During the days and weeks since the first outbreak of coronavirus in the US, many of us have fled (or been ordered) indoors to escape the mounting realities of the pandemic. Our apartments became our safe havens. We stocked up on food, bottled water, and necessities… like 100-roll packs of toilet paper. When we’re at home surrounded by family (or pets), sitting atop our TP thrones, we can unwind, and maybe even have a drink or two.
In that prestigious setting, our drink of choice (always) is almost-always whiskey. Even if you’re only aware of whiskey in the most basic sense, you’ve probably heard of the big names like Jack Daniel’s, Jim Beam, and Glenlivet. But what about the lesser-known brands and offerings? There’s no better time to sample some of the bottles you might have either overlooked or never even heard of.
We decided to ask our friendly neighborhood bartenders to tell us the one whiskey they wish more people knew about. Take a look and order some for delivery from your local liquor store, restaurant, or takeaway.
George Dickel Rye
Sam Gay, bartender at Ojai Valley Inn in Ojai, California
George Dickel Rye is one of the best budget whiskeys on the market at its price point. Will stand up in cocktails, won’t break the bank, and is decidedly not trying to be bourbon.
Hector Acevedo, part-owner of Spanglish Craft Cocktail Bar & Kitchen in Miami
Haig Club. Haig Club Clubman is matured in American ex-bourbon casks, allowing the Single Grain Scotch whisky to interact with the vanilla, butterscotch and sweet toffee flavors found in the ex-bourbon casks. The result is a wonderfully smooth, sweet and enjoyable whisky.
Osvaldo Vasquez, mixologist at Chileno Bay Resort in Los Cabos, Mexico
Sierra Norte whiskey is the first Mexican whiskey with organic corn from Michoacan. Into the process, they have an endemic technique about nixtamalization (process to produce masa for tortillas).
Uncle Nearest 1856
David Powell, Hudson Whiskey Brand Ambassador
I think Uncle Nearest is a really interesting brand. Nathan “Nearest” Green was a Slave in Tennessee who actually was responsible for teaching Jack Daniel how to Distill. One he was freed after the Civil War, he became Jack Daniel’s first Master Distiller but was not recognized as such at the time because he was a Black man. Seven generations of the Green family have worked for Jack Daniel’s over the years, and in 2017, author Fawn Weaver and her husband Keith created the Nearest Green Foundation, which resurrected Nearest’s whiskeys and brought them to market. They also started a museum and a scholarship fund for members of the Green family. I
t’s just an incredibly American story and one that I wish more people were aware of.
Matt Hoffa, Lead Bartender at The Mayfair Hotel in Los Angeles
Wheatfish Whiskey from Glacier Distilling in Whitefish, Montana. Amazing small-batch over-proof perfection, you can really taste the water difference.
Hudson Baby Bourbon
Nikki McCutcheon, beverage director at Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge in New York City
Hudson Small Batch Bourbon and Rye. I love this locally made whiskey from New York and while it’s growing in popularity, I would love to see it become a household name. Even though they are a smaller scale distiller, they have a really fun program where they will batch unique barrels of bourbon for restaurants to buy that are completely their own.
Heaven’s Door 10 year Tennessee Bourbon
Kyle Walter, Bartender at Grayton Beer Brewpub in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida
Heaven’s Door 10 Year Tennessee Bourbon. It’s becoming more known a bit now and it’s one of the smoothest you’ll find. As Bob Dylan would say, “as the present now will later be past.”
Wild Turkey 101 Rye
Ben Schiller, beverage director at RPM Restaurants in Chicago
Wild Turkey 101 Rye. Everyone has heard about Wild Turkey, but I don’t think they are given the love they rightly deserve. Their 101 Rye is full of flavor and perfect in classic cocktails. I always have felt that one should consider the purchase price in evaluating any spirit. With this in mind, I consider Turkey 101 Rye to be one of the best ryes on the market today.
People might try to tell you that you can’t make bourbon outside of Kentucky. Well, give them one sip of FEW Bourbon out of Evansville, Illinois and they’ll change their tune. Three three-grain recipe has just the right proportion of corn sweetness to rye spice.
For years, Canadian whisky didn’t really receive much respect in the global whiskey marketplace. Besides Crown Royal, Seagram’s, and Canadian Club, we weren’t hearing much from Canada. We’ve seen a shift in the last few years and one of the best bottles coming out of the country is Lot 40. This rye whiskey is a mixture of sweet toffee and caramel corn that makes way for peppery spice and smoky cinnamon.
Connemara Original Peated
Fans of peated whisk(e)y tend to look to the Scottish island of Islay for the likes of Ardbeg, Bruichladdich, and Lagavulin. They wouldn’t be wrong in doing that, but they’d be missing out on great, smoky whiskey from other places. Irish whiskey brand Connemara has created the only Irish peated single malt whiskey. It has the vanilla and caramel sweetness you expect from an Irish whiskey and the robust, leather and smoke of the peat.
Garrison Brothers Cowboy Bourbon
You might not think of Texas as a great state for whiskey. But, with Balcones, Garrison Brothers, and a handful of others, the Lone Star State has quickly become a whiskey hotbed. One of the best, most-underrated bottles coming out of the state is Garrison Brothers Cowboy Bourbon. From the first sip, you’re met with toasted caramel, oaky sweetness, and eventually tobacco and woodsmoke.