Nearly a third of the bottles on our list of the Top 100 Spirits of 2020 are whiskies. It may seem a lot, but it only scratches the surface of this category of smells.
If this list doesn’t lack bourbons, don’t worry, we also have some of the best racing whiskies and whiskies of 2020. If you’re not sure what you’re looking for, our list offers an incredible range of prices and styles, from light and fruity to high octane caramel and spices.
Best Whiskies to find
A Midwinter Nights Dram Act 7 Scene 6; $100, 96 points. This polite annual outing is always a treat, and the seventh outing in this series is no different. Concentrated caramel with hints of oak and red fruits seduces the nose and palate. The addition of water makes it easier to bite the alcohol and brings out more fruit and herbs. A blend of rye whiskey made in French oak port barrels and bottled by High West. -Cara Newman
Compass Box Great King Street Artist Whiskey Blend; $37, 96 points. This whisky is part of the Great King Street series and is a blend of sweet whisky. The first feather-light sips open with vanilla pudding, fruit from the orchard and coconut pudding, then turn into a seductive red berry finish. A little water reveals more red fruit and notes of caramel, oak and spices. -K.N.
Old Fitzgerald bottle in Bond Spring 2019 Edition; $130, 96 points. The third release in the series is a 100-copy bourbon. The aromas of the toast are reminiscent of croissant and dulce de leche. The mouth opens on spices, cayenne pepper and cinnamon. The addition of water releases the promised flavours of vanilla and coconut, ending with just the right amount of assertive herbs. Bottled in a decorative decanter made of liquid from barrels produced in September 2005 and bottled in February 2019. -K.N.
Four beautiful selection of roses; $60, 95 points. Created by master distiller Brent Elliott to celebrate the grand opening of the distillery, this bourbon is the first permanent addition to the portfolio since 2006. It’s a concentrated sip, even, with lots of warm, soft vanilla, sugar biscuits and a buttery brioche that ends with an extra long, dry aftertaste, accentuated by many baker’s herbs. It’s a real lipstick. -K.N.
Mark Wood Finishing Series 2019 Limited Release RC6; $60, 95 points. New from Maker’s Mark. This limited edition is finished with fresh oak rods for nine weeks. The result is a rich and delicious butterscotch flavour and a spicy and robust palate. The addition of water brings more caramel to the fore, while each sip still ends with a boiling Cayenne herb and a hint of sherry. -K.N.
Apple Jack Barrel Ready Rye Ragtime; $45, 95 points. This unusual limited edition starts with two year old rye and then matures for 90 days in barrels that used to contain Black Dirt Distillery apple brandy. The end result is delicious and surprisingly delicate, with fleeting notes of caramel and baked apple ending with a long nutmeg, a hint of cinnamon and lemon peel. Sip or stir. -K.N.
Bardstown Bourbon Company Discovery Series No. 1; 130, 94 points. A masterful mix, 11-year-old Kentucky bourbon forms the basis and accentuates 13-year-old and under 10- and 5-year-old bourbons. It features a maple-cinnamon pecan pie with a long aftertaste refreshing with a bite of lemon. Market launch in June 2019. -K.N.
Catoctin Creek Rye Whiskey Roundstone Edition; $51, 94 points. This single barrel of rye is suitable for tasting or for some desserts. Look for the strong flavors of sugar cookies and the richness of candy in your mouth: Vanilla, cocoa, hazelnut, maple sugar and mocha. The moderately long aftertaste is characterised by lemon peel and nutmeg. -K.N.
Duncan Taylor mixed political whiskey; $20, 94 points. So named because this golden whiskey was originally only available from The Politician bar on the remote island of Eriskay, Scotland, and has a sweet, slightly floral taste. Notes of almond butter, pear and white flowers lead to a heated and roasted coconut finish, with lots of tingling white pepper. -K.N.
Hotel Tango Kentucky Straight Bourbon; $35, 94 points. An easy drink, a versatile crowd pleaser, suitable for a wide range of cocktails. The lively and fresh fragrance is balanced between oak and vanilla. The palate is soft and light from the first sip, with lots of concentrated vanilla bean. The addition of water adds a little more spice to the aftertaste, as does a volatile note of caramel. At the age of two. -K.N.
Exit Kentucky King 2019; 250, 94 points. The second edition of Kentucky Kings is a 15-year-old single-fold building voucher. A delicious oak note in the fragrance mixes with caramel; the overall effect is warm and inviting. The velvety and heavy palate explodes with the progression of coffee, caramel, cocoa and cloves, to end long and dry with a final loop of orange peel. A beautiful, contemplative sip, on the rocks. Limited edition, 2,100 bottles produced. -K.N.
Murray McDavid Òrdha measures a 13-year-old scotch; $50, 94 points. Òrdha measles means golden fruit in Gaelic. Look for notes of polished gold and melted flavours reminiscent of a caramel sprinkled baked apple. The velvety palate opens with a hint of caramel combined with fiery cloves, cinnamon and black pepper, while salty caramel flows into the aftertaste. This limited edition bottling is made with a blend of whisky from the five Scottish whisky producing regions. -K.N.
Bourbon Small Batch Trail Wilderness Trail; $56, 94 points. This High Grill Bourbon opens with a sweet, caramelised fragrance with a hint of alcohol on the nose. A subtle palate picks up these notes and adds water to tame the heat while retaining the caramel, roasted notes and a hint of butterscotch. Everything is dried with herbs and citrus seeds. -K.N.
Bourbon in triple barrel Milam and Vert; 43, 93 points. As the name Triple Cask suggests, this newcomer is a blend of three pure bourbon whiskies: a two-year Texas bourbon, a three- to four-year Tennessee whiskey and a ten to eleven-year Tennessee whiskey. It offers complex flavors of orange peel and vanilla and a silky palate that opens to vanilla and transforms into a long finish of maple sugar, complemented by a spicy sparkle of cinnamon. -K.N.
