Rum cask finishing is a beloved method of finishing bourbon, rye, Irish whiskeys, scotch, and… any whiskey style, really. The rummy oak adds a deep layer of fruit, funk, and spice that leans a little sweeter — you know, like dark rum. So what are the best rum-finished whiskeys out there? That’s a pretty tough question to answer given the massive variation in American bourbons, ryes, and single malts and then Scotch, Australian, Indian, or Irish whiskeys (to name but a few regions). So let’s focus on the former and rank some really good American whiskeys that are also finished in rum barrels.
For this list, I’ve ranked my favorite American whiskeys — bourbon, rye, blends, and American single malt whiskeys — that are touched by rum casks. For the most part, these are all rum cask-only finishes. But there are a few bottles that use rum finishing along with brandy or red wine casks that also deserve a spotlight shone on them. They’re too good (and too rummy) not to include.
Really quickly, when you see “rum finished” on a label of whiskey. We’re talking about a standard whiskey — straight bourbon, straight rye, whatever — that’s been aged for a standard amount of time in the necessary barrel. Then that whiskey is usually batched and re-barreled into used rum barrels from any rum-making region or style. And since rum is such a wide-ranging spirit style, that can mean anything from Brazilian amburana casks (that held cachaça, which is Brazilian rum) to rhum agricole wood to Jamaican, Guatemalan, and Madgascan rum casks and so on.
There’s a lot of opportunity for very unique flavors, is what I’m getting at. That benefits you, the engaged enthusiast.
Overall, all of these whiskeys are pretty goddamn tasty. But I do stand behind my ranking since there are bottles below that are truly great and a few that are transcendent whiskeys regardless of the rum barrel finishing. My advice is to read those tasting notes and follow the ones that spark your interest. Then hit the price links to see if you can snag a bottle in your region. Let’s dive in!
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25. Breckenridge Rum Cask Finished Blended Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $55
This whiskey starts off as Breckenridge’s famed and award-winning bourbon. That juice is then re-barreled in Colorado rum barrels that held Breckinridge’s own spiced rum, which was, of course, aged in Breckenridge’s own bourbon casks with a mix of fresh fruits and dark spices right in the barrel (making this a “naturally” flavored bourbon and not a “straight bourbon”).
Nose: The nose opens with a burst of dried tropical fruits next to candied nuts, wintry spices, a hint of sweet oak, and some salty caramel drizzled with dark chocolate sauce.
Palate: The palate has a banana bread vibe with walnuts baked right in next to stewed apples with plenty of cinnamon, brown sugar, and vanilla.
Finish: Rich toffee drives the sweet mid-palate towards a full throttle of spices — allspice, nutmeg, clove, star anise — that warm up the finish with a counterpoint from dried apple and banana chips.
This is a great place to start your rummy bourbon journey. This is an amazingly approachable whiskey that feels like an easy-going bridge between funky Caribbean fruits and spiced yet crafty bourbon with a nice nuttiness. In the end, I’d use this for mixing up tasty cocktails with a spiced citrus or minty twist.
24. Redemption Rum Cask Finish Straight Rye Whiskey
Average Price: $45
Redemption is a Connecticut mainstay that sources its whiskey from MGP of Indiana. This MGP 95 is then finished in rum casks in partnership with Plantation Rum. They’re using both Jamaican and Barbadian rum barrels that are then blended for this fascinating rum cask finish expression.
Nose: There’s a mix of rummy molasses that’s spiced with Christmas spices and vanilla, with a hint of tart fruit and sherried jamminess.
Palate: The taste doesn’t really deviate too much from those notes and holds onto the molasses, spice, and vanilla while a touch of oak arrives late with a note of citrus.
Finish: The end is short-ish and really leans into the rummy nature of the spices and sweetness.
This is just good whiskey. I like it over an ice cube or mixed into something like an old fashioned with a nicely spiced sweetness.
