Top 10 Whiskeys of 2018

Top 10 Whiskeys of 2018

Top 10 Whiskeys of 2018

It’s that time of year again – 2018 is coming to a close – which means it is time to release our best-of-the-year list.

As always, this year’s list comes with our standard caveats…

First, this is obviously a subjective exercise – everyone’s palate is different. Second, we were not able to try every whiskey produced in the world this year. Consequently, this list represents only those products we were lucky enough to sample. Third, we drink primarily bourbon and rye, so there are undoubtedly great Scotch and Irish whiskies that we are omitting.  And lastly, cost and availability were not taken into account here – these are simply our favorite pours of 2018. 

With that, on to the Bourbon Sippers top 10 whiskeys of 2018…

10. Jim Beam Little Book Chapter 2

Why we chose it: While “Noe Simple Task” is somewhat of a niche product (i.e. not everyone will like it), it is an unquestionably worthy follow up to last year’s “The Easy”. Comprised of a truly unique blend of 8-year Kentucky bourbon, 13-year Canadian rye, and 40-year Canadian corn whisky, this is easily the most distinctive pour on this list. If you are an adventurous drinker and don’t mind dropping $100 on a whiskey, Little Book Chapter 2: “No Simple Task” could be a perfect holiday purchase.  

9. Nikka From The Barrel

Why we chose it: From The Barrel is an absolute must-try for any fan of Nikka products. Although the fruity notes can be a little heavy at first, a few minutes in the glass brings out an incredibly well-balanced palate featuring stone fruit, coffee, and sweet caramel and butterscotch. At a retail cost of around $60.00 for a barrel proof offering, Nikka From The Barrel is one of the few remaining bargains in Japanese whisky.

8. 1792 Bottled in Bond

Why we chose it: Barton’s 1792 lineup has quietly become a standout among the mid-shelf options at most stores. The Full Proof release, given its ample 125 proof, is consistently heralded as a top value buy in bourbon. Well, at just $40 1792 Bottled in Bond isn’t far behind. In fact, as a daily pour, we prefer the incredibly well-balanced Bottled in Bond (sweet and tannic) over the full-on heat of the Full Proof. 1792 Bottled in Bond is an easy buy at #8 on our list.

7. Old Forester 1910 Fine Whiskey

Why we chose it: The last expression in Brown-Forman’s Whiskey Row Series, Old Forester 1910 Fine Whiskey certainly had big shoes to fill following the widely praised Old Forester 1920. Luckily, this double-barreled bourbon is a standout in its own right. 1910’s almost chewy palate features surprisingly sweet layers of burnt brown sugar, vanilla, and toasted graham crackers. The double-barreling takes center stage in the tannic, timber-like finish, making Old Forester 1910 Fine Whiskey an excellent choice for fans of both sweet and oaky bourbons.

6. Knob Creek Single Barrel Rye

Why we chose it: Knob Creek Single Barrel Rye opens a tad sweeter than we expected (candied fruit, caramel, sweet vanilla), but still delivers just enough cinnamon and black pepper to round out the full, viscous palate. As is the case with the Knob Creek Single Barrel Bourbon, there are some outstanding private picks of the Single Barrel Rye out there, so don’t hesitate to grab a bottle if you find one. With an ideal balance of sweet and spicy notes, Knob Creek Single Barrel Rye is the perfect winter pour.

5. Old Ezra 7-Year Barrel Proof

Ezra 7 Year

Why we chose it: If you’re looking for a classic, in your face bourbon – Old Ezra 7-Year Barrel Proof is the perfect whiskey for you. This may not be the most unique bourbon out there, but we can’t imagine any bourbon sippers being disappointed with this $40 retail steal. As far as the palate, think baked caramel apple pie, and vanilla mingled with well-structured oak tannins and spice. Old Ezra 7-Year Barrel Proof drinks well above the price tag at #5 on our list.

4. Belle Meade Cask Reserve

Belle Meade Cask Reserve

Why we chose it: At 4th on our list, Belle Meade Cask Reserve officially marks the boundary between the readily available and largely unobtainable bottles. We have long been fans of the Belle Meade Single Barrel releases, so it wasn’t a surprise that we enjoyed this offering. Packed with notes of burnt brown sugar, rye spice, and ample barrel char, Belle Meade Cask Reserve is our go-to pour of 2018. Note: We have noticed some variation between batches, but the batch we used for this ranking (6) was excellent.

3. Four Roses 130th Anniversary

Four Roses 130th Anniversary Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon
Photo Courtesy of Loren Simpson

Why we chose it: Every fall Four Roses drops another special release, and every year it makes it onto the Bourbon Sippers best of list (well, at least since we’ve been doing it). While not quite as good as last year’s world-class Al Young’s 50th Anniversary release, the 130th Anniversary does not disappoint. This is a complex, elegant pour that will offer you something slightly different with each sip. Check out our guest review here for detailed tasting notes.

2. William Larue Weller

Better than Pappy

Why we chose it: Yes, the Van Winkle releases are still the most famous (and overrated) wheated bourbons currently available, but they are not the best. That distinction belongs to William Larue Weller, the uncut, unfiltered, undisputed King of the wheaters. This 2018 version has all the typically candy-like sweetness that bourbon fans associate with the brand, but also serves up something a little unexpected – a touch of roasted spice that lingers through the finish. William Larue Weller once again comes in at #2 on your yearly list of best bourbons.  

1. George T. Stagg

Better than Pappy Van Winkle

Why we chose it: Simply put, George T. Stagg is the best bourbon currently and regularly being produced. Scratch that, it’s the best whiskey being produced. While the 2014 release remains our favorite (and one of the best whiskeys we have ever tried), the 2018 is an easy call for #1 on our list. Despite the uncharacteristically low proof (124.9), the trademark Stagg depth and complexity are there in spades, featuring layers of burnt sugar, dark cherries, vanilla, and ample oak spice. This might be a tamer beast than in previous years, but it’s still a beast. And it’s George T. Stagg through and through.

Bonus Bottle: J. Mattingly/Bourbon 30 Bald Monk.  Bald Monk didn’t make the list because we avoid ranking private picks, but we would be remiss if we didn’t at least mention it in this article. Controversy aside, this is just a fantastic bottle that clearly demonstrates the heights that a blended bourbon can reach when engineered by a knowledgeable group and a tasting legend like Ed Bley.

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