Whiskey can of course be savored at any time of year, but when the temperatures drop it offers a particularly resonating nose-to-palate warmth. Swaddling yourself in a blanket in front of a roaring fire on a cold winter’s night after a crazy day of work is all well and good—but what’s missing from this almost-perfect scene? Winter whiskeys. Add an incomparable single malt, bourbon, rye, Japanese whisky, or Irish whiskey into the works, and now we’re talking.
Early winter is the right time to stock up on the best cold-season whiskeys—which run the gamut from sweet bourbons and sherry-centric single malts to spicy ryes and everything in between. Here are 10 favorites to sip between now and spring.
1. Kilbeggan Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey
You don’t have to wait until St. Patrick’s Day to enjoy a fine glass of Irish whiskey. Kilbeggan Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey is an all-winter-long captivator. Double-distilled in pot stills, its mash bill of malted barley, raw barley, and oats offers hints of vanilla beans, orange peel, mint, cinnamon, and a nice fruity, warming flavor that’s every sip as exceptional in early winter as it is in March.
2. The Dalmore 12 Year Sherry Cask Select
Producing nothing but award-winners, The Dalmore makes a slew of whiskies perfect for winter. Our favorite is its 12 Year Old Sherry Cask Select with its mix of sweetness and warmth, plus flavors like almond cookies, fudge, Christmas spices, and a nice fruity, sweet backbone.
3. Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon
While it’s hard to pick a Four Roses favorite, the best winter sipper by a nose from the famed Lawrenceburg, Kentucky distillery is its Small Batch Bourbon. This blend of six Four Roses bourbon recipes is aged between six and seven years in new, charred American oak barrels before being bottled at 90 proof. The result is a mellow sipping whiskey with hints of dried cherries, wood char, toffee, and slight, wintry spices.
4. Wild Turkey Rare Breed Bourbon
There’s a reason Wild Turkey 101 and Rare Breed are top picks among bartenders and drinkers alike. They’re both high-proof, reasonably priced, and very high-quality whiskeys. While picking the better of the two is an endless debate, we’ll opt for the Rare Breed during the winter months. This 112.8 proof whiskey is a blend of bourbons aged between six and 12 years. The result is a bold, brash sipper with flavors of clover honey, vanilla beans, cinnamon sugar, butterscotch, and warming, peppery spice.
5. Michter’s US-1 Rye Whiskey
Michter’s is such a legendary name in the bourbon world that it can be easy to overlook its superb rye offerings during the winter months. US-1 Rye Whiskey is made with sheared select rye before maturing in charred American oak barrels. The result is a spicy bold whiskey with hints of cinnamon, ginger, candied orange peels, toffee apples, and gentle, spicy cracked black pepper.
6. GlenDronach 12 Year Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Sherry finishing and sherry aging are nothing new in the single malt Scotch world, but some distilleries are more masterful than others. One of the best (and reasonably priced) is GlenDronach 12 Year. Matured in both Pedro Ximenez and oloroso sherry casks, it’s known for its sweet, rich flavor with notes of raisins, dried cherries, sweet sherry, oaky wood, and sweet, buttery caramel.
7. Nikka Coffey Grain Japanese Whisky
First released in 2012, this single grain, award-winning Japanese whisky gets its name from being distilled in the famous column-designed Coffey still. Aged in American oak barrels, it’s known for its smooth, sweet, rich flavor—highlighted by notes of caramel candy, almond cookies, toasted vanilla beans, and a nice, sweet fruity flavor throughout.
8. Widow Jane The Vaults Bourbon
No one will fault you for simply grabbing a bottle of Widow Jane 10—but splurging on a bottle of Widow Jane The Vaults is the height of cold-weather comfort. This 99 proof bourbon is a blend of whiskeys aged between 15 and 17 years that are finished in Adirondack oak casks. The result is a memorable bourbon highlighted by notes of oaky wood, sticky toffee, cinnamon, and other spices.
9. Ardbeg Wee Beastie
For some exceptional proof that age isn’t everything in the whisky world, Ardbeg’s youngest offering is also one of its most well-suited for winter drinking. Aged for only five years in a combination of ex-bourbon and oloroso sherry casks, it’s loaded with flavors like peaty campfire smoke, sweet, dried cherries, candied orange peels, slight fruitiness, and slight, salty ocean brine.
10. Pikesville Straight Rye
While Prohibition squashed most of Maryland’s once-booming rye whiskey scene, Pikesville, was one of the few brands that bounced back. This 110 proof rye whiskey is a throwback to those old days. Matured for six years, the award-winning whiskey is filled with flavors like cinnamon, cloves, butterscotch, vanilla beans, and warming, spicy, cracked black pepper.
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