Life cannot exist without water and whiskey’s literal meaning is the “water of life.” So, life does not exist without whiskey? Credited as America’s favorite spirit in 1964, and now with over two thousand distilleries across the country, there are a few choices to be made before you head out to fill a vacancy on the bar cart or for a stumble beyond memory lane. And to avoid any Bird Box situation at the bar or store, there is a handful to keep an eye out for—to invoke question and notoriety. And maybe, more importantly, finding a friend to call on beyond Jack, Jim or Johnnie.
Five Drops Bourbon Whiskey – Wildrye Distilling – Bozeman MT
It wouldn’t be called Big Sky Country if there wasn’t something there to write home about. And in a land where cowboys and hipsters co-mingle, Five Drops is bridging the gap between weathered souls and weekend warriors. Wildrye is sourcing local ingredients, including the family sweetcorn from a neighboring valley, in addition to storing its barrels in a warehouse solely guided by the changing seasons. Five Drops’ unique aging process and influence of unpredictable weather helps bottle the rugged landscape of Montana. It’s a taste that puts you stationed at the lookout tower, surrounded by wooded forests and the suspicion of charred oak following the afternoon storm.
Corsets, Whips and Whiskey – Journeyman Distillery – Three Oaks, MI
Perhaps it sounds like the tale of a hellish night on the town, more the name of a whiskey. But as Journeyman distills in an old corset and buggy whip factory, near the shores of Lake Michigan, this whiskey is an intoxicating marriage of local ingredients. Corsets, Whips, and Whiskey is cask strength, bringing all the flavors and grain of the 100% organic Michigan wheat. It’s seemingly like taking a straw straight to the barrel. It’s bold and inviting and hiding in the deep caramel coloring is a heated kick of single distillation, heightening the complexity of flavor. All in all, it’s a testament to American manufacturing, past and present.
Triple Smoke – Corsair Distillery – Nashville, TN
It’s difficult not to judge a “book” by its cover. And when the emblem depicts a Reservoir Dogs looking three pack, there must be something hiding in the glass restraint. The never chilled filtration combined with three different smoked malts turns this Triple Smoke into a stand-alone. The tasting notes ride right along with the slow-cooked meats of a true wood fire bbq. There is no denying the evidence of smoke in the glass, but never is it overwhelming as it is perfectly paired with the sweet and savory profile of a Nashville bbq sauce. The Triple Smoke presents all of the characteristics of a typical American whiskey, but separates itself mirroring a single malt’s smokiness.
V5 Bourbon Whiskey – Smoky Quartz Distillery – Seabrook, NH
The Smokey Quartz’ V5 is as American as they come. They are veteran owned and operated, nurturing their craft on a “grain to glass” philosophy where everything is locally sourced—even the bottles. The sip is simply complex building profiles from white oak barrels and a 100% corn grain bill. It’s corn from start to finish with hints of throwing a damp log on the fire kind of smokey heat towards the tail. Everything about V5 and Smoky Quartz is American—mind, craft, and spirit—even distilling in New Hampshire, where they “Live Free or Die.”
Blonde Whiskey – Asheville Distilling – Asheville, NC
The only one that is going to be having more fun is you, after a few sips on the Blonde Whiskey from Asheville Distilling. It draws its lighter tint from a near original and heirloom grain mashbill of White Corn and Turkey Red Wheat. Differing further from the majority, the Blonde is aged in honeycomb charred barrels giving it a softer and sweeter taste than its brethren. And even tagged as a “Kinder Spirit,” this Blonde is initially subtle in presentation but quickly reminds you that it is still very much a crafted spirit. It’s one to be poured when you want all the flavor and complexity of a whiskey, but not the knockout punch.
These are not the five best whiskeys in the world nor are they the most expensive or elusive. They are, however, a select few that should grab your attention. Small batched and distilled in all corners of the U.S., they highlight the true essence of American whiskey. The craft is simple, and the love is pure. It’s an American spirit to enjoy neat, on the rocks or in a well-crafted cocktail. To be a partnered in exploration, poured amongst friends, and perhaps provoke old-timey antics. Remember to drink responsibly, it will hurt less the next day.
“Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.”— Mark Twain