“Trending” bourbon whiskey probably doesn’t mean much to the average consumer. To us, it’s an insight into what’s headed our way — or exciting people — in whiskey as 2022 comes into focus. To help us figure out what the new year brings, we turned to the brand new Drinks International Annual Brand Report.
While that name sounds super inside baseball, bear with us. Drinks International is really about what you’re drinking, according to people who own and manage the world’s best bars. The yearly brand report asks the owners, managers, and head bartenders from the World’s 50 Best Bars to list the three brands they’re both selling the most of and also see trending according to what their consumers are ordering more often.
Or, as Drinks International puts it, “the Trending lists offer an indication of the brands that are hot right now.” Easy enough, right?
To that end, we’re listing the top ten trending American whiskey brands of 2022 — we’ll get to the best selling stuff next. All of them are bourbons. So we decided to reach into our archives and call out our favorite bottles from each brand to help you find the whiskey that drinkers like you are apparently ordering with more common frequency at the bars right now.
Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Bourbon Posts Of 2021
10. Jim Beam — Jim Beam Bonded
Average Price: $23
While this doesn’t come from only one percent of Jim Beam barrels or go through a special secondary aging cycle, this bourbon is Jim Beam’s high watermark when it comes to Kentucky bourbon. The juice is aged in a bottled-in-bond facility for four years where it’s also bottled at 100 proof with no bullshit.
This is the standard Beam bourbon mash bill but there’s just something extra happening that makes this expression shine.
This bourbon beckons you in with notes of toasted oak, red cherry, and vanilla. That leads to fresh honey, sweet caramel corn, rich toffee, bold vanilla, crisp apple, more of that red cherry, peppery spice, and a note of fresh mint. With a little water, the dram edges towards bitter dark chocolate with a nice billow of pipe tobacco while holding onto the mint, toffee, and vanilla oakiness. The end is long, meandering, and full of warmth, fruit, spice, and bourbon goodness.
Jim Beam is a classic for a reason. It delivers every single time and is amazingly well priced. What could be “hotter” than that?
9. Heaven Hill — Heaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond 7-Year
Average Price: $60
Heaven Hill makes a lot of whiskeys. This expression has been a touchstone bottled-in-bond since 1939 and remains a go-to for many bourbon lovers. The juice is very low rye (only ten percent) mash bill that’s left to age for an extra three years.
The nose on this is like a vanilla ice cream scoop that’s been drizzled with salted caramel and then dipped in dried honeysuckle petals inside an old leather pouch. That caramel and dried floral honey feel drive the taste towards a somewhat dry graham cracker maltiness with a touch more of that leather and a whisper of toffee tobacco. The end leans into an eggnog spice mix with more of that sweet and buttery tobacco and a final note of sweet cherry and old cellar beams.
Heaven Hill’s brands are vast and varied. It feels like the distiller of bigger names like Larceny, Elijah Craig, and Rittenhouse is starting to get plenty of love for their own brand-name whiskey from whiskey drinkers. It’s easy to understand why with an outstanding bottle like this bottled-in-bond.
8. Jack Daniel’s — Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select
Average Price: $172 (1-liter bottle)
Frank Sinatra was one of Jack’s biggest fans. So much so that the crooner was buried with a bottle. The actual juice in this expression is a throwback to how Jack was made in Sinatra’s day. They use special “Sinatra Barrels” that have concentric grooves carved into the newly charred oak, giving the whiskey more surface area to do its thing. Once the juice is aged, it’s blended with traditional Old No. 7 and proofed at 45 percent, as it also would have been back in Sinatra’s heydays.
Peach cobbler, apple pie with a buttery crust and caramel drizzle, vanilla pods, old leather, and a hint of cherry tobacco inside an old wooden box build on the nose. The sip leans into the fruit next to woody spice and soft leather that mellows dramatically towards a soft vanilla cream along with a very distant echo of cherry tobacco chewiness. The mild spice (think nutmeg) arrives late and is tied to a cherry syrup vibe that just touches on dry wicker, faint almonds, and a touch more of that tobacco. Ultimately, the leather returns and builds towards a silken finish with just the right balance of woody apple, cherry tobacco, and oaky spice — all touched by the softest note of vanilla bean.