23. Barrell Armida Blended Bourbon Finished in Pear Brandy, Jamaican Rum, and Sicilian Amaro Casks
Average Price: $90
Barrell puts out a lot of whiskeys every year. This edition is a mix of straight bourbons finished in pear brandy, Jamaican rum, and Sicilian Amaro casks that are then batched. The bourbon then goes into the bottle uncut to help highlight the disparate yet similarly cozy flavors given by each of the barrels.
Nose: Pear drives the nose with a pear compote or pear butter made with plenty of dark spice and just a hint of dark chocolate and tobacco.
Palate: The taste is warm but slightly rummy with a clear eggnog note acting as a driving force, leading towards hints of black licorice next to creamy toffee next to hefty chocolate bars filled with nougat and walnuts.
Finish: A slight black tea bitterness takes over at the end as the nuttiness, spiciness, and sweetness all come together for a big finish, with plenty of warmth and boldness.
We’re already in delicious territory here. This whiskey is a solid sipper that just keeps going. Seriously, let this one air and add water as you taste it and you’ll always find new depths of flavor. That does make this a little less straightforward, which can be muddling for some. I dig it as I’m always surprised by how deep it really goes.
22. Old Elk Straight Rye Whiskey Finished in Rum Barrels
Average Price: $89
This is a five-year-old 95/5 (rye/malted barley) rye whiskey. The nuance here is in the finish. That 95/5 rye is re-barreled in 14-year-old Barbados rum barrels for a final two to five-month-long finishing touch. Those barrels are then touched with water before bottling.
Nose: There’s a clear sense of grilled pineapple and clove on the nose that leads to woody tropical spices and an overall feel of rummy tropical cocktails with plenty of spicy booze in them.
Palate: The palate leans into the woody spice bark with bitter orange, bright lemon, and a hint of lime leaves before delving into vanilla pods and a touch of warm tobacco.
Finish: The tobacco drives the finish toward a whisper of mango and pineapple with a dried and almost salted vibe before ending up in a nice and rummy-spiced note.
This feels like the perfect balance of rummy notes and rye whiskey. It’s spicy but tempered by bright tropical fruits and a hint of sea salt. It’s a nice balance. All of that said, this feels like a solid workhorse whiskey that shines as brightly over some rocks as it does in a spicy/fruity cocktail.
21. Doc Swinson’s Alter Ego Solera Method Straight Rye Whiskey Finished in Rum Casks
Average Price: $46
This whiskey is a blend of classic Indiana 95/5 rye/malted barley whiskey with a very low-rye mash whiskey made with 45% corn, 51% rye, and 4% malted barley. Once blended, those whiskeys are added to Doc Swinson’s solera system where they’re finished in a mix of rum casks from St. Croix, Trinidad & Tobago, Venezuela, and Jamaica. As the barrels are emptied, new whiskey is added to keep the solera method going indefinitely.
Nose: Quince jam and stewed pears lead the way on the nose with a sense of apple cider spiked with cinnamon bark and allspice berries next to a mild sweet oakiness and grassiness.
Palate: Grilled peaches drizzled in caramel mix with the syrup from a can of fruit cocktail next to smudged wild sage, pineapple rinds, burnt orange, and a sense of sweet wet herbs.
Finish: Those sweet herbs drive the finish toward a sense of spiced cherry next to vanilla cookies with a nice dose of winter spice.
We’re already into the award-winning expressions. This is beautifully rendered whiskey that works wonderfully as a slow sipper, especially for any dark rum fan looking for a bourbon edge. It also makes a killer Manhattan.
20. 15 Stars Triple Cask Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $179
This new release from 15 STARS is a blend of two straight bourbons with a big finishing run. The whiskey is made from an eight and 16-year-old blend that was finished in Kentucky in port, cognac, and rum casks for eight additional months before batching and bottling.
Nose: Woody huckleberry jam over raisin scones mingle with eggnog spices and brown sugar cookies, spiced cherry fruit leather, and a twinge of sweet yet old oakiness.
Palate: That dark fruit leather leans into brandy-soaked dates and prunes with a sense of old oak cellars next to rich vanilla, soft apples, and sticky toffee pudding.
Finish: There’s a dark cherry spiced vibe to the finish that leans into fresh chewy tobacco packed into an old oak box and then wrapped in leather with a burnt orange rind and winter spice bouquet on top.
