Above the fold, American whiskey is bourbon, bourbon, bourbon these days—but we’re of the opinion the top stories (and spirits) require a little more reading to find. From apex-reaching single malts to paradigm-shifting distilleries way outside of Kentucky, there’s a lot of great whiskey on the market and coming soon.
Whether you’re in the mood for something different after a tooth-and-nail fight for the biggest names in Kentucky bourbon, or just looking to get ahead of the market on the next great must-drink bottles, we put together a list of the brands to keep an eye on in 2022 and beyond.
20 American Whiskey Brands to Watch
1. Chattanooga Distillery
While Chattanooga has been making solid whiskey for many years, the brand caught attention in 2020 for the release of its 99 Rye. It’s a unique recipe using the notoriously difficult-to-work-with malted rye. That bottle turned heads, and if the rest of Tennessee’s distillers didn’t take notice, it’s on them if they get lapped by this exciting underdog.
As much as we’d love to tell you 99 Rye is where it’s at, the bottle to buy right now is its long-awaited Bottled in Bond. This 4-year-old whiskey is surprisingly fruity with jammy, silky textures that suggest honey and baked goods. When these guys turn out a 7-year-old whiskey, the world is going to hear about it.
What to Drink Now: Chattanooga Bottled in Bond Bourbon, $50; chattanoogawhiskey.comGet it
2. Westland Distillery
This Seattle, WA, single malt distillery has long been one of our favorites. Lately, Westland’s doubled down on the core elements that make its whiskies so delicious. Massive investments in experimental barley research are just the tip of a mountain of initiatives meant to further diversify the flavors coming out of its blending lab.
Though many of the things we’re most excited about are far off, Westland has taken the unprecedented step of looking at the core line of products that made it what it is today, and simply saying, “We can do better.” The result is one newly reformulated “Flagship” single malt: a new blend of peated, sherried, and other malts. This whiskey is greater than the sum of its parts—and at the sum of its MSRP, it’s also a steal.
What to Drink Now: Westland Flagship Single Malt Whiskey, $60; westlanddistillery.reservebar.comGet it
3. Kozuba Distillery
A Polish family making Florida whiskey is the sort of chaotic energy the whiskey world desperately needs, and these folks have it by the barrel. Kozuba’s vodka-making origins led into whiskey-making in 2014, and though the production is small, the quality is high.
Case in point: Our recommended bottle, High Wheat Rye Whiskey, a now 6-year rye whiskey, made with 65 percent rye and 35 percent wheat. It’s a highly unusual mashbill—typically, the only times you’ll see wheat and rye together are as part of a four-grain bourbon recipe. This two-grain recipe confounds the mind. It’s flavorful and makes excellent use of the characters of both grains, as if to sternly ask all of these multi-generation American whiskey makers why they need corn at all. We can only hope there’s more to come.Get it
Wyoming whiskey had a notoriously rough start when it released too-young whiskey to an underwhelmed market in the state. But an aggressive buyback of the less-than-impressive bourbon cleared the slate. It seems every drop coming out of that whiskey house since is delicious.
The single barrels are great and the Outryder bourbon-rye mashup is tasty, but now that the distillery is able to produce older stock reliably, we’re getting to see some really great bottles. The notable recent release was a fundraising effort for the national parks. One-of-a-kind bottles raised $120,000, but the parallel release of a limited-edition small batch of 5-year-old whiskey shows the polished spirit they’re capable of now: cedary and creamy with hints of vanilla, tea, and just a dash of nutmeg.
What to Drink Now: Wyoming National Parks Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon, $50; wyomingwhiskey.comGet it
Master distiller Owen Martin has been tinkering away with every aspect of Stranahan’s for a few years now. He was at the helm when Stranahan’s Mountain Angel 10 Year was released last year, and was also first to admit that, over the next few years, the Stranahan’s single malt we know is going to go through some big changes.
