Finding the best whiskey for a cocktail doesn’t have to be limited to bourbon or scotch. While both of those whiskeys make fine cocktail bases, there’s a whole world of whiskey out there that suits cocktail mixing. So let’s expand our horizons and name some of the best whiskeys — that aren’t bourbon or scotch — for mixing up a great cocktail.

Below, I’m naming 20 whiskeys that I love to use in cocktails. These whiskeys range from American single malts to plain old American whiskeys to classic rye whiskeys that slap. The throughline is that all of these whiskeys will make you a mean cocktail.

While I’ve often leaned toward only naming bourbons and Scotch whiskies that are available at any common liquor store, this time I’m casting a much wider net. These whiskeys might be a little harder to find, a little more niche, and a lot more expensive (only some…) than your average bourbon or scotch. But I’ll tell you this — they’ll make a mean whiskey sour, old fashioned, or Manhattan.

The idea that you can’t even add ice to elite whiskey much less make cocktails with them is made up by people who don’t know what they’re talking about. There’s no argument to be had here. Every single whiskey maker says the same thing, “Drink it how you like it.” So while there are some elite and very expensive whiskeys on this list, don’t for a second think that you can’t make a killer cocktail with them.

Not only can you, but the people who made that whiskey would love it if you did. Remember, the best ingredients yield the best results. Let’s dive in!

Also Read: The Top Five Cocktail Recipes of the Last Six Months

20. Four Walls The Better Brown Made with a Blend of Irish Whiskeys and American Rye Whiskeys

Four Walls The Better Brown
Four Walls The Better Brown

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $29

The Whiskey:

The team from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Charlie Day, Glenn Howerton, and Rob McElhenny) have released their first permanent mainstream whiskey. This new release is an Irish American whiskey made with American rye and Irish whiskey (a blend of malt and grain whiskeys). The whiskey is batched in the U.S. and proofed down to a very dive-bar-friendly 80-proof.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Hints of dried chilis, old leather, vanilla-laced honey, apple tarts, and caramel candy mingle on the nose.

Palate: The Irishness arrives in spades on the palate with bright apple orchard vibes next to flora honey, a hint of yellow straw, light nutshells, and a moment of sultanas just kissed with caramel.

Finish: The apple swings back around on the finish with a sense of fresh apple cider just kissed with cinnamon and caramel before fading toward leathery malt.

How To Use It:

This is a well whiskey through and through. That means you’ll want to use this for shots and highballs. If using it in a highball, I recommend a Four Walls and Ginger as a good jumping-off point. The honey and apple with a hint of spice work well with ginger ale.

From there, I’d use this in classic old-school highballs with good sparkling water and a nice dried fruit or floral garnish.

19. Mellow Corn Kentucky Straight Corn Whiskey Bottled In Bond

Mellow Corn
Heaven Hill

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $19

The Whiskey:

This whiskey has a hardcore fan base. The actual whiskey in the bottle is made from a mash bill of 81% corn and aged for at least four years (in a once-used bourbon barrel) before bottled-in-bond proofing to 100-proof and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: There’s a clear sense of corn husks and snickerdoodles on the nose with a hint of vanilla oak.

Palate: The palate is almost creamy (kind of like corn chowder) with a good dose of winter spice, rum raisin, and dry firewood.

Finish: The end leans into the snickerdoodle and rum raisin with a hint of funkiness and warmth.

How To Use It:

This is another great candidate for highballs with sparkling water. In this case, I’d garnish this with a dry corn husk (seriously). You can get them at any Mexican supermarket. Next, try this with Coke. It works almost weirdly well.

Next, make a basic old fashioned with this one. It’ll be earthy and sweet and the orange and cherry helps tie everything together nicely.

18. Michter’s US*1 Small Batch Unblended American Whiskey

Michter's Unblended American Whiskey

ABV: 41.7%

Average Price: $48

The Whiskey:

Generally speaking, when you see a whiskey labeled as “blended whiskey” or just “bourbon” (instead of “straight bourbon”), it’s a blend of whiskey with neutral grain spirits to help keep costs down and profits high. This expression is labeled as “Unblended,” specifically because it’s made with whiskey only (no grain spirits added). The whiskey in these bottles was aged in barrels that were “whiskey-soaked.” Once the whiskey is just right, it’s then blended and small-batch bottled.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Orchard fruits, butterscotch candies, and vanilla cake greet you on the nose with a hint of wooden spice.

