All posts in “Drinks”

15 Delicious IPAs You Can Buy Almost Anywhere

The IPA still remains the king of American craft beer. According to a recent estimate from Dr. Bart Watson, chief economist of the Brewers Association, IPA accounts for roughly 35 to 40 percent of U.S. craft beer sales. Its popularity has sparked a sea of variations on the style over the years: New England-Style IPA, Double IPA, Triple IPA, Session IPA, Brut IPA, Lo-Cal IPA and so on.

Out of Beer Advocate’s top 10-rated US beers, five are IPAs. But these are the white whales most of us can’t get hands-on — Pliny the Elder, King Julius, Heady Topper. These beers require traveling to breweries on release days or ponying up for them online. But you don’t have to hunt these rarities down though to enjoy a good IPA. The beauty of America’s love of the IPA is that you can get a good one just about anywhere (even online). And the following 15 IPAs are about as reliable — and available — as IPAs get.

Additional reporting by Jack Seemer and Will Price.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Hazy Little Thing


While Sierra Nevada’s iconic Pale Ale fits the guidelines for this list, the California brewery’s Hazy Little Thing falls more inline with today’s IPA tastes. This New England-Style IPA has taken the beer world by storm, at one point in October 2019 seeing an increase in volume by 160 percent year-over-year. It’s citrusy and fresh thanks to a combination of Citra, Magnum, Simcoe, Comet, Mosaic and El Dorado hops. When it comes to a Hazy IPA you can find in your grocery store, we find ourselves gravitating to this one more often than not.

ABV: 6.7%
IBU: 35
Brewery Location: Chico, CA

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Bell’s Brewery Two Hearted Ale



There’s a reason Bell’s Two Hearted Ale has been voted by Zymurgy readers as the “Best Beer in America” for three years consecutively: it’s the definition of an American IPA and you can get it just about everywhere. Unlike the other beers on this list, Two Hearted Ale features just a single hop, Centennial, which gives it a floral taste and smell. If you’re counting calories, check out the recently released Light Hearted Ale.

ABV: 7%
IBU: 55
Brewery Location: Kalamazoo, MI

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New Belgium Brewing Voodoo Ranger



While New Belgium became known years ago for Fat Tire (and then its incredible sour program), Voodoo Ranger took the beer world by storm when it was re-launched in 2017 as a unified series. New Belgium now produces at least five distinct Voodoo Ranger variants but the flagship IPA version is an excellent, clean-tasting IPA hopped with Mosaic and Amarillo (among Nugget, Cascade, Simcoe and Chinook).

ABV: 7%
IBU: 50
Brewery Location: Fort Collins, CO

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Dogfish Head Brewery 60 Minute IPA



Led by the vision of Sam Caglione, winner of a 2017 James Beard Award, Dogfish Head makes what it calls “off-centered ales for off-centered people.” Its 60-Minute IPA may be the most centered beer in Caglione’s repertoire, however, as the impeccably balanced 17-year-old beer remains relevant as ever. It’s light gold in color, moderately bitter and incredibly crisp.

ABV: 6%
IBU: 60
Brewery Location: Milton, DE

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Founders Brewing Co. All Day IPA



While All Day IPA might have been the most successful session beer in the country at one time, Founders Brewing Co. has had a fall from grace after a 2019 lawsuit in which they were accused of discrimination against employees. Abhorrent as that is, the liquid itself stands up. At just 4.7 percent ABV, it’s light in both body and mouthfeel, though surprisingly complex for a beer of its gravity. It also launched the now-standard 15-pack. But it may eventually be left behind in the dust as more Lo-Cal IPAs continue to be launched (All Day has 147 calories).

ABV: 4.7%
IBU: 42
Brewery Location: Grand Rapids, MI

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Stone Brewing IPA



Founded in 1996 in Escondido, California, Stone Brewing has become one of the most respected craft brewers in the world. While the “Enjoy By” series and Neverending Haze have recently garnered praise from beer drinkers across the country, it’s the 20-plus-year-old IPA, which features eight different hops, that helped put West Coast IPAs on the map. It leans a little more on the hoppy bitter end of the spectrum, but it’s still very much a leader in the traditional IPA category.

ABV: 6.9%
IBU: 71
Brewery Location: Escondido, CA

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12 Classic IPAs That Still Stand Up Today

If you can look past the hype, you’ll find plenty of solid IPA offerings from what are now considered big-name brewers. Here are 12 of them, all first brewed more than a decade ago. Read the Story

Lagunitas Brewing Company IPA



Lagunitas IPA might be the one beer on this list you can find just about anywhere you look — on tap and in bottles. Thanks to being owned by Heineken, even the diviest of dive bars oftentimes have a keg of this balanced IPA. The hop bitterness of this IPA is married perfectly with a caramel malt body that mellows out the hops and brings forward more of the citrusy flavors.

ABV: 6.2%
IBU: 52.5
Brewery Location: Petaluma, CA

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Firestone Walker Brewing Company Mind Haze



Firestone Walker was one of the first nationally distributed breweries to find success with a shelf-stable hazy IPA. This tropically-flavored IPA is brewed with Cashmere and Mandarina hops and then dry-hopped with El Dorado, Idaho 7, Azacca, Mosaic and Cashmere.

ABV: 6.2%
IBU: 40
Brewery Location: Paso Robles, CA

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Brooklyn Brewery East IPA



Brooklyn Brewery’s Garrett Oliver is a student of English brewing. As such, the iconic brewery’s East IPA (which became a year-round offering in 1996) blends British tradition with American innovation. British malt balances out the blend of hops quite well, creating a toffee malt palate and a clean hoppy finish.

ABV: 6.9%
IBU: 47
Brewery Location: Brooklyn, NY

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Cigar City Brewing Jai Alai



If tropical Florida vibes were an IPA, it’d be Jai Alai. It’s bright and citrusy thanks to an impeccable blend of seven different hops. A standout for quite some time, it’s now readily available due to an ever-expanding distribution network from Cigar City.

ABV: 7.5%
IBU: 65
Brewery Location: Tampa, FL

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Goose Island IPA



Goose Island’s flagship IPA harkens back to a little more of the piney, bitter IPAs. That’s thanks to the use of some more characteristically resiny hops like Pilgrim, Celeia, Cascade and Centennial. A grapefruit-like citrus is to be found though with a smooth flavor and a moderate lingering bitterness.

ABV: 5.9%
IBU: 55
Brewery Location: Chicago, IL

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Revolution Brewing Anti-Hero



Chicago’s beloved Revolution Brewing may not be on the name-recognition level of some of the other breweries on this list, but it should be. First brewed in 2010, this flagship features a blend of Warrior, Chinook, Centennial and Amarillo hops for a unique floral and citrus combination that finishes clean and crisp.

ABV: 6.7%
IBU: 65
Brewery Location: Chicago, IL

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Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Torpedo Extra IPA



The second IPA from Sierra Nevada on this list, Torpedo Extra IPA gets its name from a dry-hopping device Sierra Nevada invented in 2009 called the Hop Torpedo. This essentially circulates beer with hops in a way that imparts flavor without bitterness. The beer itself, hopped with Magnum, Crystal and Citra varietals, is darker than most IPAs with notes of pine and citrus and less perceived bitterness than Pale Ale (despite a higher grading on the IBUs scale).

