How To Age Your Own Whiskey
So clearly, there are a number of ways to age your own whiskey. If youve read up to this point, you probably have an idea of the basic components that typically impact whiskey flavors and especially because you arent likely going to be selling this whiskey, there really isnt any limit to what you can do to it.
That said, there are a couple common paths that you can take, and some choices that will have a bigger impact on the final output.
The Glenfiddich 21 Year Old
The Glenfiddich distillery is synonymous with Speyside whisky, and this expression is ripe with the brands signature cereal grain and subtle oak notes. Ah, but malt master Brian Kinsman adds a sublime touch, finishing the 21 Year Old in Caribbean rum casks that rouse exotic fruit flavors such as mango, lime, and banana. Opens soft on the palate and then busts a move toward brisk and peppery, with smoke and ginger on a very long and warming finish.
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Considerations For Adding Flavors
Another option that you have is the ability to add flavors beyond just the charred oak.
One option is to smoke your barrel with some local wood before adding the whiskey. This is something that Ranger Creek in San Antonio does with some of their whiskey, adding a mesquite wood smoke to the barrels that then seeps into the whiskey and makes for some amazing flavors.
Another option is to add flavors to the whiskey by maceration. Basically you grab a bunch of fruit and/or spices, put them in a big tea bag, and make a whiskey tea by letting the components steep in the whiskey. You can speed up the process by adding some heat, or just let it naturally leech out into the spirit. This is actually the exact way that some gin is made, as well as spiced rum.
Adding artificial flavors is possible as well but allowing the real fruits and spices to interact with the whiskey will typically get the best results.
$: Jameson Gold Reserve
Proof:80Approx. cost: $84
If Irish whiskey gets a bad rap, Jameson takes the brunt of it. Unfortunately, its still seen as the stereotypical shot you take after your team loses a close game of kickball. In actuality, the Dublin legend has some terrific offerings, and the Gold Reserve is cause for celebration. Of course, you should sip it neatdont you dare shoot it. If youd rather not spend your whiskey money on something peaty, Gold is about the best you can do. The spirits massive honey notes and rich complexity will certainly please youespecially if you think Irish whiskey is only reserved for punishment.
Others: Bowmore 18, Laphroaig 18
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No9 Iowa Whiskey Review
Launched in August 2019 by heavy metal band Slipknot, No.9 whiskey was the groups first exploration into the world of celebrity-endorsed spirits and another addition to the ever-growing list of celebrity-owned spirits brands. So what sets this whiskey apart, you might wonder?
For a start, every drop is sourced from the family run farm-to-table Cedar Ridge craft distillery, operated by the Quint family and located around 120 miles away from the bands hometown of Des Moines Iowa. This means every kernel of grain that has gone into crafting this whiskey first came from the familys farm in Winthrop, Iowa before being milled, mashed, distilled and aged in Swisher to produce a through and through Iowa-made whiskey.
Second, Slipknot Percussionist Shawn Clown Crahan was personally involved in blending both expressions of No. 9 whiskey, and this is something you dont catch a lot of other celebrities with spirits brands doing. Additionally, the blends carry no designation of bourbon or rye whiskey because Shawn didnt just blend a few corn whiskey barrels together to make a straight-shooting corn whiskey, but instead went outside the box to make a blend of straight rye and straight bourbon whiskies that were mashed, fermented, distilled and aged at the Cedar Ridge Distillery.
$: Redbreast 12 Year Old
Spirit: Irish whiskeyProof: 80Approx. cost: $65
Irish whiskey gets a bad rap for whatever reason. Bourbon is red hot, rye is hip, Scotch is classy, and Canadian whiskey often comes in a cool purple satchel at the very least. But no one is impressed when you have bottles of Irish whiskey displayed in your pad. Yet, you should have some displayed because, dollar-for-dollar, Irish whiskey is the best value out there. My favorite offerings are from Redbreast in County Cork. Its 12 Year Old is a single pot-still whiskey thats as good as many $80-$120 single malts.
Others: The Balvenie Caribbean Cask, Highland Park 15
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Best Under $: Bowmore Darkest 15 Year Old
Region: Islay| ABV: 43% | Tasting Notes: Toffee, Smoke, Brine, Dried fruits
Bringing together the best of Scotlands opposing traditions, this cherrywood-colored scotch from Bowmore, Islays oldest distillery, is made with heavily peated malt from island-grown barley. Its aged primarily in bourbon barrels, but its final three years are spent in oloroso casks, where the scotch takes on its sherrylike layers.
I love that it captures both, says Tardie. Its the perfect balance: salty but sweet. Toffee, dried fruit and swarthy smoke are finished with ocean-water salinity for what Tardie calls a multidimensional treat. Im not big on dessert, but if I were to have a dessert, this would be it,” he says.