Palate: That fruit becomes more dried and almost salted on the palate while bourbon vanilla and mild caramel sweetness mingle with cinnamon and nutmeg.

Finish: The finish is pretty short and sweet with a red berry vibe next to some thin apple cider.

How To Use It:

Here’s the secret to this whiskey — keep a bottle in the freezer. This is approved by Michter’s Master of Maturation who does this for making cocktails at home. This whiskey takes on a phenomenal texture from the freezer that helps make silky smooth old fashioneds or highballs (just make sure to use very good sparkling water with a 50/50 ratio).

This isn’t going to be a “wow” but it’ll be a very good base for casual mixing.

17. Jim Beam Rye Pre-Prohibition Style

Jim Beam

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $20

The Whiskey:

This rye was designed by Master Distiller Fred Noe as a return to the bigger and bolder days of rye before Prohibition defanged a lot of the industry and its recipes. The juice is a throwback recipe to the 1920s version of Beam’s rye, giving the whiskey a fruitier edge in the process. Beyond that, the recipe and details on aging are whispered but not really known.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Tart berries and sourdough apple fritters dusted with cinnamon sugar mingle on the nose with a sense of candied cherry and lemon pepper.

Palate: The palate opens with a lush vanilla base next to butter toffee before a hint of rye bread crust leads to a whisper of black pepper and caraway with a twinge or star anise.

Finish: The end pops with sweet floral honey next to salted black licorice and mint chocolate chip with a hint of dry sage and plum pudding.

How To Use It:

This is a great whiskey to practice with thanks to that dirt-cheap price tag. What makes it “great” is that you’re getting a legitimately deep and nuanced Kentucky rye profile full of buttery vanilla, soft winter spices, and dark fruits.

All of that means that you can use this to really refine your stirring skills with old fashioneds and Manhattans. Again, this isn’t going to “wow” per se but it will give you a quality cocktail that’s a delight to drink while you’re dialing in those skills.

16. Bernheim Original Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey Barrel Proof Batch: B923

Bernheim Original Wheat Whiskey Barrel Proof
Heaven Hill

ABV: 60.2%

Average Price: $64

The Whiskey:

The second edition of Bernheim Wheat Whiskey Barrel Proof is here. This edition is made with a mash bill of 51% winter wheat, 37% corn, and 12% malted barley. That whiskey was then left to age for seven to nine years before prime barrels were chosen for batching. Once batched, the whiskey went into the bottle 100% as-is at cask strength.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Fresh loaves of whole grain bread vibe with rich oaky winter pieces on the nose before soft vanilla cake, hints of dry grass, old leather tobacco pouches, and a touch of dried orange round things out.

Palate: Rich buttery toffee drives the palate toward clove-laced honey next to dry orange oils, salted caramel, rum raisin, and hints of cedar bark braided with smudging sage and dry tobacco.

Finish: Piney honey and salted caramel attach to the tobacco as dry straw and back porch wicker lead to a sense of dry winter spice and soft caramel candy corn.

How To Use It:

This whiskey is so much grassier than even a wheated bourbon or a rye. Those notes really play well with herb-forward cocktails like juleps or seasonal smashes. Think of an orange rosemary whiskey smash or a spicy mint julep and you’ll be set.

15. Keeper’s Heart Whiskey Irish + American Single Barrel Finished in Maple Syrup Barrels

Keeper's Heart Whiskey Irish + American Single Barrel Finished in Maple Syrup Barrels

ABV: 55%

Average Price: $59

The Whiskey:

This new release from Keeper’s Heart up in Minnesota blends Irish whiskey with American Rye. Once batched, that whiskey was re-barreled into a maple syrup barrel for another rest. Once that barrel hit the right notes, it was bottled as-is with a hint of proofing water.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Rich vanilla custard with a hint of cotton candy drives the nose toward pecan waffles with salted butter and real maple syrup next to hints of apple fritters, nutty fruit cake, and a touch of leathery tobacco.