ABV: 7.2%
IBU: 65
Brewery Location: Chico, CA

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Elysian Brewing Space Dust IPA



This classic West Coast IPA may not be as familiar to East Coasters, but it is most certainly a supermarket gem — especially since AB InBev owns Elysian and is pushing this beer hard in more and more markets everyday. It’s on the heavier side at 8.2 percent ABV but the bitterness is balanced by dry-hopping Citra and Amarillo. It’s a decent middleground between the old school IPAs of yesteryear and the en vogue fruity Hazy IPAs.

ABV: 8.2%
IBU: 73
Brewery Location: Seattle, WA

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Oskar Blues Brewery Dale’s Pale Ale



Dale’s Pale Ale has been a craft beer staple since 2002 when it became the first canned craft beer in America. Much like Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale, it harkens back to the popularity of the American Pale Ale (which is of course, America’s take on the India Pale Ale) before the haze craze. It features more pale malts and a citrusy hop character and is still just as pleasant to drink today as it was back in 2002.

ABV: 6.5%
IBU: 65
Brewery Location: Longmont, CO

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The 15 Most Underrated Beers in the World

We asked 15 brewers from across the country to name a beer they consider underrated. When was the last time you had one of these beers? Read the Story

Ryan Brower

Ryan Brower serves as Commerce Editor and also writes about beer and surfing for Gear Patrol. He lives in Brooklyn, loves the ocean and almost always has a film camera handy.

More by Ryan Brower | Follow on Instagram · Contact via Email

The 100 Best Breweries in the World, According to RateBeer

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Beerdom Has Spoken


As it does at the beginning of every year, RateBeer, one of the world’s leading resource for beer reviews along with BeerAdvocate and Untapped, just unveiled its much-anticipated list of the 100 best breweries in the world.

The Top 10
1. Hill Farmstead Brewery (Greensboro, VT)
2. Side Project Brewing (Maplewood, MO)
3. Trillium Brewing Company (Boston, MA)
4. Tree House Brewing Company (Charlton, MA)
5. Cigar City Brewing (Tampa, FL)
6. AleSmith Brewing Company (San Diego, CA)
7. Founders Brewing Company (Grand Rapids, MI)
8. Cloudwater Brew Co (Manchester, Greater Manchester, England)
9. Sante Adairius Rustic Ales (Capitola, CA)
10. Firestone Walker Brewing (Paso Robles, CA)

Hill Farmstead Brewery in Greensboro, Vermont takes the top ranking for the seventh year in a row, while Missouri’s Side Project Brewing jumped up from ninth in 2018 to second for 2019. There are some noticeable absentees in the top 100, including The Alchemist, who makes Heady Topper and Focal Banger (two highly sought after and well-loved beers).

Interestingly, only 35 percent of breweries in the top 100 come from outside the US, but the figure may suggest a bias to how the list is generated. RateBeer leans on user-generated reviews, not a panel of judges, to determine which breweries are up to snuff.

According to RateBeer, “Performance for the year 2019 was highly weighted while 4 years of our catalog was also considered in our ranking.”

Curious if your favorite brewery made the list? Click the button below to see the full results.

Jack Seemer

Jack Seemer is the deputy editor at Gear Patrol. Since joining the publication in 2014, he has reported on a wide range of subjects, including menswear, smart home technology, cookware and craft beer.

More by Jack Seemer | Follow on Instagram · Twitter · Contact via Email

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The Next Big Japanese Whisky Is $40 and Available Everywhere

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Tenajak-who?


For the first time in a long time, a reasonably priced Japanese whisky has made its way to the US. A combination of corn and malt whiskies aged between three and five years, Tenjaku is the first Japanese whisky to retail for under $50 since Suntory dropped Toki into the US market four years ago.

Not much is known about Tenjaku other than it’s rolling out across the US now, is bottled at a very light 80 proof and will retail for $40, according to Whisky Advocate. Both the malt and corn whiskey portions of the blend are also aged in bourbon casks.

In the four year gap between Toki and Tenjako, Nikka’s From the Barrel offering — available most places for $50 to $70 — came the closest to achieving “everyday whiskey” status. By and large, Japanese whisky is overhyped and overpriced; its fame thanks in large part to labels with kanji type, rarity and plenty of international award recognition.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.
Will Price

Will Price is Gear Patrol’s home and drinks editor. He’s from Atlanta and lives in Brooklyn. He’s interested in bourbon, houseplants, cheap Japanese pens, and cast-iron skillets — maybe a little too much.

More by Will Price | Follow on Contact via Email

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Why an Iconic Czech Pilsner Is the Ultimate Grail Beer

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Brewer’s Pick


Maine is a state chock full of standout breweries. But you’d be hardpressed to find one that’s got their finger more consistently on the pulse than Oxbow Brewing Company. Founder Tim Adams has dedicated Oxbow “to the pursuit of crafting unique farmhouse ales of distinctively European influence.” His distinct, bright styles have been at the forefront of esteemed trends like Americanized Italian Pilsners (Luppolo) and Farmhouse Ales (Farmhouse Pale Ale). All brewers hold Adams in high regard and his own tastes run the gamut of American classics to iconic European styles. Here’s what Adams is drinking nowadays.

Favorite Everyday Beer: Allagash White

ABV: 5.2%
Beer Style: Witbier
Availability: National, year-round
“My favorite everyday beer is Allagash White. I live in Maine (where Allagash is brewed) and Allagash’s flagship White is available pretty much everywhere. Its ubiquity makes it an easy candidate for an everyday beer and its superb balance of flavor and drinkability make it a pleasure to enjoy day after day.”

Grail Beer: Pilsner Urquell

ABV: 4.4%
Beer Style: Czech Pilsner
Availability: International, year-round
“The best ‘grail’ beer that comes to mind is the unfiltered Pilsner Urquell that is served straight from the barrels in the underground labyrinth of the brewery’s old lagering caves in Pilsen, Czech Republic. I recently traveled to the Czech Republic and had many incredible beers and beer experiences, but the taste (and the setting) of that glass of pilsner was something that I will never forget. The young beer was still cloudy and exploding with classic Saaz hop aroma and flavor atop a doughy yeast character and soft carbonation from the cask conditioning. That’s my kind of hoppy hazy beer!”

Best Beer You Drank Recently: Threes Brewing Voluntary Exile

ABV: 8.1%
Beer Style: Baltic Porter
Availability: Local, seasonal
“I was in New York City recently and my favorite beer of the trip was Threes Brewing’s Voluntary Exile. This strong black lager is the brewery’s take on a Baltic Porter. The beer has the rich malt character and smooth body that one would hope for in an excellent Baltic Porter, but their version also had a smoky undertone that I was not expecting and made the experience for me that much more enjoyable.”

Beer You’re In Search Of (ISO): Notch Brewing Session Pils

ABV: 4%
Beer Style: Czech Pale Lager
Availability: Local, year-round
“Ever since I returned from my trip to the Czech Republic I’ve been craving a propery-brewed Czech pale lager poured from a side-pour faucet. Many Czech pubs have these special faucets that are mechanically quite different from regular American or European beer taps and they create a unique quality of foam that is extremely dense, drinkable and long-lasting. I’ve been a longtime fan of Notch Brewing in Salem, Massachusetts and I know that they pour their exceptional Czech-style lagers using these taps so I need to get down there and turn this ISO into a glass of beautifully foamy beer!”

