One of the main functions of The Whiskey Wash each year, besides bringing you the latest in new releases, is to review whisk(e)y. And in a given year we review A LOT. These days we are publishing one review a day on average, some days more. We offer up reviews that are a mix of new offerings and legacy bottles across the categories of American (anything non-bourbon), Bourbon, Canadian, Irish, Scotch and World (including Indian and Japanese).
For 2021 we are showcasing here our picks for the whiskies of the year from reviews published in the same year (up through early December) that are broken down by the previously mentioned categories. To determine these choices we’ve gathered some of the top scoring reviews as ranked in the defined time period by our review team. The choices presented below are done in random order, subject only to being capped at a maximum of three per category and also, where possible, still available to purchase. Presented with each choice are the comments from the author at the time the review was done.
- O.H. Ingram River Aged Straight Rye – “This is by far one of my favorite tastings. The whiskey is an almost juicy sipper, goes down easy and could easily find a place at the top of my recommendation list. I’d like to slip it in my coffee on a sunny morning by the river.”
- Michter’s 10-Year Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Rye – “My concern about 92.8 proof not being intense enough turned out to be unfounded. There’s plenty going on in this whiskey, regardless of the alcohol content. The standard against which I measure most ryes is the E.H. Taylor Straight Rye, and decided I like the Michter’s 10 better in a side-by-side comparison. (That’s saying something, because I really like the E.H. Taylor.) There’s just a warmth and toasted quality here that other ryes don’t typically have.”
- WhistlePig FarmStock Beyond Bonded Rye – “The WhistlePig FarmStock Beyond Bonded Rye is a marvelous debut of grain-to-bottle from the distillery. This rye is so different from any of WhistlePig’s other ryes that it will make you excited to see how they continue on making whiskies with 100% of their distilled liquid. I don’t know if I’m just looking forward to leaves falling on the ground, but this will be my go-to for the coming autumn season. The spiciness from the rye varietals gives depth to the dram.”
- TX Whiskey Bottled-in-Bond Texas Bourbon – “The TX Whiskey Bottled-in-Bond Texas Bourbon is a unique drinking experience. The bourbon has depth and loads of flavor, which altogether is intriguing. Sip after sip leaves you guessing a specific taste on the palate. Like I said above, it is reminiscent of drinking a bottle of wine, so maybe this bottle will turn the wine drinkers into whiskey lovers. Because of the savoriness, I highly recommend pairing it with a charcuterie board.”
- Booker’s Bourbon Batch 2021-02 “Tagalong Batch” – “This is one of the better high-proof bourbons I’ve had the pleasure of tasting. It is very clear that Booker’s Bourbon takes pride in its output, and I think Master Distiller Noe pulled these barrels at the perfect time. There is a subtlety to the bourbon that warms the belly without burning the palate, so all the nuanced flavors come through and gently move through different iterations. One sip will be robust, another will highlight the vanilla, another, perhaps with a drop or two of water, will open to perfectly feature the white oak. It’s a well-made bourbon from a brand that knows its purpose.”
- Elijah Craig Barrel Proof (Batch B521) – “This is everything you can ask for in a barrel proof bourbon. The sweetness doesn’t overwhelm, but is enough to balance the strength of the sip. It’s good with a touch of water to lighten it up, but if you’re a barrel proof fan like I am, you won’t want anything to come between yourself and the whiskey.”
- Cooper Spirits’ Lock, Stock, & Barrel 20-Year Rye – “For a 20-year-old rye in American oak, the wood does not overpower the rest of the palate. While there are dessert-like flavors, the rye is not overly sweet or syrupy. The rye spice is not too hot and is balanced with the ABV so it does not burn. I’m really impressed and find few faults with this whiskey, but I cannot say I have ever not enjoyed a dram of Lock, Stock, & Barrel. As for the price, you are paying for the age statement, but it is a fair deal, so buy a bottle if you find it. “
- Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye – “Right out of the gate, this one will punch you in the face. It’s big, boozy, and raw. As is, the whisky can come off as pretty simple with simple, pronounced flavors. I tasted this one a few times to figure it out. Always solid, but definitely benefits with the addition of water or ice to take things down a notch. With a little dilution, there’s more levels of flavor and accents of what you may have already picked up.”