This one goes beyond just the rum finish but it doesn’t delete it. There’s a nice layering balance at play that makes this an incredibly sippable pour of whiskey. I’d recommend taking your time with this one and letting it bloom in the glass with a touch of water and air — you’ll be delighted by the deep layers of flavor.
19. Barrell Dovetail Whiskey Finished in Rum, Port, & Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Barrels
Average Price: $90
This is a complex whiskey from one of the country’s best blenderies. Barrell sources a 10-year-old straight Indiana whiskey that was finished in Dunn Vineyards Cabernet barrels and marries that juice to 11-year-old straight Tennessee bourbon that was finished in both blackstrap rum casks and port pipes. That blend is then bottled as-is.
Nose: You’re greeted with the port notes of dried raisins and plums, leading towards a touch of licorice next to a really rummy sweetness.
Palate: There’s a sense of spicy stewed cherries (think clove and anise) that supports a touch of charred marshmallow with a bit of soft oak.
Finish: The end holds onto the fruit and sweeter notes while going all-in on the warmness of the ABVs with a black pepper spiciness and long yet subtle tobacco buzz.
I love this pour around the holidays. It feels like the perfect digestif whiskey that you pour into a big glass after big meals.
18. Penelope Straight Bourbon Whiskey Double Cask Finish Rio
Average Price: $99
This is damn near a classic now. This year’s Rio is still Penelope’s batch of four-grain bourbon (the blends of barrels work out to 74% corn, 14% wheat, 9% rye, and 3% malted barley). The ripple is that once batched the whiskey is re-barrelled into American honey and Brazilian Amburana oak casks which aged cachaça (Brazilian rum). Those casks are then batched, proofed, and bottled.
Nose: The honey is super creamy on the nose with a hint of pine forest next to hot cinnamon sticky buns with melting buttercream frosting and plenty of winter spice next to a hint of pecan.
Palate: The spiced rolls drive the palate toward a darker gingerbread with fresh and orange-infused honey adding a sharp contrast before the barkier elements of the spices and nuts roll back in.
Finish: The end leans into almost savory figs and date leather with a sense of winter spice barks, burnt orange rinds, and singed vanilla pods next to a hint of marzipan tobacco and soft fresh honeycomb.
This is light and playful while offering that cachaça funkiness. It just works. I’d also argue that this is a great summer pour thanks to the rummy lightness and funky fruit with that honeyed sweetness smoothing everything out.
17. Old Line American Single Malt Whiskey Finished in Caribbean Rum Casks
Average Price: $99
This Maryland whiskey starts as a great craft beer made with Premium 2 Row Malt and C-120 Malt. That beer is distilled and aged for 4.3 years in new white oak. Those barrels are batched and the whiskey is re-barreled into Caribbean rum white oak casks for another eight months of mellowing.
Nose: The nose opens with a rush of woody vanilla and rich butterscotch with a hint of brown-sugar-spiked tobacco wrapped around Meyere lemons and bitter oranges.
Palate: That spice orange drives the palate with a matrix of winter spices — think cinnamon, star anise, allspice, and nutmeg — before moving toward soft vanilla-heavy spiced nut cakes.
Finish: The end leans into the dryness of the winter spice with the lemon and orange going slightly bitter with a tobacco chewiness.
This is a great whiskey to sip if you’re looking for dark and funky citrus in your whiskey. There’s a rich oakiness that’s expressed via vanilla, tobacco, and winder spice that feels just kissed by tropical rum — it’s really nice.
16. Chicken Cock Rum Barrel Rye Island Rooster Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey
Average Price: $200
This contract-distilled whiskey (by Bardstown Bourbon Company) from Chicken Cock is from 25 hand-picked four-year-old Kentucky straight rye casks (with a mash bill of 95/5). Those barrels were vatted and then re-barreled in Caribbean rum casks for six more months of maturation. Finally, the whiskey was bottled with a touch of proofing water.