Why Coors Banquet Is the Perfect Everyday Beer

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Since 2012, Nick Nunns of TRVE has made beers that aim to go “beyond the pale” (a fancy way of saying it’s not just IPAs), and his own tastes run the spectrum from classic macro-lagers to Belgian-style icons. Here’s what he’s drinking nowadays. Read the Story

Ryan Brower

Ryan Brower serves as a Project Coordinator for Editorial Operations and also writes about beer and surfing for Gear Patrol. He lives in Brooklyn, loves the ocean and almost always has a film camera handy.

More by Ryan Brower | Follow on Instagram · Contact via Email

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Is French Whisky About to Get the Japanese Whisky Treatment?

The fifteenth dram in my flight of French whisky is Armorik Double Maturation Single Malt, and I’m slightly relieved it’s the last. It looks delicious, especially golden thanks to the copper hue inside New York City’s Brandy Library, and tastes even better. Owner (and Frenchman) Flavien Desoblin hints that he’s got a few more bottles stashed away, but my palate is tapped out. “We don’t sell many French flights,” he laments, gesturing to a near-full Brenne 10-Year Limited Edition bottle that he’s had for a few years. “It’s a shame because this is a very exciting time. Soon, French whisky could be as big as Japanese whisky.”

It’d be easy to mistake Desoblin’s giddiness for the burgeoning French whisky category as national pride, but when you consider that France is the number one consumer of whisky, per capita, of all countries, and that there are currently 60 active distilleries in France, while another 40 have applied for licenses in the past year alone, you can see where Desoblin is coming from. We’re about to get hit with a crush of French juice, right as Japanese distillers are forced to discontinue age statements — and even some blends — because we drank it all.

Between cognac, Armagnac and brandy, French distillation has deep generational roots, but the demand for whisky is far higher. “French law limits cognac production to specific months so the distillers started making whisky in the off-seasons,” Desoblin shares. “When cognac wasn’t doing great, farmers got government subsidies to uproot grape vines to plant barley and other grain fields. Now everyone’s realizing the terroir in many regions where smaller distillers are cropping up is really suited for the grains.”

Now a hotbed of distilleries, Brittany is considered the origin of French whisky. Home to makers like Armorik, a distillery that’s been churning out under-the-radar, pot stilled single malt juice that rivals any scotch in a blind tasting for decades. Desoblin notes that the terroir not only factors in the glass — a whisky from Charente (a cognac region) or Gers (an Armagnac region) will have a different flavor profile than an Alsace (a riesling region) offering — but it’s used as a vital marketing tool to differentiate brands since the French whisky is still too nascent to have a distinct style unto itself.

Common traits do emerge, evident after my too-expansive flight. Generally, French whisky isn’t big and bold, like American offerings; it’s elegant and silky, soft and round, palatable and balanced. If this all sounds like Japanese whisky, you’re on the right track. “The French palate likes substance and complexity,” Desoblin says. He points to Alfred Giraud Heritage, a triple malt blend aged in extremely rare ex-cognac casks that is so absurdly divine, I attempt to lick any remnants from the empty dram. “This is the turning point of French whisky,” he beams. “It’s incredible. When we look back in fifteen years, we’ll say [owner and founder] Philippe Giraud changed the whole game.”

The kicker: the liquid in the bottle is a mere three years old, far less than high-end whiskeys made Stateside. If you were French, or you knew Philippe Giraud, you might not mind.

The whisky inside the Alred Giraud Heritage bottle is the result of decades of blending and aging knowledge. Giraud is a renowned name within the cognac community. Philippe’s great-grandfather Alfred, for whom the brand is named, was the cellar master of Remy Martin for more than 30 years, while Philippe’s uncle was a master cooper (a barrelmaker). “We’ve since built a distillery,” Giraud says, “but we started buying the best distillates we could find. We debated because we could have a single malt in a few years, but we have four generations of blending knowledge. We wanted to use it.”

Those choice single malt selections, including Rozelieures from Lorraine and Armorik from Brittany, were perfect for Georges Clot, the brand’s master blender (another former Remy cellar master, too). They’re placed into new oak casks, made from a Giraud family forestry operation. “We cut our trees and split the wood because the wood has to stay outside in the rain and the cold for one to two years,” Giraud explains. “You want the rain and weather to wash away the strongest tannins, but you still need enough to give the whisky structure.”

Twelve to 18 months later, the first marriage happens and the blend heads into the ex-cognac casks, all of which are at least 30 years old, with plenty pushing 50. “[Ex-cognac casks] gives it sweetness and a gourmand touch that’s typical of old cognac,” Giraud says. “You can taste a hint of it and it’s even in the nose, to some extent.” The rareness of the casks means the whisky is rare, too; a mere 5,000 bottles of Heritage are produced annually (a subtly peated iteration, Harmonie, is limited to a scant 2,000), and it’s only for sale in New York, though a few additional states will see it in 2020.

Recently, the distiller became the first French whisky to malt its own barley, after outsourcing frustrations abounded. By growing, picking, and malting its own barley, Giraud believes complete control over the process will enable a higher quality product. Downfield, Giraud is experimenting with different kinds of wood and casks that contained Armagnac or white wine, hoping to have a new innovation on shelves by the winter.

Desoblin notes that hurdles and headwinds still exist for French whisky. “Japanese food, particularly sushi, has become integrated into our lives, so whisky as an extension of that was something we can easily understand,” he says. “French food and culture don’t have that same level of penetration, so it’ll take a bit to catch on.” Our bet: it won’t take long.

What to Look for

Editor’s Note: Due to limited production, distribution in the United States isn’t widespread, meaning few French whiskies are widely available. Check for availability at your local liquor store.

Alfred Giraud Heritage Malt Whisky

The one to beat. Floral and spice notes meld well and hints of pear pop on your palate. The new oak creeps in slightly but is balanced by the sweetness from the cognac. If you can find it, it runs between $150 and $200.

Rozelieures Rare Single Malt Whisky

This single malt from Loraine was the first from the region to open, back in 2000. It matures in old sherry, cognac, and sauternes casks, and the resulting liquid is rich and luscious, with plenty of dried fruit notes. Rozelieuers’ Smoked version, made with local peat, is equally divine. You can find it for about $50.

Moutard Esprit de Malt

Champagne producers Moutard age this two-year-old whisky in ex-champagne barrels and ex-ratafia barrels. The latter is a fortified wine produced from champagne grape remnants. You can taste the youth in the glass but it’s lively and delicious. It’ll come to the US later this year.

Armorik Double Maturation Single Malt

Aged for at least 12 years, this drinks like a single malt scotch. Some notes of the sea seep into the maturation process from coastal Brittany distiller Warenghem, who only uses local oak and grains, giving it a wholly unique and full flavor with a long, welcome finish. Where available, it’s typically around $80.

Brenne Single Malt 10 Year

Four perfectly blended single barrels comprise this soft, fruity, super-drinkable ten-year-old. Hints of honey and cherries shine through. While it’s light-bodied, it’s heavy on flavor. You can drink this one all night.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

Hot Take: France Is the Whiskey World’s Next Big Obsession

The fifteenth dram in my flight of French whisky is Armorik Double Maturation Single Malt, and I’m slightly relieved it’s the last. It looks delicious, especially golden thanks to the copper hue inside New York City’s Brandy Library, and tastes even better. Owner (and Frenchman) Flavien Desoblin hints that he’s got a few more bottles stashed away, but my palate is tapped out. “We don’t sell many French flights,” he laments, gesturing to a near-full Brenne 10-Year Limited Edition bottle that he’s had for a few years. “It’s a shame because this is a very exciting time. Soon, French whisky could be as big as Japanese whisky.”

