The Best New Whiskeys to Drink This December
“Ever had whiskey that was poured from a pig’s rear?” asked WhistlePig. Now we have. Plus, new bottles from Uncle Nearest and Maker's Mark.
Welcome back to our monthly guide to all things whisk(e)y. Instead of the usual 10 picks, we went with 12 (for the days of Christmas or because we had way too much good whiskey to choose from). Below, the best new whiskeys of December 2022
WhistlePig 10 Limited Edition PiggyBank
After 10 years of “fearless attempts” (including “fermenting yeast foraged from a ham’s hind”), WhistlePig’s latest experiment piggy experiment is a rye bottled at 110 proof in a porcine decanter (which is based on a 19th-century Berkshire Bitter Pig). The bottle is a showstopper, while the rye is just what you’d expect from this Vermont distillery — a lot of oak spice, brown sugar, candied fruit and a hint of dill and mint.
Maker’s Mark BRT-01 and BRT-02
The two latest releases in the distillery’s Wood Finishing Series (an annual release of limited-edition bottles that emphasize various elements in the bourbon production process) focus on barrel rotation with the distillery’s warehouses. BRT-01 is influenced by the flavor profiles found at the warmer top of the rickhouse — a lot of oak, plus notes of caramel popcorn, dark fruit, a hint of anise and a toasty warm finish. Meanwhile, BRT-02 is inspired by the cooler bottom of the rickhouse, which offers up notes of praline, chocolate, dark fruit, raisin and cinnamon gum.
Rye & Sons 2022 Straight Rye Whiskey
How does a winemaker approach rye? This approachable and affordable (under $30) debut from former Per Se sommelier André Hueston Mack will offer up different vintages every year. The inaugural bottle is spicy and youthful (which isn’t a bad thing for a rye), with notes of mint, oak, brown sugar, anise and orange peel.
This Bushwick brewery utilizes vacuum distillation to make unique beer-based spirits. Their second release, crafted and aged in just a matter of weeks, is a whiskey built from an Imperial Stout; it’s heavy on the chocolate notes, albeit more in a bitter than a sweet way. This one leans more toward beer flavors than whiskey, but it seems ideal for a new take on an Old Fashioned.
Uncle Nearest Straight Rye Whiskey and Single Barrel Black Label
I was able to try two of three new permanent expressions (pictured above) for this award-winning Tennessee whiskey distillery. This rye (100% rye mashbill and 100 proof) is sourced from Canada, aged in New York and then rested in used Uncle Nearest barrels. A lot of bready dough on the nose and a delectable balance of sweet and spicy on the palate, with notes of vanilla, anise and mint.
The Single Barrel Black Label, meanwhile, is Uncle Nearest’s own juice. At 59% ABV, this whiskey is very dark in color. I got chicory on the nose, with notes of brown sugar, oak, caramel, dark fruit (particularly raspberry), orange zest and a hint of tobacco on the palate. A drop of water brought out the fruit more. A winner.
The Glenlivet 21 Year Old and 25 Year Old Single Malt Scotch
The Speyside single malt purveyor has “reimagined” their 21 and 25 Year Old expressions via new cask finishes and packaging. The 21 is finished in first-fill Oloroso sherry, Troncais oak Cognac and Vintage Colheita port casks, offering up hints of ginger, caramelized pears and nutmeg. The 25, meanwhile, is finished in Pedro Ximénez sherry and Troncais oak Cognac casks, offering up notes of orange, fig, oak and even a bit of charred pineapple.
Booker’s Bourbon 2022-03 “Kentucky Tea Batch”
2XO: The Phoenix Blend
Bushmills Rare Cask #3
Paul John Indian Single Malt Christmas
Hemingway Rye Whiskey First Edition
And six more:
- A recent iteration of the uncut, unfiltered Booker’s Bourbon is the 2022-03 “Kentucky Tea Batch” release, inspired by Booker Noe’s signature drink, which he called Kentucky Tea…which basically replaces tea with a modicum of bourbon a as a flavoring. The bourbon on its own features a lot of vanilla on the palate, with fruit, caramel and oak rounding out the spiciness (it’s 126.5 proof). BTW, I tried Booker’s recipe of four parts water to one part bourbon, and lo and behold, it kind of tasted like tea.
- Celebrating its 15th year, Australia’s trailblazing Starward Whisky just launched a limited-editon Vitalis bottle, named after founder David Vitale. This is blend of whisky from six different types of barrels (including red wine, Tawny, rum, bourbon and Apera), with the oldest of these barrels filled in 2011 and the youngest in 2018. It’s a very fruit-forward and sweet mix, with a nice malty mouthfeel, a bit of vanilla and some grassiness from the rum.
- 2XO: The Phoenix Blend is the first in a series of small-batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon blends from American whiskey blender Dixon Dedman (formerly of Kentucky Owl). For 2XO (Two Times Oak), Dixon re-barrels his hand-selected aged whiskey into new charred oak barrels, creating a blend ideal for whiskey fans who want a lot of that oak spice mixed in with notes of vanilla, caramel and red fruit.
- Bushmills Rare Cask #3 is a 30-year-old single malt matured n bourbon and sherry casks for 13 years before being then aged for over 17 years in first-fill Madeira casks. I got a surprisingly Tootsie Roll note on the nose, with lots of raisin, dark fruit, butterscotch and toffee on the palate. Overall, a wonderfully rich mouthfeel…with some rich pricing ($999.99).
- A nice holiday tradition, this year’s edition of the Paul John Indian Single Malt Christmas — now celebrating its fifth release, is crafted from malts finished in ex-bourbon, brandy and Oloroso sherry casks. It features malted chocolate on the nose and some biscuit, sweet dark fruit, gingerbread, a touch of oak, tobacco, baking spices, orange and cracked pepper on the palate.
- Hemingway Rye Whiskey First Edition is the inaugural release from the Hemingway Whiskey Company, which was inspired by the iconic author, led by Steve Groth (co-founder of Angel’s Envy) and overseen by the Call family, who have more than 230 years of distilling experience. This one is a blend of 96% 9-year-old Indiana Straight Rye and 4% 4-year-old Kentucky Straight Rye, finished in rum-seasoned Oloroso Sherry casks. Coming in at 100 proof and with a dark amber color, this is a dry and sweet blend that features notes of cinnamon spice, cherry, oak, dark chocolate and dark fruit.
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