Nose: This opens with a hint of sour orchard fruit next to fresh grains, light molasses sweetness (with a twinge of tannic oak) next to a mild dose of dried and woody chili pepper.
Palate: The palate starts off with a sour apple candy sweetness next to rum-soaked raisins with more of that tannic molasses, a good layer of vanilla creaminess, buttery toffee, and a dash of red peppercorns.
Finish: The end lets the butteriness of the toffee take over as crusty rye bread flour mixes with dark sugars.
This is one of the most accessible pours on the list. It’s just easy and delightfully layered. You feel the rum marrying to the rye in such a clear way that it’s hard not to love if you dig dark rum and rye whiskey.
15. Jefferson’s Marian McLain Blend Of Straight Bourbon Whiskeys
Average Price: $299
This whiskey pays tribute to Jefferson’s founder Trey Zoeller’s grandmother — Marian McLain — who was an 8th-generation moonshiner and bootlegger back in the day (she’s one of the earliest documented women in American whiskey to boot). The whiskey Zoeller made to honor McLain is a blend of five straight bourbon whiskeys. 40% of the blend is an 11-year-old Kentucky bourbon, 21% is a 14-year-old Tennessee bourbon, 17% is a rum-cask finished bourbon, 14% is a wheated double-barreled bourbon, and 8% is an eight-year-old Kentucky bourbon.
Nose: The nose opens with a mix of old whiskey barrels wrapped in worn saddle leather with a sweet and creamy sense of honeyed oatmeal, vanilla, and old cinnamon sticks dipped in hot apple cider.
Palate: The palate is fruity with a sense of mango chutney and rum raisin next to dark chocolate-covered espresso beans, salted toffee, and banana bread inside of a cedar box with a twinge of smoldering wild sage.
Finish: The end is lush and full of dark holiday cakes brimming with soft spices, roasted nuts, and dark dried fruits next to more of that creamy honey and silken vanilla.
17% rum cask-finished bourbon is enough to make a big difference in this blend. It’s so clearly there and adds a great measure of depth to this easy-going sipper.
14. Kentucky Peerless Rum Barrel Finished Bourbon
Average Price: $149
This is classic Kentucky Peerless Straight Bourbon that’s aged at least five years. That whiskey is batched and re-barreled into two different rum barrels for a short finishing spell. Once just right, those barrels are batched and bottled 100% as-is at cask strength.
Nose: Burnt orange and crispy lemon meringue pie lead on the nose with a sense of salted black molasses, old cedar, and roasted coffee beans dipped in salted dark chocolate.
Palate: Bitter orange and spiced chocolate-covered espresso beans drive the taste toward a counterpoint of powdered sugar and singed marshmallow with a hint of that cedar reappearing late.
Finish: Cedar bark, sweetgrass, and smudging sage braids drive the finish toward sticky toffee pudding and spiced Christmas nut bread with a touch of plum, date, and fig with a distant whisper of smoked sea salt.
This is delicious and deep. Pour this one over a big rock and sip it slowly. You’ll be rewarded.
13. The Left Cross Puncher’s Chance Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished in Jamaican Dark Rum Casks Aged 14 Years
Average Price: $149
This sourced bourbon from Bruce Buffer (of UFC fame) is an old whiskey. The bourbon in the bottle is a 14-year-old straight Tennessee whiskey made with 84% corn, 8% rye, and 8% malted barley. After around 14 years, that whiskey is re-filled into freshly dumped Jamaican rum casks that held rum for 12 years. After two to six months of additional maturation, those barrels are batched before proofing and bottling.
Nose: The nose has a classic sense of old oak, dark vanilla, black cherry, and woody spices with a hint of spearmint-spiked molasses.
Palate: The palate has a mild hogo funk with bananas foster cut with brandy, old raisin boxes, winter spices, and a soft vanilla cake frosted with rum-raisin and dark cacao.
Finish: Soft brown sugar gives way to a warming mulled wine vibe with plenty of star anise, clove, and cinnamon next to plummy rum sweetness and Cherry Coke spiced tobacco.
This is another great option if you’re looking for a slow sipper with great depth. And if you’re a UFC fan, this is a no-brainer buy on this list.
