Hot Whiskeys To Watch For Later This Year
By Richard Thomas
January has come and gone, so we’re not only already well into 2016, but we’re also out of the “whiskey doldrums” that follow the big U.S. autumnal release season and the Holidays. Now is the time for enthusiasts to wonder what the coming year has in store for them.
Of course, 2016 will see the full slate of hotly anticipated annual releases, whiskeys with names like “Pappy,” “Stagg,” and “Birthday Bourbon.” However much fans are looking forward to these whiskeys, however, they are expected and not much of a genuine novelty. More is coming out this year beyond these well-established limited edition bourbons and ryes, so the next eleven months have plenty of surprises to look forward to.
Major Distillery Releases
Jack Daniel’s: As this was being written, Jack Daniel’s had put the wheels in motion to release its Single Barrel Rye, so early in the process that the press release hadn’t been finalized yet. This whiskey represents the first time Jack Daniel’s has used a new mashbill in a century, and that mashbill is 70% rye, 18% corn, 12% malted barley. Of course, the rye was made using the Lincoln County Process. Bottled at 94 proof, Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Rye will retail for $49.99.
Knob Creek: The internet’s bourbon forums swirl with rumors of a 13 year old Knob Creek due out this year. Sources at Beam Suntory confirmed for us that an extra-aged Knob Creek is indeed in the pipeline, and it will be a good deal older than 13 years.
Wild Turkey: On the subject of a whiskey that will become a hotly anticipated, well-established limited edition series, Wild Turkey is set to release Wild Turkey Decades this spring, following on last year’s Master’s Keep 17 Year Old. Timed to mark Eddie Russell’s 35th anniversary at Wild Turkey, it’s drawn from a batch of 10 to 20 year old barrels out of the middle and upper floors of the McBrayer Rickhouse. Wild Turkey Decades will retail for $150.
Barrell Bourbon: Barrell Bourbon released a non-bourbon last year in the form of its American Whiskey Batch 001, and this year they have Batch 002, a sherry cask finish, coming out.
That is just for starters. Last year saw six sourced, cask strength bourbon batches from Barrell Bourbon, and they have more coming this year. Expect finishes, such as the sherry cask finish applied to American Whiskey Batch 002, to play a larger role in 2016’s batches of Barrel Bourbon.
Luxco: The Missouri-based bottling company behind Rebel Yell has the second installment of it’s premium series, Blood Oath, coming out. So, like Master’s Keep Decades, Blood Oath Pact No. 2 confirms that it is indeed a new series of limited editions. The new Blood Oath bourbon will follow in the same vein as Blood Oath No. 1, blending three different stocks of bourbon.
WhistlePig: The Vermont micro-distillery and bottler of ryes will release a 15 year old whiskey from a 100% rye mashbill stock, finished in barrels of Vermont oak.
Wood nerds should pay particular attention to that last part, since oak drawn from very particular regions has become a small, but growing niche issue. FEW Spirits Bourbon uses tight-grain Minnesota oak, and given the growing conditions, Vermont oak should have a similar character.
The Craft Distillers
First and foremost, for the third year in a row Mississippi River Distilling, FEW Spirits, Corsair Artisan and Journeyman Distillery will release another Four Kings Collaboration Whiskey. Following on their 2014 bourbon and 2015 rye releases, Four Kings 2016 will be a blend of American malts from the four distilleries.
Dad’s Hat: When this Pennsylvania distillery released it’s first rye whiskey a few years back, many thought it was a good start and were looking forward to what might come after a little more aging. Now they can find out, because Dad’s Hat has a three year old straight rye coming out in the springtime, bottled at 95 proof and priced around $50 to $55.
Also, in May 2016 Dad’s Hat will release a 180-bottle, cask strength batch of what it described as “ultra-spicy” rye whiskey, dubbed The Sombrero Blend. That one will fetch $65 a bottle.
What Isn’t Coming Out
Finally, a word on what not to expect from 2016. Rumors had Chicago area-based FEW Spirits, one of the “Four Kings” of the micro-distillery sector, set to release a cask strength version of their popular rye whiskey this year. That isn’t on their agenda. “We have done a number of cask-strength [whiskeys],” said Jason Horn, FEW’s PR man. “Typically single-barrel bottlings of our rye, but they’re pretty much one-offs done for particular liquor stores.”