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Whiskey Ratings 2021 – The Best Whiskeys to End Your Day

It’s the end of the day and you’re exhausted. You want to lay back in your La-Z Boy chair (do those still exist?), put your feet up, watch another episode of “Better Call Saul” (season six premiers in 2022, by the way), and unwind with a relaxing glass of whiskey. But which whiskey? Should you go for a single malt or a rye? Bourbon or cask strength? We put together this list of whiskey ratings to help you choose the best whiskey to end your busy day.

What makes a top rated whiskey?

They say the proof is in the whiskey. We tend to base our whiskey ratings on a few factors:

  • Character
  • Taste and aroma
  • Complexity and balance

CHARACTER

The best whiskies transport you to a dimension beyond our world, in the liminal space existing between two universes. These are whiskies that remind you of your childhood dreams of becoming a ballerina or footballer. Whiskies that leave you craving for another sip. This is subjective, but no matter what the whiskey ratings are, if the it doesn’t grab your particular attention, then it’s not the whiskey for you. And that’s okay. We have 7 others on this list for you to try. 

TASTE AND AROMA 

There are various types of spirits we’ll go over in our whiskey ratings: single malts, cask strength, single barrel, bourbon, etc, and each whiskey has a character of its own. 

A good whiskey is bold and daring, full-bodied, and complex. It has an engaging flavor. This doesn’t necessarily mean the most expensive. In fact, some of the best whiskies are less than $50. 

These whiskies are made using high-quality ingredients–pure water and fresh yeast. But it isn’t as simple as the ingredients. You can use the best ingredients, but still make a sub-par whiskey. 

COMPLEXITY AND BALANCE

The whiskey executes perfect flavor, but remains balanced. This is achieved by the materials used in the distillation process. 

This is different for each type of whiskey as there are different ingredients involved. 

We rate based on how the whiskey fits within its type (or what’s typical for a whiskey of its type), and how it compares to others of the same type. 

Whiskey Ratings for 2021

Here are the whiskies we chose:

  1. Barrell Bourbon Batch 27
  2. Lucky 7 “Jokester” 6 Year Old Bourbon Whiskey
  3. Balcones Distilling Texas Single Malt Whiskey
  4. Split Rock Distilling Single Barrel Cask Strength Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  5. Spirit Works Distillery Cask Strength Rye Whiskey Taster’s Club Exclusive
  6. Lonely Oak Distillery Steeple Ridge Single Barrel Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  7. Copperworks Distilling Co. Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky – Taster’s Club Exclusive
  8. Eastside Distilling Buckman Reserve 10 Year Old Bourbon Whiskey

BARREL BOURBON BATCH 27

The first bottle on our whiskey ratings list is the Barrel Bourbon Batch 27. This bourbon won the Double Gold in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2021. Each batch from Barrell Craft Spirits has its own formula. Barrell Bourbon Batch 27 is the second Batch of bourbon, after Batch 25. It blends 5, 6, 8, 9, 13, and 15-year old selections. The base combines a 6-year old Tennessee whiskey with a 5-year old barrel from Indiana. These flavors combine fruit with spice. To create an element of woody depth, 13 and 15-year old barrels were blended together. To add more spice, a 9-year old rye barrel was added. And to soften and round the flavor, a 5 and 8-year-old wheated bourbon were added. It’s an easy whiskey to sip on the dock of a bay.

About the distillery: Barrell Craft Spirits is an independent bottler from Louisville, Kentucky. They source and blend various casks from established distilleries. The founder, Joe Beatrice, started as a marketing entrepreneur. He decided to use this expertise to found his Barrell Craft Spirits in 2013. 

Going against the grain, Joe didn’t build his own distillery, but rather became a master blender, creatively sourcing his bourbons from distilleries all over the country. Barrell Craft bourbons are creative, and Joe Beatrice is a brewing industry innovator.

LUCKY 7 “JOKESTER” 6 YEAR OLD BOURBON WHISKEY

Another Double-Gold Medal winner in the San Francisco World Spirits competition has made our whiskey ratings list. Lucky 7 Jokester offers a complex flavor profile of both fruit and spice. Because of the interesting combination of cherry cobbler, fresh cinnamon, and buttered brioche, the nose requires patience to open up. Fruit leads the palate, with a caramel and vanilla back palate and leaves your mouth watering and wanting more. 