12. Starlight Distillery Carl T. Huber’s Single Barrel Indiana Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished in Rum Barrels
Average Price: $69
This whiskey starts with Starlight’s high-corn Indiana straight bourbon. Select barrels are chosen and batched after four-and-a-half years before being re-barreled into rum casks. Then, single barrels of rum-cask bourbon are chosen for single-barrel bottling of cask-strength bourbon. In this case, that meant only 114 bottles.
Nose: Mincemeat pies and dark molasses drive the nose toward cacao nibs, old cinnamon sticks, and powdery white pepper with a bold vanilla base and plenty of sweet warmth.
Palate: Salted caramel dipped in dark chocolate and cut with fresh maple syrup drives the palate toward dry chewing tobacco, toffee rolled in almonds, and old oak staves with plenty of vanilla left in them.
Finish: That wood gets very spicy on the finish as soft maple syrup and pecan counter the end with soft dry chocolate tobacco just kissed with dry red chili.
This is excellently spiced that takes you on a journey from molasses-y rum to spiced holiday bourbon. Enjoy it however you like to drink your bourbon.
11. Cedar Ridge Distillery The QuintEssential American Single Malt Whiskey Batch 010
Average Price: $55
This whiskey is all about a grain-to-glass experience. The juice is made with 100% 2-Row Pale Malted Barley (the same stuff used in some of the biggest craft beers) from up in Saskatchewan. The whiskey is matured in ex-bourbon barrels for an undisclosed term. That whiskey is then finished in a combination of brandy, rum, wine, port, and sherry barrels before it’s vatted. The whiskey’s blend is then made using the solera method — where the vat is never fully emptied before the next barrel is added.
Nose: The nose is immediately full of bright fruit with a peach and pear vibe that leans into a malty banana bread with plenty of butter, cinnamon, and walnut next to a touch of Almond Joy (but the good ones from a high-end shop).
Palate: The palate is soft and subtle with hints of spiced malted gingersnaps, light cream soda vibes (maybe a light sasparilla), and a mellow and creamy base of chocolate that’s not dark but not milky either.
Finish: The mid-palate has a nice sweetness that’s slightly apple adjacent with an apricot hint that mellows into a final note of chewy toffees with rum-raisin lurking on the very backend.
Any list of rum-finished whiskeys would be obsolete if it didn’t have this masterpiece American single malt on it. This is just excellent whiskey that deserves your time when enjoying it.
10. Bardstown Bourbon Company Collaborative Series Plantation Rum Finish Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $250
Bardstown Bourbon Company cannot miss with their special oak barrel finish collaborations. This whiskey is made from a 10-year-old straight Tennessee bourbon with a high-corn mash bill of 84% corn, 8% rye, and 8% malted barley. After just over eight years in new oak, the whiskey is transferred to Plantation rum barrels for another 22 months of resting.
Nose: Spiced orange cake with caramel and burnt sugar frosting drives the nose toward gingersnaps and warm tiki cocktails with a dry cherry vanilla powder underbelly.
Palate: Apple cobbler and nutty banana bread are pronounced on the lush taste with a sense of walnut paste, dried apricot, and mulled wine spices next to brown sugar syrup cut with chili and pecan.
Finish: The end has a silken sense of vanilla syrup cut with burnt orange, rum raisin mincemeat pies, and buttermilk biscuits with marmalade and woody winter spice.
This is also an excellent rum-finished whiskey. Amazingly, it’s not even the best one from Bardstown Bourbon Company (more on that shortly). That aside, this is an excellent sipping whiskey that highlights the rum pretty much perfectly from top to bottom.
9. Westward Whiskey American Single Malt Whiskey Rum Cask
Average Price: $99
This Portland whiskey is a true outlier. The malt in the bottle is classic Westward single malt made with craft brewing at its core. The whiskey is then re-barreled into an all-natural Magdalena Guatemalan rum cask (a rum that Westward makes) for a final rest before batching, proofing, and bottling.
Nose: Spiced honey with a sense of sweetgrass drives the nose toward rich butterscotch with a sense of savory and fresh herbs right after the rain.
