Distiller’s American Whiskey Gift Guide – 2018By Stephanie Moreno
Picking out a dozen whiskeys from American brands is a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it. These whiskeys have all been released in the past 12 months and all are highly recommended for the whiskey drinker in your life—which includes you! If you’re not sure what to buy, let our American Whiskey Gift Guide for 2018 help you out.
These bourbon picks aren’t aged in anything but new, charred American oak barrels. Classic flavors are present with each pick coming in at a minimum of 100 proof. Recommended for the traditionalist.
Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond 9 Year / Photo Credit: Old Fitzgerald
FOUR ROSES 130TH ANNIVERSARY SMALL BATCH BOURBON
Four Roses 130th Anniversary Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon marks the 130th anniversary for the brand which launched in 1888. Crafted by master distiller Brent Elliott, the Kentucky straight bourbon is made from bourbons aged 10-16 years with varying mash bills and yeast recipes. Bottled at a barrel strength of 108.3 proof, you’ll find cherry fruit, leather and cooked apples. SRP $140
OLD FITZGERALD BOTTLED IN BOND 9 YEAR (FALL 2018)
This Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond Series is scheduled to be released on an allocated basis each spring and fall throughout the next five years. The spring editions will feature a green label while the fall releases will bear a black one. The packaging for this bottle was inspired by an original 1950s Old Fitzgerald diamond decanter. The Fall 2018 bottling marks the second release in the wheated bourbon series. Brown butter, beef jerky and coconut are just a few of the flavors to discover. SRP $90
KING OF KENTUCKY 14 YEAR KENTUCKY STRAIGHT BOURBON
King of Kentucky is a whiskey brand that was first introduced in 1881. Brown-Forman acquired the brand in 1936 but retired it in 1968. Now 50 years later, they have resurrected King of Kentucky, now as a Kentucky Straight Bourbon (formerly it was a blended whiskey). The name is a reference to horse racing, “the sport of kings”. Aged 14 years, it spent the first 7 in a heat-cycled warehouse and the last 7 years without. These are single barrel releases, so expect to see proof ranging from 125-135. Only 960 bottles available. Expect lots of oak influence with vanilla, barrel spices and a long finish. SRP $199
BOURBON BARREL FINISHES
These bourbon picks used barrels which aged something other than whiskey. This provides an added layer of fruit for each pick. Recommended for the connoisseur.
Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Revival / Photo Credit: Wild Turkey
WILD TURKEY MASTER’S KEEP REVIVAL
This is the third U.S. expression under the Master’s Keep series. It was inspired by Wild Turkey Signature, which Jimmy Russell introduced in the early 2000s. For this bottling, Eddie Russell traveled to Jerez, Spain to source the 20 year-old oloroso sherry barrels used in finishing. The bourbon aged for 12-15 years in new, charred American oak and before being transferred to these sherry barrels. Look for flavors of berries, chocolate and pancakes—need I say more? This one’s in the running for my top whiskey of the year, so if you don’t buy a bottle, all the more for me! SRP $150
PARKER’S HERITAGE BARREL FINISHED
Barrel Finished marks the 12th edition of Parker’s Heritage, a limited edition edition whiskey named in honor of the late Heaven Hill master distiller Parker Beam. Barrel Finished is made from bourbons that aged for 7-8 years on the upper floors of Rickhouse Q. The bourbon then spends four months in barrels that previously held orange curaçao liqueur before bottling. Tastes of dried orange peel without overpowering the classic bourbon flavors. A bourbon worthy of Parker’s name indeed. SRP $89.99
ANGEL’S ENVY CASK STRENGTH BOURBON (2018 EDITION)
This cask strength Kentucky straight bourbon aged for up to 7 years. The bourbon barrels are hand-selected and blended before finishing its maturation in port wine casks. First released in 2012, Angel’s Envy Cask Strength Bourbon 2018 Edition is bottled at 124 proof. The cask strength bottlings are always special and this year’s version is no different. A beautiful after dinner sipper. SRP $200
If you happen to win the lottery—not being facetious, some states/retail shops do lottery drawings for highly allocated bottles—and get your hands on a bottle of Sazerac 18 Year or Thomas H. Handy, by all means buy them. For everyone else whose number isn’t drawn, these rye recommendations are for you. A great pick for those looking for spice.
