The 21 Best Whiskeys Of 2023

Whiskey had a heck of a 2023. Great bottles populated the calendar in every genus of the brown liquor and finished big in Q4. The variety of emergent from minuscule changes to a handful of production factors is striking. 

For example: With the U.S. government recognizing American single malt, a new category of spirits will bring scrutiny to subtler spirits, minus the unsustainable demand for new oak barrels. There's a lot of life left in that oak for anyone willing to wait a few more years, and reused barrels yield interesting results, both from the whiskey world and from barrel exchange programs with other alcohol producers. 

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 to drink this year, here are the other whiskeys (and whiskies) we're most excited about in 2023. And just to be fair, we made it a mix of rarities with attainable bottles in both availability and price point. 

Some of these bottles were provided as complimentary samples from their producers for review purposes. 

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.

Ardbeg BizarreBQ

Of late it seems Islay's eschewing Scotland's brand of ancient whisky craftsmanship and enjoying its artsy/punky phase. (See also Smokehead, an Islay that revels in the island's reputation for death by peatiness.) Which brings us to BizarreBQ, the new release from a label that has previously staked out really traditional territory.

BizarreBQ won't actually evoke slow-cooked meats with tangy sauces, but if you use the term to mean grilling it has a really — and we mean really — nice nose that will illustrate to anyone the toasty difference between smoky and peaty by embodying both. Sniff it next to something like Ole Smoky Moonshine, then Bruichladdich Octomore, and you'll triangulate the middle. This does make picking out what else rides in the nose difficult, but the juice itself is clear and kind of fruity, then back to the toast. There's no ethanol scorch to speak of.

Its taste is surprisingly mild. It rides the oak and lemon side of things without getting nutty, and its mild bitterness tracks with its aims of seared meat. All of this remains on the good side of oaky rather than aspirin. Again, it doesn't bring barbecue to mind in the American sense, but there is somebody to it despite the smooth, pleasant taste and lack of burn ... or only a pleasant, small amount. Looking at the label's 50.9% ABV, you can see where it comes from even as it impresses with its gentleness.

Bruichladdich Bere Barley 2013

We never need an excuse to plug Bruichladdich here, but dang if the admirable Islay distillery didn't drop five big releases on us the very week we were updating this article. Of these, we resist recommending the Octomore because, well, you'll probably encounter it, but you won't get to pick which version is on the shelf, even though they're all good.

Bere Barley early reviews say it's a real dynamic tango between zesty fruits and earthy aspects like leather, wood, and nuttiness that recall the best of the brand — or at least the polar end of it that revels in defying Islay peatiness. Where the Octomore goes fiery and bold, Bere Barley lets the malt star over and above the peat toasting it. For a brand that's led the charge to terroir in whiskey, it's good evidence that the soil can do as much to affect the grain's taste at the seed stage as it might at the germination.

Jack Daniel's 10-Year

Qualified as a bourbon, but even more technically not interested in that appellation, it's America's favorite whiskey, right? Yeah? Look, we don't need to get esoteric with some single-rickhouse whiskey that only produced 100 bottles of a blue corn-and-spelt mash bill. Jack Daniel's new age-statement expressions are universally agreed to be a resounding triumph for the most ubiquitous of Tennessee whiskeys. If you're clutching the first batch too tightly to ever uncork what you quite rightly fear is a collector's item, permit yourself to unwind with the good stuff. 

Smoke and stone fruits blend together in this boss bottle of what was, in last year's batch at least, fairly regarded as the best thing to ever come out of the Lincoln County process. While Jack Daniel's 12-year, debuting recently, is an even better get, good luck finding that masterpiece. Yes, technically, it's the one we should be recommending: so momentous was its arrival. But, you're just not going to source it, nor the used Honda it would cost you to buy it. The much more obtainable 10-year is the Jack of all trades and purchases.

That said, don't think it will be easy to find. This 10-year is still a bit of a hunt, however more affordable and findable it may be. But that's the fun of it.

Starward Ginger Beer Cask #7

For now, at least, Starward might be whisky's best-kept secret from the collectors who want to overrun the scene. But the praise keeps piling up for the Australian distillery, whose Solera and Nova single malts command a glint in the eyes of tipplers seeking new frontiers. For much cheaper, you can get the two-grain (wheat and malted barley if you're wondering) Two Fold, which is still extremely commendable, plus affordable for something that had to traverse half the globe to get here. 

But guess what made its U.S. debut this summer? The brand's extremely popular Ginger Beer Cask #7, which we would recommend to you now if you can get it — but you probably didn't enter and win the stateside lottery for this single malt aged in barrels that were once home to its in-house ginger beer production.

So, officially, we're saying get your hands on that jackalope. But, more realistically, any bottle of Starward will do you right, as it's making headway here and could rise in price pretty rapidly.

Whistle Pig Boss Hog X

Another wonderful Whistle Pig release that tastes like a 25-year-old scotch masked as undisclosed-age straight rye. Do you like mead? Here's your birthday wish bottle. The tenth installment of the highly anticipated Boss Hog, dubbed The Commandments, blows up expectations, thanks to a double-barrel finish. The second cask is the highly evident mead, but the first is the real curiosity, using barrels that once housed Whistle Pig's mysterious experimental spirit "infused with aromatic resins from the genera commonly known as frankincense and myrrh" to put a New Testament bow on this Old Testament title, and even more intriguingly, a mixture of rye and whey! (We promise autocorrect isn't maligning "whiskey.")