Palate: The honey and butterscotch give way to grilled white peach and mango with a hint of toasted coconut next to almond, winter spices, and rum raisin.
Finish: A dark and rummy molasses arrives on the finish with a hint of orange zest ice cream in a sugar cone with a light dryness to it.
This is so concise that it just shines in the glass. It’s high-quality malt that sings with a rummy finish. It’s everything you need from the style.
8. Barrell Seagrass Rye Whiskeys Finished in Martinique Rum, Madeira, & Apricot Brandy Barrels
Average Price: $86
The juice in this limited edition bottle is a combination of rye whiskeys from Indiana, Tennessee, and Canada. Those whiskeys were aged in Martinique rhum, rhum agricole, apricot brandy, and Madeira casks before vatting at Barrell in Kentucky. The idea was to harness the flavors of wood that aged juice next to the sea to bring that coastal x-factor into the blending process for this rye whiskey.
Nose: The nose presents a balance of sweetness and warmth that leads towards apple and cherry candies, Werther’s Originals, bruised peaches, and a lightly dried rose potpourri in a soft leather pouch.
Palate: The taste opens with a slight touch of that peach followed by pears and savory melon while a hint of bitter grapefruit arrives on the mid-palate with a note of cinnamon, fennel, and green (almost oily) thyme.
Finish: There’s a return of the pear sweetness on the backend of the taste but you have to hack through a very warm, dry, and almost chewy woody spice nature. The very end of the slow finish has this almost white grape soda vibe with a hint of cream soda (and maybe a touch of root beer), apple cores with the stem and seeds, and … overused sandpaper.
This is where we get into the otherworldly pours. This whiskey is phenomenal. Drink it neat, on the rocks, or in your favorite cocktail. It’ll rock no matter what.
7. BLACKENED Rye The Lightning Kentucky Straight Rye Double Cask Finished in Madeira and Rum Casks
Average Price: $95
This whiskey from Metallica and master distiller and blender Rob Dietrich is made from barrels Dietrich picked himself. Those barrels were between five and eight years old when they were batched and then re-filled into rum and Madeira barrels and blasted with music (Metallica of course) for a final maturation. The final result is made from a blending of those barrels with a touch of water to bring it down to proof.
Nose: The nose opens with a soft layer of prunes and dates with a hint of tart berry next to suede, pine resin, and an echo of dry straw.
Palate: The palate is part black pepper and part leathery prunes with a creamy vanilla underbelly and more of those dark berries.
Finish: The end comes with more layers of ground almonds, old cinnamon sticks, minty honey, and a touch of raw sugar sweetness with a lush finish.
This tastes amazingly deep for a fairly low-proof offering. It just runs so much deeper that it feels both older and more dialed at the same time. It’s versatile too. This makes a great sipper or cocktail base.
6. Barrell Gold Label Seagrass Rye Whiskey Finished in Martinique Rum, Madeira, and Apricot Brandy Barrels
Average Price: $500
This very limited and high-end version of Barrell’s Seagrass rye is made from two sets of 100% rye whisky from Canada. The first set was finished in apricot brandy casks before heading to Barrell’s blending house in Kentucky. The second set was finished in Martinique rhum barrels before transport to KY. Finally, a little bit of each set was then re-barreled and into Malmsey Madeira barrels for a final rest. All of those barrels were then slowly blended into this whiskey and bottled completely as-is.
Nose: The nose opens with a hint of caramel malt next to apricot jam, old lawn furniture, grilled pineapple skins, Nutella, and some orange blossoms with a whisper of rye crust with caraway leading to a dry sense of hazelnut shells and wild sage.
Palate: The palate opens with rich honey next to orange oils, dusty prunes, mango skins, and maybe a hint of cumin and dried red chili.
Finish: The end mixes a touch of lemon oils with black peppercorns as the honey and mango cream toward a sweet and tropical fruit end that’s countered by rich notes of nutmeg and pineapple tobacco.
This is like the Seagrass above but turned up to 11 … million. It’s just so much more and so deep that you’ll always find something fun, new, and intriguing every time you return to this pour.
