The 13 Best 2023 Whiskeys So Far

Whiskey is having a heck of a 2023. With the U.S. government formalizing American single malt, we can expect a bundle of spirits to enter the same regard given to bourbon and rye, minus the frankly unsustainable demand for new oak barrels. But even that major development aside, look at all the great stuff coming out. One of the great things about whiskey is how much variety emerges from minuscule changes to just a handful of factors. And when you realize there's a lot of life left in that oak for anyone willing to wait a few more years, you start to get really interesting results from reused barrels, both from the whiskey world, and from barrel exchange programs with other spirits, wines, and beer brewers.

It's also already a year of in-company innovations. WhistlePig released its first single malt, Orphan Barrel just dropped its first rye, Jack Daniel's continues a couple straight years of ground-breaking debuts by putting out a 12-year ... there's no denying it's an exciting time to be a whiskey drinker no matter which way your tastes run. So while we already enumerated the best bourbons of the year, when it comes to the family of whiskeys (and whiskies), here are the releases we're most excited about in 2023 so far.

Barrell Private Releases Whiskey DJX2

With Barrell, especially the Private Release series, you could almost pick anything they put out. Fortunately, we've seen reviews attesting to the high quality of this port-finished whiskey, confirming its place in the estimable lineup with a fresh but not breezy profile. And at a smidge over $100, it's not even that much more than some very well-regarded but perfectly ubiquitous labels, so why not bet on quality — particularly when it comes with a scarcity that those others don't?

This is a whiskey with some kicking power at 124.9 proof, coming out strong after finishing in a ruby port barrel. While reviewers report flavors from all over the map, they all seem to agree it's a fruity pop in the mouth before buttery qualities take over. They also seem to think it might have missed being all that it could be, despite being very good indeed. It seems like DJX2 could have very nearly produced an iteration selling for a few times more than it does. But that doesn't mean it didn't produce something at the forefront of its already respected name.

Bowmore Master's Selection: 22 Year Old

Two things you don't see often enough in these United States: Bowmore special releases and Aston Martins. While we can't help you with the latter, we can point you to the Bowmore Masters' Selection 22 Year Old single malt Scotch whisky. Also known as Master's Selection: Edition Two, it's part of an ongoing partnership with/tribute to the Aston Martin luxury car line. Both are luxe products at home in a 007 installment. Aston Martin's also designed some bottles for the Scotch brand housing, including a 52-year-old whiskey priced around a quarter of a million dollars. But let's focus on what we have a prayer of affording.

While we haven't been lucky enough to sample it ourselves, reviews describe a sweet, salty, smoky journey through the Scottish micro-region of Islay: small in landmass but a powerhouse in productivity and distilling knowledge. Make no mistake: it's a pricy bottle at $450, but that's also a typical price for Scotches in this age range, which are also typically the Scotches worth your time to try. Nothing's guaranteed, but Islay and advanced-age whiskies are safer bets than most.

Breckenridge Sexy Motor Oil, Series Three

Breckenridge Sexy Motor Oil is a delicious game of table tennis between two unrelated but friendly companies, Breckenridge Brewery and Breckenridge Distillery, whose used bourbon barrels hosted the former's oatmeal stout. Then those stouted barrels came home to age bourbon again. The result is a rich, thick bourbon emblematic of the stout's complex mash bill. They've been doing this collaboration for a few years now, and the third Sexy Motor Oil apparently sips like a banana split sundae.

We're making a small exception for this one, which is only available at the distillery, but is so highly regarded that a lot of people fortunate enough to get it are also savvy enough to put it up on the secondary market — not that we're advocating you to patronize such illegal avenues, of course. We're just saying you might meet a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who has a bottle far from its home already. Then you befriend that guy and try one of the most exciting bourbons of 2023. Or, hey, just plan a vacation to Colorado, because a 2024 edition is in the works, too: probably in February if this year's edition three is anything to go by.

Chattanooga Silver Oak Cabernet Cask Finished

Yes, Virginia, there are other whiskeys in Tennessee besides Jack, Dickel, and Nearest, though not all of them apply to the standards designating Tennessee Whiskey. See Chattanooga Whiskey, whose bourbons-but-not have been primarily focused on the effects of malted barley as a taste agent, referring to its product as high malt whiskey, and it's easy to see the point with the careful selection put into the barley used.

With that locus, something like the Silver Oak Cabernet Cask Finished offering was inevitable; it blends five single malt mash bills into a mixture that spends a year and a half calling Sonoma cabernet sauvignon casks home. Not a drop of corn in the mix. The result is a whiskey for all seasons, where fresh fruit flavors team up with herbal accents to hold their own against a heavily sweet and earthy base.

