner, a golden pot sprang out containing the Elixir of Life.That was called the "Amrut" The great founders of our distillery aptly named it Amrut Distilleries. AMRUT Single Malt Whisky is a product of many years research to produce whiskies matching world standards. This whisky is made from selected Indian barley grown at the feet of the Himalayas, nurtured by the waters flowing there and cultivated by old and traditional agricultural practices. It is carefully mashed and distilled in small batches to preserve the natural aroma and matured in oak barrels in a unique tropical condition,at an altitude of 3,000 feet above sea level at Bangalore, the garden city of India.To retain the natural characteristics of this oak aged Indian Malt Whisky, we do not chill filter, some haze may therefore be noticed in the product. Amrut presents this product as a humble tribute to the Indian farmer,who has grown this barley with care and affection with which he has tilled the soil.We hope as a connoisseur of all good things you will appreciate this fine product at your leisure. (Courtesy of Amrut).
Nose: Instead of the usual biscuit aroma, we now get moist cake. And my word: is it fruity and spicy!! Love the freshly waxed oak floor, too. Brain-explodingly complex and multi-layered with one of the most intriguing sherry-style-bourbon-style marriages on the market.
Taste: Cracking delivery and entirely unique in form. The structure is decidedly oak-based, but acts as no more than a skeleton from which the juicy sultana and spices drape. Salivating, too, as the barley kicks in powerfully. But the liquorice-orangey-honeycomb bourbon theme quietly shapes the flavor profile; the spices pulse and glow.
Finish: Quite a chunk of natural caramel quietens the more exuberant characteristics; long and elegant.
Forty Creek Barrel Select Canadian Whisky
Twenty years ago, Forty Creek whisky maker, John K. Hall went bar to bar getting people to taste his whisky. Forty Creek’s huge success culminated in its sale in June to Campari for a cool $180 million, all on the strength of this gorgeous mixing whisky.
Nose: Maple syrup, honey, cane sugar, vanilla, toffee, caramel, butterscotch, nougat, toasted marshmallow, peanut brittle, butter, corn, rye, herbal, walnut, dark rum, oak.
Palate: Molasses, brown sugar, powdered sugar, honey, vanilla pudding, custard, buttered popcorn, peanut brittle, walnut, rye, clove, allspice, pepper, spicy, musk, leather, oak, oak tannins, rich, yummy.
Finish: Toasty, toasted vanilla, light spice, spicy, tart, smooth.
Overall: An excellent nose.
Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey
The Irish Whiskey category has become known for its affability, but Teeling has shown with this flagship release that affable doesn’t have to mean dull. Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey is finished for 6 months in rum casks, something that worked extremely well for a handful of small bottlings for Bushmills. The nose on the Teeling Whiskey is soft and approachable with orange, honey, caramel, malt, and oak. On the palate, Teeling bursts with flavor with honeyed malt, dark chocolate, vanilla, clove, and cinnamon . The magic of this whiskey is in the midpalate where the spice, grain, and rum cask all come together, fantastically integrated. The finish is medium length and fairly dry with significant spice lingering on the palate. Teeling has managed to create an Irish Whiskey that both adheres to the style while at the same time expands it. It’s hard to think of an Irish Whiskey with more character than this one. (Courtesy of Drink Spirits)
Eagle Rare Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Photo courtesy of American Hooch
This Eagle Rare 10YO bourbon took home a gold medal at the 2012 IWSC but moved up one category to "Gold Outstanding" in 2014. Opening aromas conjure up all manner of nut related characters including pecan pie and roasted almond. Followed by soft brown sugar and stewed apples. Complexity develops in form of ripe berries, sweet tobacco and lots of citrus. Big full mouth loaded with flavor where citrus and nuts vie for dominance. Good balance between fruit and oak. Long, complex and pleasing finish. (Courtesy of The Street)