10 best American whiskies
Whiskey is made the length and breadth of the US, and some of it is good and some bad. We haven’t confined ourselves in choosing variety and instead have focused on quality.
We have included three different variations. Corn whisky, the historical US style, is aged in uncharred oak and tends to have a natural feel. Rye, which has to be at least 51 percent rye, is spicy and more oomphy. And the wheat-based stuff, which is 51 percent wheat and aged in white-oak barrels, is softer in character.
1. Buffalo Trace: £20 for 70cl, Tesco
The latest version of this ever-reliable Kentucky straight bourbon is a real class act. The taste runs the gauntlet from toffee apple to brown sugar to spice, and it has toffeeish finish – all that for twenty quid. A great buy and a great drink.
2. 1792 Small Batch Bourbon: £42.95 for 70cl, Gerry’s Wines and Spirits
The 1792 in the title here refers to the year Kentucky became a state, an event considered momentous by fans of the state’s bourbon. Distilled in Bardstown, the toffee-rich bourbon is perfect for sipping with ice, preferably on a front porch.
3. Platte Valley Corn: £29.99 for 70cl, Amazon
Here’s a real good ol’ boys’ drink from the longest continuously operating distiller in the US. The straight corn whiskey has been aged for three years at the distillery in Missouri and then bottled in a traditional earthenware jug. The stuff inside doesn’t lack for punch or sophistication, with lots of dried fruit and pepper tones on the palate.
4. Four Roses Small Batch: £27.36 for 70cl, Master of Malt
A bit floral, a bit caramel, and exceptionally smooth, this is well-priced and eminently drinkable with touches of toasty oak and honey. Not the most sophisticated on the shelf, but good for the money.
5. Bulleit: £19.43 for 70cl, Uvinum
This is made in small-ish batches in American oak – which gives the colour and some of the flavor – using highly filtered water and lots of rye. The result of all that is a rich, oaky bourbon, with touches of pepper and vanilla. Of course, it grabbed a gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
6. Tin Cup: £35.94 for 75cl, Amazon
A new American whisky distilled by whisky aficionado Jess Graber, this is made in Denver, Colarado, which is emphatically not your traditional whisky destination. It is high in rye and has a nice balance between sweet and spicy, and it comes with a free tin sipping cup.
7. Hudson Manhattan Rye: £37.99 for 35cl, Waitrose
This 35cl bottle shines like a ruby in the light, the result of the unusually reddish whisky within. It isn’t just the look of it which is unusual though, the complex drink has lots of fruit, like apple and raisin, and even a little flick of pepper at the end.
8. L&G Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select: £31.50 for 70cl, Waitrose
This 43.2% honey-coloured bourbon has the depth of a single malt, and a heavy rich taste with a whack of cinnamon in the finish. It’s ideal for sipping, though great with a little water, too, if you are that way inclined. A good all-rounder if you’re torn.
9. Old Forester 86 Proof: £48.65 for 100cl, The Drink Shop
The particular mix of corn, rye and malted barley makes for a complex bourbon with a surprisingly floral nose – there are notes of mint and chocolate in here. It’s a little sharp to begin with but quickly softens to a spicy vanilla flavour. Plus, the distillery is still owned by descendants of the founder.
10. Blanton’s Bourbon Original: £40.52, Amazon
This single barrel bourbon won the gold medal at the International Wine & Spirits Competition every year between 1999 and 2004. It’s best drunk neat to fully appreciate the complexity of the dram – you’ll taste notes of vanilla, orange peel, burnt sugar and chocolate here, with a woody nose.
Those on a budget need look no further than the ever-reliable and flexible Buffalo Trace. While those looking for sophistication and a real good example of the joys of American whisky need only order 1792 Small Batch.