In this year’s Best of the Best, we honour the brands and people behind the most covetable products. Here are four American spirits to add to your collection
Michter’s 10 Year Kentucky Straight Rye
Last year, Michter’s chose patience over profit, deciding that its annual 10-year-old bourbon release needed more time in the barrel. Whisky fans were disappointed, but the appearance of this delicious single-barrel rye (US$185) assuaged some of the acrimony. Master distiller Dan McKee and master of maturation Andrea Wilson comprise the team that ensures the whisky is up to snuff in these carefully selected releases. They put quite a bit of corn and barley in the mash bill, which gives the spirit sweet vanilla and caramel notes that are undercut by a bit of spice. The palate is tempered by a decade in a barrel, making this a decadent and lovely sipping rye that stands head and shoulders above the rest.
Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Unforgotten
Cask finishing has become extremely popular in the world of American whisky, but sometimes it’s done with a heavy hand. That’s not the case with the new Master’s Keep release (US$200) from Wild Turkey, a blend of 13-year-old bourbon and eight- to nine-year-old rye whisky that was finished in used rye casks. This secondary maturation is fairly unusual, but the results are subtly impressive: a 105-proof whisky with a consistent (but never aggressive) level of spice on the palate, complemented by classic bourbon notes of vanilla, oak and molasses.
This whisky (US$90) from Louisville’s Barrell Craft Spirits could easily fall under the cask- finished umbrella, but it also happens to be the best barrel-proof whisky of the year. It’s a blend of bourbon from Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee that was finished individually in three types of barrels: Japanese mizunara, French oak and toasted American oak. It’s bottled at a relatively strong 114.44 proof, but the soft bursts of flavour belie this hefty ABV, a testament to the blending- and-finishing process. Here’s a barrel-proof whisky for people who think they don’t like the strong stuff. Add water or ice if you prefer, and don’t be surprised to taste the palate open with a range of spice and fruit notes.
Remus Gatsby Reserve
MGP Ingredients’ factory-like Indiana distillery churns out whisky for a variety of partners sold under a variety of brand names. But the facility, which recently rebranded as Ross & Squibb, appears to have saved some of the best bourbon for its own trademarks, as proved by this fantastic Remus Gatsby Reserve release (US$200). This is an elevated version of the company’s core George Remus bourbon, aged for a full 15 years and bottled at cask strength of 97.8 proof, giving it a rich and complex palate exploding with notes of caramel, chocolate, stone fruit and vanilla custard. Ageing bourbon for such an extended period can often result in an overly oaky liquid, but this iteration was the best bourbon of the year in an extremely crowded field.