“Top whiskey lists” are, by nature, a slippery slope. Each and every person’s tastes are subjective. A whiskey one person likes may be completely unpalatable to another. So, these definitive lists that come out at the end of every year should be taken worth a grain of salt.
“Professional” whiskey tasters are just like everyone else, with different tastebuds, different preferences, and their own inherent bias (even if it’s completely unintentional). I’m positive I have my own. For example, I love wheated whiskeys, bourbons that really embody a single profile well, and whiskeys that have a strong backbone.
Some others don’t like these.
But, in an effort to give you insight into why I selected each of these whiskeys, I’m going to give a little synopsis of what I found exemplary about them. That way, you can see if any of my descriptions or either draw you into trying the pour, or you can identify something you may not enjoy before going about the arduous task of locating some of these.
Either way, I hope you find a golden nugget here in the list or hear something that piques your interest.
Thank you all for all the love and support you’ve shown the Whiskey Culture team and I this year. And, I hope you have a wonderful new year filled with delicious pours, wonderful memories, and new friends.
1) Rabbit Hole – Raceking
We tried Rabbit Hole’s newest founder’s collection series, Raceking, while recording a podcast. Adam is an incredible individual full of love and passion, and he was kind enough to share a preview with us.
Raceking is a five-grain double chocolate malted bourbon bottled at cask strength.
We love how incredibly balanced the flavors are. Milk chocolate and butterscotch. Wood and spice. Tobacco and vanilla.
It earned its spot at the top of our list due to its great balance of complexity, approachability, flavor, and smoothness.
2) Parker’s Heritage – 11 Year Wheat Heavy Char
If you read my intro to this article, this should be no surprise to you.
The 11 years of age behind this wheated whiskey help develop some delicious vanilla and oak characteristics. These balance nicely with the toasted and earthy notes of the wheat.
The heavy char adds a delicious dimension to it that gives the pour a deep character alongside more traditionally mellow flavors.
3) Buffalo Trace – Eagle Rare 17
I would be surprised if there’s a list that this bottle doesn’t show up on.
It’s just everything you love about bourbon amped up to 11. It’s smooth as the day is long, wears the age well without being too oaked, and is sweeter than you might expect.
It’s earned its clout and deserves the number three spot.
4) Drumshanbo – Single Pot Still
This is just a great flavor bomb of a whiskey.
Single pot still has been a relatively underrepresented category until recently. However, the single pot still market has seen a recent surge.
This is a delicious malty profile full of deep notes of milk chocolate.
It drinks smooth and delicious and can be found in most places at an incredibly affordable price making it an amazing bottle to pick up.
5) The Macallan – The Harmony Collection Rich Cocao
This takes everything you love about Macallan and adds another delicious dimension to it.
They partnered with Jordi Roca of three Michelin star restaurant El Celler de Can Roca to create this tasty and unique expression.
Delicious notes of dark chocolate and honey balance out the smoke and make it a perfect after-dinner dessert drink. It pairs incredibly well with chocolate anything.
I just haven’t experienced anything like it before.
6) Old Forester – Birthday Bourbon 2021
And, to no one’s surprise, Old Forester’s 2021 Birthday Bourbon made the list.
The pour has a beautiful bouquet of ripe red fruits, vanilla, torched brown sugar, and oak.
It’s a nice, fruity pour that carries a well-balanced nose and palate that is just delicious.
7) Russell’s Reserve – 13 Year
This was just a damn good pour. Period.
I love the balance of the oak, baking spice, leather, tobacco, torched sugar, vanilla, and pepper. It’s one of those rare pours that has a solid oak core with a surrounding cast of flavors that are prominent enough not to be overwhelmed.
It’s difficult to state how great this pour is for lovers of heavily oaked bourbons.
8) Blue Run – High Rye Bourbon
This is one of those whiskeys that surprised us.
It’s a completely different beast than the critically acclaimed bourbon releases with double-digit age statements. But, I’m a big fan of rye whiskeys, and it has a great backbone of classic rye flavors.
Cinnamon stick, rye spice, toasty oak, burnt caramel, and leather give it a savory and spiced profile that I really enjoyed.
This is probably the most controversial pick on this list, but I don’t care. I liked it a lot and I’ll stand behind that.
9) Jack Daniels – Coy Hill High Proof
Jack Daniels has been knocking it out of the park with their special release series.
Each one has redefined how many look at this historic brand. No longer just something to mix with coke, they have been expanding their lines to include some rather shockingly delicious pours that stand up to other premium releases.
This one, in particular, is a complete flavor bomb.
Seared sugar and oak give it a strong core on which the pour is built and, while it’s hot, it’s also surprisingly approachable.
10) Remus – Special Reserve
This was a surprise for me the first time I tried it. The flavor was just outstanding and the price wasn’t outrageous.
I love the notes of toffee. It’s a flavor I particularly enjoy in bourbons. There’s also a distinct note of milk chocolate and toasted walnut that give it a delicious earthy and sweet balance.
This is one of those pours that I wasn’t really sure what to expect because no one had told me about it yet. And, my good friend Wally that gave me the pour had me fly in blind.
I immediately impulse-purchased a bottle, which is something I usually never do.