Palate: The taste opens with creme brûlée swimming in more maple syrup as deep and rich vanilla tobacco leads to softer notes of almond, malted chocolate, and a hint of winter spice mixes.

Finish: The vanilla creaminess and spices meld on the finish with a touch of spiced warm apple cider, soft almond, and mincemeat pies all grounded by rich and real maple syrup sweetness that nearly takes on a rock candy vibe.

How To Use It:

This is a lovely sipping whiskey with a very creamy sweet base. That makes this a great candidate for old fashioneds where you can dial back the extra simple syrup. I’d also argue that you can make an old fashioned with this without extra syrup but that might be a little too far if you have a sweet tooth.

Still, if you’re looking for a deeply maple-seasoned winter old fashioned or breakfast-forward hot toddy, spiked apple cider, or creamy nog, this whiskey will shine.

14. Whiskey War Double Double A Blend of Straight Whiskeys

Whiskey War Double Double Oaked
Whiskey War

ABV: 56.75%

Average Price: $99

The Whiskey:

This Ohio whiskey is hewn from a rye-heavy mash bill. That spicy juice is then rested in new American oak for a spell before being vatted and re-barreled into another brand-new American oak barrel, all adding up to five years of mellowing. Those barrels are then batched and bottled as-is.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: There’s a sweet sense of salted caramel on the nose that gives way to dried chili pepper, old wet leather sheets, pink peppercorns, and a hint of burnt orange rinds over cider-soaked cinnamon bark and raw waffle batter with a whisper of pecan.

Palate: The palate hits that burnt orange and caramel note harder as minor keys of winter spice, fruit cake, and rum raisin darken the taste.

Finish: The end has a sense of pitchy firewood and sweet oak next to smudging sage and spearmint-chocolate tobacco just dusted with lemon pepper from the 90s.

How To Use It:

This is a bold and multi-award-winning whiskey. There’s a spicy mintiness at play that works wonders in a julep or smash application. Have fun with it and make it seasonal. Think berries and mint in the summer and roasting herbs and orange in the winter. Add in some chocolate and chili bitters to get a mole old fashioned vibe going. This is a fun whiskey to really lean into extra flavor notes and playfulness.

13. Still Austin Cask Strength Rye Whiskey

Still Austin Cask Strength Rye Whiskey
Still Austin

ABV: 58%

Average Price: $65

The Whiskey:

This new release from Still Austin uses 100% Texas rye in its mash bill. That whiskey is then proofed and filled into barrels and left to mellow with water getting added over the years (so that water evaporates before the whiskey does). Finally, a few barrels are selected and bottled 100% as-is at cask strength.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: The nose opens with pure nostalgia — summertime back porch livin’ — with soft cherry pie, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, ginger rock candy, and a note of apricot jam over buttermilk biscuits.

Palate: A note of coffee cake opens the palate toward marzipan cut with pear brandy and a light sense of lemon cake drizzled with mint frosting.

Finish: The mint gets spice on the finish with a sense of candied ginger and brown winter spices before soft salted buttercream and cherries soaked in brandy round things out.

How To Use It:

This feels like the perfect back porch pour on either a summer day or around a campfire as the snow falls. The candied ginger and marzipan vibes feel like Christmas in a glass if you go in that direction with a cocktail. Similarly, you can lean into the pear, apricot, and cherries with that woody spice to give a bright summery smash or sour cocktail more vigor.

12. Jack Daniel’s Bonded Rye Tennessee Rye Whiskey

Jack Daniel's Bonded Rye

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $33

The Whiskey:

The base of this new Bonded whiskey is Jack’s signature rye whiskey with a mash bill of 70% rye, 18% corn, and 12% malted barley fermented with their own yeast and lactobacillus. The juice is then twice distilled via column stills and then slowly filtered through 10 feet of sugar maple charcoal. That filtered whiskey then rests in a barrel for four long years before batching, proofing, and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Ripe peaches, bananas, and Granny Smith apples lead on the nose with a light sense of molasses winter ginger cakes, a touch of cinnamon bark, and light hints of dry sweetgrass that’s just smoldering.

