American whiskey is exciting and it gets better all the time. From brands that have been around for decades to the many craft distilleries firing up stills across the country, there is a great selection of whiskey being produced in the U.S.
American whiskey styles typically stick with bourbon, rye whiskey, and blends, though there are some experimental whiskeys worth checking out. Some of these recommendations are old favorites, a few are new finds, and others are limited releases to look forward to each year. Whether you're going to sip them straight or want to mix up great whiskey cocktails, all are sure to tantalize your taste buds and offer a glimpse into what's happening in the American whiskey scene.
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A 2019 release, Legent Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey is a fascinating bottle that has quickly turned heads. It's a collaboration between a famous bourbon distiller and an expert Japanese whisky blender and the first of its kind to come out of the Beam Suntory company. Legent starts out like most bourbons from Jim Beam. Using the expertise of Fred Noe, the Beam family's seventh-generation distiller, portions of the whiskey are aged in used wine and sherry barrels. It is then artfully blended by Shinji Fukuyo, the House of Suntory's Chief Blender. The result is a 47 percent ABV (94 proof) bourbon with distinct notes of sweet wine. Reasonably priced at $35 a bottle, there's no reason you shouldn't give this one a taste.
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Bulleit Bourbon is called "Frontier Whiskey." At 17 percent, there is more rye in this bottle than most bourbons would dare to include. This gives it a really great spice that rivals a straight rye whiskey. The distillery's portfolio is small, but impressive. If you're the type of drinker who enjoys a really bold bourbon, the Bulleit Barrel Strength is a whiskey to pick up. Bottled straight from the barrel at a range of 120 to 125 proof (60 to 62.5 percent ABV) depending on the batch, it will not go unnoticed. It's also a great value ($30) for such a robust whiskey.
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Out of Bend, Oregon, Crater Lake Spirits offers a range of well-crafted liquors. Their gin and vodkas are exceptional and, on the whiskey front, the focus is entirely on American rye and distilled no other grains. It's bottled at a strong 48 percent ABV (96 proof), which perfectly amplifies that spicy rye finish. This whiskey can stand up in any cocktail, even those with other big flavors like the Sazerac. At $39, it's a great pick when you want to treat yourself to something special without going overboard.
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Once a year, the distillers at Heaven Hill release a special bourbon that will impress anyone. In 2019, they broke with tradition and released the first rye whiskey in the Parker's Heritage Collection. The series pays tribute to Parker Beam, one of the great distillers in American whiskey history. Each limited edition bottling is unique and among the best whiskey you will taste. They're often bottled around 122 proof and sell in the $120 range (a portion goes to charity). If you're seeking a sipping whiskey to look forward to each autumn, this is a great choice.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
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Another Kentucky distillery also offers a brilliant new bourbon each year. Woodford Reserve's Master's Collection pays homage to the distillery's traditional techniques though each bottle has a new spin. Released toward the end of fall, whiskey fans get a unique taste experience to each year. The 2018 edition, for instance, added oat to the grains, something that's typically only found in pot still Irish whiskey. Previous editions included cherry wood-smoked malted barley, white corn, and maple wood aging. These whiskeys are worth every penny of the $99 price.
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Taking advantage of the state's corn, Iowa has a renowned distillery that makes some fantastic distilled spirits. In fact, Cedar Ridge was named the American Distilling Institute's 2017 Distillery of the Year and the bourbon repeatedly receives top honors at national spirit competitions. Their Iowa Bourbon Whiskey is the flagship of their portfolio. Made of 75 percent local corn and just enough rye for extra flavor, it is super smooth at 40 percent ABV (80 proof). Selling for around $39, it's a once-hidden gem of the Midwest that's getting the recognition it deserves.
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Tucson, Arizona offers another unexpectedly fun find. Hamilton Distillers makes nothing but whiskey and they prefer to smoke their barley malt with mesquite. Essentially, it's scotch with a Southwestern twist and it is wonderful! The distillery's portfolio is filled with great whiskeys to explore and they all fall into the $50 range. For an upgrade, pick up a bottle of the Distiller's Cut. It's bottled quarterly at cask strength (120 proof) and you will not get the same taste twice.
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Michter's legacy reaches back to America's first whiskey distillery in Pennsylvania. Operating in Kentucky today, this is a brand you'll want to rediscover. They are small-batch whiskeys; the flagships sport a US1 label and their limited editions are spectacular. While you may not be able to swing $800 for the 25-Year-Old Single Barrel Bourbon, the 10-Year-Old offers high-end taste at a more affordable price. Selling for $120, it's filled with the rich flavors expected from well-aged whiskey.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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Dry Fly Distilling is another treasure from the West Coast. They take on vodka and gin, as well as a number of whiskeys, and each is worth checking out. An interesting find in the Washington distillery's portfolio is Straight Triticale Whiskey. Triticale is a hybrid of rye and wheat, which results in a multi-dimensional single-grain whiskey. You get to taste the softness of wheat and the spiciness of rye simultaneously. The three-year-old whiskey can be found in the $50 range and it's sure to charm any whiskey drinker.
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Small batch whiskeys are such fun to explore because each distiller puts their own twist on tradition. A great model of that comes from Hood River Distillers in Oregon and they offer a shining star of American whiskey. McCarthy's Oregon Single Malt Whiskey is a pot-stilled whiskey that marries Scottish peat with American whiskey. It has a great smoky flavor along with buttery notes that make it friendly to all palates. It sells for $54 and is a really nice treat.