Region: Islay | ABV: 43% | Tasting Notes: Smoke, Brine, Umami, Dried fruit
Four Roses Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
A fairly recent redesign saw Four Roses entry-level whiskey lose its signature yellow label, but the bourbon inside remains as high-standard as ever. While its cheap enough to use liberally in cocktails, Four Roses holds its own when sipped neat. Its flavor profile is delicate, but its not lacking in depth. Aromas of toasted nuts and dried fruits are followed by smoky oak flavors, all balanced out by sweet caramel notes. This is a dependable, easy-drinking bourbon that tastes considerably more expensive than its price tag. Average price: $19.
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The Highest Rated Cheap Whiskey
Bucket list booze is great, but some of us enjoy drinking on a near-daily basis. We need cheap whiskey in order to do that. Just because you cant splash the cash doesnt mean you cant drink well. Some of the best tasting whiskey can be had for a reasonable sum. Heres a look at some of the top rated whiskies that are easily found and can be yours for less than $30.
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Best For N/a Negroni: Amass Riverine
Courtesy of Amazon
Amass dubs their nonalcoholic spirit as a social ritual product, making it ideal for shaking and stirring in standard cocktails.
This non-alc option is complex and heavy on the herbaceous, eucalyptus notes , making it unique to use in cocktailstry it as an earthy alternative to a vermouth or amaro.
Its best served with tonic or soda and a swipe of citrus to balance out the sumac, sorrel, and lemon peel in the botanical mix. The lovely woodsy quality from the sumac and thyme also lends itself well to Negronis, along with Mules and Spritzes, and balances out the sweetness of more saccharine cocktails.
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Best Under $: Pendleton Directors Reserve Whisky
Courtesy of Drizly
It’s unusual to find a Canadian whisky priced over $100, but luxury bottles are out there. One worth tasting is Pendleton Directors Reserve , a 20-year-old blend thats smooth, spicy, and very enjoyable.
Pendleton is one of those cross-border whiskies that brings Canadian whisky to the United States to be blended. In this case, the brand was launched by Hood River Distillers in Oregon, and it has since been purchased by Proximo Spirits. That can make this whiskys classification confusing, but Pendleton is a Canadian whisky, and Directors Reserve is one of the best in the category.
Enjoy this whisky straight. A splash of water or an ice cube opens up its flavors, allowing you to fully enjoy its sweet caramel and vanilla flavors accented with a great spice and nut finish. The creamy mouthfeel enriches the experience and ensures youll be back for another sip.
Seedlip Is The Winner
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When it comes to nonalcoholic spirits, the drinks industry has come a long way in the last ten years. Back then, non-imbibers were relegated to sodas, juices, and sparkling waters. In 2014 Seedlip began offering up a spirit-adjacent alternative, and now we have a full rainbow of booze-free options, from rums and whiskeys to tequilas and aperitivos.
But not all are created equally. The best nonalcoholic spirits have good balance, that can stand up to being mixed, and that deliver more than just a flavored water experience, describes Lynnette Marrero, the co-founder of Speed Rack and bar director of Llama Inn and Llama San. I think of it like food. You have to hit more receptors when alcohol is not included.
Seedlip is our top pick because it has a neutral profile and mixes well for any non-alcoholic cocktail.
Here are the best nonalcoholic spirits that hit those notes.
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$: Colonel Eh Taylor Jr Small Batch
Spirit: BourbonProof: 100Approx. cost: $39
This is starting to look like a sponsored post from Buffalo Trace, but what can I saythe brand owns some great properties. Case in point: the E.H. Taylor line, the oldest of which are some of the finest whiskeys in the business in my book. You cant go wrong with the Single Barrel and Barrel Proof offerings, both settling in the $70-$90 range if you can find them. But at half the price, you can easily add this bottled-in-bond offering to your liquor cabinet. Quite a bit of boozy heat comes off this beaut, but its flavor profile fights through with a nice caramel-apple explosion. Packaged in a classy tube, this is the first whiskey on the list that actually screams Luxury!
Others: George Dickel Barrel Select, High West Son of Bourye, Michters US*1 Small Batch Bourbon
Best Irish: West Cork 8
courtesy of LiquorBarn.com
Region: Ireland | ABV: 40% | Tasting Notes: Dried apples, Honey, Baking spices
While some American consumers regrettably limit their consumption of Irish whiskey to the occasional shot purchased by a casual acquaintance at a sports bar, there’s also a vibrant and growing list of Irish craft whiskies that deserve our attention. West Cork produces a gorgeous single-malt that sees Irish barley and local spring water going into a hand-built copper pot still, with the resulting distillate matured for eight years in first-fill, flame-charred bourbon barrelsleading to far more depth and character than fans of other whiskies may typically associate with the category. The well-balanced palate features pretty notes of dried apple and honey segueing to a baking-spice finish, and all at an approachable 80 proof. You won’t want to shoot this one.