One of those changes has to do with the average age of the spirit itself. The brand has reached a degree of maturity, and Martin is confident there’s ample stock to see some cool projects through to the end. Right now, they’re being released as distillery exclusives—delicious stuff like this season’s Caribbean Rum Cask. We’re not allowed to share the other things to expect soon, but rest assured you can comfortably sip on Mountain Angel until then. It’s nuanced, subtle, and brooding, with layers of tobacco and molasses.
What to Drink Now: Mountain Angel 10 Year Single Malt Whiskey, $130; stranahans.comGet it
Laws Whiskey House is another example of a growing community of incredible Colorado whiskey makers. Its first barrel hit 10 years of age earlier this summer, but its dedication to small, grain-forward batches of terroir-focused whiskey isn’t going anywhere just because they hit double digits.
What is going somewhere are the younger age statements you may have seen (and tasted) in the past. Two has become four, four has become six, and with that comes across-the-board finesse for some already delicious stuff. Releases come at too fast a clip for us to pick one we’re excited for now, but if you haven’t ventured into the world of Laws recently, its spicy, nutty, and lively Saint Luis Valley Straight Rye is a great (re)introduction.
What to Drink Now: Laws Saint Luis Valley Straight Rye, $75; lawswhiskeyhouse.comGet it
7. Lost Lantern
Lost Lantern is a major first for American whiskey: a private labeling brand from husband and wife team Adam Polonski and Nora Ganley-Roper. They’ve spent the last few years traveling the country to visit the distilleries you’re not paying enough attention to and selecting some of the most delicious casks for exclusive bottling.
Chances are, by the time you read this you’ve missed out on most of the stuff they bottle. But with new batches coming every year, the Lost Lantern brand is a buy-on-sight pick for us. More importantly (and lest you assume they’re just picking single barrels), the couple produce a profoundly delicious blend called American Vatted. It’s committee-blended by the dynamic duo and the distillers of the whiskey components in question. Depending on the batch, that might include the likes of Balcones, Copperworks, Santa Fe Spirits, Triple Eight, Westward, Virginia Distillery Co., all mingled to perfection by a dozen expert palates.
What to Drink Now: Lost Lantern American Vatted Malt Whiskey, $120; lostlanternwhiskey.comGet it
8. Frey Ranch
If you had told us that Nevada was capable of making one of the best bourbons on the market in 2010, we’d have been skeptical, but when we first got our hands on a sample in 2020, there was little room for argument.
The four-grain, farm-to-glass brand is the product of the Frey family’s own grain farming and distilling efforts. As if its signature bourbon wasn’t delicious and well-rounded enough on its own, they’ve now started cranking out a limited number of single barrels. These have the complexity and character to stand up against anything we’ve seen coming out of Kentucky recently.
What to Drink Now: Frey Ranch Single Barrel Bourbon, $85; freyranch.comGet it
9. Blue Run
This little-known bourbon bottler wowed in competition in 2021 when it took the top prize for its quirky 13-and-a-half-year bourbon. But with the eyes of the whiskey world upon them now, they’ve already secured some awards for Blue Run Rye.
The sourced Kentucky rye whiskey is already approaching perfection. Early samples showed a honey graham fruit tart character with finessed support struts of vanilla cream and butterscotch under a mellow spice. It took a gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2021—overshadowed by the standout performance of one of its bourbons, but delicious nevertheless.
What to Drink Now: Blue Run Rye, $100; bluerunspirits.comGet it
10. Milam and Greene
Former whiskey authority Heather Greene crossed lines to become a whiskey maker a few years ago. As the second name on the Milam and Greene label, she’s been spearheading new innovations with the Texas-based hybrid distiller/sourced brand. Greene is actually one of three parents for the brand, including entrepreneur Marsha Milam and Kentucky distiller Marlene Holmes, who handles the non-Texas part of the Kentucky-Texas equation. Twenty years ago, a hybrid multi-state blend would’ve been heresy; today it’s just smart whiskey making.
