The Whiskeys (and Whiskies) You Should Be Drinking Now

Adam Voorhes/Courtesy Garrison Brothers

Here are some new whiskey releases to drink all summer long, whether you prefer cocktails, on the rocks, or just a neat pour.

Summertime is whiskey time, especially when there are so many good new releases to choose from. There are excellent whiskeys to drink from all over the world as the weather gets warmer, from an intense Texas bourbon, to a limited release smoky single malt, to an American whiskey that was aged to the sound of heavy metal music.

So don’t shy away from these brown spirits just because it’s getting hot out. You can enjoy your whiskey in a refreshing highball, over a big chunk of ice, in a classic cocktail, or just sip it neat. However you like it, here are 12 new bottles to try now.

Garrison Brothers Balmorhea 2020

Adam Voorhes/Courtesy Garrison Brothers

Balmorhea, an annual release from Texas distillery Garrison Brothers in its third year, is bourbon that has been barreled twice. First it’s aged in the Texas heat for four years in new charred oak barrels, and then it’s transferred into fresh charred oak barrels for an additional year. This gives what is already an intensely flavored whiskey an extra dose of character, with strong notes of oak, chocolate, and an almost smoky quality that pops in every sip. It’s bottled at 115 proof, so a little water helps to open up this assertive sipping bourbon. $160

Weller Single Barrel

Courtesy Buffalo Trace

W.L. Weller is a wheated bourbon from Buffalo Trace that has become expensive and difficult to find in recent years, as whiskey fans have recognized it as an inexpensive (and sometimes even superior) version of Pappy Van Winkle. So yes, this single barrel version of Weller, which will now be an annual release, may already be sold out and going for double the price on the secondary market. But it’s a damn good bourbon that you should try if you can. Obviously, each bottle, depending on the barrel it came from, will have a different flavor profile. But the whiskey we got to try had nice sweet caramel notes throughout, with some vanilla and spice and buttered pecan lying just underneath. $50

Single Malts of Scotland

Courtesy Impex Beverages

For the first time, the Single Malts of Scotland collection has arrived in the US courtesy of Elixir Distillers and Impex Beverages. This is a group of extremely limited-edition single cask bottlings from various distilleries throughout the different whisky regions of Scotland. The whisky is non-chill filtered, no color is added, and it’s bottled at what the company believes is the ideal bottling strength, often much higher than the required 80 proof. The first release consists of ten bottles, with some highlights as follows: Linkwood 12-year-old (aged in a hogshead barrel), with bright green apple and honey notes on the nose; Ledaig 14-year-old (aged in a sherry cask), infused with notes of candied pecan and baking spice; and Glenburgie 21-year-old (aged in a hogshead barrel), with big tropical fruit and vanilla notes on the palate. $125 - $200

Basil Hayden’s 10 Year Old Rye Whiskey

Courtesy Basil Hayden's

Basil Hayden’s, part of the Jim Beam Small Batch Collection, has several different bourbon and rye whiskey expressions in its lineup. The newest release is this 10 Year Old Rye, presumably a “barely legal” rye with somewhere just over 51 percent of the grain in the mash bill. The result is a good Kentucky rye whiskey with soft spice notes that revolve around a base of vanilla, caramel, and that signature Jim Beam corn flavor. It’s a tasty whiskey for sure, although it would be great to try this at a higher proof than 80. (If you are ever lucky enough to be offered a sample of barrel-proof Basil Hayden’s at the distillery, say yes!) But Basil Hayden’s is and seemingly shall continue to be an 80-proof whiskey, meant to be a bit softer and more approachable than its higher ABV cousins. And in that, this release succeeds. $70

Blackened Batch 100 Box Set

Courtesy Sweet Amber Distilling Co

Blackened American Whiskey launched in 2018 under the auspices of the late master distiller Dave Pickerell, who worked with metal band Metallica to create the whiskey. It’s a blend of sourced bourbon and rye that is finished in brandy barrels that are assaulted with the low frequencies of Metallica’s music while aging in a process called “Black Noise.” The point is to stir up the whiskey and encourage interaction between the liquid and wood to infuse it with more flavor. This may be more of a marketing technique than anything else, but regardless the whiskey is unique and flavorful, with strong notes of peach and apricot that shine through. This new Batch 100 gift set was put together by the band and new master distiller Rob Dietrich (formerly of Stranahan’s), and includes a couple of vinyl records with the songs that were played during the whiskey finishing, the first edition of the Blackened zine, and of course a bottle of Blackened. $150

