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Make no mistake, you can and should be drinking whiskey all year long, even in the hottest, most humid, fetid dog days of late summer. But something about the fall makes brown spirits that much more appealing to people looking for a delicious drink. As the weather cools down, imbibers tend to give up their gin, vodka, and tequila (blanco, anyway) for whiskey (and whisky) in all its shapes and forms, from bourbon to single malt to Irish to rye. And of course, whiskey brands are familiar with this trend, planning many of their most notable releases for the months from August through December. Here are some of the best whiskey releases you should be looking out for this fall.

Laphroaig Cairdeas Fino Cask

Laphroaig is one of the most popular Islay single malts, with the core 10-year-old expression to be found behind nearly every bar. Islay is known for its smoky, peated whisky (although unpeated whisky is distilled there as well), and Laphroaig prides itself on assertive and particular tasting notes like iodine, charcoal, and seaweed. Each year, distillery manager John Campbell releases a limited edition bottling called Cairdeas (“friendship” in Gaelic) that puts an interesting twist on classic Laphroaig. This year’s release is the Fino Cask Finish, a no-age-statement whisky that is matured in first-fill bourbon barrels and finished in Fino sherry casks. $80

Glenfiddich Fire & Cane

Glenfiddich is one of the biggest distilleries in Scotland, but that doesn’t mean it shies away from experimentation, as evidenced by its Experimental Series. Fire & Cane is the fourth release, with a bombastic name that belies the delicate flavor of this excellent new single malt scotch. It’s a marriage of peated and unpeated whisky (Glenfiddich does not normally do peated), aged in bourbon barrels and finished in Latin American rum casks. $50

Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare Port Ellen

Port Ellen is the second entry in Johnnie Walker’s Ghost and Rare series and includes liquid from long defunct distilleries in the blend. In this release due out in October, whisky from the old Port Ellen distillery is featured prominently. It’s a fruity, smooth, slightly smoky dram with strong tropical fruit notes. The other whisky included in the blend comes from Mortlach, Dailuaine, Cragganmore, Blair Athol, and Oban, all of which has been aged for at least 20 years. The Port Ellen distillery is set to reopen in a few years and may once again produce highly sought after whisky, but until then Diageo will continue to tap its rare reserves for high-end releases like this one. $350

Mortlach 20-Year-Old Cowie’s Blue Seal

Mortlach is adding three new whiskies to its lineup this year—a 12, 16, and 20-year-old. The 20, also called Cowie’s Blue Seal, is not over-oaked or excessively mature on the palate, falling in the sweet spot of single malts that are aged with purpose. Look for chocolate, malt, toffee, and big bursts of tropical and stone fruit, as well as a nice, oily mouth-feel. $200

Russell’s Reserve 2002

Wild Turkey isn’t known for putting out a ton of ultra-premium whiskey; aside from the occasional Master’s Keep release. But the new Russell’s Reserve 2002 is an expensive bourbon that is worth every penny of its high price tag. Master distiller Eddie Russell chose 25 barrels, all 15 years old, for this barrel-proof (114.6) release. It’s syrupy with notes of chocolate-covered cherries soaked in almond extract and drinks rather smooth for its high ABV with just a hint of heat on the finish. $250

Aberlour Casg Annamh

Aberlour is one of the more underrated of all the Speyside distilleries, but fans of sherry cask whisky are familiar with the high quality of the distillery’s product. The new expression, Casg Annamh (“rare cask” in Gaelic), is a no-age-statement, non-chill-filtered release that is triple-matured (a first for the distillery) in sherry casks, bourbon barrels, and larger hogshead casks. It’s full of vanilla and dried fruit flavors, with a pronounced but not overriding sherry influence. This is a good entry point for someone who has never tried Aberlour before, as well as an enjoyable if slight departure for longtime fans of this excellent distillery. 6,000 bottles will be available in the U.S. this October. $65

The Macallan Masters of Photography: Magnum Edition

The Macallan just opened a brand-new distillery with a refreshingly modern, almost futuristic design that showcases both the tradition and future of this storied brand. To celebrate, the new Masters of Photography Magnum Edition (the seventh in the series) was put together in collaboration with Magnum Photos. The whisky comes in a gift box with six signed prints and a photography book and is limited to just 2,000 editions. The whisky is a marriage of eight casks, each of which is supposed to reflect the different styles of the Magnum photographers, from “spicy, gingered” to an ex-wine cask that gives the whisky a slight red hue. $3,500

Bruichladdich Black Art 06.1

There are a lot of new releases coming out this fall from Bruichladdich, an Islay distillery that makes both unpeated and some of the most heavily peated whisky you will ever drink. The Port Charlotte range is being released with a new label design as part of the core range that will include two cask-strength releases, and a few more entries in the extreme-peat Octomore series are on the way. But one of the best new bottles coming out from Bruichladdich this fall is Black Art 6. This unpeated 26-year-old whisky was distilled in 1990 and aged in a variety of casks (Bruichladdich doesn’t reveal which types). It’s rich, fruity, and complex, with notes of peach, oak, and a touch of citrus, undoubtedly a delicious special occasion sipping whisky. $420