It’d be easy to mistake Desoblin’s giddiness for the burgeoning French whisky category as national pride, but when you consider that France is the number one consumer of whisky, per capita, of all countries, and that there are currently 60 active distilleries in France, while another 40 have applied for licenses in the past year alone, you can see where Desoblin is coming from. We’re about to get hit with a crush of French juice, right as Japanese distillers are forced to discontinue age statements — and even some blends — because we drank it all.

Between cognac, Armagnac and brandy, French distillation has deep generational roots, but the demand for whisky is far higher. “French law limits cognac production to specific months so the distillers started making whisky in the off-seasons,” Desoblin shares. “When cognac wasn’t doing great, farmers got government subsidies to uproot grape vines to plant barley and other grain fields. Now everyone’s realizing the terroir in many regions where smaller distillers are cropping up is really suited for the grains.”

Now a hotbed of distilleries, Brittany is considered the origin of French whisky. Home to makers like Armorik, a distillery that’s been churning out under-the-radar, pot stilled single malt juice that rivals any scotch in a blind tasting for decades. Desoblin notes that the terroir not only factors in the glass — a whisky from Charente (a cognac region) or Gers (an Armagnac region) will have a different flavor profile than an Alsace (a riesling region) offering — but it’s used as a vital marketing tool to differentiate brands since the French whisky is still too nascent to have a distinct style unto itself.

Common traits do emerge, evident after my too-expansive flight. Generally, French whisky isn’t big and bold, like American offerings; it’s elegant and silky, soft and round, palatable and balanced. If this all sounds like Japanese whisky, you’re on the right track. “The French palate likes substance and complexity,” Desoblin says. He points to Alfred Giraud Heritage, a triple malt blend aged in extremely rare ex-cognac casks that is so absurdly divine, I attempt to lick any remnants from the empty dram. “This is the turning point of French whisky,” he beams. “It’s incredible. When we look back in fifteen years, we’ll say [owner and founder] Philippe Giraud changed the whole game.”

The kicker: the liquid in the bottle is a mere three years old, far less than high-end whiskeys made Stateside. If you were French, or you knew Philippe Giraud, you might not mind.

The whisky inside the Alred Giraud Heritage bottle is the result of decades of blending and aging knowledge. Giraud is a renowned name within the cognac community. Philippe’s great-grandfather Alfred, for whom the brand is named, was the cellar master of Remy Martin for more than 30 years, while Philippe’s uncle was a master cooper (a barrelmaker). “We’ve since built a distillery,” Giraud says, “but we started buying the best distillates we could find. We debated because we could have a single malt in a few years, but we have four generations of blending knowledge. We wanted to use it.”

Those choice single malt selections, including Rozelieures from Lorraine and Armorik from Brittany, were perfect for Georges Clot, the brand’s master blender (another former Remy cellar master, too). They’re placed into new oak casks, made from a Giraud family forestry operation. “We cut our trees and split the wood because the wood has to stay outside in the rain and the cold for one to two years,” Giraud explains. “You want the rain and weather to wash away the strongest tannins, but you still need enough to give the whisky structure.”

Twelve to 18 months later, the first marriage happens and the blend heads into the ex-cognac casks, all of which are at least 30 years old, with plenty pushing 50. “[Ex-cognac casks] gives it sweetness and a gourmand touch that’s typical of old cognac,” Giraud says. “You can taste a hint of it and it’s even in the nose, to some extent.” The rareness of the casks means the whisky is rare, too; a mere 5,000 bottles of Heritage are produced annually (a subtly peated iteration, Harmonie, is limited to a scant 2,000), and it’s only for sale in New York, though a few additional states will see it in 2020.

Recently, the distiller became the first French whisky to malt its own barley, after outsourcing frustrations abounded. By growing, picking, and malting its own barley, Giraud believes complete control over the process will enable a higher quality product. Downfield, Giraud is experimenting with different kinds of wood and casks that contained Armagnac or white wine, hoping to have a new innovation on shelves by the winter.

Desoblin notes that hurdles and headwinds still exist for French whisky. “Japanese food, particularly sushi, has become integrated into our lives, so whisky as an extension of that was something we can easily understand,” he says. “French food and culture don’t have that same level of penetration, so it’ll take a bit to catch on.” Our bet: it won’t take long.

What to Look for

Editor’s Note: Due to limited production, distribution in the United States isn’t widespread, meaning few French whiskies are widely available. Check for availability at your local liquor store.

Alfred Giraud Heritage Malt Whisky

The one to beat. Floral and spice notes meld well and hints of pear pop on your palate. The new oak creeps in slightly but is balanced by the sweetness from the cognac. If you can find it, it runs between $150 and $200.

Rozelieures Rare Single Malt Whisky

This single malt from Loraine was the first from the region to open, back in 2000. It matures in old sherry, cognac, and sauternes casks, and the resulting liquid is rich and luscious, with plenty of dried fruit notes. Rozelieuers’ Smoked version, made with local peat, is equally divine. You can find it for about $50.

Moutard Esprit de Malt

Champagne producers Moutard age this two-year-old whisky in ex-champagne barrels and ex-ratafia barrels. The latter is a fortified wine produced from champagne grape remnants. You can taste the youth in the glass but it’s lively and delicious. It’ll come to the US later this year.

Armorik Double Maturation Single Malt

Aged for at least 12 years, this drinks like a single malt scotch. Some notes of the sea seep into the maturation process from coastal Brittany distiller Warenghem, who only uses local oak and grains, giving it a wholly unique and full flavor with a long, welcome finish. Where available, it’s typically around $80.

Brenne Single Malt 10 Year

Four perfectly blended single barrels comprise this soft, fruity, super-drinkable ten-year-old. Hints of honey and cherries shine through. While it’s light-bodied, it’s heavy on flavor. You can drink this one all night.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

The Complete Buying Guide to Buffalo Trace Whiskey: Important Brands and Bottles Explained

There is perhaps no American whiskey maker more respected or awarded as Buffalo Trace Distillery. The brands under its umbrella are some of the biggest names in whiskey — Pappy Van Winkle, E.H. Taylor, W.L. Weller and so on. But the shuffling and mass coalescing of major whiskey brands can make it strenuous to know your Pappys from your Wellers, and harder still to recall the $1,000 difference between Antique Weller 107 and the Antique Collection’s William Larue Weller. That’s why we’re here. From impossible-to-find grails to $10 mixers, Buffalo Trace offers it all. Here’s your cheat sheet.

Mashbills

All Buffalo Trace whiskey comes from one of four recipes. In whiskey-making patois, recipe means mashbill, or the specific levels of corn, malt, rye and barley combined to distill the beginnings of every bottle.

The catch? The distillery has marked the exact balance of barley, corn, wheat and rye as proprietary (though many try to crack the code). So we know which bottles start as which mashbills, but we don’t know specific percentages of each ingredient. Some one-off expressions — like Van Winkle’s Family Reserve Rye — are exceptions to the rule.

