My “Top 5” Summer Whiskeys
Summer has drawn to an end. The kiddos are back in school, and the temperature slowly simmers down from a swelter to a crisp breeze. And, as the seasons change, so do the favorite whiskeys of our ever-evolving palates.
It is always a pleasure knowing that there’s more bottles to try than I’ll ever have. I love the variety that the whiskey scene has fostered. And, with each season, there are five new favorites I’d never tried before. Some for their intense approach to classic notes, some for their delightful uniqueness, each with a well-earned spot on my radar.
1. Rabbit Hole Race King
Rabbit Hole is one of those brands that constantly shows up dressed to impress. All the times we’ve been there, everything feels like it gets the love and care of a craft distillery scaled-up to monolithic proportions.
Sitting along an unassuming road in Louisville, Rabbit Hole offers four whiskey expressions: Rye, Four-Grain Bourbon, High-Rye Bourbon, and a Sherry Cask Finished Bourbon. Each pass the test with distinction.
However, it’s their Founder’s Collection series that seems to take this to a whole new level.
Rabbit Hole’s new release is a Five-Grain Chocolate-Malt Bourbon. If you’re wondering why five. It’s because the standard four-grain varietals didn’t pack enough flavor complexity for this behemoth.
The flavors are out of this world.
On the nose you get a distinctive bitter-sweet cocoa, torched orange oil, and burnt sugar. The palate is lush and pronounced, with notes of black cherry, allspice, cinnamon, and hazelnut milk chocolate.
It’s a unique and delicious pour that is unlike anything we’ve ever tried.
2. Blue Run Golden Rye
Blue Run has taken the whiskey scene by storm with its delicious bottles of bourbon. The butterfly has become a symbol to search for by bourbon hunters around the country.
But, they have now released a rye whiskey that is a mellow and delicious pour. It combines the earthiness and rye spice profile with an almost wheated mellow mouthfeel. It’s full of flavor, easy to drink, and simply delicious.
The blue run pour will set you back $99 MSRP, but prices have been climbing north as the bottle’s popularity skyrockets. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, but it means if you see it for a good price, it may be worth snagging the bottle if you’re a fan of rye whiskies.
The opening nose is a bit vegetal with some nice floral sweetness before opening into a slight toasted rye and oak note. The palate is baking spice, toasted rye bread, vanilla, burnt sugar, and a light honey-baked plum note right on the back.
Overall, we were excited to run into a bottle on our last trip, and it didn’t disappoint.
3. Michter’s Barrel Strength Rye
Michter’s is one of those companies with a really solid lineup.
Their standard release bottles are good pours, decently priced, and not difficult to find. And, that’s getting more and more rare in the crazy whirlwind that is the whiskey scene today.
However, their special releases are a whole other ballgame.
10 year, 20 year, toasted, Shenk’s, Barrel Strength, the list goes on for the allocated and difficult-to-find releases that slowly drip out of Michter’s Distillery. And, they are great.
But, one of these we hadn’t tried before the summer was the Barrel Strength Rye. And, oh my, is it good.
The barrel strength rye is purportedly the base for their toasted rye, and you can definitely draw similarities between the two. But, we’re pleased to report this rye stands on its own legs. No need to draw comparisons.
The nose is sweeter than the palate, with notes of deep caramel, honeysuckle, and rye spice. The palate is more balanced with familiar notes of baking spice, baked rye, charred oak, and a botanical note that adds a nice depth to the dram.
4. Nashville Barrel Company – Nashville Barrel #282
Nashville Barrel Company has been enjoying the spotlight for a bit. And, well deserved I might add.
They’ve taken a very unique approach to the whiskey industry. One that has been met with some raised eyebrows. But, more so than surprised looks, they’re met with people who are ferociously collecting their vastly growing single barrel releases.
Their program focuses on releasing unique and delicious single barrels, each are unique and some, such as the Lucy release, have garnered an almost cult-like following in the community.
However, we found barrel #282 to be a delicious and well balanced entry that we keep going back to (good thing we bought a few).
The nose is sweet and full of honey, caramel, baked vanilla, and burnt sugar.
Though, the palate balances out. The honey, caramel, and burnt sugar are strong, but they are also met with nice baking spice, black tea, toasted oak, and cinnamon noes.
It’s also surprisingly not an incredibly hot drink, even though it clocks-in at over 117 proof.
5. Bluegrass Blue Corn Limited Edition Bottled-In-Bond
Bluegrass is a distillery in the unassuming outskirts of Lexington. They’re getting ready to make a large transition to a new and awesome location that’ll give them more room to expand and grow.
But, don’t let their size fool you. Their pours are already big on flavor.
They have new single barrel releases that are in the works, like toasted oak and re-finished barrel double-casking, but their regular lineup is great as well.
However, their blue corn bottled-in-bond release really took us for a loop.
It’s the same mash bill as their traditional release. It’s batched the same way. But, the flavors couldn’t be more different. It’s insane how one small tweak like the type of corn you use can so drastically alter the finished product.
I mean, we know that’s why single barrels are so popular (which you can find us discussing in another article by clicking here), but it’s still sometimes shocking when you actually set two bottles side-by-side and blind taste them.
The nose is full of a toasted corn-meal, charred oak, baking spice, and lilac tea.
The palate is baked corn muffin, caramel popcorn, charred oak, smoked black currants, baking spice, and cinnamon.
It’s a really unique pour!
Greg Sinadinos started his spirits journey writing a whiskey periodical for Fine Tobacco NYC Magazine. He began answering review requests under a social media page he named “Whiskey Culture,” which quickly merged with Greg’s passion for connecting with others and his interest in history.
Today, Greg travels the country not just looking for great whiskey, but also exploring the history and individuals that the whiskey community is founded upon. He has authored “Whiskey History From Around The World” and is the host of “The Rickhouse” web series.