There’s a lot more to American whiskey than bourbon or rye. Besides the burgeoning category of American single malts, you’ve got wheated whiskeys, Tennessee whiskey and blended whiskeys. It’s usually in these margins where the interesting stuff happens (we love bourbon, but it’s a pretty defined flavor profile). It also opens up whiskey drinkers to regions beyond Kentucky — for example, you can find excellent American single malts in states from Washington to Texas to Virginia. During the past few years, we’ve seen these domestic whiskey producers get into interesting grains, peat or mesquite smokiness, and play around with barrel maturation (think coffee, tequila, Armagnac and more). These nine releases are the best American whiskeys of 2023, showcasing the excellence and breadth of non-bourbon, non-rye American whiskey.
Released earlier this spring and part of Westland’s outpost Range, this bottle already won a Best American Single Malt award at the 2023 World Whiskies Awards. This peated whiskey, utilizing local peat from the Pacific Northwest, is surprisingly bright with notes of apple, charred oak, vanilla and a modest smoke.
The name’s certainly eye-catching, but this single-grain, cask-strength wheat whiskey from the Michigan-based distillery also has accolades: it won three major honors at last year’s ASCOT Awards (including Whiskey of the Year). A 100% wheat whiskey at 58.5% ABV, this limited-edition expression — which earned its name because Journeyman is located in a former 1800s corset and buggy whip factory — is bright, soft and toffee sweet with a wonderful jammy fruit note and a bit of spice on the finish.
Seattle’s Westland Distillery just released the seventh edition of its Garryana American Single Malt series (Quercus garryana is a rare oak indigenous to the Northwest). This one was finished in a combo of Washington State syrah and cabernet sauvignon casks, and that fruity, tannic and sweet character shines through with plenty of earthy wood spice and apple notes.
Hailing from one of our favorite new(ish) domestic distilleries, this is a 100% malted barley American single malt aged in ex-bourbon casks and finished in barrels that previously held ethically sourced small-batch coffee. Sales of the limited edition release helps fund $100K in scholarship aid to women looking to enter the field of distillation and whiskey production. A noble goal, but it still needs to taste good — and it does. The unique finish brings out some delicious coffee and mocha notes, which pair well with the vanilla and baking spice flavors you’d expect from the ex-bourbon barrels.
Best Bourbons to Drink in 2023Including excellent bottles from Barrell, Chicken Cock, Old Forester and more
The Colorado distillery’s American single malt (aged five to eight years) spends just over two years in extra añejo tequila casks that previously held Reserva de la Familia by Jose Cuervo (which we’re quite familiar with). It’s a nice mix of two worlds, with plenty of caramel, malt and wood spice enhanced by some earthy undertones.
This Minneapolis distillery is all about sustainability — they claim to have the largest solar array of any craft distillery in the country. And now, they’re making whiskey from a perennial grain. Kernza (which also makes for a nice beer) does not need to be replanted every year, which improves soil health and water quality. Their 100% Kernza Perennial Grain Whiskey (90 proof) is nutty, fruity and full of baking spices.
The second release under the luxury whiskey brand’s Malted Barley Series banner is an 11-year-old American single malt, made using imported Irish malts, a California ale yeast and bottled at 110-proof (55% ABV). Wrapped in a bespoke Italian sheepskin label, the latest Wolves release is dark amber in color with notes of buttery popcorn, apple, caramel and dried apricots.
This Portland single malt distillery just introduced its first-ever luxury whiskey release. Milestone ($250) celebrates the producer’s 20th anniversary and utilizes a 21-barrel solera system and some of the distillery’s “oldest and most coveted whiskeys,” many with unique wine and wood finishes. The company will draw off a small fraction of this whiskey for each annual release, replacing it with something unique from their barrel house. The inaugural release (43% ABV) features notes of honey, citrus, malt, cocoa, butterscotch and dark fruits.
Maybe technically not a whiskey, but this bottle is certainly interesting and whiskey adjacent. A new flagship release from the Vermont blender — headed up by former WhistlePig bigwig Raj Bhakta — this interesting blend is 60% 2018 rye, 30% XO Calvados (average age about 30 years) and 10% Armagnac vintages (1928, 1941, 1962, 1973 and 1996). Priced at $69 — knowing Bhakta, this was intentional — this goes beyond a typical rye and gets into notes of orange peel, caramel, fruity custard, vanilla, red fruit and even some subtle tropical notes.
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