5. Kentucky Owl Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey Aged 11 Years Limited Edition Bayou Mardi Gras XO Cask
Average Price: $499
The latest limited edition from Kentucky Owl celebrates Mardi Gras with a small release of rum-finished whiskey. The whiskey in the bottle is 11-year-old Kentucky straight rye that then spends another year in Bayou Rum XO casks from Louisiana.
Nose: There’s a soft leatheriness on the nose with a sense of old rye bread, sweet butter, and winter spices layered into a vanilla cake.
Palate: The taste is on the sweeter end with dark cherry and stewed plum next to orange marmalade, allspice berries, creamy vanilla pudding, and a mild sense of dry and old herb gardens.
Finish: The lush end layers in that sweet butter and creamy vanilla with a sense of clove tobacco, sharp and spicy root beer, and lush eggnog with plenty of nutmeg.
Kentucky Owl takes a lot of shit for being very expensive. This expression earns that high price tag but hey, it’s also really good whiskey. It tastes so unique while still delivering classic rye with lovely rumminess. It also makes one hell of a Sazerac.
4. Hemingway Rye, 1st Edition A Blend Of Straight Rye Whiskeys Finished In Rum Seasoned Olorosso Sherry Casks
Average Price: $109
This whiskey is a unique one. The blend is made up of two whiskeys — 94% is a nine-year-old 95/5 (rye/malted barley) Indiana straight rye and 6% is a four-year-old 95/5 Kentucky straight rye. Those whiskeys were batched and then re-filled into a rum-season Oloroso sherry cask for a final rest before batching, proofing, and bottling.
Nose: Rich and old oak mingles with salted caramel, dark maple syrup, and sheets of dark fruit leather next to a soft sense of caraway rye toast with a soft creamed vanilla butter and a light touch of cherry compote.
Palate: That cherry takes on a slightly tart and salted aura on the taste as the salted caramel leads to huge sticks of cinnamon bark, clove-studded oranges, and a smudging bundle full of wild sage, sweetgrass, and cedar bark.
Finish: Those smoldering botanicals linger on the finish as a soft cinnamon cake with salted toffee drizzle and a whisper of dark chocolate-covered espresso beans counter the rye dank.
This whiskey is finished in sherry casks that held rum before they held whiskey. That sounds like a long way to go but, let me tell you, it’s worth it. This stuff is one of the best new ryes of 2023.
3. Bardstown Bourbon Company Collaborative Series Foursquare Blend of Straight Whiskies Finished in Foursquare Rum Barrels
Average Price: $159
This is a much-sought-after blend from Kentucky darling Bardstown Bourbon Company. The blend in this case is a mix of seven-year-old Indiana straight rye with a mash bill of 51% rye, 45% corn, and 4% malted barley blended with a 17-year-old Tennessee straight bourbon with a mash bill of 84% corn, 8% rye, and 8% malted barley. Once those barrels are batched, the whiskey is re-barreled in Foursquare rum barrels for an additional 23-month rest.
Nose: Woody banana and rich marzipan pop on the nose with a deep and sharp clove, anise, and cinnamon vibe next to peanut butter clusters dusted with toasted coconut, burnt orange zest, and sea salt with this whisper of rum-soaked raisins and old oak in the background.
Palate: The rye funkiness drives the rummy oak tannins towards a soft sticky toffee pudding with rich toffee, mild vanilla oils, and a sense of spiced mincemeat pie.
Finish: The finish is lush and silken with a sense of fresh and warm vanilla pods over warm grog with a handful of dark and woody winter spices countered by luxurious and buttery salted caramel with a fleeting hint of smoldering marshmallow.
This is crazy good whiskey. In fact, this is going to be hard to beat when it comes to the best American whiskey this year. It’s just freaking fabulous. That said, I am saving my bottle closer to fall/winter thanks to the overall vibe of this one. Still, this bottle is going to be empty by year’s end.