About the distillery: Lucky 7 Spirits was founded by college buddies Michael Lahalih and John Pals. They bonded on bourbon and cinema, naming their distillery after Stage 7, a Warner Brothers lot where some cinematic masterpieces were filmed like Casablanca (1942) and Ocean’s Eleven (1960). Because this lot produced a large number of box office bangers, the industry started calling it “Lucky Stage 7.” 

BALCONES DISTILLING TEXAS SINGLE MALT WHISKEY

Originally released as a limited edition whiskey in July 2011, Balcones Single Malt is the distillery’s flagship spirit. It’s made with 100% malt grain, distilled in copper pot stills, aged in American oak barrels, and non-chill filtered. The nose starts with dark cherries, and Italian sausage (yum!). The taste develops flavors of roasted nuts with cocoa, and malt. It’s further developed by sweet caramel and honey flavors. 

About the distillery: Balcones Distillery was founded by Chip Tate in 2008. The name originates from the Balcones Fault, a fault spanning from South Texas up to the distillery’s home in Waco, Texas. With copper stills imported from Portugal, this distillery set out to create an authentically Texan taste. Unfortunately, after a controversial falling out, Tate no longer works for the distillery, but the show goes on.

SPLIT ROCK DISTILLING SINGLE BARREL CASK STRENGTH STRAIGHT BOURBON WHISKEY

Split Rock Distilling’s Single Barrel Cask Strength Straight Bourbon Whiskey has a mash bill of 60% corn, 20% wheat, 15% barley, and 5% rye. It’s aged for three full years in new 30-gallon American oak charred barrels, and bottled at 119 proof. The palate combines calm wheat with notes of corn. The finish rounds out these flavors with light rye, toffee, oak, and spice. 

About the distillery: Two close friends, Matt Page and Topher Mallory founded Split Rock distillery with a dream to open up a distillery where few exist, the Pine Tree State, Maine, and specifically Newcastle, Maine. They sought to distill from 100% organic grains, one of the first in Maine to do so.

SPIRIT WORKS DISTILLERY CASK STRENGTH RYE WHISKEY – TASTER’S CLUB EXCLUSIVE

Bottled exclusively for Taster’s Club, we are lucky to put this on the list. It’s the distillery’s first cask-strength bourbon aged at least four years in full-size 53-gallon American White Oak char-4 barrels. It’s bottled at 80 proof and comprises 60% corn with wheat, rye, and barley. It tastes of coffee with chicory, brown butter, and treacle to round out the flavor.

About the distillery: Awarded Distillery of the Year by ADI in July 2020, Spirit Works Distillery was founded in 2012 by a husband and wife team, Timo and Ashby Marshall. They sought to support California’s independent farming community. 

All of the ingredients are organic and local and the entire grain is used in the process from milling to mashing, fermentation, distillation, and bottling. 

Spirit Works is an innovator–constantly trying new combinations of mash bills. This results in one-of-a-kind whiskies, complex and singular. 

LONELY OAK DISTILLERY STEEPLE RIDGE SINGLE BARREL STRAIGHT BOURBON WHISKEY

Steeple Ridge Single Barrel Bourbon is made from homegrown ingredients. It’s matured in smaller, charred American White Oak Barrels, and bottled at 102 proof. The aging process develops notes of cherry, vanilla, toffee, and nuts. Each bottle is unique and assigned its own barrel and bottle number. It won the American Craft Spirits Association Gold Medal in 2019.

About the distillery: The Lonely Oak Distillery motto is “Craft Spirits from America’s Heartland.” 

Lonely Oak Distillery of Shelby County, Iowa, is a micro-distillery and Iowa’s first legal farmer to distiller. The Hoffmann’s, Pat and Amy, founded it in 2017 when they wanted to use more of their harvested grains. They decided the best way to use them is by distilling them into bourbon. Lonely Oak is completely homegrown. When they cannot provide the required grains, they partner with other local farmers to help. 

