When people think about single malt whiskies, their thoughts most often head to the land of William Wallace, haggis, and unicorns (the country’s official animal): Scotland. This logic holds water — when we talk about truly special bottles of scotch, we’re most often referring to single malt whisky expressions. And with the likes of Glenlivet, The Macallan, Lagavulin, and others, it’s not surprising that Scotland gets top billing.
But did you know that a rapidly increasing number of US distilleries are making high-quality single malts as well?
The find them, we went to a suitable source for most booze-related information, our friendly bartenders. We asked them to tell us their favorite American single malt whiskies/ whiskeys for winter and they didn’t disappoint. With great offerings from Waco to Washington, the US is officially putting the Scots on notice.
St. George Baller
Demetrëa Dewald, lead bartender at Bar Mateo at Zinc Café in Los Angeles
Baller by St. George Spirits is simply put straight-up baller.
Made from American barley and aged in bourbon and French oak wine casks then filtered through maple charcoal, this spirit has a delicate yet robust palate that is one of a kind. With a tinge of sweetness and smoky after notes, don’t waste this beauty in a cocktail. I recommend drinking it neat with a water back to help cleanse the palate between sips and experience the true complexities of the spirit.
High West High Country
Alex Tack, bartender at Rex 1516 in Philadelphia
This is an interesting category of whiskey because the definition is still fairly open-ended. It seems like a lot of the products vary as a result. I do like the ones that aim to be a bit like an American expression of a Scotch. Of that loose category, High West’s single malt is one I have tried and can confidently recommend.
It has a nice touch of smoke, and a nice balance of smoothness and alcoholic “heat” — perfect for cold weather.
Corsair Triple Smoke
Andy Printy, beverage director at Chao Baan in St. Louis
Corsair Distillery has some great single malts, but their Triple Smoke is by far my favorite. It’s made with three types of smoked malted barley; using peat, cherry wood, and beechwood. It gives the whisky a super unique nose and the palate is where the complexity of smoke and the subtle cherry and stone fruit all come together for a one-of-a-kind profile in the single malt world.
Town Branch Malt
Sean Ebbitt, owner and bartender at Bluegrass Tavern in Lexington, Kentucky
My favorite American single malt whiskey is Town Branch Malt. With its 7-year age statement, it’s one of the older American-made single malts available.
They age it in a barrel that has been used for Town Branch Bourbon, and Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale. This unique aging process gives it sweet cereal notes and hints of molasses.
Hill Rock Single Malt
Gavin Humes, bartender at Scratch|Bar & Kitchen in Encino, California
There are quite a few that fit this category, but for me, Hill Rock Single Malt is the best. The late Dave Pickerell, who is a bit of a legend in the distilling world, helped create the distillery, and the product they’re turning out is out of this world. After spending time in the charred barrels, it’s finished with Oloroso and Px Sherry Casks to give it a smooth and delicious complexity.
Westland American Oak
Westland is one of my favorites. It has oak and toasted caramel notes from the charred barrels used for its aging process, making it the best choice for a drink with character this time of year.
Westward American Single Malt
This unique single malt was made with locally sourced barley, brewed with ale yeast, and aged in new, charred, American oak casks. The result is a complex, well-rounded whiskey with hints of sweet malts, dried fruits, and dark chocolate.
Virginia Port Cask Finished
This single malt from the folks at Waco’s Balcones is filled with hints of dried orange peels, caramelized sugar, sweet vanilla, charred oak, and subtle spicy cinnamon. For a sipper, it’s a great chance of pace from your usual Scottish-made single malts.
Balcones Texas Single Malt
This single malt from the folks at Waco’s Balcones is filled with hints of dried orange peels, caramelized sugar, sweet vanilla, charred oak, and subtle spicy cinnamon. A nice burst of winter in a glass, straight from the Lone Star State.
Stranahan’s Single Malt
Made only using Rocky mountain water and locally sourced barley, this single malt is aged for four years in American oak barrels before finishing in sherry butts. The result is a complex, non-chill filtered whiskey with hints of sweet caramel, maple syrup, and honey.