2. Rare Character Single Barrel Series Selected by ReserveBar Topflight Series Straight Rye Whiskey Finished in Jaqueira Casks
Average Price: $88
Japqueira is a Brazilian wood that most notably grows jack fruit and is used to age cachaça (Brazilian rum). The whiskey in the bottle is 95/5 rye from Indiana that’s then refilled into a Jacqueira barrel that previously held cachaça and left to rest in Kentucky for a spell. After four years and six months, ReserveBar bottled a single barrel 100% as-is.
Nose: The nose is deeply nutty with a dark and worn leatheriness next to a soft sense of mild mushrooms, green banana, macadamia, and anise with a soft Kentucky cherry/vanilla/winter spice undertone.
Palate: The palate is lush and silky with a sense of vanilla oils, star fruit, clove, cinnamon bark, and nutmeg next to creamy nuttiness with a dash of toffee and alder planks.
Finish: The finish just lingers and lingers while slowly fading through vanilla buttercream, sour cherries tossed in maple sea salt, and moist marzipan cut with orange and pomelo oils.
This is a fantastic and amazingly unique whiskey. From the first nose, you’re drawn in and it just never lets you go. To that point, this was just named the best special barrel-finished whiskey (in the world) at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. So I’m not alone in singing the praises of this fantastic bottle.
1. Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished in Jamaican Rum Casks “Voyage”
Average Price: $499
The latest entry in Wild Turkey’s Master Keep line is a collaboration between Wild Turkey’s Eddie Russell and Appleton Estate’s Dr. Joy Spence — both icons in their fields. The whiskey in the bottle is a 10-year-old batch of Wild Turkey bourbon that’s refilled into Appleton Estate rum barrels from Jamaica. Those barrels held classic pot still rum for 14 years before they were shipped up to Kentucky. The bourbon rested for 10 to 12 months before batching and bottling with a touch of local limestone water for bottling.
Nose: The nose opens with a sense of classic Kentucky bourbon with a sharply spiced cherry/apple vibe that gives way to a deep cellar funk next to rum raisin coffee cake, dark chocolate-covered espresso beans, and rich marzipan dipped in orange oils and maybe a whisper of palm flower (flor de izote).
Palate: The palate leans into rich vanilla creaminess as spice barks and black cherry combines for a moist Black Forest cake soaked in dark rum with a sense of green peppercorns and dried ancho chilis offering a sharp counterpoint next to a whisper of floral summer honey and old cellar oak.
Finish: The end softens dramatically toward orange-infused marzipan and vanilla malts with a cherry on top next to honey tobacco rolled with smudging sage, cacao nibs, and funky oak staves.
This incredible whiskey just dropped (July 2023) and it’s going to be massively popular. It’s silk in a glass and an instant classic. It’s also one of my favorite bourbons of 2023. It’s f*cking amazing.
Editor’s Bonus Pick — Angel’s Envy Rye Whiskey Finished in Caribbean Rum Casks
Average Price: $76
This whiskey is a classic MGP of Indiana 95/5 (rye/malted barley) mash bill. The whiskey aged for six years before it was re-barreled into Caribbean rum casks from Plantation (which previously held Maicon Ferrand cognac in France). Once the barrels hit just the right mark, Master Distiller Owen Martin batches this rummy rye and bottles it at a higher 100-proof.
Nose: It’s rummy and sweet and there are some nice notes on the nose — coffee cake and maybe a nip of coriander? I suppose that bit would be the rye element in play. Plus a tiny bit of burn (it’s 100 proof!).
Palate: This is sweeeeet. It’s straight-up coffee rum cake with a nice bit of heat. You get that tiny vegetal note (coriander) but really the rum prevails with the baking spices from the cake — clove, nutmeg, cinnamon — and, of course, some vanilla.
Finish: A long finish, a lot like if you just sucked on a rum butterscotch (or swigged rum after sucking a regular butterscotch?) — I like those notes but the lingering sweetness might get a different reaction, depending on your palate.
This is really rummy, with some notes of the rye base whiskey, as I noted above. If you like rum and want to see a rye-based riff on it (like me), this is for you. If you’re a rye-head who imagines just a touch of rum sweetness, this won’t be a fit.