Whether it’s gin, vodka, rum, or even whiskey, whenever artificial flavor is added to a spirit you run the risk of ruining the taste of the base spirit. Many flavored spirits are cloying, sugary, and overloaded with whatever synthetic flavors they’re using to approximate something found in nature. This is especially true when it comes to flavored whiskey.
We like whiskey around these parts, so it stands to reason that we’d want to actually taste it. If you want sugar water, maybe the spirit isn’t for you. That’s not to say all flavored whiskeys are trash. Just… most. Here are the bottles that are actually worth your cash.
Knob Creek Smoked Maple
Made in Clermont, Kentucky by Beam Suntory, Knob Creek has gained a following for its reasonably-priced, high-quality bourbon and rye whiskeys. In a sea of overly flavored whiskeys, Knob Creek Smoked Maple is an oasis of flavor. It’s a blend of the bourbon you know and love with smoked maple flavors.
It’s perfect on its own on the rocks or mixed into an Old Fashioned to give it a smoky, maple kick.
TASTING NOTES: This complex, smooth, well-balanced whiskey starts with a base of rich bourbon. But it’s the addition of maple that gives it a subtle smoky flavor with hints of caramel and vanilla.
Wild Turkey American Honey Sting
Like Jim Beam and Jack Daniel’s, Wild Turkey is one of the most iconic American whiskey brands. You can’t go wrong with a bottle of Wild Turkey 101 and a group of friends sitting around a campfire. For a change of pace, the brand’s American Honey is a blend of Wild Turkey Bourbon and pure honey.
That’s all well and good, but we like to kick things up a bit and that’s why we reach for the spicy American Honey Sting.
TASTING NOTES: An offshoot of the popular Wild Turkey American Honey brand — in which bourbon and honey are blended together to create a subtly sweet, perfectly mixable flavored whiskey — American Honey Sting takes this recipe and adds a subtle kick of ghost peppers. The result is a 71 proof whiskey with the flavor profile of a bold bourbon with the sweetness of honey and vanilla plus pleasing hint of warming heat.
Hochstadter’s Slow & Low Rock and Rye
Can a rye-based cocktail packaged in a can or bottle still count as a flavored whiskey? What even are the parameters for a flavored whiskey? Does it contain whiskey and other flavors? Yes, it definitely does. Slow & Low Rock and Rye is made with a base of rye whiskey. Added to that is raw honey, dried oranges, Angostura bitters, and a little rock candy for sweetness.
TASTING NOTES: This 84-proof flavored whiskey is like already having an Old Fashioned in a bottle. Simply pour over ice and enjoy the flavors of a subtly spicy rye whiskey mixed with hints of dried fruits and sweet honey along with a hint of peppery rye at the end.
Rogue Rolling Thunder Stouted Whiskey
This is much more complicated than your average flavored whiskey. Although it doesn’t have a fruit or cinnamon added to it, it gets its extra flavor from a unique source. This whiskey begins as a wash from Rogue Dead Guy Ale. Then it gets aged for a year in new Oregon oak barrels. This is followed by two more years maturing in barrels that previously held Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout.
TASTING NOTES: The result of aging in a barrel that previously held an Imperial Stout give this whiskey a unique flavor profile. The first sip will be met with hints of pepper, malts, chocolate, before transferring to dried fruits and a dessert liqueur-like quality.
Old Forester Mint Julep
Most of American only thinks about the Mint Julep during May when the Kentucky Derby takes place. But for the people of Kentucky, this is a go-to cocktail all year long (especially in the heat of the summer). Old Forester decided that people were too busy to mix up their own Juleps. That’s why the brand decided to release a bottled version designed to be poured over ice and enjoyed right away.
TASTING NOTES: This 60-proof flavored whiskey has all the flavors of the beloved Mint Julep, including mint, bourbon, and sugar. It’s surprisingly smooth with a base of Old Forester’s award-winning bourbon. It really is a Mint Julep in a bottle with subtle mint and sweetness to go along with the rich, complex bourbon.