This is a very limited run whiskey, but Chattanooga has yet to land the respect it deserves among the general population, so it's still spottable if it's distributed in your state. Right now it's pulling solid thumbs up from aficionados and devotees, and CEO Tim Piersant made it plain to Forbes that he's more interested in doing new and successful experiments that build an audience than sweeping the dilettante dollar. That means you've still got a shrinking window of time to get it while it's underrated and the tater market isn't inflating its price past all reason.

GlenAllachie 2012 Vintage Cuvée Wine Cask Finish

It looks like bottled amber, but it's not nearly old enough to clone dinosaurs from. Still, the 9-year age statement is in a decent spot for a Scotch. Descriptions of its output, which was matured in bourbon barrels before moving into four types of secondary, high-end wine casks, portray a raucous explosion of emphatically contrasted tastes.

As is so often the case with Scotch, you get fruity, nutty, and herbal notes that pop to the top in a way they don't from those rich and raucous bourbons. Here, though, the bourbon and wine barrels impart their customary chocolate, coffee, candied fruits, and caramel. It's like having all your meals, coffee, and cocktails in one sitting on a summer midday in the garden while fireworks go off all around you. Somehow it all works for a very reasonable price. Artfully curated cuvée is a heck of a nitro boost to Scotch, friends.

Glendronach Cask Strength Batch 11

Now listen here, this is just about as good as a Scotch whisky gets, and at a very fair "fancy but maybe not premium" price of $100 or so. You can thank the sherry casks that have worked out well for Glendronach imparting spicy sweetness on previous iterations to great acclaim. The distillery recommends a couple of drops to open this bronze pour. When you do, you'll get every flavor of a fruitcake, including the not-often-cited treacle. (Ask your great-aunt.) It sounds like this might be a darn fine Christmas tipple if you can keep yourself from drinking it all before then.

You also might want to get it as a steady investment piece: Batch 10 has risen in price by about 80% since last year, and Batch 12 has already arrived. The real question is: what's going to happen when the taters realize the jewels that this series serves up? We're already seeing the price creep from the savvy sippers, and it can't be long before it's bought by reputation as well as merit. But let's be honest, this was made for drinking, not dealing. Don't be the tater.

Glengoyne 15 Years

Glengoyne is a remarkable distillery whether or not you're a fan, and a lot of its characteristics are evident in this 15-year release, which is a moderate 86 proof. And lucky us, we recently tried it. 

The wheat/honey gold liquid leaves thick legs, but not column-width. Curiously, they seem to be more unevenly spaced than is usual with whiskey. Perhaps a consequence of the lighter 43% ABV and the overall breeziness of this pour.

On the nose, it's sharply sweet: mint, pineapple, cut grass. All very herbal, a little earthy, but mostly the freshest scents. The taste is balanced, with nothing particularly protruding in the usual caramel/cask/vanilla directions. Glengoyne describes this release as having a "clean" taste, and that tracks with its time in the refill casks, along with a little light fruitiness from the time in the sherry casks. The spirit was also matured in used bourbon barrels, and you can see maybe why this ended up a very centrally positioned Scotch.

It gives way to some nuttiness on the finish, but the oak is present rather than overbearing: no easy trick when it's standing alone. While it does taste younger than its 15 years, it's also nice to find a whiskey with a lengthy age statement that doesn't land like a sledgehammer. Befitting Glengoyne's location where the Highlands and Lowlands meet, this 15-year Scotch straddles two worlds.

Heaven Hill Heritage Collection 20-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Corn Whiskey

A running joke in whiskey circles is that Mellow Corn is the recommendation for any occasion, except it's not quite a joke; its peculiar charms are real. The jest lies in the universal utility, and also in pretending like Mellow Corn is less than it is. Yes, the straight corn whiskey looks and tastes like what it is: a no-cost pour so basic it's paradoxically exotic with creamy banana flavors. And yet ... Mellow Corn is pretty good?

Look, just because you have a table at Rao's doesn't mean you can't appreciate the glories of street meat. This distillery gave us fellow "cheap but awesome" label Evan Williams: our top pick for one of the most underrated bourbons. The beloved Mellow Corn is bottled-in-bond(!) with a 90% corn mash bill and no pretensions. Given the high-corn mash bill of other Heaven Hill releases, it's a new oak barrel away from glory, and a middling whiskey can be a great purchase when it's reliably satisfying and priced to sell.

Heaven Hill asked, "What if we aged it five times as long?" for the second bottle in its burgeoning Heritage Collection. The series, released annually, is already as intriguing as desirable. The banana notes remain while stronger corn emerges. It'll cost you $300, but it's the perfect bottle to reunite with college buddies and remember the time when you bonded over the four-year bottle.

High West Bourye 2023

When you mix bourbon and rye, you get Bourye — or so High West would have us all saying. But we're always up for an experiment around here, and a blend is not that different from a high-rye mash bill, right? It just stems from two qualifying spirits abandoning their namesakes to run away together. Let's see if it works out better here than it did for Romeo and Juliet. Fittingly, the label shows a jackalope, the chimera of the American frontier: the Bourye of U.S. western frontier's mythical creatures, if you will.