Many of the bottles have been solid, but the brand’s 13-year-old sourced bourbon batch for the new “Castle Hill” series—delivers a ton of citrus and chocolate notes, and real nuance despite a bold-ish 108 proof point. Greene, as CEO, will definitely continue to deliver interesting concoctions. Once you’ve proven playing by the rules is for amateurs, doing whatever makes good whiskey is as easy to do as this whiskey is easy to drink.
What to Drink Now: Milam and Greene Castle Hill Series Bourbon, $120; milamandgreenewhiskey.comGet it
It might be confusing that there are two American whiskey brands with similar names (Westland and Westward) that are both located in the Pacific Northwest. While Westland is in Seattle, Westward is located in Portland, Oregon. The latter is known exclusively for its bold, award-winning single malt whiskeys.
Its flagship offerings include Westward Oregon Stout Cask and Westward Pinot Noir Cask, but if we had to pick only one to sip, it would be its wildly popular Westward American Single Malt. This 90-proof, American single malt whiskey is made with locally sourced barley and aged in charred American oak barrels, giving it bold flavors like candied orange peels, vanilla, caramel, and oak.
What to Drink Now: Westward American Single Malt, $69.99; westwardwhiskey.comGet it
12. Widow Jane
If you aren’t paying close attention, you might not realize that amazing whiskeys are coming out of a brand in Redhook, Brooklyn. We’re talking about Widow Jane. The brand is proving that “sourced” doesn’t have to be a bad word. Widow Jane finds straight bourbons and rye whiskeys from places like Indiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky, then marries them together.
All of its whiskeys are non-chill filtered and proofed using pure mineral water from the nearby Rosendale Mines. It makes many award-winning whiskeys, including the popular Widow Jane 10-Year Bourbon and its eagerly awaited, yearly release Widow Jane The Vaults. The latter is a limited release made up of the oldest and rarest bourbons available to Widow Jane. The 2021 version is 15-years-old and filled with notes of vanilla, pipe tobacco, and toffee.
What to Drink Now: Widow Jane 10, $41.99; widowjane.comGet it
Washington State’s Woodinville is another great distillery proving high-quality, noteworthy bourbon can be made outside of Kentucky. One of the most highly regard distilleries of the last few years, Woodinville is the story of two friends—Orlin Sorensen and Brett Carlile—who wanted to make great whiskey. So that’s exactly what they did.
Woodinville Whiskey uses local grains, high-quality barrels, and help from one of the most well-known master distillers in history: the late Dave Pickerell. Its Straight Bourbon, straight rye, port-finished bourbon, and limited-edition expression have all received acclaim.
What to Drink Now: Woodinville Straight Bourbon, $33.99; woodinvillewhiskeyco.comGet it
14. Black Button
Rochester, NY, is the birthplace of Kodak, Bausch & Lomb, Xerox, and even French’s Mustard. It’s also home to the Genesee Brewery and Black Button Distilling. Black Button refers to itself as a “grain-to-glass” farm distillery. Opened in 2012, the distillery recently released plans to build a new 28,000-square-foot distillery (up from its current 5,000 square feet) in the summer of 2023.
Black Button makes rye whiskey and various bourbons, but its most well-known expression is Black Button Four Grain Straight Bourbon. Made entirely from New York-grown ingredients, it’s known for its flavor profile of vanilla, caramel, rich oak, and gentle wintry spices.
What to Drink Now: Black Button Four Grain Straight Bourbon, $42.99; blackbuttondistilling.comGet it
Stellum is an interesting brand to keep an eye on for many reasons. It pays homage to tradition, but also keeps up to date with contemporary advances. It’s not afraid to experiment and learn new ways to make better, innovative whiskeys along the way.
Stellum is well-known for its bourbon, rye, and single-barrel program. But it also makes myriad special releases. With all of those whiskeys, you’re going to have to start somewhere. We suggest you dip your toe into the world of Stellum with its award-winning bourbon. A blend of three different Indiana bourbon mash bills, including two high-rye mash bills and one mostly corn, plus bourbons from Tennessee and Kentucky, this standout has complex flavors with notes of toasted marshmallows, vanilla, and gentle spices.