Mash #1: a low-rye bourbon mash (Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare, E.H. Taylor, George T. Stagg, Benchmark)
Mash #2: a higher-rye bourbon mash (Blanton’s)
Wheated Mashbill: replaces rye content with wheat (Pappy Van Winkle, Weller)
Rye Mashbill: mash made with a little more than 50 percent rye (Sazerac)

Pricing

Bottles from brands Pappy Van Winkle and W.L. Weller can cost hundreds of dollars, if you can even find them, but Buffalo Trace isn’t the one to blame. The distillery distributes all of its whiskey with longstanding suggested retail prices (SRP). Take Pappy, a brand with bottle prices that climb well into the four-digit realm. In an honest world, you’d be able to find one for as low as $60.

Prestige

The whiskey landscape is run almost entirely by a handful of conglomerates and mega-corporations, and Buffalo Trace Distillery stands out. Names like Van Winkle, Weller, E.H. Taylor and Blanton’s are some of the most sought-after bottles of brown on the planet, and that’s before mentioning the coveted Antique Collection and O.F.C. Vintage releases.

While all those names carry weight with collectors and award show judges, its humbler mainline bottles are no less noble. Dating back to 2000, Buffalo Trace and Eagle Rare — the brand’s two most available brands — have earned more awards than are worth counting.

How to Score Bottles

All Buffalo Trace Distillery whiskeys are distributed “on allocation.” This means there’s a specific number of bottles allocated to each state throughout the year across its whole catalog. This is done to ensure retailers, restaurants and consumers in every state get a shot at some.

Your best shot at nabbing prized bottles comes down to being a good customer, which starts with communication. Frequent the shops in your area and talk to the person behind the counter. Ask when they usually get the bottle you’re hunting for and reward information with your patronage. Remember that if you’re looking for something (especially a Buffalo Trace Distillery whiskey), others are too — they don’t have to give you information, but they may be more inclined to do so if you’re a regular.

Beyond that, know your release periods. Bottles of Pappy are allocated October 1 and typically hit shelves mid-October to early December. The Antique Collection is also distributed in the fall. Most other regularly distributed bottled arrive on shelves in the first week of the month.

Notable People

None of the names you see gracing bottles in the Buffalo Trace catalog were made up. They refer to real people from the distillery’s past. Here’s the short list:

William Larue Weller: The inventor of wheated bourbon whiskey. Much of Weller’s work — whiskey education, distilling and tinkering — was done in the early to mid-1800s. Bottles of Weller became so popular he’d dip his thumb in green ink and print it on each bottle to ensure authenticity.

E.H. Taylor, Jr.: Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor was a mid-19th-century banker turned bourbon hero. Taylor laid funding down for a number of distillers and later opened the O.F.C. Distillery. He was also instrumental in the legitimizing of the bourbon industry, playing a key role in getting the Bottled-in-Bond of 1897 through Congress.

George T. Stagg: Stagg worked hand-in-hand with Taylor in the creation of O.F.C. and later bought it off him. He re-named the distillery after himself and it remained the way for almost 100 years before being renamed again. This time the newly minted distillery was called “Buffalo Trace.” Now Stagg’s name appears on just one bottle in the Antique Collection that’s one of the most collectible whiskeys in the world.

Albert B. Blanton: Blanton took over George T. Stagg’s distillery in 1921 and steered it through both the Great Depression and Prohibition (he convinced the government to let them continue making “medicinal whiskey”). He’s perhaps most famous for his stature as the founding father of the single barrel bourbon.

Julian Sr. “Pappy” Van Winkle: The cigar-toting man plastered on every bottle of Pappy is Pappy himself. Co-founder of the forward-thinking Stitzel-Weller Distillery, Pappy, along with the Wellers, showed the world the power of old, wheated bourbon.

Elmer T. Lee: Blanton’s protégé. Lee joined the distillery in 1949 and became its first Master Distiller. He’s credited as one of the people responsible for bourbon’s return to form in the ’70s and ’80s, along with other bourbon legends Booker Noe, Jimmy Russell and Parker Beam.

Harlen Wheatley: A four-time James Beard award nominee, Buffalo Trace’s Master Distiller since 2005 probably wouldn’t include himself in this list, but everyone else would. Since his ascension, Wheatley has led the distillery to unprecedented consistency in competition results year after year. He’s also spearheaded Buffalo Trace’s innovative initiatives like the new Old Charter Oak and Warehouse X.

Buffalo Trace Distillery Whiskey Brands

Buffalo Trace

SRP: $25
Recipe: Mashbill #1
Age: Aged at least 8 years
Notable: Named Gear Patrol’s Best All-Around Bourbon

Buffalo Trace’s namesake whiskey is the distillery’s second most-affordable bottle, behind Benchmark, which makes the value all the more remarkable. The bottle is cut to an easy-drinking 90 proof and, because its made alongside your Staggs, Wellers and Van Winkles, every bottle is a lottery ticket. You could wind up with a normal bottle of Trace or something a little more special. Caramel and vanilla do the heavy lifting on the palate while an oaky brown sugar finish rolls in nice and slow. It’s a rare affordable bourbon that checks boxes for ability to drink neat or in cocktails.

McAffee’s Benchmark Old No. 8 Brand

SRP: $12 SRP (Most affordable Buffalo Trace Distillery whiskey)
Recipe: Mashbill #1
Age: Aged at least 36 months
Notable: 2018 Gold Medal Winner at Los Angeles and New York Spirit Competitions

Just call it Benchmark. With a suggested retail price of $12, Buffalo Trace Distillery’s cheapest juice has earned a place in the hearts of whiskey writers, cash-strapped bourbon drinkers and anyone trying to avoid party guests drinking the good stuff. Its ultra-low price makes it a strong choice for a punch mixer, and the slightly watery 80 proof mean neat drinking is relatively easy (don’t bother watering it down further). Served straight, it hits you with honey and a bit of orange peel on the nose and a medium-strength slow burn on the tongue. Expect a lightly oaky, fairly cherry-forward follow through.

Eagle Rare

SRP: $30
Recipe: Mashbill #1
Age: Aged at least 10 years
Notable: Jim Murray’s 2019 Best Bourbon, Under 10 Years

Amid a shrinking market of well-aged, realistically priced bourbons, Eagle Rare keeps its feathers above water. The 90-proof bottle separates itself by retaining its exceptionally rare 10-year age statement and a retail price below $50. On top of its small mountain of awards, it was named the best bourbon whiskey (up to 10 years) you can buy by whiskey’s single most important reviewer, Jim Murray. In a whiskey world where transparency is disappearing and exclusivity is burgeoning, Eagle Rare is positioned as a affordable luxury for the everyman.

Eagle Rare bourbon can generally be described as a richer, deeper, better Benchmark. Made from the same mashbill, it follows much of the same beat – a honey-orange peel nose and manageable burn, especially. Once its coated the palate, things change: expect less fruit, more wood, undercurrents of toffee and a bit of spice.

E.H. Taylor

SRP: $40 to $70 (varies with individual expressions)
Recipe: Mashbill #1
Age: Aged at least 4 years (Bottled-in-Bond requirement)
Notable: All bottles (except Barrel Proof) are Bottled-in-Bond

Carrying the name of one Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr., Buffalo Trace Distillery’s E.H. Taylor collection has a bottle for every whiskey drinker. By virtue of hosting such a wide range of expressions — small batch, single barrel, barrel proof, straight rye and a host of valuable one-offs — the brand rides the line between everyday drinkers and bottles worth getting into a fistfight over. Generally speaking, the order of value for regularly allocated E.H. Taylor goes like this: Small Batch, Straight Rye, Single Barrel and Barrel Proof.

