Now that Big Whiskey has swallowed up just about everything you thought was a mom-and-pop shop, it’s time for some detective work. At Uproxx, editor Steve Bramucci enlists writers Zach Johnson and Christopher Osburn to suss out the top independent U.S. whiskies.
Among Johnson’s faves is Port Cask Finished Virginia-Highland Whisky, from Virginia Distillery Co. If rules are made to be broken, what’s wrong with combining Virginia whiskey and Scotch? Sounds like the judges at the recent World Whiskies Awards agree—they named it Best American Blended Malt.
“Expect a dark, fruit-forward sip here,” Johnson says. “There’s a real sense of dried figs, raisins and plums. Next, a wonderful roll of buttery toffee comes into play with a nice Christmas spice edge. There’s a subtle alcohol burn on the back end that gives way to a hint of dark port sweetness.”
Like big, spicy rye whiskies that can carry a tune? New York Distilling Co.’s Ragtime Rye is all that, Osburn says of the Brooklyn tribute to life before Prohibition, which is made from New York State grain and spends three years and change in American oak. “The spice is there, but it’s not so prevalent that you miss out on the other aspects of the whiskey. The subtle peppery spice makes way for a complex, warming finish that will leave you wanting more.”
Bramucci puts his money on Burnside Oregon Oaked Bourbon, by Eastside Distilling in his hometown of Portland. “This bottle is about as close as you can get to rum in a whiskey,” he says of the blend, adding that its strong fruit and vanilla notes would make a nice Old Fashioned. For Bramucci, there’s also a minerality that “leaves the sensation of water sipped straight from an Oregon stream as it cascades over the moss.” Cool.🥃