The Best New Whiskeys to Drink This April
Including an accidental Ardbeg masterpiece, Basil Hayden’s subtly smoky newcomer and an under-$30 surprise from Oregon
Welcome back to our monthly guide to all things whisk(e)y. This month: A former best whisky of the world winner gets a follow-up, Basil Hayden introduces smoke and Compass Box just made a whisky that evokes old books.
Most Ardbeg is only fermented for 72 hours. But this 13-year old Islay expression underwent a three-week fermentation (due to a boiler accident), resulting in a still-peaty single malt that’s also wonderfully fruity and malty (“smoky jammy biscuit” is my professional tasting note). The bad news? This one is only available to The Ardbeg Committee, which features 120,000 members (you can join here).
The Canadian distillers behind one of the recent best whisky winners just launched their core product in the U.S. for the first time, a 100% Canadian prairie rye aged for a minimum of five years that utilizes spring water from the surrounding Rocky Mountains. It’s not the cask-strength winner, but it will be much easier to find (and just $25). Soft for a rye but still packing a spicy kick, with some hints of toffee, vanilla and a bit of smoke.
A limited-time release, the smoke on this Kentucky straight bourbon is achieved in the barrel, not the grain; hickory-smoked chips are “delicately ignited at a constant feed to produce smoke,” which is then pumped into a second barrel that’s been toasted and lightly charred. “Subtle” is right, but overall this is a juicy and flavorful sipper with notes of caramel and grilled peaches.
The Maryland distillery took a blend of its 5- and 6-year-old straight rye whiskies, placing some in South American rum barrels, and the rest in Jamaican rum barrels, aging both for an additional 10 months. The final result, at 49% ABV, really showcases the rum influence. This is tropical with a nice hint of butterscotch; any whiskey substitution for rum you’re looking for in a Tiki drink should start here.
My inexpensive discovery this month: This is a Canadian whisky rested in American oak barrels and cut to proof from glacier-fed spring water from Mt. Hood; it’s also rodeo-inspired (seriously; the whisky is named after Oregon’s Pendleton Round-Up). Plus, Pendleton is the official whisky of Professional Bull Riders (PBR) and Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA), and it pops up on the show Yellowstone. There are extra-aged editions, rye and one whisky that’s rested in brandy barrels, but the original is under $30 and incredibly flavorful, with a decided cinnamon note among the vanilla, dark fruit and honey.
Other new releases
- Bevridge, a new at-home spirits tasting service, launched this month with an excellent American Single Malt theme, features 10 samples from Westland Distillery, Virginia Distillery Company, Santa Fe Spirits, Balcones Distilling and Boulder Spirits along with 25 on-demand videos about the liquid.
- Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey is reintroducing their American single malt Diamond Peak, featuring a new Bushmills Irish cask finish — and the start of a yearly, differently-finished variation of Diamond Peak.
- Compass Box just announced their first Limited Edition of 2022, Vellichor, which is “inspired by the experience, emotion, and aroma of old bookshops,” (we tried it, and it kind of does fit that profile — a bit leathery, but also fruity, smoky and great for those who like Sherry-matured whisky). It’s a combination of rare, Sherry-matured blends with malt whiskies from the Highland Park and Macallan distilleries (both 23 years or older), together with a small amount of old whisky from the Caol Ila Distillery.
- Jack Daniel’s is expanding its canned cocktails nationwide after a smaller launch in 2020; flavors include Jack & Cola; Jack, Honey & Lemonade; and Jack Apple Fizz.
- Random find of the month: Le Coqtail, a line of whiskey cocktails (Manhattan, Old Fashioned) available in multiple pouch sizes.
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