New South Renaissance Bourbon Whiskey 100% Jimmy Red Corn; 97 points. Made of 100% Jimmy Red corn, once threatened with extinction, and bottled in sturdy barrels. The first few sips are like beer, with a hint of pickle. The addition of water softens it a little, revealing dried figs, oloroso sherry and notes of dark chocolate and spices. The overall effect is dark and captivating. -K.N.
Rye whiskey straight from Henry’s Old Clay; $20, 93 points. Distilled in Indiana and matured for about 2 years, they have a honey hue and oak aroma. The palate opens large and fat, with a lot of vanilla sweetness. The addition of water is a decisive factor: It intensifies in caramel and vanilla, with a heavier, buttered texture and a spicy cinnamon finish. Big and tasty. -K.N.
Peerless Rye Whiskey; $90, 93 points. This four year old rye is a monster, but can be tamed with a little water. The intense caramel aroma indicates what is to come. With just enough water, this deliciously tasting and down to earth soft whisky offers dense and delicious maple sugars, creamy caramel, red fruit and a warmth of candied ginger. -K.N.
Strength of the barrel of Penelope’s bourbon; 55, 93 points. Distilled in Indiana, bottled in Kentucky and named after the founder’s daughter, it offers a bold, concentrated caramel tone mixed with notes of plum leather. A beautiful tingle of sweet herbs – cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, cayenne – lingers at the end. Minimum age 24 months. -K.N.
Rod & Hammer’s Distiller’s Reserve Rye Whiskey; $59, 93 points. Aromas of vanilla, caramel, oak and orange peel fill the glass. The palate is silky, with just a hint of maple sweetness. The addition of water brings the cocoa bean to the fore. The drying and tampering ends with cloves and a hint of cayenne pepper. At the age of 12 months and cut with the Pacific Ocean with purified seawater. -K.N.
Farm whistle rye harvest 003; $73, 93 points. This rye is complex and pleasing to the palate, especially when added to a dose of water. Each sip opens with honey, coconut and white chocolate and ends with delicate candied ginger, citric acid and white pepper. Made of 100% rye whiskey, this is the third release of Farmstock, with the goal to finally go home with whiskey. Currently, about half of the liquid in the bottle comes from three year old Vermont rye, supplemented by six year old Canadian rye and a small amount of ten year old Canadian rye. -K.N.
The Bourbon Force of Cask Envie d’Ange ended in the barrels of the port; 200, 92 points. Concentrated caramel and maple flavours are enriched with more than a hint of red fruit. The palate is quite intense, as one would expect from a bottle in the barrel that from the beginning contained many tempting red fruits, plus spicy fireworks. The addition of water gives a fluffy texture and a chocolaty touch, while the fruit and spices are added. -K.N.
Tennessee Straight Jack Daniel’s Rye Whiskey; 27, 92 points. Made from 70% rye, with a moderately high content, this whisky is lively and spicy, with lots of flavor. It also has a lot of alcohol in the nose and palate. So mix it into cocktails or add water to soften the buzz and add notes of vanilla, lemon peel and herbs to the dry finish. -K.N.
Single Cask Kindred Straight Rye Whiskey; 39, 92 points. This stuffed rye has a boiled apple and brown sugar taste. The taste is lively and light. The honey and caramel notes are scented with cloves and cinnamon punch. -K.N.
Legendary bourbon; 36, 92 points. This bourbon was developed in collaboration with Fred Noe, a distiller in Kentucky, and Shinji Fukoyo, Head Blender in Suntory Japan, and partly finished in wine and sherry barrels. The result is a rich caramel nose and a taste that reads almost like dulce de leche with a beautiful silky texture. Nuts of dried fruit and herbs can be found at the end of the mouth. -K.N.
Scotch with monkey shoulders. $33, 92 points. This blended whisky opens with a fresh and lively apple aroma. In the mouth, the richness of the caramel gives way to light notes of smoke and juicy citrus fruit. This versatile casting can be enjoyed on its own or is recommended for mixing. -K.N.
Old Forester Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey; $25, 92 points. Look for a bright topaz color and concentrated sweet vanilla bean and caramel aromas. The palate tends towards dark flavours: Caramel, mocha, espresso and cloves, with a dry finish. The addition of water gives a hint of dark chocolate. -K.N.
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Rebel Rye Whiskey; $41, 92 points. Vanilla and oak, pleasant and integrated, seduce the nose. The palate is light and pleasantly spicy and opens with almonds and citrus fruits. The addition of water brightens the grapefruit peels, ginger and cinnamon sparks and brings them out. All in all, a lean and tasty rye, ready to be mixed. -K.N.
Huber’s Single Barrel Bottled-in-Bond; $60, 91 points. The particularly dark hue of this bourbon matches the deep butterscotch taste. Pronounced coffee notes linger from the start until a surprisingly long finish, while the middle is filled with butterscotch, fudge, red berries and peppercorns. The barrel of sherry is ready. -K.N.
Oppidan Smoke & Sea; $40, 91 points. A call for Scotch whiskey. This bourbon is finished in Scottish Island treated barrels for an intriguing and earthy effect. The peaty aroma comes from the first whiff, while the smoky and slightly salty palate is infused with notes of espresso and bell. -K.N.
Scotch Whisky Islay Fog 8 years old; $26, 90 points. Made in Laphroaig, the Islay distillery known for the production of ultra peaty single malts, this blended Scotch whisky offers a more moderate approach to peat. Look for a lush, peaty fragrance and a soft, pleasant veil in the mouth, blended with almond sweetness. -K.N.
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