Spirits & Liqueurs Other Whiskey

12 New American Whiskeys to Try Right Now

They’re not bourbon, and they’re not rye, but they’re all definitely worth a try.

American whiskeys
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Liquor.com / Laura Sant

Why should bourbon and rye get to hog all the attention when a wide range of other intriguing American whiskeys is available to try? 

Consider, for example, the growing tradition of American single malts. While the concept is inspired by single malt scotch, U.S. producers have found myriad ways to make it their own. Seattle’s Westland Distillery has been at the forefront, experimenting with local garryana oak barrels to establish Pacific Northwest terroir. Coming soon: a companion whiskey that spotlights new varieties of barley, as well as a bottling that plays up the effect of peat sourced from local peat bogs. 

Chefs also are looking to American whiskey as a way to further their culinary footprints. An excellent example is the partnership between Oregon’s Rogue Ales & Spirits and Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, culminating in another American single malt. This expands on prior beer collaborations between Rogue and the Iron Chef, starting with a blend of Morimoto imperial pilsner and Morimoto Black Obi ale, which is distilled and aged in an Oregon oak barrel that previously held Rolling Thunder imperial stout. (It’s a coincidence that this is another Pacific Northwest producer, but clearly the region is on to something, innovation-wise.) Of course, this isn’t the only chef-whiskey collab. Edward Lee’s Kentucky bourbon ventures and Daniel Boulud’s scotch partnership spring to mind, but this is a particularly interesting flavor-oriented endeavor.

Add to the mix wheat whiskey, Tennessee whiskey and blended American whiskey, and it’s clear there’s much more going on outside the categories of bourbon and rye. These are a dozen to try.

  • Cascade Moon Whisky Edition No. 2 ($250)

    Cascade Moon Whisky Edition No. 2

    Liquor.com / Laura Sant

    Over at Tennessee whiskey producer George Dickel, distiller and general manager Nicole Austin has been flexing with some really interesting limited editions under the Cascade Hollow label. Edition 1 channeled pretzels and gose beer. Now, Edition 2, released in December 2002, is a small-batch 17-year-old whiskey with liquid dating back to 2003, when the distillery returned from being shut down for many years. Housed in a sandblasted ceramic bottle, this is a robust whiskey with plenty of caramel and stone fruit.

  • Cedar Ridge The QuintEssential American Single Malt ($60)

    Cedar Ridge The QuintEssential American Single Malt

    Liquor.com / Laura Sant

    This signature blend from Iowa’s Cedar Ridge distillery, introduced in June 2020, is the culmination of 15 years of research by Cedar Ridge founder and master distiller Jeff Quint, and his son, head distiller Murphy Quint, and was inspired by Jeff’s lifelong interest in scotch. (Yes, the Quints have actually trademarked the term “QuintEssential.”) The whiskey is aged in ex-bourbon barrels, then finished in barrels that once held brandy, rum, wine, port or sherry, then married in a solera vat and bottled at 46% ABV.

  • Courage & Conviction Dr. Jim Swan Batch ($75)

    Courage & Conviction II

    Liquor.com / Laura Sant

    This is the second batch of the Courage & Conviction American single malt from Virginia Distillery Co., released in September 2020. Dedicated to Dr. Jim Swan, who passed away in 2017 following a 40-year career supporting the science of distilling, this whiskey is distilled from 100% North American malted barley and aged a minimum of three years in a mix of ex-sherry casks, bourbon barrels and recoopered wine casks. In spring 2021, look for variations that hone in on each of those core cask types.

  • Lost Lantern ($70-$120)

    Lost Lantern

    Liquor.com / Laura Sant

    This is a collection of limited-edition single casks, starting with American Vatted Malt Edition No. 1 ($120), a 12-barrel blend of American single malts from six U.S. distilleries launched in October 2020. The model is inspired by Scotland and its tradition of independent distilleries. Also in the lineup: Cask #2 is a Cedar Ridge Iowa straight bourbon whiskey ($87, 213 bottles); Cask #3 is a straight rye from New York Distilling finished in an apple brandy cask ($70); and Cask #4 is Ironroot Republic Texas straight corn whiskey ($108, 111 bottles).

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  • Morimoto Single Malt ($80)

    Morimoto Single Malt

    Liquor.com / Laura Sant

    A collaboration between Rogue Ales & Spirits and Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, who have collaborated on various other projects since 2003, this is a limited-edition single malt. It started at the Rogue brewery in 2016 as Morimoto imperial pilsner and Morimoto Black Obi ale. After fermentation, the wash was distilled and aged for two years with exposure to Pacific Ocean air, then finished in Oregon oak barrels that previously held Rolling Thunder imperial stout. The end result combines cocoa, toffee and subtle smoke, according to the producer. The whiskey will be available at Morimoto restaurants, Rogue pubs and select retailers.

  • Old Elk Straight Wheat ($70)

    Old Elk Straight Wheat

    Liquor.com / Laura Sant

    Compared with the oceans of bourbon and rye, there aren’t that many “wheaters” on the shelves. This newcomer from Colorado’s Old Elk starts with a mash bill of 95% soft red winter wheat and 5% malted barley, aged for five years and bottled at 100 proof. While some wheat whiskeys can have a cloying cookie-dough-like character, the producer describes this version as “bright and refreshing,” with peach, dried fig and warm vanilla notes.

  • Proof & Wood Vertigo ($150)

    Proof & Wood Vertigo

    Liquor.com / Laura Sant

    Billed as “an extraordinary blended whiskey,” this mix, released in November 2020 in a limited edition of just 1,000 bottles, incorporates a 25-year-old high-proof light whiskey, a 12-year-old light whiskey, an eight-year-old rye and a five-year-old bourbon, all sourced from MGP Distillery and bottled at 105 proof.

  • Stranahan’s Blue Peak ($43)

    Stranahan’s Blue Peak

    Liquor.com / Laura Sant

    Billed by its producer as an “approachable, affordable whiskey,” this bottling, released in October 2020, couples Stranahan’s high-altitude distillation process and aging methods with a solera finish, a fractional aging process that blends younger and older whiskeys. Named for a 13,000-foot peak in Aspen, the final whiskey is aged about four years and is bottled at 43% ABV. The producer describes the liquid as possessing “fruit and butterscotch characteristics.”

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  • Westland Garryana American Single Malt Edition 5 ($150)

    Westland Garryana American Single Malt Edition 5

    Liquor.com / Laura Sant

    The fifth annual limited release of Garryana from Seattle’s Westland Distillery, which debuted in November 2020, is named for Quercus garryana, a native species of Pacific Northwest oak. It’s aged in casks made from garryana wood and combined with a measure of peated spirit, then bottled at 100 proof. The end result offers savory barbecue notes mingled with cacao and clove.