COPPERWORKS DISTILLING CO. CASK STRENGTH SINGLE MALT WHISKY – TASTER’S CLUB EXCLUSIVE

This Taster’s Club release was created from four casks of Copperworks’ Pale Malt recipe (Pale Ale without hops). Although single casks are considered the epitome of whiskey, distillers can also mix two to eight casks together to create a Franken-malt, unique with every sip. This whiskey was aged for 38 months in new American oak char 3 barrels from Kelvin Cooperage, and bottled at 110 proof. This magnificent whiskey blends orange zest, ginger snaps, and mango, finishing brightly with melon, nuts, and interestingly, leather. Copperworks recommends first trying this whiskey neat and then adding water to open up the flavor. Or make this whiskey into a “Remember the Maine” cocktail,” a spin on the classic Manhattan.

About the distillery: Voted Distillery of the Year by the American Distilling Institute in 2018, Copperworks Distilling Company is a craft distillery and tasting room founded by co-owners and distillers Jason Parker and Micah Nutt. Originally experienced craft beer brewers, they built Copperworks to explore alternatives for malted barley. Located in downtown Seattle, Copperworks began in 2013 offering everything from tasting to tours and other local events. Nearly all of their grains are sourced locally from the State of Washington with the majority of the barley sourced from small farmers who don’t use the run-off farming methods. 

Their approach to distillation is like none other: all spirits come from un-hopped beer. It’s brewed just like craft beer at partner breweries and it’s fermented with fresh beer yeast. These flavors aren’t found in a traditionally brewed and fermented whiskey. 

EASTSIDE DISTILLING BUCKMAN RESERVE 10 YEAR OLD BOURBON WHISKEY

This bourbon was a celebration of Eastside Distilling’s 10-year anniversary in 2018. Aged for ten years, they mellowed the best aged bourbons in Oregon oak (western U.S. Quercus garryana casks)–an uncommon choice as the majority of American whiskey is finished in Missouri oak. It’s  bottled at 92 proof to create a different tasting experience. It was initially only available in Oregon. The Buckman Reserve features a dark umber color with a taste of spiced, sugary, citrus bread (think lemon poppyseed!) and peppercorn. Enjoy this sipper with a nice slice of iced lemon poppyseed bread.

About the distillery: Founded in 2009, Eastside Distilling is the country’s first and only publicly traded craft distillery (NASDAQ: EAST or Eastside Distilling). Their profile includes Quercus Garryana casked Burnside whiskies, Portland Potato Vodka, and Azuñia Organic Tequila. Conservationists at heart, Eastside Distilling also partnered with American Forests to plant 5,000 White Oak Trees in Oregon and Washington State. Now that is environmental consciousness we love to see! 

Whiskey Ratings – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

HOW IS WHISKEY MADE? 

Whiskey is a distilled, alcoholic spirit made from a mash bill of grains (barley, corn, rye, oats, or others). After distillation, the spirit is put into oak barrels and aged for a period of time ranging from zero months to sixty years! 

WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF WHISKEY?

There are many types of whiskey. To name a few, whiskies made in the United States include bourbon (which has at least 51% corn and cannot be produced anywhere outside of the USA), rye (at least 51% rye), and single malt (barley). Single malt scotch is made in Scotland with a mash bill of 100% malted barley. Single pot still is made in Ireland from a malted and unmalted barley mash bill. Other countries typically make whiskey exclusively from malted barley (Japan and India).

IS THERE A CORRECT WAY TO DRINK WHISKEY?

Drink it anyway you like! We have an article to help get you started.Experts recommend trying it neat first and then adding a few drops of water to “open up” or bring out the flavor of the whiskey by lowering the proof.

IS IT WHISKEY OR WHISKY?

It’s both! In the United States and Ireland, we spell it like “whiskey,” but other countries spell it as “whisky.” Both are correct and both still gives you an A on your AP English paper (and if you’re marked down, refer your teacher to this article).

This concludes our list of whiskey rating. Hopefully we’ve inspired you to branch out and try a new whiskey from our list. In time, you’ll develop a finely-tuned palate for the finest whiskies, impressing colleagues, and friends alike at your next gathering. 

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