You could make the argument that the last thing the world needs is another flavored vodka. And you’d probably be right. I think we jumped the shark with the birthday cake flavored vodka from Three Olives. Call me old fashioned, but I typically like my liquor to be flavored like liquor. But I’m also (relatively) open minded, so when I started seeing a rash of flavored whiskeys hitting the market, I had to give them a shot (pun intended). Luckily, there seems to be more restraint in the realm of whiskey flavoring than what you find in the vodka world. Thankfully, I haven’t found an “Easter Peep” flavored whiskey yet. Most distilleries are using natural flavors that work in harmony with the spirit (think, honey, not pomegranate flavors). Sure, whiskey purists will balk at this new breed of spirits, but I say loosen up. You can keep stocking your bar with your favorite bourbon, but why not occasionally take a shot with a bit of honey infused? You just might like it.
Here are five flavored whiskeys that are worth your time.
Sons of Liberty actually has a seasonal approach to their whiskey, and the Pumpkin Spice fits into the winter release category. They use 4,000 pounds of pumpkins for this whiskey, which is a lot of pumpkins, but the result is more subtle than you might expect. It won “Best in Category” at the most recent World Whiskey Awards. Respect. Sons of Liberty loves the seasonal flavoring game. Check out their Hop-Flavored summer release too.
Jim Beam has a solid line up of flavored bourbons—one spiced with cinnamon (hello Christmas!), one flavored with apple cider, and this vixen of a bourbon with black cherry. You still get all of the oak and corn from the bourbon, but there’s an undeniably delicious layer of sweet cherry in there too. Think about that maraschino cherry crushed at the bottom of your Old Fashioned. Yeah, it’s like that.
Honey seems to be the go-to flavor for whiskey makers looking to dip a toe in the flavored world. Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, Dewars…they all do a honey-flavored whiskey. Wild Turkey takes their already tasty bourbon and blends in real honey for an incredibly smooth, slightly sweet whiskey. It’s pretty good as a shot, but drop it in some lemonade and you’ve got the perfect summer cocktail. Wild Turkey also does a pretty tasty spiced whiskey that works wonders in a flask on a cold night.
This one played well at the 2010 World Spirits Competition in San Francisco, but it’s probably on the outer limits of the whiskey flavoring spectrum, simply because you usually don’t pick up on notes of blackberry hidden inside your favorite whisky. Vanilla, yes, honey, yes, cherry, maybe, but blackberry, not so much. Still, it works. Bird Dog also produces a peach and maple syrup flavor, but Blackberry is their masterpiece.
Maple syrup and bourbon just belong together, like peanut butter and jelly, or Batman and Robin. I imagine it would be easy to go overboard with this flavor, but thankfully, Knob Creek shows some restraint and allows the sweet syrup to compliment the bourbon notes that we’ve all come to love. Just pour this over ice and fry up a plate of bacon. Bourbon, maple syrup and bacon. Now that’s a threesome.