The best style of whiskey is a hard thing to define. The brown elixir has so many variables at play in every bottle — mash bill, where it’s made, distillation process, aging… the list is long. Even within particular styles, you can see wild variations in flavor, texture, and execution. Add in x-factors like terroir, grain sourcing, and mad-scientist distillers tinkering away in stillhouses and you have a lot of different whisk(e)ys to enjoy and argue over.
So which style of whiskey is overall “the best”? Really, that comes down to personal taste. We all develop our palates over time. Our impressions change and the bottles that once charmed us often start to feel “ordinary” as our well of experiences grows. That being said, there are elements of certain styles of whiskey that do seem to rise above the rest. Processes that make a region feel special for aficionados.
Before we dive into our ten favorite whiskey styles, we have to drop a big disclaimer. This isn’t a scientific ranking. These are opinions about style and craft and what speaks to our team. Our biggest desire? To find the sweet spot where accessibility meets refinement to make something truly special that novices and experts alike can savor.
10. American Whiskey
American Whiskey is a broad designation. Generally, what we call “American Whiskey” is a blend of various grains and cereals with no single dominant malt taking over 51 percent of the mash bill (recipe). That is, bourbon has to be at least 51 percent corn. Rye has to be at least 51 percent rye. You get it. For a while, this style was maligned and sidelined for not having a clear focus. Today, master blenders are finding new depths in the style by tinkering and refining.
The Bottle To Buy: Michter’s Unblended American Whiskey
Michter’s masters do some amazing work with their barrel program. Their recent release of an Unblended American Whiskey hits high marks in refinement and drinkability. There’s a clear sense of classic American whiskey notes with clear butterscotch and vanilla up front. Then a dried fruit sweetness comes in, alongside light notes of caramel and ripe orchard fruit with a warm finish. $50.