Palate: The taste really leans into the toffee with a good dose of banana creaminess before veering toward roasting herbs and more sweetgrass braided with cedar bark, pipe tobacco, and smudging sage.

Finish: The end warms up just enough with banana bread cut with dried ancho chili layered into light dark chocolate tobacco leaves and more of that sweetgrass.

How To Use It:

This is made for mixing. Literally. Like the Beam above, this is also cheap enough to practice with while giving you a really good cocktail at the end. The chili spice and bright fruit mean that you can use this in whiskey sours and smashes but also old fashioneds and even simple Manhattans.

I also really like this in a straightforward highball with good mineral water and a twist of orange or cinnamon stick. And if you want to go full highball, make a Horse’s Neck with a few dashes of bitters, good ginger ale, and a twist of lemon.

11. Pursuit United Blended Straight Rye Whiskeys Finished in Sherry French Revere Oak

Pursuit United Rye
Pursuit Spirits

ABV: 54%

Average Price: $74

The Whiskey:

This new rye from the team over at Bourbon Pursuit is a masterful blend. The whiskey is hewn from Bardstown Bourbon Company’s 95/5 Kentucky rye batched with two Sagamore Spirit ryes — one a 95/5 and one 52/43/5 rye/corn/malted barley. Those whiskeys are batched and re-barreled into a French sherry revere cask for a final rest before batching, proofing, and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: There’s a sense of dark fruits — black cherry, dates, rum raisin — on the nose that leads to soft and sweet oak next to worn leather, mulled wine, and brandy-soaked fig cut with nutmeg and clove.

Palate: The taste is more on the woody side of the spice with a clear sense of old-school mulled wine with sweet vanilla and star anise over orange rinds and raisins with a slight chili warmth underneath.

Finish: The chili warmth drives the finish toward a soft red-wine-soaked oak that’s spiced with orchard barks and fruits next to vanilla/cherry tobacco just kissed with dark chocolate.

How To Use It:

Like all good whiskeys that are built as a sipper, this slays as a cocktail base. The deep dark fruit and spice notes mean that this will make a beautiful Manhattan or seasonal variation on that theme. It also rules in a 50/50 cognac/whiskey Sazerac. But where this whiskey really pops is in a boulevardier. The whole profile vibes wonderfully with a soft sweet vermouth and the boldness of the Campari.

10. Virginia Distillery Co. American Single Malt Whisky Courage & Conviction Double Cask Reserve

Virginia Distillery Co. American Single Malt Whisky Courage & Conviction Double Cask Reserve
Virginia Distillery Co.

ABV: 48%

Average Price: $71

The Whiskey:

This new fall release from Virginia Distillery Co. features double asking. That means that the whiskey was aged a minimum of five years in first-fill bourbon casks and European red wine Cuvée casks before slow batching with a touch of water.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: The nose opens with deep honey and candied orange next to apricot jam over scones with a hint of malted spice and brandy-soaked oak staves.

Palate: Black Forest cake by way of honey-pear-floral malted crackers drives the palate toward winter spice barks, soft milk chocolate sauce, and a dash of lemon malt meringue.

Finish: Fresh gingerbread and soft oak round out the finish with a nice dose of spice, chocolate, and malt.

How To Use It:

This is arguably one of the best single malts that’s not made in Scotland right now. Take that to heart and make a killer highball with this one. Use really good sparkling water and garnish with botanicals or dry florals and you’ll be in great hands.

After that, try this in a penicillin to lean into the Scotch whisky vibes with an American twist. It also makes a really good old fashioned, but that almost feels like a given at this point.

