Maybe you’re the American whiskey drinker who loves the classics, pouring a glass of Maker’s Mark or Wild Turkey on the rocks. Or maybe you’re the collector who hunts pricey bottles—like Parker’s Heritage or Booker’s Rye Big Time Batch—or an obsessive chronicler of small-batch releases.
If you hadn’t noticed, new American whiskeys continue to rush out at dramatic rates from hundreds of distilleries across the country. From $48 to $125 a bottle, brand-new releases to recent standouts, these are eight American whiskeys you might not know about but should.
With popular tours and tastings, Sonoma County Distilling Co. is a quick jaunt off Highway 101 in Sonoma County’s Rohnert Park. Among SCDC’s rye, bourbon and wheat whiskeys, look for unusual releases like its rye whiskey (distilled in-house from 80 percent unmalted rye grown in Canada and 20 percent rye malt from the U.K.) infused with French Périgord black truffles. Yes, black truffles. Green, woody notes hit before the mushroom does. But then those traditional rye whispers kick in: spices, grain, brown sugar, even floral, dried fruit. On the finish is where you’ll find that truffle earthiness.
Newly released from Seattle’s beloved Westland Distillery, Garryana 2|1 is the second expression in Westland’s Native Oak Series. Quercus garryana is a species of white oak unique to the Pacific Northwest, growing from Northern California on up to British Columbia. Co-founder and master distiller Matt Hofmann relentlessly tracked down rare stashes of this hard-to-come-by wood to make their own barrels and age this truly Western single malt (only 2,600 bottles total).
This bold, spiced whiskey is a touch more subtle than last year’s initial Garryana release, unfolding with smoke, candied ginger, mocha and espresso. Among the definitive American single malts, it will be interesting to see how this one ages.
Husband-and-wife-run Griffo Distillery, in the charming Sonoma County town of Petaluma, just released the first of its grain-to-glass whiskeys this year, including special beer-whiskey collaboration whiskeys (with the likes of neighboring Henhouse Brewing) only available at the tasting room bar.
Stony Point is its grain-forward blend of organic corn and rye grains sourced from local farmers, which the distillery mills and distills itself, aged in French and locally coopered, charred barrels. The result is a soft, nutty, corn-forward whiskey that releases layers of rye spice in one integrated whole.
Estate grown at Myer Farm Distillers in Ovid, N.Y., John Myer farms on Finger Lakes land that has been in his family since 1810 and in this location since 1868. Myer grows his own organic rye, along with corn, soybeans, spelt, barley, oats and other grains on the farm, committed to “grain to flask” for all his spirits. At 100 percent rye, the dark brown, robust rye whiskey hits with a gentle spice and green aromas, unfolding with leathery apple, oils and more of that rye spice.
If you can get your hands on it, this California-only St. George Spirits whiskey is a California play on Japanese whisky. With its samurai watercolor label from Oakland artist Sylvia Solochek Walters, Baller whiskey is indeed baller. The whiskey is aged three to four years and distilled from 100 percent American barley, filtered through maple charcoal, aged in used bourbon and French wine barrels, then finished in St. George umeshu (California-grown Japanese ume plums) liqueur. It’s a bold, dry whiskey with subtle plum and smoky notes ideal for Japanese Highballs and scotch-style cocktails.
Craft Distillers has quite the broad portfolio, from the U.S.’s great pioneering Germain-Robin brandies to a dreamy Rose liqueur. Its Low Gap whiskeys (part of an American Craft Whiskey Distillery collaboration between distillers Crispin Cain and Craft Distillers’ Ansley Coale) cover the grain gamut from Bavarian hard wheat to corn whiskey. The current release of its 100 percent rye was distilled in 2012 and aged two years and exudes a bracing, rich cereal grain blast with echoes of cinnamon spice and earthy chocolate.
Far North Spirits is a Minnesota farm-to-glass distillery that turns out gins, rums, vodka and whiskey in striking Scandinavian-style packaging. Owner, distiller and farmer Michael Swanson oversees the 1,500-acre farm, distilling Roknar Minnesota rye whiskey from non-GMO AC Hazlet winter rye and Minnesota 13 heirloom corn grown on the farm. This rye exudes aromas of brown sugar, vanilla and spice with nutty, oak, baked goodness on the palate, enhanced by finishing in cognac and sherry barrels.
Husband-and-wife team Timo and Ashby Marshall have been producing gins, vodkas and a stellar sloe gin in Sonoma County’s laid-back town of Sebastopol since 2013. Since the end of 2015, they added whiskeys (rye and wheat) to the lineup, as well as head distiller Lauren Patz. Featuring some Sonoma-grown grain, the straight wheat whiskey is distilled from 100 percent organic red winter wheat grown in the Sacramento Valley. Dig into a glass, aged in charred, new American white oak barrels for a minimum of two years, and wait for notes of tobacco, butterscotch, caramelized sugar, nuttiness, tea and cocoa to roll out on the tongue.
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