Head and shoulders among the group of one-offs is a legendary bottle known as Warehouse C Tornado Surviving bourbon. With “1st and Only” scrawled under the masthead, this bottle is the product of a warehouse ripped apart by a tornado, the barrels inside open to the elements of a sticky Kentucky spring. The result is a bottle rife with weirdness and nearly impossible to find — that is, unless you’re willing to drop close to $3,000 for it.

It’s difficult to nail down tasting notes for E.H. Taylor because it comes in such variety, but there are some throughlines: unless it’s rye, it carries a corn-driven sweetness, vanilla notes throughout and a buttery mouthfeel and finish.

Pappy Van Winkle

SRP: $60 to $270 (varies with individual expressions)
Recipe: Wheated mashbill
Age: Aged 10 to 23 years
Notable: A bottle of 23-Year-Old Pappy Family Reserve was gifted to the Pope by a Kentuckky priest

The flagbearer for those that roll their eyes at those willing to spend a months (or multiple months) rent on a little bottle of alcohol. Other than its stuffed trophy cabinet and sickening price tags, it’s known for its use of wheat — the famed wheat mashbill that all its whiskeys (except the rye, obviously) start as — and very high age statements. Though the Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve line is the most coveted (and the only one with “Pappy” included in the name), you’ll be hard-pressed to find a bottle for less than $1,000.

But how does it taste? Though ages differ rather dramatically from bottle to bottle, Van Winkle bourbon’s defining trait is its wheated mashbill, which makes for a soft sipping, low burn, enormously rich glass. There is citrus, sherry, wood, leather, pepper and cherries, too. That blend of impossible smoothness and mind-bending depth are what Pappy is known for.

Blanton’s Single Barrel

SRP: $60
Recipe: Mashbill #2
Age: Aged between 6 and 8 years
Notable: Claims to be the first single barrel bourbon ever

Blanton’s was founded in 1984 by bourbon legend Elmer T. Lee. Two rules define its character and charm: it’s single barrel, which means every bottle is filled with whiskey from one barrel, and it’s aged in Warehouse H — one of few rickhouses in the world built entirely out of metal. The metal construction means the rickhouse lacks significant insulation, so all the barrels inside are exposed to far more aggressive temperature and humidity shifts than traditional wood or brick rickhouses. The result of this practice is a citrusy nose, vanilla driven palate and dry, mellowing, slightly bitter finish.

Sadly, of the four expressions — Original, Gold, Straight from the Barrel and Special Reserve — only the Original is available in the US, while other bottles are sold in select international markets. This is because the brand is owned by a Japanese company called Takara Shuzo, who purchased it from another company called Age International. So while Buffalo Trace makes and owns the whiskey, it doesn’t necessarily control where Blanton’s is and isn’t.

Antique Collection

SRP: $99 (Re-sale prices will be significantly higher)
Recipe: Mashbills vary
Age: Age varies
Notable: the bourbon drinker’s holy grail find — re-sale prices can reach well over $3,000 a bottle

There are many limited runs of good whiskey that gets way too much hype. Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection is not in this category.

Released every fall, Antique Collection is the release of all releases for bourbon hunters. Made up of five American whiskeys — William Larue Weller, George T. Stagg, Eagle Rare 17-Year, Thomas Handy Sazerac Rye and Sazerac Rye 18-Year — it regularly hauls in loads of the biggest awards in the industry. Jim Murray named the Handy rye the best rye of the year in 2019, while the Weller took home the prize for best whiskey of the year (across all whiskey categories, worldwide). If you find any bottle for its suggested retail price of $99, buy a fistful of lottery tickets. Otherwise, expect to pay two to three times as much.

W.L. Weller

SRP: $25 to $99
Recipe: Wheated Mashbill
Age: Aged 7 to 12 years (depending on expression)
Notable: Claims to be the first wheated bourbon ever

Weller is the less sexy version of Pappy. As such, it’s earned a reputation as the bourbon drinker’s bourbon. It’s nowhere near as difficult to find as Pappy, though it’s becoming more and more difficult to track down itself. In order of rarity, here are four mainline bottles of the stuff: Special Reserve, 12-Year, Antique and William Larue Weller (part of the Antique Collection).

Special Reserve is the original and most accessible — a NAS (no age statement) bottle that serves as the ideal entryway into wheated bourbon (you can find bottles anywhere from $25 to $50, generally). The 12-year and Antique 107 are split by age and proof, with the Antique 107 being the highest proof of the Weller bottles and the 12-year being the second longest-aged. And as is customary, the most coveted of the group comes from the Antique Collection, and the William Larue Weller is routinely the most sought-after bottle in that group, too.

When discussing wheaters, the general assumption is extra-long stints in barrels is a good thing. This runs against how most seasoned drinkers describe rye-based bourbons. The trade-off is the younger bottles are, to many, lesser. The four- to seven-year-old Special Reserve hits you with a lot more ethanol flavor on the nose and palate than the 12-year, for example. With Weller, the higher the age, the more the whiskey blooms into the creamy, nutty, grassy, toasty booze everybody wants.

Old Charter Oak

SRP: $70
Recipe: Mashbill #1
Age: Aged 10 years
Notable: Every new bottle is aged in a different type of oak

Confusingly, Old Charter Oak is both a very old and very new line of bourbon. An older bottle bearing the name has been scantly distributed in a few southeastern markets since the 1930s. The newer line was announced at the end of 2018. Think of it as a science experiment framed around a single chain in the whiskey making process: wood. Every subsequent release will be bourbon aged in barrels made from oaks of different types, ages and regions. The first bottle was aged 10 years in oak from Mongolia and tastes like baking spices, nuts and a lot of wood. Buffalo Trace Distillery says to expect very limited releases four times a year.

Sazerac Rye

SRP: $27 to $99
Recipe: Rye Mashbill
Age: Aged 4 to 6 years
Notable: Made with the lowest possible percentage of rye for rye whiskey designation

Sazerac’s ryes taste a lot closer to bourbon than rye — or at least what we’ve come to expect from rye whiskey. Thanks to a rye industry that erupted alongside bourbon, loads of distillers were quickly bled dry of their rye stocks — MGP, an Indiana-based mass distilling operation, seized the opportunity to sell its rye whiskey to everybody who wanted it. And because their brand of rye is so rye-forward — reportedly 95 percent mashbill is rye — the whiskey drinking public quickly grew accustomed to super spicy rye.

It’s speculated both of Sazerac’s ryes — the 6-year-old (sometimes called “Baby Saz”) and world-beating 18-year-old — are made with a 51-percent rye mashbill, which is the absolute bare minimum rye content. This means the stuff isn’t going to body slam your taste buds like your Bulleits, Redemptions and George Dickels.

Sold everywhere with street prices that don’t wander far from the SRP, Baby Saz shouldn’t be hugely problematic to find or buy. The 18-year — part of the aforementioned Antique Collection — is another matter entirely.

Ancient Age

SRP: $10+
Recipe: Mashbill #2
Age: At least 36 months
Notable: The most affordable bottles made with Buffalo Trace’s high-rye bourbon mashbill

Ancient Age is another slightly confusing brand made by Buffalo Trace, but not owned by it. The ultra-affordable brand is another holdover from the Age International days, only Ancient Age keeps much of its juice in the US. Nowadays, Buffalo Trace bottles it in 80 and 90 proof variants (the 90 proof is called Ancient Ancient Age 10-Star). If you find a bottle called Ancient Ancient Age 10 Year, you should buy it immediately — the bottle was a Kentucky-exclusive popular with bourbon nerds that was discontinued years back.