This is the best-selling American whiskey in the world. That success has caused a lot of the so-called “cool” kids to dismiss it for way too long. With Chris Fletcher and Lexie Phillips guiding the distilling and blending process these days and dropping some of the most interesting new releases in the game, Jack Daniel’s is primed for a massive renaissance.
Just taste a little of this Sinatra Select and you’ll be convinced.
7. Elijah Craig — Elijah Craig Barrel Proof
Average Price: $84
This expression is all about finding the best barrels in the Heaven Hill warehouses and letting that whiskey shine on its own. These are released three times a year and have been winning award after award. The whiskey in the bottle is generally at least 12 years old and bottled with no cutting down to proof or filtration whatsoever, thereby letting the barrel shine on its own.
This is all about the red, tart, and sweet berries in vanilla cream with a clear sense of the berry brambles — think leaves, stems, seeds, thorns, and even a little dirt. That vanilla drives the palate with a hint of light green pepper spice that gives way to a mid-palate that’s a medley of fresh blackberry, blueberry, and raspberry. Those berries take on a dried rose note as a rich berry-laced and slightly spiced tobacco drives home the sip.
Heaven Hill’s Elijah Craig is killing the game right now with their barrel-proof releases. Each one is unique and delicious in its own right. There’s no way this brand is losing any heat anytime soon.
6. Wild Turkey — Wild Turkey Rare Breed Barrel Proof Bourbon
Average Price: $52
This is the mountaintop of what Wild Turkey can achieve. This is a blend of the best barrels that are married and bottled untouched. That means no filtering and no cutting with water. This is a classic bourbon with nowhere to hide.
Crème brûlée greets you with a nice dose of Christmas spices, mild pipe tobacco, orange zest, and a distant hint of fresh mint sprigs. There’s a pine resin nature to the woody flavors on the palate that accents the orange oils, spices, vanilla, and sweetness. The sip takes on a Christmas cake-feel late, with a velvet end that is just the right amount of everything you want from a bourbon.
Wild Turkey went through a similar fate as Jack Daniel’s where it took a lot of shit for being ubiquitous, thanks to Wild Turkey 101. That was always bonkers. Turkey has consistently been putting out stellar juice for decades and the pinnacle of that is their Rare Breed Barrel Proof.
One sip of this and you will be hooked for life.
5. Maker’s Mark — Maker’s Mark 101
Average Price: $42
This is Maker’s Mark classic wheated bourbon that’s bottled at “a higher proof” to bring about a “richer flavor.” Well, that’s what the label says anyway. Beyond that, this was a “Traveler’s Exclusive” up until the pandemic. Now, you can find it on most shelves, making this one finally accessible to the masses. This is classic Maker’s that’s treated with a little less of that limestone water to let the barrel techniques shine a bit more while still holding onto the Maker’s vibe.
This is a bowl of stewed apple over vanilla ice cream that’s been drizzled with extra caramel. The taste really focuses on that caramel, with hints of oak next to roasted almonds, cinnamon, nutmeg, dry wicker, and a drop of soft mineral water. The end lingers while it fades through salted caramel apples towards a mellow floral spiciness with a dried reed finish and a touch of vanilla tobacco chew.
Maker’s will always be hot shit. There’s a shine to this wheated whisky’s image that’s supported by excellent bourbon in the bottle that helps it stay relevant from generation to generation.
4. Bulleit — Bulleit 10-Year Bourbon
Average Price: $50
This is classic Bulleit Bourbon that’s aged up to ten years before it’s blended and bottled. These barrels are hand-selected to really amplify and highlight the classic flavors that make Bulleit so damn accessible in the first place.