Balcones Texas Rye 100 Proof / Photo Credit: Balcones
ROSSVILLE UNION MASTER CRAFTED BARREL PROOF
As the name suggests, this is the cask strength version of Rossville Union, the first proprietary rye brand released by MGP Ingredients. It is made from a batch of 83 barrels—noted on the front of the bottle—that aged in new, charred American oak. Barrel Proof is bottled at 112.6 proof and is available in select markets in the Midwest and Southwest US. If you’re a rye drinker, chances are you’ve had whiskeys produced by MGP, as they supply some of the best known brands in the business. This barrel proof rye is a great value. SRP $69.99
BALCONES TEXAS RYE 100 PROOF
Released in mid-March 2018 in celebration of the distillery’s 10th anniversary, this rye whiskey from Balcones is made from 100% rye and is bottled at 100 proof. The rye mash bill includes 80% raw elbon grain from north and northwest Texas as well as crystal, chocolate and roasted rye varieties. Aged just under two years, this product is matured in new American oak barrels and diluted to proof with Hill Country spring water. Cinnamon, dark chocolate and toasted rye grain await you. SRP $39.99
MICHTER’S 10 YEAR SINGLE BARREL RYE
After over a year of stock depletion, the latest batch of 10 Year Single Barrel Rye was made available shortly before July 4th this year. The barrels of rye were selected from Michter’s stocks of aging whiskeys by master of maturation Andrea Wilson and approved by master distiller Pamela Heilmann. As is the case for Michter’s whiskeys, this is highly allocated and in limited availability. If you do get your hands on a bottle, expect leather, cherry fruit and dark spice. SRP $160
OTHER AMERICAN WHISKEYS TO CONSIDER
These whiskey picks think outside the box with regards to the blend, the barrel, or the mash bill. And one of them is just so far out there, it had to be included in this category. For the explorer.
Westland Garryana 3|1 / Photo Credit: Westland
WESTLAND GARRYANA 3|1
Garryana 3|1 is named after the Quercus garryana, a species of white oak sourced from the Pacific Northwest. Previous editions married ratios of full-term matured garry oak to traditional oak casks. However, limited supplies forced master distiller Matt Hofmann and blender Shane Armstrong to use a series of vattings and casks finishes for this year’s edition. In addition to Garry oak the distillery employs new American oak, 1st fill ex-bourbon, 1st fill ex-port and refill ex-Westland casks. All the barrels used really tie the whiskey together. SRP $149.99
WOODFORD RESERVE STRAIGHT MALT
This is the newest member of Woodford Reserve’s Distiller’s Select family of whiskeys which includes the brand’s Straight Bourbon and Straight Rye whiskeys—all permanent fixtures. The Straight Malt is made from a mash bill of 51% malted barley, 47% corn and 2% rye. Other than that, the whiskey is made just like the other Distiller’s Select whiskeys in all other areas of production which includes aging in new, charred American oak. This Straight Malt differs from Scotch malt whisky as the latter must be made from 100% malted barley and new, charred oak barrels are rarely used. It is bottled at 90.4 proof. A great whiskey to try, especially if you’re just getting into malt whiskeys. SRP $34.99
BARRELL WHISKEY INFINITY BARREL PROJECT
This whiskey project is a take off from the infinity bottle that some whiskey collectors and enthusiasts around the world create. Pouring the last ounce or two of their whiskey as they finish a bottle into a separate bottle creates a unique blend. Barrell has done that with this whiskey which, for this batch, contains Tennessee whiskey and rye; Indiana whiskey finished in oloroso sherry butts; Indiana rye; 100% Polish malted rye finished in curaçao barrels; Scotch whisky; and Irish whiskey. Each release will be different, as new whiskeys will be added to the batch as needed. The bottling date will mark the new batch. Bottled at cask strength of 59.65% ABV. SRP $70.
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