The tenth edition of this rye is sweet and easy from start to finish. The mead pushes forward from lips to linger with grape, then lemon, then honeysuckle. A minimal and pleasant amount of bite invigorates at first, and after it fades, the chew yields astringency and a touch of tobacco. Even then, it quickly washes away into the Winesap apple-and-honey taste that makes this whiskey oh so good.

As the finish subsides, you'll get rye pepperiness at last, mixed with savory tones of the oaked variety, and these, too, are smooth. Boss Hog X isn't just candy — it's that Wonka candy that took Violet Beauregarde on an entire astral trip through tasting notes. The difference is you will assuredly not be blue after trying this.

Morris of Rutherglen

By golly, get yourself some of this. This Australian single-malt whisky won't cost you but $60 to $100, and you could do a lot worse for a lot more. We tried both the main and Muscat barrel whiskies and were hard-pressed to choose. But considering they were both exceptional and so neck and neck, we figured the standard edition was the better deal. They also present quite differently, so don't feel like you need to choose if it's in your budget.

The nose is apple and pear, and probably an entire cornucopia of fruits if you just want to swirl and smell it for an hour. You could pick a worse way to make this joyful journey last. The Muscat, in comparison, smells so strongly of butterscotch we caught a huge whiff of it just carrying the glass to our tasting table (yes, we have a real-life one. It's not just a title). Both were deeply pleasing.

And then it actually gets smoky with a nice taste. Whatever char Morris is using on these barrels, it's giving Scotch peatiness. There's a tangy caramel on the back finish that is just such a rare combination of sour with complex sweetness, and it all condenses into a candy flourish.

Morris of Rutherglen is a thoroughly satisfying whisky that gets more enjoyable with every sip, and at a cost akin to plenty of domestically produced or mid-range imports. If this is what Australia's capable of, send over more bottles.

Starward Stout Cask

There are only two Australian whiskies available in the U.S., and they're both champions. Starward returns to the list to drop jaws at a great deal: approximately one Benjamin for a fantastic bottle. As with the rest of the family, Stout Cask's far-flung qualities are absent from domestic distillate, so there's simply nothing like it on U.S. territory.

There's big citrus on the nose — lemon and orange, then some peachy stone fruit. It's not advertised as sour mash, but it wouldn't surprise our noses to learn. That might be the stout's influence, though.

Swirled in a Glencairn, this drink wears a necklace of beads and nothing more than a few, irregular legs. This is sticky stuff that gives apple up top and peanut on the finish — and somehow, both taste like bourbon? This is crazy. Perhaps the red wine barrels that matured it are making an interesting combination with the stout cask finish. There's a small bit of oak as a nutty finish, but the bitter/astringent intersection is where it gets interesting. Rather than the usual note to be tamed or tolerated, this woody characteristic really gives the silky sip some heft. There's no burn.

Put it on the rocks, and honey jumps out like a supercharged Jameson. There's no bad way to pour Stout Cask. You'll be hard-pressed to find a smoother whisky, which, at 52% ABV, tricks you into expecting a much lower proof on the label. This is the easiest-drinking stuff we've ever tried, and it's just plain fun.

High West Campfire

Another High West? Listen, we don't make the rules, we just make lists of what rules, and The Campfire releases regularly draw crowds to procure a bottle. It's an even more mingled edition from masterful whiskey makers than the Bourye is, adding scotch into the mix with all of the smoky qualities you'd expect of its title and the Scottish inclination towards peat—though where exactly the Scotch is sourced from remains a mystery.

The nose sends up Communion wine and a really strong sort of floral caramel that's sweet to the cliff edge of cloying. But that's not the case when this artfully balanced blend of rye and high-rye bourbon dances with the Scotch in your glass. It's sweet, salty, smoky, and even a little savory all at once, making this bottle the argument for keeping a master blender on speed dial if not salary. There's an underlying bitterness all throughout but it distinguishes itself from the usual oaking. 

Test Campfire with the ol' Kentucky Chew and this dog shows its teeth, but not before giving over some pecan and almond nuttiness, returning to floral, minus the saccharine, on the finish and linger. You could pick a much worse bottle to bring to your actual campfire, and few better.

Raise your glass to the best whiskeys of 2023

We tasted a lot — seriously a lot — of whiskey this year, and researched the rest to mingle personal tasting notes with the general consensus of internet enthusiasts. No one person's opinion is the final say, and there are so many commendable whiskeys beyond even an oversized list like this one. Hard cuts were made. We agonized about repeating a brand under different products when so many distillers deserve the spotlight — but concluded that the distillery or blender is not the threshold so much as the label and batch. 

In the end, it came down to: what would we go out and buy, and what did we text our whiskey-drinking friends to say, "You've got to get yourself some of this"? While distillers have to use a lot of metrics to make wonderful whiskey, there's no accounting for taste at the cash register. You can only go by the compiled reports of enough savvy drinkers to form a reliable recommendation, and your gut ... or tongue in this case. 

And with all that said, if you get your hands on some Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, don't wait forever to drink it. Some releases are so big their gravity would throw a list like this out of whack.