- Crown Royal Noble Collection Rye Aged 16 Years – “If you like rye, I think you’ll like this selection. I would encourage those with preconceived notions about Crown Royal to push past that and give it a shot. The whisky matured nicely, bottled at a mellow, lovely lower proof. This would also work well with a favorite mixer, I’d like to try it with a Cherry Coke as I feel it would accentuate the stone fruit and vanilla of the whisky.”
- Writers’ Tears Cask Strength – “Honestly, if I were blindfolded, I would not be able to tell this was an Irish whiskey. The mouthfeel is velvety and the whiskey is more mellow. It is not hot at all, even with the 54.5% ABV. The price point for this premium Irish whiskey is decent. If you, or you have a friend who, cannot get into Irish whiskies, I suggest trying Writers’ Tears. The Cask Strength is limited, but definitely worth a try.”
- Fighting 69th Irish Whiskey – “The flavors are subtle but balanced. Not too sweet, not too hot, just a pleasant easy drinker that will leave you with a smile. Though it does not pack a punch as the original Fighting 69th was known for, it is a lovely example of the Irish tradition of blended distillation and well worth your time and palate.”
- Writers’ Tears Florio Marsala Cask Finish – “This whiskey begs to be paired with food. Though it could compliment any course, I would pair it with antipasti style foods. This bottle would be right at home in your picnic basket on a bright, sunny day.”
- BenRiach The Thirty – “The bright headiness of this expression emerges after the first, almost (delightfully) violent impact. If a symphony is for the ears, then this is a whisky for the tastebuds. At the price point, obtaining this bottle would be a stretch for many, but is not entirely inaccessible and compares favorably to Scotches of similar age. It would be a worthy addition to any budding or established collection.”
- Glenfiddich Grande Couronne – “I don’t think it’s a secret by now that I was thoroughly impressed with this tasting. I was given a small amount, but I’ll be savoring every sip. It’s on the higher end of a pretty penny, but I believe this will be a conversation starter at any dinner party–if you like your friends enough to share.”
- Ardbeg “Arrrrrrrrdbeg!” – “If I seem stumped by this whisky it’s because I am. From the color to the finish, this is a truly unique expression. There is a world of complexities within the spirit that emerge different with each tasting. I highly recommend trying it if you can get your hands on it, share it with a group of friends and see what each of you can get out of it. Then come back and share, I’d be curious to hear. “
- Stauning Rye Whisky – “Not entirely dissimilar from other small distillery, terroir-oriented ryes I’ve tasted, and can certainly hold its own in quality. A particular distinction is the lack of overt sweetness or grassiness that often defines a rye. This whiskey has a little something in common with aquavit – which seems to be the idea, considering Stauning calls it “a liquid interpretation of freshly baked Danish rye bread.” I’ve heard beer called liquid bread before, but as for me, I’ll take the whiskey version.”
- Mithuna by Paul John – “One of my favorite tastings in a long time, Mithurna by Paul John is a special occasion spirit. It is on the expensive side, but there is a complexity of flavors that elevate the whisky from an ordinary tasting to a unique one.”
- Rampur Double Cask – “If you’re not drinking Indian whisky you should. This is absolutely delightful. While in the style of a Scotch, there are flavors coming through here that you won’t find as commonly in Scotch. It’s also remarkably drinkable. I’d take this whisky over diamonds any day.”
Nino Kilgore-Marchetti is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Whiskey Wash, an award winning whiskey lifestyle website dedicated to informing and entertaining consumers about whisk(e)y on a global level. As a whisk(e)y journalist, expert and judge he has written about the subject extensively, been interviewed in various media outlets and...