Life

‘Honey Whiskeys’ Good Enough To Flip Your Flavored Whiskey Stigmas

Spiced or sweetened whiskeys get a bad rap. Sure, there are some overly saccharine abominations out there. And of course, there’s the argument from purists that “flavored” whiskey isn’t really whiskey at all. But all of that aside, the genre exists for a reason. People like variety. And while I’m not a huge fan of the flavored or spiced stuff myself, even I have to admit that it has its place.

Nowhere is that quite so evident than in the case of honey whiskeys.

What is a “honey whiskey” exactly? Well, that depends. Most of the time, a distiller will make a honey liqueur and cut their whiskey with it. This adds a textural and flavorful variation to the tipple that can be very tasty (when not overdone). Other distillers are toying with a more subtle approach — like aging their juice in barrels that once stored actual honey, creating an elevated version of the style.

The 12 bottles below — personally selected by Zach Johnston (me!), Chris Osburn, and Steve Bramucci — represent some honey whiskeys we were surprised by and genuinely enjoyed. With an open mind, you’re sure to find one you like amongst the options below.

– Zach Johnston, Deputy Editor, UPROXX Life

Zach’s Picks:

Drambuie

ABV: 40%
Distillery: Morrison Bowmore Distillers, Glasgow, UK (William Grant & Sons)
Average Price: $35

The Bottle:

Drambuie might be the original honey-spiked whisky. The Scottish invention blends scotch with heather honey, Scottish herbs, and mild spices. It’s sort of like a bottled cocktail if you wanted to get technical about it. It’s also a key component of a Rusty Nail cocktail. Regardless of how you classify it, Drambuie is a good place to start a honey whiskey journey.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a real sense of floral honey up top. The sip can err a little rough around the edges at first but is immediately smoothed out by notes of orange, fresh herbs, and a mild sharpness from the spice with a very distant note of fatty nuts. The sip’s ultimately svelte texture helps it linger on your senses.

Bottom Line:

Give it a shot, literally. Try this as a shot then drink a Rusty Nail.

Belle Meade Honey Cask Bourbon

ABV: 55.9%
Distillery: Nelson Green Brier Distillery, Nashville, TN
Average Price: Sold Out

The Bottle:

I was lucky enough to try this year’s very limited release and it’s the best bottle on this list by a country mile. As part of Belle Meade’s new Bourbon Craftsman Cask Collection, this dram is equal-measure experimental and expertly crafted.

Eleven-year-old Belle Meade bourbon barrels were emptied and sent to a local honey maker and filled with wildflower honey, which was allowed to age in those bourbon-seasoned barrels. Once those barrels were emptied, they were sent back to Belle Meade where they were refilled with nine-year-old bourbon. That juice rested in those barrels for a few more months until it hit just the right spot.

Tasting Notes:

Floral honey dances with a sense of dry cedar bark, bourbon caramel, and a mild hit of cinnamon spice. A honey-glazed doughnut bespeckled with orange zest and more cinnamon dominates the palate with an echo of buttery toffee on the back end. The sip embraces the honey aspects as it slowly fades out with pings of spice, zest, and cedar reappearing.

Bottom Line:

Pray that when they bring this back next year, it’s as a year-round expression.

Bushmills Irish Honey

ABV: 35%
Distillery: Old Bushmills Distillery, County Antrim, UK (Casa Cuervo)
Average Price: $25

The Bottle:

This entry from Northern Ireland is more in line with Drambuie than a honey liqueur. Triple-distilled Bushmills is blended with Irish honey and a matrix of spices. The result keeps the focus on the whiskey with the sweetness of the honey working as a subtle accent.

Tasting Notes:

The dram opens up like a glass of standard Bushmills with hints of florals next to vanilla and mild spice. The honey arrives as a sweet spot that wouldn’t be out of place in any well-barreled whiskey. That mild sweetness does start to build toward the abbreviated end of the sip with a clear sense of florals, spice, and that Irish honey.

Bottom Line:

If you’re into Irish whiskey, this is a perfectly fine bottle to try. The price is fair and the quality is high. It also works surprisingly well in a highball.