What to Drink Now: Stellum Bourbon, $54.99; stellum.comGet it
16. J. Rieger and Co.
A lot of the brands on this list are reasonably young. And while that’s all well and good, we also want to highlight some of the historic brands that don’t get their due. A great example is Kansas City’s J. Rieger and Co. Founded originally in 1887, this distillery was shut down in 1919 before being re-established in 2014. The first legal distillery in Missouri since prohibition, J. Rieger makes vodkas, gins, and even amaros. But the brand’s real prowess is in whiskey. Its popular Kansas City Whiskey is a blend of straight bourbon whiskey, corn whiskey, rye whiskey, and a touch of 15-year-old oloroso sherry. It’s known for its sweet corn, vanilla, caramel, and dried fruit flavor.
What to Drink Now: Rieger’s Kansas City Whiskey, $44.99; jriegerco.comGet it
17. Virginia Distillery
The story of the Virginia Distillery is also the story of Dr. George Moore. A native of Ireland, Moore moved to the U.S. in the 70s. He had a love for single malt whisky and after decades of planning, he opened the Virginia Distillery in his adopted home in 2011. While he’s since passed, his family continues to build on his whiskey legacy.
Not surprisingly with Moore’s background, the brand’s whiskeys are a mix of traditional and contemporary techniques. Made with malted barley and spring water from the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia Distillery is most known for its American single malt whisky, specifically Courage & Conviction. The release is made up of single malts aged in various barrels including bourbon, sherry, and Cuvee casks.
What To Drink: Virginia Distillery Courage & Conviction American Single Malt Whisky, $74.99; vadistillery.comGet it
18. Bib & Tucker
Bib & Tucker was a brand created to pay tribute to the tireless workers who made America what it is today. It’s a name from the turn of the century in America when there was only small batch bourbon—a time when skyscrapers first began to inhabit the sky and innovations were abundant.
This is what Bib & Tucker is about. You can taste it in the brand’s award-winning 6-, 10-, and 12-year-old small-batch bourbons. If you’re going to start somewhere with this Tennessee-made bourbon, make it Bib & Tucker 6-Year with its flavors of candied pecans, vanilla, and light spices.
What to Drink Now: Bib & Tucker 6-Year, $39.99; bibandtuckerbourbon.comGet it
19. Oregon Spirit Distillers
Founded in 2009, Oregon Spirit Distillers is a brand centered on using locally sourced ingredients and letting the rest of the world in on the flavor and swagger of Oregon itself. They do this by making spirits with local and regionally sourced grains and pure mountain water from the Cascade Mountains.
On top of that, distilling, aging, and even packaging are done on-site at this Bend, OR, brand. While it makes vodka, gin, absinthe, and even limoncello, whiskey is the golden child. The flagship is Straight American Bourbon Whiskey. This award-winning whiskey was aged for four years in new charred American oak barrels. This imparts flavors like caramel, candy apples, vanilla, and rich oak.
What to Drink Now: Oregon Spirit Distillers Straight American Bourbon, $44.99; oregonspiritdistillers.comGet it
20. Still Austin
If you don’t know much about Austin, TX, you likely know about the famous festival that occurs there every year, the famous vodka from a man named Tito, and the bats that blot out the sky. You should also know about Still Austin. Founded in 2015, Still Austin Whiskey Co. is a farm-to-glass distillery known for its innovative spirits.
While the brand also makes gin, its bourbon and rye whiskeys are what make it really noteworthy—specifically its straight bourbon whiskey called “The Musician.” This high-rye bourbon is a symphony of flavors, including almond cookies, vanilla, caramel, dried fruits, and a gentle final note of rye spice.
What to Drink Now: Still Austin The Musician Straight Bourbon Whiskey, $39.99; stillaustin.comGet it
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