Virginia Distillery Co. Courage & Conviction

Courtesy Virginia Distillery Co

Over the last few years, Virginia Distillery Co. has released a series of whiskeys that were a blend of American single malt made at the distillery and Scottish single malt, which was then finished in different cask types. But the latest single malt release was all made at the distillery. Courage & Conviction was matured for a minimum of three years in bourbon (50 percent), sherry (25 percent), and cuvée wine casks (25 percent) before being married together. In the growing category of American single malt, this new whiskey really stands out, combining rich notes of vanilla and black cherry with brighter citrus and ripe apple flavors. If you have a chance, try this side-by-side with last year’s Prelude, a preview of this final release that differs slightly in its makeup.  $75

Milam & Greene Port Finished Straight Rye Whiskey

Courtesy Milam & Greene

Texas-based Milam & Greene is part of Provision Spirits, which also produces Ben Milam Whiskey. The liquid is sourced from distilleries in Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee (likely including MGP and Dickel), and is brought to Texas for blending and barrel finishing. While its own whiskey is currently being distilled, it will be a few years before we get to taste it. In the meantime, check out this port-finished rye whiskey, which was distilled in Indiana and finished in port casks in Blanco, Texas. This is a delicious sipping whiskey, and the syrupy, candied fruit notes from the port cask complement characteristic spicy notes of a young rye whiskey very nicely. $48

Abasolo Whisky

Michael Persico/Courtesy Abasolo Whisky

A really unique whisky to try this summer is this new bottle of Abasolo Whisky. It’s a 100 percent corn whisky from Mexico that comes from the team behind Montelobos Mezcal and Ancho Reyes. It’s distilled from Cacahuazintle corn, which undergoes the nixtamalization process before distillation (basically, the corn is soaked and cooked in a lime bath, then hulled and washed before distillation). This is a young whisky, aged for about two years primarily in ex-bourbon barrels along with some new toasted oak barrels, with a flavor that really captures the essence of corn that is key to its identity. It is light and grainy with notes of popcorn, corn on the cob, and buttery vanilla that are revealed on both the nose and palate. $40

Catoctin Creek #InThisTogether Infinity Barrel Rye

Courtesy Catoctin Creek

Many distilleries have been helping with the fight against COVID-19 in various ways, like producing hand sanitizer and helping to support various organizations. Virginia’s Catoctin Creek has been doing its part for the last few months, and the latest effort comes in the form of the new Infinity Barrel Rye Whiskey. The whiskey is a blend of liquid from various private barrels that bars and restaurants in the DC area had selected, but were no longer able to sustain after the pandemic hit and they had to shut down. The distillery has taken back that whiskey, blended it together, and finished it in Chardonnay, apple brandy, and stout casks. Best of all, 100 percent of the profits will go to charities including Restaurant Workers Community Foundation, USBG’s Bartender Emergency Assistance Program, Ayuda DMV, and Southern Smoke. $45.09

High West Bourye 2020

Courtesy High West Bourye

Utah’s High West Distillery has a few annual limited edition releases, including the standout and highly anticipated Bourye. This hybrid bourbon-rye whiskey consists of liquid that is sourced from Indiana’s MGP distillery. The 2020 blend is made up of three whiskeys aged for at least ten years—a 95% rye whiskey; a bourbon with a 75% corn, 21% rye, and 4% malted barley mash bill; and a bourbon with a 60% corn, 36% rye, and 4% malted barley mash bill. These high-rye bourbons combined with the rye whiskey come together to bring a gentle a vanilla sweetness to the spicy and fruity rye, along with some smoky and dried fruit notes. $80

Sagamore Spirit Brewer’s Select Rye Ale Barrel Finish

Michael Pohuski/Courtesy Sagamore Spirits

Sagamore Spirit is located in Baltimore. While the distillery is up and running, the whiskey it is making is still maturing in the warehouses. In the meantime, in addition to its core expressions, the team keeps releasing limited-edition cask-finished rye whiskeys. The latest is Brewer’s Select Rye Ale Barrel Finish, which is a collaboration with California’s Sierra Nevada brewery. It’s a blend of six and four-year-old rye whiskey that was finished for ten months in barrels that were used to age Sagamore Spirit rye and then Sierra Nevada red ale (making this the barrels’ third use). This is a rye whiskey that is truly for rye lovers, with pronounced spice and ripe berry notes on the palate. $70

Laphroaig Càirdeas Port & Wine

Courtesy Laphroaig

Peaty scotch fans always look forward to the annual release of Laphroaig Càirdeas. This special edition whisky launched in 1994 for the Friends of Laphroaig group (Càirdeas means “friendship” in Gaelic), and usually involves finishing the whisky in different types of casks. This year is called Port & Wine for obvious reasons. The intensely smoky whisky is a marriage of whisky finished in second-fill ruby port barriques and whisky matured in both ex-bourbon barrels and red wine casks. Expect notes of charred marshmallow, toasted peach, and pink peppercorn, according to the tasting notes. $100