9. Nelson Bros. Whiskey Straight Rye Whiskey

Nelson Bros. Whiskey Straight Rye Whiskey
Nelson Bros. Whiskey

ABV: 46.25%

Average Price: $44

The Whiskey:

Nelson Bros. Whiskey Rye is a marriage of Kentucky and Tennessee in a bottle. The whiskey was made in Kentucky and then sent to Tennessee where it finished its maturation before batching, proofing, and bottling in Nashville.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Dark and sharp cloves floating in piney honey open the nose toward hints of star anise, allspice, coriander, and red chili … you know what? It’s five-spice with a touch of fresh mint and dried apricot.

Palate: That apricot stars dried on the palate as freshly ground nutmeg over a spiced creamy nog that circles back around to syrupy mint with a sense of old leather boots and cedar bark.

Finish: That leather and cedar bark braids with menthol tobacco on the finish as almonds and dark and sharp cinnamon leads to another whisper of five spice on the very end.

How To Use It:

Those big eggnog notes are obvious. Use this accordingly in a good nog or dessert cocktail. This will stand up to the heavy notes and accentuate them.

If you want to go lighter, I’d highly recommend making a Manhattan with this too. You don’t have to go overboard — just a good well-balanced Manhattan with a nice French sweet vermouth (that’s lighter) works wonders.

8. The Beverly Reserve Barrel Strength American Whiskey

The Beverly Reserve Barrel Strength
The Beverly Reserve

ABV: 58%

Average Price: $79

The Whiskey:

This new release from The Beverly is a limited edition small batch at barrel strength. The blend in the bottle is 60% straight bourbon from Iowa and 40% Indiana rye. Those barrels were batched and bottled at Cedar Ridge in Iown for The Beverly, yielding only 550 bottles.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Pecan waffles with plenty of butter, vanilla, and caramel open the nose toward maple syrup, cinnamon sticks, red chili pepper, and toasted marshmallows.

Palate: The pecans take on a cookie vibe on the palate as brown butter and rum raisin mingle with cinnamon syrup cut with orange and a whisper of chocolate.

Finish: That cinnamon and orange get buttery and lush with a sense of nut cake covered in caramel drizzle with a flake of salt and tobacco before a warming sense of chili arrives on the very end.

How To Use It:

This is a really good winter seasonal cocktail base. Gingerbread old fashioneds, orange pekoe Manhattans, and Amaretto whiskey sours all come to mind when sipping this bold whiskey.

7. Starlight Distillery Old Rickhouse Huber’s Bottled-In-Bond Indiana Straight Rye Whiskey

Starlight Distillery Old Rickhouse Huber's Bottled-in-Bond Indiana Straight Rye Whiskey
Starlight Distillery

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $60

The Whiskey:

This rye from craft distiller Starlight Distillery — part of the Huber Farm and Winery in Southern Indiana — is all about that final blend. The small batch is made from a group of five-year-old barrels and just proofed to highlight the whiskey in those barrels.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: The whiskey opens with a nose full of white pepper countered by stewed apples with a twinge of sour cherry tossed in smoked sea salt before a hint of creamy espresso and summer herb gardens arrive.

Palate: The palate has a creaminess that leans toward mocha lattes with a tobacco spiciness, cedar bark, and more of that stewed orchard fruit with an underlying white pepper spiciness.

Finish: The end leans into that white pepper with plenty of warm apple cider spiked with clove and cinnamon over vanilla cake cut with salted toffee and creamy espresso just kissed with chocolate tobacco.

How To Use It:

This whiskey is actually on my everyday bar right now. I mix with it, well, every day. That makes this probably the best all-around whiskey to have on hand for mixing cocktails and highballs. It’s versatile enough to kind of work with everything. That’s no small feat. Think of it as a table whiskey that’ll never let you down.

6. Knob Creek Small Batch Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey Aged 7 Years

Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey Aged 7 Years
Beam Suntory

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $35

The Whiskey:

This new 2023 rye version from Beam marks the age-statement return of their iconic Knob Creek Rye. The whiskey in this case was aged seven years before batching, slight proofing, and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Salted caramel sweetness with a vanilla underbelly drives the nose toward rye bread crusts, a hint of dried savory herbs, apple blossoms, and a whisper of soft leather gardening gloves.

