When it comes to flavored whiskey, I’m very on the record as a detractor. A bordeline hater, even. Look back at our coverage of flavored whiskeys and it’s not hard to parse that I haven’t been a fan of the genre over the years. But I have to say… that has gradually begun to shift.
There are simply some great flavored whiskeys these days and they deserve respect. To prove the point, I’m going to conduct a blind taste test of some newer flavored whiskeys to find a few that you might enjoy too.
Below, I’ve compiled 10 flavored whiskeys that range from classics to brand-new expressions. To be painfully clear here, there is some grey area when talking about “flavored” whiskeys. Some whiskeys are flavored with liqueurs or even sugar syrups. Others are flavored with wood blocks that are soaked in, say, honey or coffee. Some literally have coffee beans, honey, or citrus in the whiskey while it ages (you could theoretically call the bourbon vanilla in your baking drawer a flavored whiskey, FWIW).
Then you have the pre-made cocktail whiskeys (Ready To Drink or RTD adjacent bottles) that use sugars and “natural flavors.” These are flavored whiskeys but not necessarily called that — which makes zeroing in on a single clear-cut definition of “flavored whiskey” a little sketchier than the definitions for “straight bourbon” or “single malt Scotch whisky.”
For this, I’m looking at a little bit of everything. There are “natural flavor” whiskeys, whiskeys aged with flavor blocks, and even cocktail-ready whiskeys (that still need water), plus whiskeys flavored with actual ingredients.
Our lineup today features the following flavored whiskeys:
- Dough Ball Cookie Dough Whiskey
- Elvis Midnight Snack Peanut Butter, Banana & Bacon Flavored Whiskey
- Garrison Brothers Lady Bird Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey Infused with Honey and Finished in Cognac Barrels
- Hotel Tango ‘Shmallow Toasted Marshmallow Bourbon
- Starward (New) Old Fashioned Made with Starward Whisky, Tawny Port, Cacao Syrup & Bitters
- Crown Royal Golden Apple Made with Whiskies Aged 23 Years
- Stillhouse Black Bourbon Blended Bourbon Whiskey Mellowed in Coffee Beans
- Ballotin Chocolate Whiskey Peanut Butter Chocolate
- Duke & Dame Salted Caramel Flavored Whiskey
- Jameson Orange Jameson Irish Whiskey with Natural Orange Flavors
After the tasting, I’m going to rank these. One factor that is crucial in flavored whiskey is “texture” or “mouthfeel.” While depth and balance are crucial, the texture of the flavored whiskey has become just as important and often what makes or breaks a great flavored whiskey. I’m also looking at how clearly the “flavor” presents — after all, this is the whole point.
Let’s dive in!
Part 1 — The Flavored Whiskey Blind Tasting
Nose: The nose is very clearly cookies and cream with a hint of standard bourbon warmth permeating throughout the sweetness.
Palate: The palate is a deep and creamy cookie dough that meets cookies and cream Blizzard that’s been cut with a bourbon.
Finish: The creaminess creates a lush mouthfeel on the finish that lets the sweetness mellow as a hint of woody spice from the whiskey arrives at the very end.
Okay, I’m a big cookies and cream ice cream guy, so this is right up my alley. It’s not overly sweet (but it’s ~pretty~ sweet). The whiskey does come through, which is a nice touch.
Nose: Banana powers through on the nose to the point of those yellow banana marshmallow candies you get in the discount aisle before a hint of cheap peanut butter sneaks in late.
Palate: The banana candy carries through on the palate in a strong way with smooth peanut butter (that’s still a bit candy-forward) before notes of whiskey spice arrive.
Finish: That whiskey spice blends with the bright and candied banana and peanut butter with the faintest hint of smoked bacon on the very end.
If that whisper of smoky bacon hadn’t arrived on the finish, this would have felt a little one-note — it’s so banana-forward. That means this offers a little something extra but it’s still very banana-heavy.
Nose: This opens with a clear sense of a garden shop in springtime — fresh flowers, fresh bales of straw, and piles of ready-to-grow garden plants — next to the richest and clearest tobacco I’ve ever smelled on a nose before the dark whiskey kicks in with honey-laced dark chocolate bars speckled with brandy raisins and maybe some plum.
Palate: The whiskey truly shines through with dark winter spice in mulled wine with more of that honeyed dark chocolate over brandy-soaked cherries, figs, dates, and prunes next to a silky AF mouthfeel.
Finish: Milk Duds, honey from summer wildflowers, and cigars soaked in cognac drive the finish toward a lush and warm finish.