Dewar’s Highlander Honey

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ABV: 40%
Distillery: Aberfeldy Distillery, Aberfeldy, UK (Bacardi)
Average Price: $25

The Bottle:

While Drambuie is iconic, this bottle more follows the lineage of modern interpretations of honey whiskeys. Dewar’s White Label is spiked with distilled heather honey from the countryside around Aberfeldy, Scotland and then “natural flavors” are added to round out the dram. This is as close as you can get to a solid blended scotch spiked with honey, and it absolutely works.

Tasting Notes:

A bit of stone fruit, citrus, oak, wet malt, and honey greet you. The sip really reminds you of Dewar’s White Label with a flourish of honey sweetening things up around all that citrus, peach, and oaky spice. Interestingly, the citrus and honey join forces on the warm end and really help this one shine.

Bottom Line:

Makes a hell of a highball but is more of a novelty bottle to break out at a party than an everyday sipper.

Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey

ABV: 35%
Distillery: Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Lynchburg, TN (Brown–Forman Corporation)
Average Price: $25

The Bottle:

When Jack Daniel’s released this bottle back in 2011, they started a honey whiskey craze. Basically, they take good ol’ No. 7 Tennesee whiskey and blend it with their own honey liqueur. That’s it. It’s simple, easy-to-drink, and will probably surprise you.

Tasting Notes:

Classic Tennessee whiskey notes of mild spice, oak, vanilla, and banana create a solid base for the flourish of honey that’s present. Wildflowers, lemon zest, buttery toffee, and more honey follow but are balanced by each other and never overpower the whole. There’s a mild sense of bitter dark chocolate that leans towards espresso near the end as the honey, spice, fruit, and vanilla slowly fade away.

Bottom Line:

You’ll be pleasantly surprised by this bottle. It makes for a decent sipper on the rocks and one hell of a Horse’s Neck.

Jim Beam Honey Bourbon Whiskey

ABV: 35%
Distillery: Jim Beam Distillery, Clermont, KY (Beam Suntory)
Average Price: $20

The Bottle:

Jim Beam is always a solid (and affordable) choice for standard bourbons. Their Honey Bourbon cuts their bourbon with real honey liqueur and a few “natural flavors.” The result is an easy sipper that won’t break the bank.

Tasting Notes:

Honey. This is probably the sweetest honeyed whiskey on the list. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but it can be off-putting to some. The classic bourbon notes of vanilla, caramel, and oak are present with a hint of spice. The honey does really carry the sip from the top to bottom with a clear sweet edge.

Bottom Line:

This works nicely in cocktails, in the sense that you can omit using simple syrup if you’re using this.

Wild Turkey American Honey Sting

ABV: 35.5%
Distillery: Wild Turkey Distillery, Lawrenceburg, KY (Campari)
Average Price: $20

The Bottle:

Wild Turkey’s American Honey is often lauded as the best-flavored whiskey on the market. This expression takes that well-crafted blend of Wild Turkey bourbon and honey and ups the ante by adding a dash of ghost pepper. It’s kind of ingenious and works.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a sense of honey that’s bolstered by sprigs of fresh mint and fields of wildflowers on the nose. The ghost pepper lurks in the background until you take a sip and it bites at your tongue. It’s never over-powering whatsoever and the matrix of bourbon vanilla, caramel, and oak with that fresh mint and honey makes for a great combination of flavors that linger on your senses.

Bottom Line:

Try this one on the rocks and then give it a good spot in your regular bottle rotation.

Chris’ Picks:

Barenjager Honey and Bourbon

ABV: 35%
Distillery: Barenjager, Cedar Knolls, NJ
Average Price: $35

The Bottle:

When you taste Barenjager, you might start wondering why a liqueur-like Jagermeister gained so much popularity and this bottle remained largely forgotten. The recipe is based on one from 18th century Germany and, as the name suggests, it was originally created to lure bears out of caves by hunters (or so the legend goes).

Tasting Notes:

This combination of honey liqueur infused with bourbon is made using no artificial flavors or ingredients. This all-natural honey whiskey tastes more like schnapps than whiskey and deserves to be enjoyed slowly either neat or over ice. These are the best ways to get the most of out this offering with its ever-present sweet honey nectar along with subtle oak, cinnamon, and corn sweetness from the bourbon.