Palate: The spiciness arrives after vanilla cream and salted caramel with a dose of freshly cracked red peppercorns, dried red chili, and sharp winter brown spices next to a spiced oak.

Finish: The sweetness and spiciness coalesce on the finish with a deep sense of fruit orchards full of fall leaves and apple bark.

How To Use It:

Okay, this is where we get into the heavy hitters that truly elevate any cocktail. I like using this for a bold and spiced whiskey sour or a perfectly balanced Manhattan. You can also get a killer seasonal old fashioned with this at the cocktail bar at the James B. Beam Distillery cocktail bar. And while that’s always fun, keep it simple at home and go with stone-cold classics with stirring and shaking.

5. High West A Midwinter Night’s Dram: A Blend of Straight Rye Whiskeys Finished in Port Barrels Limited Engagement Act 11 Scene 1

High West A Midwinter Night's Dram
High West Distillery

ABV: 49.3%

Average Price: $124

The Whiskey:

This whiskey starts off as High West’s famed Rendezvous Rye, which is a blend of MGP’s 95 percent rye (with five percent malted barley) batched with High West’s own 80/20 rye/malted rye juice. The difference here is that once that juice is vatted it is then re-barreled in both tawny and ruby port barrels for a final maturation stretch. Those barrels are then small batch blended and proofed down every so slightly before bottling.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: This feels like classic rye on the nose with brandied cherries dipped in woody winter spices next to burnt orange, cinnamon, and clove-spiked plum jam, and a hint of sour red wine by way of a mulled wine barrel.

Palate: The palate has a nutty base with smooth vanilla next to spiced Christmas cakes full of candied and dried fruits and citrus rinds, plenty of nuts, dark spices, plenty of brown butter, and rummy molasses.

Finish: The end hints at that mulled wine oak barrel next to rich toffee sweetness and a whisper of old leather, spiced tobacco, and lush vanilla cake.

How To Use It:

This is probably getting into the very false idea that “you can’t use my special expensive whiskey in a cocktail” territory. That’s, frankly, bullshit thinking. Great whiskey makes great cocktails. In this case, try this is a classic old fashioned. It’ll blow you away.

4. Shenk’s Homestead Kentucky Sour Mash Whiskey Small Batch 2023 Release

Shenk's Homestead Sour Mash

ABV: 45.6%

Average Price: $249

The Whiskey:

This whiskey is made with a fair amount of rye whiskey over a bit of bourbon in a traditional sour mash style. 2023’s release varied with the use of malted rye in the mash bill, adding an extra layer of malty depth. The whiskey was then aged in specially made toasted French oak that spent 24 months seasoning in France before they were made with barrels that spent 18 months air-drying in Kentucky before they were coppered. The barrels were all batched and bottled with just a touch of Kentucky limestone water.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Soft boot leather, dried and candied orange, spiced Christmas cake, fresh vanilla beans, sultanas, and a hint of fresh firewood round out the nose with a hint of almost sweet oak char and simmering molasses cut with almond kissed with dark citrus oils.

Palate: The palate has a nice sweet spiciness like a box of Red Hots next to allspice, clove, and orange with rummy raisins, nutmeg-heavy eggnog, and a whisper of oily espresso bean sneaking in late before a bold yet measured winter spice bark sharpness arrives.

Finish: The end marries the orange oils to soft cedar notes with a woody spiciness next to soft notes of sweet cinnamon, stewed plums, minced meat pies, and brandied cherries layered with chewy tobacco leaves over a lush and creamy finish.

How To Use It:

This is “wow” territory when it comes to mixing up a whiskey-forward cocktail. I’d lean more towards stirrers for this one — so Manhattans, old fashioneds, and Sazeracs. That said, this will also make a delectable whiskey sour with a ton of froth (you have to use an egg white) where the whiskey layers into every aspect of the drink. It’s beautiful.