This is fantastic. It’s honeyed bourbon with the deepest depth so far. It’s also so luxurious that it’s like the purest and softest silk on your senses.
Nose: Cotton candy dominates the nose with a very light sense of whiskey lurking in the background.
Palate: Cotton candy continues on the palate with a light sense of “red” flavoring that hints toward cherry before a moment of woody whiskey spice sneaks in.
Finish: That woody spice disappears on the finish and you’re left with red cotton candy.
This is very cotton candy sweet. It’s not bad, it’s just very one note.
Nose: The nose opens with a mix of fresh orange, dark cherry, and confit cherry tomatoes (very umami-forward) with a soft sense of well-aged whiskey with a touch of mulled wine spices.
Palate: The mouthfeel is extraordinarily lush with a sense of dark chocolate-covered espresso beans, botanical bitters, stewed cherry, and dark orange rinds.
Finish: The end just gets more and more lush with a deep sense of orange, brandy-soaked cherry dipped in good chocolate, and lovely whiskey vibes.
This is good. It’s balanced, deep, and has an amazingly polished mouthfeel.
Nose: Fresh bushels of fall apples pop on the nose with a deep sense of Martinelli’s Apple Cider, Apple Jolly Ranchers, and apple juice concentrate with a hint of salted caramel and fall spice mixes.
Palate: Lush vanilla drives the palate back toward a bombardment of apples — stewed, candied, dried, cidered — with a hint of nutmeg and cinnamon next to whispers of old oak.
Finish: The caramel and spice create a foundation of even more apple on the finish.
This is an apple bomb that … works. There is depth here but that apple is so prominent that you could be forgiven for calling it “one note.”
Nose: The nose is pure unaged corn whiskey and not much else.
Palate: Bitter espresso and more unaged corn whiskey and that’s about it.
Finish: The end feels like drip coffee cut with your granddad’s cheap bourbon.
This was the thinnest pour by far (so far). It was clearly coffee-flavored but that’s about it.
Nose: This smells like a bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups on the nose with a hint of whiskey on the side.
Palate: That peanut butter cup dominates the palate with a lovely mouthfeel that’s soft and decadent next to a lightly spiced whiskey vibe.
Finish: The end stays true to the nose and palate and finishes with a creamy and vibrant Reese’s PB Cup feel through and through.
I’m also a pushover of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, so I dig the devotion to hitting that nail perfectly on its head.
Nose: This is clearly salted caramel on the nose with a mild sweetness and a hint of vanilla and spice.
Palate: The palate is buttery and, well, full of salted caramel.
Finish: The end is very sweet but that sweetness stays attached to that caramel before getting a tad medicinal at the very end.
This is good and clear but kind of veers off into medicinal territory at the end.
Nose: On the nose, the orange is more like a powdered orange drink with a hint of cinnamon candy thrown in.
Palate: The palate is largely the same with that fake orange drink vibe carrying on with a touch of minerality that’s more vodka than whiskey.
Finish: The finish is sweet and full of “orange” and “cinnamon” with a slight graininess and a touch of vanilla.
This never felt like a real orange — more like the can of orange concentrate juice you get out of the freezer section. And there wasn’t a whole lot else going on. It was also pretty thin all things considered.
Part 2 — The Flavored Whiskey Ranking
10. Stillhouse Black Bourbon Blended Bourbon Whiskey Mellowed in Coffee Beans — Taste 7
Average Price: $26
This starts off with a classic bourbon that’s aged in new oak and then charcoal-filtered before being re-barreled. Freshly roasted coffee beans are added to the new barrel as the whiskey continues to age. Finally, the whiskey is batched and proofed for canning (yes, this is presented in a can instead of a bottle).
This was the thinnest in both flavor and mouthfeel. I have to say I’d pass on this one.
9. Jameson Orange Jameson Irish Whiskey with Natural Orange Flavors — Taste 10
Average Price: $21
This 2022 release from Jameson is built for old fashioned cocktail lovers. The Irish tipple in the bottle is cut down with natural orange flavors to mimic the orange in that cocktail. The juice is also cut down with plenty of water to bring it to a low proof of only 60.
This was so one-note on orange but never felt like a real orange in any way. That said, it was bolder than the last entry by a country mile on its flavoring. I’d pass on this. If someone brings you a bottle, mix it with fizzy water and garnish with a big orange slice and it’ll be totally fine.