Bottom Line:

Personally, we wouldn’t waste this honey whiskey on woodland creatures. We’ll keep it for ourselves.

Bluebird Honey Whiskey

ABV: 40%
Distillery: Bluebird Distilling, Phoenixville, PA
Price: $40

Story:

Made in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, Bluebird touts itself as a grain-to-glass distillery. Its honey whiskey is truly unique and highly complex. It’s made up of a mix of four-grain bourbon, straight rye, and wheated whiskey that is then blended with locally sourced wildflower honey.

Tasting Notes:

While the combination of three different whiskeys gives this spirit a well-balanced backbone, it’s the honey that shines through. The result of this combination is a highly floral, rich whiskey with hints of toasted vanilla, sticky toffee pudding, honeysuckle, and buttery caramel sweetness.

Bottom Line:

Make a killer highball with this one for the rest of the summer. Then when winter comes, it’ll make the perfect Hot Toddy base.

Evan Williams Honey

ABV: 35%
Distillery: Heaven Hill, Bardstown, KY
Price: $15

Story:

Evan Williams is one of the most underrated bourbon brands on the market. If you ask any bartender to tell you a bottle that deserves more hype, they’ll likely tell you Evan Williams Black Label or Evan Williams Bottled in Bond. But while those two get a lot of love from the bartending community, you shouldn’t sleep on Evan Williams Honey and its blend of Kentucky straight bourbon and natural honey.

Tasting Notes:

Evan Williams Honey is more than just a simple honey-flavored whiskey. In fact, it’s highly complex. It all starts with the high-quality, easy to drink Kentucky straight bourbon base that slowly evolves into hints of dried orange peel, floral honey sweetness, rich vanilla, toasted caramel, that all ends in a flourish of subtle peppery spice.

Bottom Line:

Perfectly suited for mixing into a cocktail or sipping neat.

Bird Dog Jalapeno Honey

ABV: 40%
Distillery: Western Spirits, Bowling Green, KY
Price: $20

Story:

Unlike many of the brands on this list, Bird Dog is all about the flavored whiskey. In fact, that’s pretty much all the brand makes — touting itself as “the most awarded flavored whiskey.” One of its best and most award-winning whiskeys is Bird Dog Jalapeno Honey. It’s so well-received that it even won a gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

Tasting Notes:

This one is a little different than the others on this list as it has two very different flavors. The combination of rich, floral honey, and spicy, vegetal jalapeno has just the right amount of mellow sweetness to pleasing heat. On top of the initial flavors, your palate is also met with hints of toasted vanilla beans, caramel, and a warming spicy finish.

Bottom Line:

This is a great way to take the next step in the honey whiskey game by adding some serious warmth from that chili spice.

Editor’s Pick:

Garrison Brothers Honey Dew

ABV: 40%
Distillery: Garrison Brothers Distillery, Hye, TX
Average Price: $85

The Bottle:

The name here — Honey Dew — is a play on the famous “honey, do” lists (as in, “Honey, do me a favor”) that Southern wives give their husbands. In this case, the bourbon itself was the list — being made at the insistence of Nancy Garrison, business partner and wife to Dan Garrison.

The expression is infused with 100% Texas-made Burleson’s wildflower honey. How they do that is sort of dizzying. The (perhaps overly) complex process involves full bourbon barrels emptied into a steel vat, cubes cut from those barrel staves dipped in honey, and a massive teagbag of these honey-soaked wood cubes being dipped back in the vats daily for the span of six months.

There must be easier ways to get honey into straight bourbon but the result is tough to argue with.

Tasting Notes:

You get that almost liqueur-level honey hit on the nose with a little bit of dried apricot. On the palate, the dried stone fruits get a little more lively — with fresh peaches at the fore. The honey is present throughout the sip but the touchstones of a good bourbon aren’t masked. You get some oak on the palate and a nice little bit of florals (lavender-ish). The finish is rich and warming, with the honey leading the way and the floral notes fading slowly.

With a little water, this sip opens a little wider and brighter and becomes a very relaxing front porch summer’s eve dram.

Bottom Line: Use it in four-ingredient whiskey cocktails for people who will appreciate the lighter nature (this is only 80 proof) and sessionability. Or sip it on the porch with two clunky ice cubes as a hot day fades.

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