There’s a lot going on with butter and spicy stewed apples, maple syrup, Christmas cakes full of nuts and dried fruit, and a hint of savory herbs all pinging through your olfactory. The palate brings about smooth and creamy vanilla with plenty of butter toffee, sourdough crust, more X-mas spice, cedar bark, and a hint of dried roses. The finish is long, warming, and really embraces the toffee and spice.
Bulleit topped this list in the past but has fallen only slightly in recent years. Still, this ten-year bourbon remains a fantastic sourced bottle that really shows the wonderful things to come from the brand as they start putting out their own juice from their massive new distillery.
3. Buffalo Trace — Buffalo Trace Bourbon
Average Price: $34
This is the whiskey that heralded a new era of bourbon in 1999. Famed Master Distiller Elmer T. Lee came out of retirement to create this bourbon to celebrate the renaming of the George T. Stagg distillery to Buffalo Trace when Sazerac bought the joint. The rest, as they say, is history — especially since this has become a touchstone bourbon for the brand.
Classic notes of vanilla come through next to a dark syrup sweetness, a flourish of fresh mint, and a raw leather that veers towards raw steak. The palate cuts through the sweeter notes with plenty of spices — like clove and star anise — next to a hint of tart berries underneath it all. The end is long, velvety, and really delivers on the vanilla and spice.
People love Buffalo Trace Bourbon. It’s easy to see why. It’s generally findable, though allocated. It’s also still affordable compared to a lot of the other offerings from the legendary distillery. Oh, and it’s pretty damn easy to drink. Though, I like to use it more for cocktails than sipping.
2. Woodford Reserve — Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon
Average Price: $60
This expression takes the standard bourbon above and gives it a finishing touch. The bourbon is blended and moved into new barrels that have been double toasted but only lightly charred. The juice spends a final nine months resting in those barrels before proofing and bottling.
There’s a welcoming aroma of marzipan, blackberry, toffee, and fresh honey next to a real sense of pitchy, dry firewood. The taste drills down on those notes as the sweet marzipan becomes more choco-hazelnut, the berries become more dried and apple-y, the toffee becomes almost burnt, and the wood softens to a cedar bark. A rich spicy and chewy tobacco arrives late as the vanilla gets super creamy and the fruit and honey combine on the slow fade.
Woodford Reserve feels like Maker’s Mark in that it’s an OG classic that will always be great. The great part of this whiskey — and this expression, in particular — is that you can easily find and afford it while not sacrificing anything in the taste department.
This is a delicious sipping whiskey that makes killer cocktails. That’s all you really need.
1. Michter’s — Michter’s Single Barrel 10-Year Bourbon
Average Price: $209
The juice in this bottle is a little under wraps. Michter’s is currently distilling and aging their own whiskey, but this is still sourced. The actual barrels sourced for these single barrel expressions tend to be at least ten years old with some rumored to be closer to 15 years old (depending on the barrel’s quality, naturally). Either way, the juice goes through Michter’s bespoke filtration process before a touch of Kentucky’s iconic soft limestone water is added, bringing the bourbon down to a very crushable 94.4 proof.
The nose opens with subtle notes of soft wood and worn leather next to light touches of dark berries, orange oils, egg nog spice, a slight toffee sweetness, and a touch of marshmallow. The palate starts off equally soft with something more akin to maple syrup sweetness which then leads into a rush of berry brambles. The mid-palate hits on a bit of dark spice, vanilla tobacco, and dark cacao leading towards espresso bitterness. The finish leans into a dry-yet-almost-sweet oak with a touch of an almond shell and dry grass coming in at the very end.
It’s not surprising to see Michter’s atop a trending list of whiskeys in 2022. This is the darling of high-end bars and whiskey aficionados alike. It helps that the juice in their wide range of expressions tends to be some of the best in the biz — like this bourbon. This bottle is the bourbon that a lot of distillers are chasing right now, and it’s easy to see why once you take a sip.