3. Bardstown Bourbon Company Collaborative Series Amaro Nonino A Blend of Straight Bourbon & Rye Whiskey Finished in Amara Nonino Barrels

Bardstown Bourbon Company Collaborative Series Amaro Nonino
Bardstown Bourbon Company

ABV: 55.5%

Average Price: $160

The Whiskey:

This brand-new release from Bardstown Bourbon Company combines Kentucky and Indiana with Italian amaro. The whiskey is a blend of 12-year-old Kentucky bourbon with two Indiana rye whiskeys. Once batched, that whiskey was re-filled in Amaro Nonino Quintessentia Riserva barrels for a long 17-month rest before batching, a touch of proofing, and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: The nose on this is like a walk through a candy store with rich caramel chews mingling with vanilla cakes, chocolate chews, brandied cherries covered in dark chocolate before dark stewed apples and pears cut with bright orange zest arrive with a whisper of … pumpkin pie.

Palate: Roasting herbs pop on the palate with hints of absinth and caraway-encrusted rye bread before pancake syrup leads back to caramel and honey sweetness with a hint of vanilla pound cake.

Finish: The end circles back around to the botanicals and herbs with a deep sense of oily rosemary thyme next to star anise, allspice, and clove over this whisper of dried lavender and chamomile.

How To Use It:

I feel like the good folks at Bardstown Bourbon Company set out to out Sazerac Sazerac and make the perfect whiskey for Sazeracs. This accents that cocktail perfectly by dialing up every flavor note to MAX volume while adding a subtlety that’s extraordinarily supple.

2. Sazerac Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey 18 Years Old (BTAC 2023)

Sazerac Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey 18 Years Old
Sazerac Company

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $2,198

The Whiskey:

This year’s Sazerac is a “collection of rye whiskey barrels” that were filled in both the fall of 2004 and the spring of 2005, making this an 18-year-old rye with a touch of 19-year-old juice. Those barrels spent all of those years on the Buffalo Trace campus in warehouses K, L, and M before batching, proofing, and bottling otherwise as-is.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Leathery spice barks draw you in on the nose with a deep sense of rye bread crusted with aniseed, clove-studded oranges, and a hint of sweet pear.

Palate: Classic notes of dark winter spice mingle with black pepper, cumin, and chili pepper powder on the palate as candied BBQ pork and new leather lead to a vanilla-laden mid-palate with a soft oakiness.

Finish: That soft oakiness leads to a light and fresh honey sweetness with a light sense of pine and cinnamon bark dipped in hot apple cider with a hint of barrelhouse lurking behind it all.

How To Use It:

If you want an insane Sazerac — a next-level, drink to write home about — this is the play. But this really shines as a base for a thick and almost creamy Manhattan made with a vicousy Italian sweet vermouth. It’ll be a wintry and holiday-vibed Manhattan with oomph.

1. Michter’s US*1 Single Barrel Straight Rye Whiskey 10 Years Old


ABV: 46.4%

Average Price: $419

The Whiskey:

2023’s Michter’s 10-Year Rye release was an instant classic. The whiskey is made from a corn-rich rye whiskey mash bill with a good dose of barley in there. The absolute best barrels are chosen — with some up to 15 years old — for this release. Then each of those barrels is individually bottled as-is with a hint of proofing water.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Rich and lush toffee combines with soft marzipan on the nose as a dash of freshly cracked black pepper leads to cinnamon-laced apple cider and cherry-soaked cedar bark.

Palate: The palate is part Red Hot and part zesty orange marmalade with creamy vanilla pudding, sweet and spicy dried chili peppers with a hint of smoke and woodiness, and this fleeting whisper of celery salt.

Finish: The end dries out the almond with a vanilla cream tobacco, soft and sweet cedar, and dark chocolate orange vibe all balanced to damn near perfection.

How To Use It:

This is my go-to Manhattan whiskey for when I really want to blow someone’s socks off. If you come to my house on Thanksgiving, I’ll be making $50 Manhattans with this bottle because, well, it’s just the best.

To return to the points I made in the opening of this list, I told the Master Distiller and Master of Maturation at Michter’s about my $70 Manhattans. They loved it so much that they put it on the secret menu at the Fort Nelson Bar in Lousiville at their Whiskey Row distillery. If that’s not proof positive that this is the ultimate Manhattan whiskey, I don’t what is.

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