Region: Ontario, Canada | ABV: 43% | Tasting Notes: Vanilla, Raisin, Coffee
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Your Frequent Whisky Questions Answered
Is Whisky Gluten Free?
Yes, all distilled whiskies are entirely gluten free due in large part to the effect of the distillation process.
Is Whisky Good for You?
Drinking alcohol in excess is never a good idea and will always have serious health consequences. However, when it comes to moderate use whisky can help reduce the risk of blood clots and provide the body with important antioxidants.
Does Whisky Go Bad?
No, as long as the whisky has been unopened and the cork is still in tact will last indefinitely, however one a bottle has been opened it will only maintain its quality for an additional year or two.
Is Whisky Vegan?
Yes, Whisky is definitely vegan and requires no animal products for its distillation. The same can be said for almost every type of hard liquor so long as it has no added flavouring.
Where did Whisky Originate?
There is no official answer to where whisky originated but the general consensus is that whisky originated from the Scottish highlands although it is unclear how the first distillers came to learn the process.
Is Aging Someone Elses Whiskey Really Making Your Own Whiskey
The dirty secret in many of the whiskey bottles you find on the shelf today is that, for the majority of them, they are mass produced. The whiskey comes from a large commercial distilling operation, who provide it to other brands and companies who bottle it themselves and sell it on to you.
In some cases, that feels like a bait-and-switch operation. Companies like Templeton Rye have actually been sued for trying to market a mass produced whiskey as their own locally distilled craft spirit. And especially for larger companies like USDP, where they have a number of smaller brands with purposefully obscured provenance, it makes you question the quality of the spirit inside.
That said, historically speaking, whiskey has always been a product where the original distiller might not be as important as the aging process. Especially in the Scottish whisky tradition, blended scotch whisky was actually the accepted norm for centuries. Individual merchants would buy whiskey from multiple distilleries, blend it together to form a unique flavor profile, and often finish the whiskey themselves in different flavored casks to produce a new and unique product that was more than the sum of its parts. Thats how we got brands like Johnnie Walker, Famous Grouse, and Cutty Sark.
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Best Peated Scotch: Bowmore 12 Year Old
Region: Islay, Scotland| ABV: 40% | Tasting Notes: Peat, Chocolate, Cherry
While the Scottish island of Islay is known for producing whiskys featuring heavy smoke flavors . Bowmore is only mildly peated compared to some other Islay bottlingsbut the smoke character is nevertheless distinctly present. That said, the peatiness is balanced out in this 12-year-old whisky by a rich array of fruit and spice flavors, complimented by notes of honey and vanilla. The distillery is the first recorded to be in operation on Islay, and this long, storied history is present in this approachable yet pleasantly smoky single malt.
Best New: Torabhaig 2017 Legacy Series
Courtesy of Total Wine
Region: Isle of Skye | ABV: 46% | Tasting Notes: Salt, Honey, Smoke, Bitter herbs
Want to get in on the ground floor with a new distillery? Only the second-ever licensed facility on the Isle of Skye, Torabhaig opened in 2017, and its first release, this single malt blended from 100 select barrels, is young but delightful. The heavy peat character is tempered by a brisk sweetness from the pure island spring water used to make it and the Kentucky bourbon barrels used to age it. The honeyed vanilla char of the wood mingles with isle seagrass and iodine for a whisky made for sipping or stirring into drinks.
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Best Wine Barrel Aged: Starward Nova Single Malt
Courtesy of thewhiskeyexchange.com
Region: Australia | ABV: 41% | Tasting Notes: Caramel, Plum, Burnt orange
If youve never tried an Australian whisky, youre not alone. Australia is a relative newcomer to the craft spirits scene, but the absence of any long-standing distilling traditions in that country has led to some innovative approaches to establishing a regional style. For Starward, the first Aussie distiller to achieve widespread distribution in the US, that innovation has taken the form of a unique aging process: when it comes time to put their single-malt whisky into barrel, they skip the ex-bourbon or Sherry casks, and instead source ex-shiraz and cabernet barrels from local wineries.
The result is an 82-proof whisky with a fruitier, jammier nose than anything found in Scotland . Playful notes of plum and cherry segue into a malty, toasty, and tannic palate that might just be the perfect stepping-stone for that wine drinker who thinks they dont like the hard stuff.
Region: Kentucky | ABV: Varies per batch | Tasting Notes: Brown sugar, Cocoa, Baking spices
Best Under $: Buffalo Trace Bourbon
Region: Kentucky | ABV: 45% | Tasting Notes: Vanilla, Caramel, Sweet corn
Buffalo Traces eponymous bourbon really stands out from the pack in terms of flavor and price. If youre looking for a dependable bourbon for less than $50, give this one a try. Its unpretentious and flavorful, with an ABV that makes it stand up to being used in any cocktail. There are so many good bourbons from the distillery that are expensive and hard to find, and thats great for collectors. But for the average drinker, stick with this workhorse that is vibrant and bold.
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