8. Hotel Tango ‘Shmallow Toasted Marshmallow Bourbon — Taste 4
Average Price: $29
This bourbon whiskey is loaded with “natural flavors” from Indianapolis that are meant to mimic toasted marshmallows over the campfire.
This felt way more like cotton candy than toasted marshmallows. But those two sugar-based treats are so close that I can forgive that. So if you’re looking for a (very) sweet treat whiskey, this will be your jam.
7. Duke & Dame Salted Caramel Flavored Whiskey — Taste 9
Average Price: $24
This starts with a blend of 100% corn whiskeys with a couple of two-year-old bourbons. That whiskey is mixed with “natural flavors” of salted caramel to create the final product. Amazingly, they’ve made a sweet-flavored whiskey that only holds to 1 gram of sugar per serving as well.
This was a winner until the finish. That medicinal turn was a little out of character for me. That said, this is very clearly salted caramel and delivers in every other way.
6. Elvis Midnight Snack Peanut Butter, Banana & Bacon Flavored Whiskey — Taste 2
Average Price: $54
This is the new Elvis Whiskey from Tennessee. It is naturally flavored with peanut butter, banana, and smoked bacon.
This would have been lower on the list had it not been for that smoked bacon finish. That really elevated this into something more complex. That said, it is so banana-forward until that point that you’re really going to have to be patient to find that end note.
All of that said, if you’re looking for a banana-forward whiskey with more depth than your average banana whiskey, this is the one to get.
5. Crown Royal Golden Apple Made with Whiskies Aged 23 Years — Taste 6
Average Price: $299
This whiskey is a Canadian blend of 23-year-old barrels of Crown Royal’s famed apple whisky. That sounds incredible because it kind of is.
Apple, apple, apple! This gets a bump up because this is very complex while still being one note. What I mean by that is that it has so many different apple vibes going on with whisky notes that support that apple vibe that it just works.
I’d pour this over some rocks with a splash of club soda and be pretty happy about it. Or I’d make a hot toddy if the weather supported that.
4. Ballotin Chocolate Whiskey Peanut Butter Chocolate — Taste 8
Average Price: $25
This is whiskey blended with “all-natural” chocolate and peanut butter “flavors” to create a peanut butter cup whiskey.
This delivers it’s promise in spades. It’s so clearly a peanut butter cup whiskey from top to bottom. It’s also lush and feels like something to enjoy in many ways — over ice cream, in creamy cocktails, over some rocks.
3. Dough Ball Cookie Dough Whiskey — Taste 1
Average Price: $29
This whiskey is made with natural flavors and caramel coloring to re-create a cookie dough vibe in whiskey form.
This is another whiskey that delivers on its promise (it almost over-delivers with cookies and cream and cookie dough). I can see drinking a few of these in a red cup over some shitty ice and not being mad about it for a second.
2. Starward (New) Old Fashioned Made with Starward Whisky, Tawny Port, Cacao Syrup & Bitters — Taste 5
Average Price: $34
Starward starts off with their award-winning red-wine-finished whisky to create a nearly ready-to-drink old fashioned. The whisky is juked with natural flavors of orange, bitters, and cherry to create a bespoke flavored whisky.
The mouthfeel on this one is spectacular. It’s so silky smooth with a truly deep flavor profile. It also really delivers a balanced sense of old fashioned flavor notes. All that you’ll need for this is a big ol’ rock.
1. Garrison Brothers Lady Bird Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey Infused with Honey and Finished in Cognac Barrels — Taste 3
Average Price: $259
This Texas whiskey starts off with a batch of four- to five-year-old bourbons that are re-barreled in new barrels with honey-soaked oak cubes in the barrel. After nine months of resting, those barrels are batched and re-barreled again in French XO cognac casks for another three years of aging before bottling.
As a side note, $5 of every bottle sold is donated to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center which helps preserve indigenous wild plants around North America.
This was the deepest, boldest, and most delicious pour of flavored whiskey on the list by a country mile. It was also a luscious sip of whiskey that felt like silk from top to bottom. Pour this over a big rock and take your time enjoying all this has to offer.
Part 3 — Final on the Flavored Whiskeys
I’d focus on the top five of this ranking. Those are the whiskeys that deliver the best options in the flavor and texture department. They also 100% deliver on what’s promised on the label.
Beyond that, the Garrison Brothers Lady Bird is beyond reproach. It’s a fantastic flavored whiskey and the clear winner of this blind panel. It’s fresh, funky, and so damn good. Yes, it’s pricey. But it’s so goddamn tasty that you’ll want another pour as soon as the first one’s drained.