High West has generally been a fan-favorite, albeit an often-disputed one, and the 2023 Bourye isn't going to change that. It's one of three premium offerings from the Utah distiller and is always highly sought after, even as people debate its quality year after year. Plus, this edition comes with a price hike at $125.

If you're of the faithful, it tastes like every state fair in America at once — perhaps because even though it's only available in Utah, you're as likely to find it anywhere else in the country as there, given how fast it moves to the secondary market. If you're not in a position to pick it up at sticker price you can order online to some areas, while reputable online retailers will put it in your hands for $200 and up, but be suspicious of any site selling it at cost or discount; there are a lot of fake bourbon distributors out there.

Jack Daniel's 12-Year-Old Tennessee Whiskey

Jack's not joking. The debut of a Tennessee whiskey aged 12 years finds a much higher proof than Old No. 7, even landing seven points above last year's Bonded and Triple Mash at 107 proof. Along with the Sinatra Select, the famous brand — maybe even the most famous whiskey brand — has been on quite an expansive tear.

In fact, this year also sees the second expression of the 10-year, brought back in 2021 after more than a century. Still, we're most excited about the new stuff, and the reviews bear that out. Jack 12 is packed with the notes of every rich flavor in the world, by turns sweet and spicy, after offering up a heavenly aroma you might just let sit and stay a while before you go sipping it. Some reviews consider it to be the perfection of the essential Jack Daniel's mash bill. The biggest criticism of this stuff is that Sinatra died before he could try it, but he had a happy enough life regardless.

Now for the bad news: The MSRP on this is $80, but if you can even find it, you're looking at several hundred dollars. That will likely change in time with planned additional expressions, but who's to say if they'll be as good as this one? See if you can't beat the price by ordering a pour at a bar that got it when it was a normal expenditure.

Knob Creek 7 Year Old Kentucky Straight Rye

Knob Creek has always been a reliable pour you never feel bad about mixing, but can readily drink neat, rocked, or any other way you can think of. Sometimes the best whiskey is a jack of all trades, and this high-corn rye does it all for under 40 bucks — an actual price drop in this inflationary age, and at 100 proof, to boot.

With the new age statement, Beam Suntory continues to establish bonafides, whether or not anything else about this rye has changed. It's apparently richer than it used to be, which — true or not — is a nice appearance to make. Some characterize this spicy, candylike whiskey as the bourbon-drinker's rye. Curiously, despite a deep char on these barrels, Knob Creek Rye doesn't send back noteworthy smokiness. All told, every whiskey drinker needs an all-purpose bottle on hand, especially if Manhattans are on your cocktail menu regularly.

Stranahan's 2023 Diamond Peak Batch #2: Extra Añejo Cask

We are so happy to finally get the chance to talk up a bottle of Stranahan's in one of these whiskey roundups. The Colorado distiller was working in this corner of the whiskey industry long before the government officially designated American single malt whiskey as a class unto itself this year, and the company knows its stuff, offering up a beautifully gentle alternative to the fire-and-brimstone bourbons filling the American whiskeyscape.

Unless you intend to go get the Maple Cask or the Blue Peak in person, Diamond Peak Batch #2 might be the most desirable — and attainable — American single malt bottle out this year. After an initial outlay with Bushmills in 2022, the collaborative release series returns. Extra Añejo sees a collaboration with Jose Cuervo, aging a blend of five-to-eight-year Stranahan's in used casks from the Reserva de la Familia line for two years. By reports, the tequila shows up best on the finish after a smooth, soft approach from the whiskey.

Better hurry, though. Attainable is a relative term when it's already out of stock on Stranahan's website, making this a field search. For some people that's half the fun. For everyone else, guess you'd better line up extra early for December's Snowflake release to make up for missing this one.

WhistlePig Béhôlden

Yes, we said Stranahan's might be this year's American single malt to seek out. Yes, WhistlePig is an American company, and its Béhôlden single malt, as previously reported, is so good it's beyond belief. But two "hold up" notes. First, is that we also qualified Stranahan's as attainable, and the WhistlePig is an extremely limited offering at just 18 barrels. Second, even though this is maybe technically America's oldest single malt whiskey, the scuttlebutt says this is sourced out of Nova Scotia, and while the results speak for themselves, it does put quotes on the "American" part, even without an official government designation in place. Most of all, though, Béhôlden debuts at $800, and therein lies the difference between obtainable and attainable.

If that's not a dealbreaker for you, and you can find a bottle — safely ensconced in its impressive wooden safe that you're going to spend the rest of your life wondering what to do with after the bottle's gone — then by all monetary means, try this punchy, fragrantly floral release after you've read our full review of WhistlePig Béhôlden single malt and nodded in eager anticipation.