O.F.C Vintages

SRP: Price varies
Recipe: Mashbill not given
Age: Age varies
Notable: Buffalo Trace’s oldest and most expensive line of whiskey

Upon its founding in 1870, O.F.C. was the most scientific distillery out there. Column stills, copper fermentation vats and a first-of-its-era steam heating system. The bottles made with its hallowed label are the rarest under the Buffalo Trace banner. Unless you take part in charity auctions (good on you), you’re unlikely to lay eyes on a bottle with the copper-embossed “O.F.C.” label. These are bottles of brown that pre-date Buffalo Trace itself, bottled from old bourbon stock bought up from other companies. The latest release, a 25-year-old bourbon, has a set retail price of $2,500.

Will Price

Will Price is Gear Patrol’s home and drinks editor. He’s from Atlanta and lives in Brooklyn. He’s interested in bourbon, houseplants, cheap Japanese pens, and cast-iron skillets — maybe a little too much.

More by Will Price | Follow on Contact via Email

5 New Bottles of Whiskey You Have to Try in 2020

A treasure trove of interesting and lesser-known whiskeys was unveiled and lost in the hubbub of the decade’s closing. From a bourbon brand’s first-ever rye to an indie whiskey landing on more shelves, here are five of the most intriguing bottles of brown to hunt down in the new year.

Old Forester Single Barrel (Barrel Proof)

Before your hopes get up, allow me to crush them: Old Forester is not releasing a single barrel product at retail. The brand just announced it’s bettering its existing private barrel program, which allows store owners to purchase a single barrel to bottle and sell at their store.

What’s new: Old Forester Single Barrel bottlings will now be available in 100 proof and barrel proof offerings instead of its former 90 proofing. The brand says it’s doing to sate “demand from bourbon fans, bartenders and distributors that are looking for a higher-proof and unique flavor profile.” The 100 proof bottles are priced at $50 while the barrel proof sit at $80. You’ll also be able to buy bottles at Old Forester’s Visitor’s Center in Louisville.

Elijah Craig Rye

At first glance, Elijah Craig Rye makes no sense. It’s a bourbon brand that’s routinely turned out some of the best whiskeys in America for decades. Then you realize Heaven Hill, the company behind Elijah Craig, is among the most respected rye producers in the country. Heaven Hill Distillery’s Rittenhouse ($25) and Pikesville ($50) ryes are both in contention for best-in-class in their own categories, and the Elijah Craig rye shares some of their DNA. Made of a mashbill of 51 percent rye, 35 percent corn and 14 percent malted barley, it’s only a couple percentage points off its predecessors (plus, according to Heaven Hill, it’s made with older whiskey, too).

Bad news: availability is limited to North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Oregon at launch, with rollout beginning later this month. The suggested retail price is $30.

Video: How Bourbon is Made

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High West American Single Malt

If Japan and Scotland have trademark single malts, why don’t we? That’s the question hundreds of American distillers have been asking and attempting to remedy for a few years now, and one High West answered for itself in typically weird High West fashion. It’s a blend of whiskeys matured between 2 and 9 years, some of which are peated and some aren’t, and part of the blend is finished in port wine barrels. It’s launching exclusively in Utah for $80. For more American Single Malt variants, check the American Single Malt Commission’s member list.

Wilderness Trail Bottled-in-Bond Single Barrel

This isn’t new whiskey, but it’s going to be new to most people. Based in Danville, Ky., Wilderness Trail is an independent whiskey darling, and starting late winter 2020, it’ll be available in Ca., Wa., Nv. and Tx. on top of the states it already has shelf space in (check this map for details). Wilderness Trail first gained notoriety for successfully operating as a sweet mash whiskey making outlet, which turned the heads of whiskey luminaries like Fred Minnick and Chuck Cowdery.

Larceny Barrel Proof

Retailing around $25 and available all the time, regular old Larceny has shared the title of best entry-level wheated bourbon with Maker’s Mark for years. Starting this month, you’ll be able to drink it a staggering 30-plus proof points higher. Heaven Hill says the Barrel Proof variant will release thrice yearly and will retail for $50.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.
Will Price

Will Price is Gear Patrol’s home and drinks editor. He’s from Atlanta and lives in Brooklyn. He’s interested in bourbon, houseplants, cheap Japanese pens, and cast-iron skillets — maybe a little too much.

More by Will Price | Follow on Contact via Email

The 14 Best Bottles of Rums You Can Buy in 2020

The definitive guide to the best rum of 2020 explores everything you need to know to get into the rum game, from crucial terms to key label identifiers and a curated list of the best bottles for every boozy situation at every price point.




With rum-focused bars opening at an increasing speed and top-shelf bottles popping up on liquor store shelves across the country, rum has come a long way since the days of pirate-laden jugs and soap-scented vacation crushers. But despite a recent status boost, it’s hard out here for a would-be rum guy. This guide breaks down everything you need to know to get into the rum game, from crucial terms to key label identifiers and a curated list of the best bottles for every boozy situation at every price point.

The Short List

Best Value Rum: Plantation Barbados 5 Years

Average Price: $23
Proof: 80
Distiller: Plantation Rum/Maison Ferrand
Country of Origin: Barbados

It’s not the cheapest on the shelf, but this crowdpleaser from Cognac powerhouse Maison Ferrand is worth every penny. The pot and column still blend sits in spent bourbon barrels for three to four years before jetting across the pond for a one to two year stay in French oak at its lauded parent company’s Château de Bonbonnet. The result is mahogany-hued layers of toasted coconut, orange peel and vanilla, finished with a hit of cinnamon-dusted marzipan.

Best Cocktail Rum: Don Pancho Origenes Reserva 8 Year

Average Price: $35
Proof: 80
Distiller: Don Pancho Origenes
Country of Origin: Panama

A quality cocktail rum should always aim to strike a happy medium—dark but not too sweet, light but not too dry, bold but mutable, interesting enough to stand on its own but mellow enough to cushion an onslaught of sugar and acid. This Panamanian head-turner, aged for a minimum of eight years in used Kentucky bourbon casks, hits all the marks by delivering a steady stream of supple brown butter, vanilla, roasted chestnut, and spiced wet tobacco.

Best Sipping Rum: Foursquare Rum 2007 Single Blended 12 Year

Average Price: $86
Proof: 118
Distiller: Foursquare Distillery (R.L. Seale & Co. Ltd)
Country of Origin: Barbados

Dubbed “the Pappy of rum,” the celebrated distillery behind this limited edition expression is helmed by fourth-generation trader and distiller and renowned rum advocate Richard Seale. This formidable cask strength expression — a pot and column still blend aged separately in ex-Bourbon barrels for 12 years before marrying in the bottle — is as exceptional as it is accessible. Cream and apple pie bursts on the nose while tropical fruit plays across the palate, followed by a rush of toffee and peppery oak that lingers.

Rum Terms to Know


Overproof: Rum bottled at more than 50 percent ABV (or 100 proof).

Column Still: One of two basic rum distilling methods employed since the 19th Century. Setups typically consists of two tall, stainless steel tubes filled with metal plates that extract impurities from heated alcohol vapors as they rise through the system.

