It has already been one stellar year for whiskey (and whisky) lovers. A batch of excellent bottles, from stunning single malt Scotches to otherworldly bourbons and ryes, some very expensive, others surprisingly affordable — are sitting on shelves across the country. They’re (high) proof that there are always exciting new permutations of old favorites to sip. Without further ado, here’s our list of the best whiskey of 2019.
Four Roses Small Batch Select Bourbon
Spicy and substantial, Four Roses Small Batch Select is a welcome addition to the brand’s core line up. Bottled at 104 proof, Small Batch Select is a fruit forward whiskey with notes of chocolate and nuts balancing a substantial spice. One thing’s for certain: this will sell quickly. So keep your eyes peeled and stock up.
Wild Turkey Cornerstone Rye
The fourth installment of the Wild Turkey’s Master’s Keep series is a high-end bottle for serious rye fans. Master distiller Eddie Russel selected barrels between nine and eleven years old to create the magical Cornerstone Rye. It’s a thick luxurious mouthful with sumptuous notes of vanilla, apple, honey, pepper and oak with a sweet, spicy finish sits there until the next sip. Limited to around 16,000 bottles.
Michter’s 10 Year Rye
The release of Michter’s 10 Year Rye (as well as their bourbon) is always cause to celebrate. It’s always a special bottle we are keen to add to the bar and this year’s edition is particularly delightful, not only because it’s delicious but it’s also the first release newly-minted Master Distiller Dan McKee. Supple vanilla rolls around the palate, while caramel and touch of salt play off the peppery rye spice.
Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban 14 Year
This year, Glenmorangie updated its venerable Quinta Ruban expression. Previously a 12 year finished in port wine casks, the new iteration receives two additional years of aging. Those additional 730 days give the whisky added complexity and deeper, distinct notes of orange, chocolate and apple that compliment the juicy berry and rich nuttiness imparted by the the port finish.
Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2019
Technically, Old Forester Birthday Bourbon doesn’t release until September 2, in commemoration of Brown-Forman founder George Garvin Brown’s birthday. But we want to remind you to start making nice with your liquor store owner now on the off chance you can charm your way into getting them to set one aside for you. We tasted a small, early sample, and the 2019 Birthday is has notes of dark fruit and maple as well as seasoned oak and some mint and pepper. It’s a hell of a bottle.
Basil Hayden Caribbean Reserve Rye
No, it’s not entirely whiskey, but the Basil Hayden Caribbean Reserve Rye is none the less delicious. A blend of Kentucky rye and Canadian rye, plus a touch of black strap Caribbean rum. The result is a mouthwatering glass of hooch. That small portion of rum goes a long way, giving the juice strong notes of burnt sugar and rum spice, that plays nicely with the rye’s vanilla and oak.
Bruichladdich Octomore 09.3
For the love of peat, this smokey treat was made using barley from one field on one Islay farm. Aging in a combination of ex-bourbon and French wine barrels gives it a luscious, buttery and savory notes as well as a hints of tree fruits, tea, heather, and a whiff of sea salt. It’s a special occasion bottle for sure,
Booker’s “Teresa’s Batch”
We’ve never met a Booker’s we didn’t like, but Teresa’s Batch is one we just love. Named for a distillery worker who has had hand in cranking out Beam whiskey for more than 30 years, it’s a rich mouthful. Vanilla and wood lead your mouth to a a touch of brown sugar and a nice dose of spice. It is bottled a hair above 125 proof, so we’d recommend adding a touch of water.
For the 10th installment of their Private Edition series, Glenmorangie distilled their spirit from a local barley and a wild yeast that grows naturally on the grains. Allta is a delectably fruity whisky with a zing vividly imparted from the natural yeast. Through the lingering taste of baking bread, flavors of apples, citrus, chocolate, and heather give the whisky wonderful depth.
Every year, the Islay Festival of Malt and Music concludes with Ardbeg Day, when the distillery celebrates with a specially curated release. This year’s whiskey is called Drum, and pays tribute to carnival with a rum finish applied to Ardbeg’s typical bourbon cask aged whisky. Smoke grabs your palate’s attention and follows it up with a rum sweetness and notes of tropical fruits and vanilla. It’s a delicious whisky for any celebration.
Old Forester Rye
This new rye from Old Forester is, at $26, an remarkable value, whether you’re sipping or mixing drinks. It’s a wonderfully flavorful whiskey with peppery spice for days, notes of vanilla, buttered rye toast, and a hint of molasses.
High West Bourye
Another annual we eagerly anticipate, 2019’s limited release of the High West’s Borrye is phenomenal. A blend of bourbon and rye whiskies, all over 10 years old, mouthwatering notes of cherries, spice, nuts and pepper come together for a well-rounded and elegantly balanced sipper.
While most new bourbons are chalked full of big, bold in-your-face flavors, Legent is a little different. It skews toward subtlety, which is a bit refreshing. A collaboration between Fred Noe, master distiller for Jim Beam, and Shine Fukuyo, chief blender for Suntory, Legent uses a mix of bourbons finished in wine and sherry casks as well as a portion of traditional Kentucky straight bourbon, giving the juice beautiful notes of caramel, vanilla and char plus dried fruit, spice and long shimmering finish.
Ardbeg Traigh Bhan 19
Despite the fact that Ardbeg Traigh Bhan 19 (named after a local Islay beach) is a new addition to the brand’s core range, it’s a staggeringly hard bottle to find at your local shop, since it will also be an annual release. But if you happen across one of this year’s batch, we highly recommend you grab it and don’t let go until it’s safely stashed on your bar. Through the signature Ardbeg smoke, a radiant note of juicy pineapple arrests your palate in a way that will alter the way you think about whisky.
Little Book Chapter 3 The Road Home
The third installment of Freddie Noe’s passion project, Little Book Chapter 3 ‘The Road Home” is a melange of Knob Creek, Baker’s, Booker’s, and Basil Hayden’s, all at barrel strength and most with some extra aging. But this whiskey is definitely superior to the sum of its parts. It’s an intense but deeply satisfying glass, sweet and peppery, rich with rye spice, creamy vanilla, and toasted oak.
The Glenlivet 14 Cognac Cask Selection
As you’d expect from the name Glenlivet 14 Cognac Cask Selection gets a finish in ex-cognac barrels. What you might not anticipate is how great that pairing would play together. Notes of candied orange, honey, raisins and juicy pears make it a sweet but not cloying dram. This one should land a permanent spot on your bar for after dinner drinking.
Glenfiddich Grand Cru 23 Years Old
Honestly, we met the news of a Champagne-finished single malt with a near-audible eye roll, but after drinking a fair bit we are happy to report that our skepticism was assuaged. The Champange notes are playful and satisfying. It’s a beautifully layered dram, with buttery vanilla, bright pear, and white grape notes, perfect for a celebratory toast.
BenRiach is a brand that flies a little under most folks radar’s. With any luck, that will change with help from bottlings like their 25 year old. It’s rich, robust and intensely fruity with a punch of malt and a peppery finish that tickles your tongue even after you’ve poured another.
GlenDronach Cask Strength Batch 8
One of our favorite malt whisky makers, GlenDronach recently dropped their annual cask strength release, Batch 8 and it’s sublime. Some juice does a 10 year stint in Pedro Ximénez, while some does its bit Oloroso sherry casks. When the pairing escapes the wood, the resulting whisky is righteous. It’s thick in the mouth with stellar notes of chocolate, cherry, dates and coffee that play off a deep spice tobacco. It’s phenomenally balanced.