Is there anything better than relaxing next to a roaring fire on a bitterly cold night during the holiday season? We can’t think of anything. Whether you’re cozying up with a partner listening to classic carols, hosting some close friends for an evening of conversation, or hanging with the in-laws for some quality family time, doing it fireside always makes it better. And while we can’t think of anything better than a fireside hang, we can think of one thing that would enhance those experiences … an excellent bottle of high proof whiskey. Our CYTIES Whiskey Specialist Chris Blatner, aka Urbanbourbonist, has cooked up a list of clutch fireside sips now that it’s officially that time of year, these 8 bottles will help warm you from the inside while the fire takes care of the rest— take it away Chris.
Smoke Wagon Uncut/Unfiltered
Proof: varies by batch, typically 114º-116º (barrel strength)
Batches of this very popular darling of the whiskey world are churned out regularly by the team at Nevada H&C, so proof and flavors change from batch to batch. But with every bottling, you can still expect big, rich, and bold Bourbon flavors of brown sugar, vanilla, spicy cinnamon, baking spices, and a dose of oak. Grab this bottle and spend the night under a blanket, with your special person, until the fire slowly fades out.
Penelope Bourbon Barrel Strength Batch 05
Proof: 116º (barrel strength)
This four grain Bourbon blends together three mash bills into a small batch to create one of the more unique offerings on this list. Lightly smoky with bits of orange peel, caramels, and orchard fruit that leads into a sweet and smoky finish. Grab this bottle for a night of conversation and laughter with close friends around the fire table.
Proof: 112.10 (barrel strength)
Barrell Craft Spirits is always at the forefront of innovation in blending and finishing whiskey, creating some fantastical one-of-a-kind expressions that seemingly came to them in a dream. Armida is just that … an experiment dreamed up by the master blenders at Barrell to pull out the most sought after flavors in Bourbon. The result is a blend of three whiskeys finished in Pear Brandy, Jamaican Rum, and Sicilian Amaro Casks that is bursting with orchard fruits, rich spice, citrus, and tropical flavors. Grab this bottle, add some logs to the fire, and put some classic carols on the record player.
Michter's Barrel Strength Toasted Barrel Finish Rye
Proof: varies by batch, typically 107º-112º (barrel strength)
No one does toasted barrel finishes better than Michter’s. They take their standard rye, at barrel strength, and age it in a second barrel that has been toasted to their exact specifications. This secondary aging imparts deeper flavors of spice, vanilla, toasted nuts, burnt sugars, and a wisp of campfire smoke. This rye just screams “holidays.” Grab this bottle and watch your favorite Christmas movie while the fire blazes.
Maker's Mark Limited Release SE4-PR5
Proof: 110.8º (barrel strength)
For nearly the first 60 years of its existence, Maker’s Mark made one product, a 90º wheated Bourbon that could be found in almost every bar or restaurant on the planet. Over the last ten years, Maker’s counts itself among some of the more innovative distilleries, producing a wide range of products born from their original wheated recipe. One of the more creative limited releases is their Wood Finishing Series, which utilizes custom wooden staves to flavor their signature whiskey. SE4 & PR5 are the staves that Maker’s created to amplify their classic Bourbon’s vanilla and caramel flavors. And they have accomplished that in a big big way. This whiskey is pure caramel sauce dripping with creamy vanilla. Grab this bottle and pair it with freshly made campfire s’mores.
Booker's Boston Batch 2020-02
Proof: 126.5º (barrel strength)
In 1992, legendary Jim Beam Master Distiller Booker Noe introduced the concept of “small batch” to the world of Bourbon. He hand-selected only a few barrels from the most prime locations in the Jim Beam rackhouses and blended them together at barrel strength and unfiltered. Nearly 30 years later, Booker’s is released 4 times per year and still highly sought after. Boston Batch, the second release of 2020, is named after the production site that Booker first started distilling at in Boston, KY. This Bourbon is loaded with peanut butter (a Jim Beam signature flavor note), fudge, dark fruits, and baking spices. It has a finish that warms your throat and chest (a big Kentucky hug) and stays with you for several minutes after drinking it down. Grab this bottle and sip it slowly with a good book while sitting fireside.
Lucky 7 The Holiday Toast
This is the only whiskey on the list that is not bottled at cask strength, but it still comes in at a hefty 115º, higher than some of the other cask strength bottles. This masterfully blended Bourbon has been aged for several years and then finished in a heavily toasted barrel to impart rich flavors. The name of this Bourbon most definitely translates to the taste. It is holiday baked goods in a glass … gingerbread cookies, allspice, clove, and nutmeg saturate the whiskey. This is a perfect Bourbon for a hot drink. Grab this bottle, add it to hot cider, or make a hot toddy, and settle near the fire.
Union Horse Distilling Barrel Strength Rye
Proof: varies by batch, typically ~112º (barrel strength)
This 100% rye is one that more people need to know about. Union Horse Distilling is working some magic in Lenexa, KS. The distillers at Union Horse manage to draw some of the most complex flavors from the rye grain during distillation in their copper pot still and aging in Missouri oak barrels. The combination produces a rye that will turn any whiskey drinker’s head. Pops of toffee mingle with vanilla creme, citrus peel, black pepper, and mint. This whiskey is just fun. Grab this bottle for a game night by the fire.
All you need to worry about now is lighting the fire, and while you’re at it, here are some tools of the trade to get cooking while you sip. The holidays have officially begun, so pop open one of these bottles to celebrate. Here’s to toasting with company that is as warm as the fireside.