Celebrity-backed whiskies are popping up like Shake Shacks, but don’t write them off. Matt Berical of Fatherly rounds up five of his faves, including Bob Dylan’s Heaven’s Door Tennessee Bourbon ($44*) and Matthew McConaughey’s Wild Turkey Longbranch ($40).
Virginia Black American Whiskey ($35), from Drake, also makes an appearance. “While the bottle design looks more like a cologne you’d get from a bathroom attendant and not a bartender, the whiskey inside is pleasantly accessible,” Berical says of the Canadian rap star’s effort. “Notes of vanilla, caramel, and apple give way to a slightly spicy finish.”
Given that we once saw the Celtic punk legends perform with the late Joe Strummer subbing for dissolute lead singer Shane MacGowan, we’re intrigued by The Pogues Irish Whiskey ($30), which Berical calls bright and balanced, “rich with notes of lemon peel, pepper, and chocolate.” And partly because he made (language and spoiler alert) one of the craziest TV scenes ever shot, we’re down for Walton Goggins’ California-finished Mulholland American Whiskey($29). The skinny: “It’s a young dram with tasty notes of caramel, fruit, cinnamon and a whiff of spice.” Just keep it away from this guy.
*All prices in U.S. dollars
Don’t put a cork in it: Whiskey makers keep living in the past
Cockfighting, human sacrifice, dinner at Applebee’s—just because something is a tradition doesn’t make it right. Take whiskey corks—please—fumes Daily Beast’s Lew Bryson. “It’s 2019, why are we still using this Renaissance-era bottle closure?” Bryson asks.
As he explains, unlike a tiny subset of wines, whiskey doesn’t benefit from exposure to oxygen once it’s bottled. Besides being a poor seal, a cork can break or—oh no!—crumble into your precious drink. For backup, Bryson turns to Jack Daniel’s master distiller Jeff Arnett, who doesn’t put on airs. “The cork is for look, feel, image, a historical feel,” Arnett says. “With modern liners, screw caps give you a better assurance of a seal than a cork.”
Oh, and watch out for lead
In the same spirit, VinePair’s Emily Saladino weighs how to store whiskey. Five factors come into play, she notes: light, oxygen, temperature, position and time. On the first, keep those bottles somewhere shady. On the second, see above—and if you want to cut down on oxygen exposure by transferring your whiskey to a smaller vessel, beware of commercial decanters, many of which contain lead.
If all else fails, there’s another solution. “Drink it all immediately and with great relish,” Saladino says. We like where this is going.
Sometimes when history repeats itself, it’s all good. At Scotchwhisky.com, Iain Russell cites the global thirst for Monkey Shoulder as proof of the revival in blended malts. Made by combining single malts from different distilleries, they were a thing in Scotland way back when, Russell says, favored by wealthy whiskey drinkers who liked to fashion a cask of their perfect dram.
But with the rise of the continuous still in the 1800s, merchants began churning out cheaper product by blending neutral grain spirit with single malt. Following the First World War, Russell recounts, those combos shoved single and blended malts to the sidelines.
The latter didn’t start making a comeback until the 1980s, and it took another few decades for William Grant & Sons to seal the deal as Monkey Shoulder outsold Johnnie Walker. Maybe it’s time for Johnnie to lose the top hat and cane…
You’ve always wanted your very own cask of whiskey, but why go with what the big guys are offering? The Whiskey Wash’s Nino Marchetti has the antidote: 10 private barrel programs from U.S. craft distillers.
At St. Louis–based Still 630, for example, you learn about distillation on a private tour, Marchetti writes. Then, after tasting from several barrels, it’s time to pick one to bottle or let age. But it’ll cost you: $7,000 and up, for about 225 bottles’ worth.
Could this be the one?
If you’d rather pour your money into a single bottle, Forbes.com contributor Karla Alindahao suggests three pricey new American offerings. The first, a limited release 20-year-old Kentucky Straight Bourbonfrom Michter’s Distillery of Louisville, is supposed to go for $700—but one of its 444 bottles could set you back more than $2,300 on the secondary market.
And what does this 114.2-proof rarity deliver? “I was pleasantly surprised to taste the harmonious balance between sweet notes and cracked pepper spice,” Alindahao says, “coupled with a very rich and somewhat oily mouthfeel that would pair extremely well with a decadent chocolate-based dessert.” Forget dessert—we’ll pair with it anytime.