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon

Every year, Old Forester releases its Birthday Bourbon, and every year it is snapped up as soon as it hits the shelves. The reasoning, Birthday Bourbon is remarkably good and has developed a cult status among whiskey lovers. This year marks the 18th release, and the new batch comes from just 120 barrels that were filled in 2006. A larger than usual angel’s share evaporated—Old Forester says that just 39 percent of the whiskey remained, with five barrels entirely emptied. This release also marks the first time that Birthday Bourbon was bottled at the new Old Forester distillery on Louisville’s downtown Whiskey Row. $100

Kentucky Owl Bourbon Batch #8

Kentucky Owl has been sourcing bourbon and rye for a few years now, releasing whiskey to high acclaim with a few detractors who are unhappy about its high price point. The latest bourbon release is Batch 8, and it’s a truly excellent product put together by master blender Dixon Dedman. It’s comprised of four distillates, aged nearly five years, eight years, 11 years, and 14 years—although Dedman does not like to focus on age statements. Don’t even think about making a cocktail with this decadent bourbon, which is full of vanilla, marzipan, and black pepper notes. It’s a bit hot at 121 proof, but don’t let that scare you as it sips very smoothly. Batch 8 will be available in more markets than past releases; 28 states compared to Batch 7’s seven. Currently, Kentucky Owl parent company Stoli is in the process of drawing up plans for a large distillery and visitor center to be built in Bardstown, KY. $300

Jack Daniel’s Bottled-In-Bond

Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey is one of the most popular, best-selling brands in the world. Still, the distillery has been watching whiskey trends and adding to its lineup as of late, putting a rye whiskey out last year and a bottled-in-bond expression this fall. Bottled-in-bond is a designation that dates back to 1897, a time when there were few regulations and a lot of bad whiskey being sold to unsuspecting buyers. It stipulates that the whiskey is at least four years old, bottled at 100 proof, and comes from one distillery during one season. This new expression will be available only at retail travel locations in one-liter bottles. To the casual drinker, there may not be much difference between this and regular Jack, but a careful tasting will reveal a more robust version of the classic, sweet Jack Daniel’s flavor. $38

BenRiach Temporis Peated Aged 21 Years

BenRiach is an under-recognized distillery in Scotland’s Speyside region that should be getting a lot more notice in the coming years as it is now part of the Brown-Forman family (the same parent company that owns Jack Daniel’s). The distillery makes a wide range of whisky, both peated and unpeated, aging it in nearly every type of cask you can think of. The new Temporis Peated release is, obviously, peated, and was aged in various cask types for 21 years including bourbon, virgin oak, and both Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso sherry casks. Look for notes of smoke, cinnamon, and anise on the palate. $265

Jefferson’s Twin Oak Custom Barrel

The basic gist of Jefferson’s Bourbon is that founder Trey Zoeller hunts down barrels of whiskey and comes up with a variety of aging and finishing techniques for them. Some of these are a little more gimmicky than others, but the results are an almost always undeniably delicious bourbon. The latest release is called Twin Oak Custom Barrel. For this new product, Zoeller worked with the cooperage Independent Stave Company to design a barrel with grooved staves meant to allow the whiskey to reach more surface area of the wood as it ages. This ten-year-old bourbon was finished in these special barrels for four months before bottling, which Zoeller says augments and amps up the flavor profile. $80

Powers Three Swallow

Powers is one of Ireland’s oldest and most popular whiskey brands. It was first produced at John’s Lane in Dublin in 1791 but is now part of the Pernod Ricard family of whiskey distilled at the massive New Midleton distillery just outside of Cork. The latest expression to be released here in the U.S. is Three Swallow, a single pot still Irish whiskey that is aged mostly in ex-bourbon barrels with a bit of sherry-cask aged liquid as well. The flavor is much richer and a bit spicier than regular Powers Gold Label, a blend of pot still and grain whiskey. $44

Garrison Brothers HoneyDew

Garrison Brothers have been at the forefront of Texas whiskey since the distillery was founded in 2005, releasing a variety of bourbon ranging from single cask to cask-strength to port-finished. The latest limited edition release from the distillery is called HoneyDew. Four-year-old bourbon was emptied into a stainless steel tank for seven months before barrels cut up into cubes and infused with Burleson’s Texas Wildflower Honey, were added to the tank to flavor the whiskey for another seven months. The resulting whiskey is full of fresh fruit, honey, and vanilla flavors, with an underlying note of toasted oak. $70

High West A Midwinter Night’s Dram

A Midwinter Night’s Dram is an annual release from High West Distillery that is meant to be enjoyed during the colder, darker months of the year. This year’s blend includes sourced rye whiskey finished in toasted French oak port barrels, as well as some of High West’s own house-distilled whiskey. Expect notes of black currant, dates, marzipan, and star anise in every sip of this exceptional rye whiskey. $100

FEW Spirits American Whiskey

Just outside of Chicago, in Evanston, Illinois, FEW Spirits is making some pretty good whiskey (and some interesting gin as well). The latest release, FEW American Whiskey, is a blend of bourbon (45%), rye (45%), and malt whiskey (10%) that the distillery says has been imbued with cherry-wood smoke. The palate of the liquid is full of notes that can be traced back to each type of whiskey included—oak and vanilla from the bourbon, spice, and fruit from the rye, and a touch of smoke and bread from the malt whiskey. $50


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