Pot Still: The older and more straight-forward of rum’s two basic distilling methods. The typical setup includes a wide pot-shaped kettle topped by a taller, thinner gooseneck which connects to a condenser for trapping and separating heated alcoholic vapors.

Agricole/Rhum Agricole: Rum produced in the French West Indies, namely Martinique and Guadeloupe. French for “agricultural rum,” this category is more strictly regulated and must be distilled from freshly extracted sugarcane juice as opposed to molasses. Rhums Agricole are often brighter, grassier and more herbaceous than their molasses-derived counterparts.

Cachaça: A Brazillian spirit distilled from sugarcane juice and bottled at no more than 54 percent ABV. While not widely considered a true rum on the consumer side, US regulators officially categorize it as one.

Demerara: Rums hailing from Guyana, the name is a reference to the Demerara river. Despite the name, these rums are not necessarily made with high-quality demerara sugar.

Esters: Flavorful chemical compounds produced when alcohol mixes with acid during fermentation and barrel-aging. A rum’s ester quantity signifies the intensity of key taste and aroma components like bananas and tropical fruit.

Dunder: Yeasty, ester-rich liquid left over after distillation is complete. Jamaican distilleries often conserve this funky byproduct and use it to facilitate the fermentation of future batches of rum.

Molasses: The thick, sweet, vicious, and dark-hued syrup left over after raw sugar has been crystallized out of cane or sugar beet juice during the refining process. Fermented molasses serves as the primary base liquid for most of the world’s rums.

Vésou: The French word for the freshly-extracted sugarcane juice used in the production of Rhum Agricole.

Quick Guide to Rum Labels


Proof/ABV: All rum imported into the US must list its alcohol content on its label. Most rum is bottled in the 80 proof range, or 40 percent ABV, with overproof running between 75 percent to 80 percent ABV and flavored rums dipping slightly below to 35 percent ABV. As a rule of thumb, rums between 80 and 110 proof are more suitable for sipping while weaker and stronger rums are better suited for layered cocktails.

Age Statements: Distillers aren’t required to state barrel-aging information, though some elect to anyway. If a label clearly reads “Aged 10 years,” that’s an indication of the final product’s youngest component. Be mindful of brands that add numbers to their names but avoid mentioning “years” (see: Zacapa 23), as these don’t necessarily reflect the blend’s age. The rules around aging rum and age statement requirements differ from country to country, so age statement purists are out of luck.

Rum, Rhum, Ron: Broadly, rum can be separated into three styles: English, French and Spanish. When the label reads “rum,” it’s probably an English-style rum, derived from molasses and produced by a former or current British colony. “Rhum” indicates French-style rums made with fresh sugar cane while Spanish-style “ron” is distilled from molasses and comes from Spanish-speaking Caribbean islands and Latin America.

Country of Origin: Different regions are associated with different fermenting, distilling and bottling practices, resulting in distinct flavor profiles that vary wildly from country to country. In general, English-style rums from Jamaica, Trinidad and St. Lucia are known for their funky, banana-laden boldness and spicy heat; French rhums are often earthier, lighter and more verdant; and Spanish-style rums from Cuba and Puerto Rico tend to be a bit sweeter, rounder and more oily.

Best Budget Rums

Best Value Rum: Plantation Barbados 5 Years

Average Price: $23
Proof: 80
Distiller: Plantation Rum/Maison Ferrand
Country of Origin: Barbados

It’s not the cheapest on the shelf, but this crowdpleaser from Cognac powerhouse Maison Ferrand is worth every penny. The pot and column still blend sits in spent bourbon barrels for three to four years before jetting across the pond for a one to two year stay in French oak at its lauded parent company’s Château de Bonbonnet. The result is mahogany-hued layers of toasted coconut, orange peel and vanilla, finished with a hit of cinnamon-dusted marzipan.

Best Cheap Rum: Cruzan Light Aged Rum

Average Price: $9
Proof: 80
Distiller: Cruzan Rum Distillery
Country of Origin: US Virgin Islands

If you’re looking to jazz up your Coke or spike a tropical party punch without breaking the bank, this Virgin Islands stalwart will do the trick. The newmake spirit is aged on oak for one to four years then filtered to remove the wood-influenced color, making for a surprisingly sturdy white option with light vanilla flavors. It drinks clean and dry, complemented by an relaxed oakiness ideal for mixing.

Best Gateway Rum: Diplomático Mantuano

Average Price: $26
Proof: 80
Distiller: Ron Diplomatico Diplomático
Country of Origin: Venezuela

Spanish-style rums are great sipping rums as they tend to share flavor profiles with familiar brown spirits like bourbon and brandy. This Venezuelan mainstay is a blend of column, batch kettle and pot still rums aged for a maximum of eight years in used bourbon and malt whiskey barrels. Notes of stone fruit and juicy dates dominate the nose, giving way to warm vanilla, chestnut and a tinge of oak that finishes long and dry.

Best Everyday Rums

Best Overproof Rum: Lemon Hart 151

Average Price: $33
Proof: 151
Distiller: Lemon Hart Rum
Country of Origin: Guyana

Overproof rums are tricky. Notoriously powerful, unrepentantly bold and literally explosive, most home bartenders have no clue how to handle them. Here’s a hint: they were made to tiki. Take this brazen Demerara—loaded with salted caramel, fruity esters, baking spices, bitter citrus peel and a heaping spoonful of black pepper. It’s perfect for adding heat, dimension and depth to everything from basic Planters Punches and Hurricanes to more complicated Zombies and Mai Tais.

Best White Rum: Flor De Caña 4 Year Extra Seco

Average Price: $20
Proof: 80
Distiller: Flor De Caña
Country of Origin: Nicaragua

This bargain-priced Nicaraguan refresher opens with a nuanced bouquet of almond butter, vanilla, and orange blossoms followed by crisp green apple, banana, and tobacco on the mid-palate. It’s versatile and reliable and an excellent go-to for warm weather classics like mojitos, punches and daiquiris.

Best Spiced Rum: Chairman’s Reserve Spiced

Average Price: $27
Proof: 80
Distiller: St. Lucia Distillers
Country of Origin: St. Lucia

Spiced rums get a bad rap because the category was long defined by overly sweet frat party juice, rife with artificial colors and other additives. Done right, a good spiced rum goes hard. This column and pot still combo spends five years on American oak before being dosed with an all-natural mix of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, vanilla, coconut, allspice, lemon and orange. After blending, it goes back into the barrel for six months to seal in all those flavors. Herby, refined and intoxicatingly festive, it’s a dessert in a glass.

Best Dark Rum: Koloa Kaua‘i Dark Rum

Average Price: $36
Proof: 80
Distiller: Koloa Rum Company
Country of Origin: USA

Much like its spiced sister, dark rum doesn’t typically make it onto a rum connoisseur’s hit list, but this bottle from Hawaii’s Koloa Rum Company is worth trying (for a solid Dark ‘n Stormy, at least). Distilled in a copper pot still from crystallized sugar, it’s left unaged and instead infused with an extra serving of caramelized sugar for a sexy espresso-toned exterior and a dry, vanilla-laden finish.

Best Gold Rum: Rhum J.M E.S.B. Gold

Average Price: $35
Proof: 100
Distiller: Rhum J.M
Country of Origin: Martinique

Despite tipping the scales at 50 percent ABV and spending just one year aging in re-charred bourbon barrels, Rhum J.M’s award-winning gold rhum agricole exudes remarkable maturity. Complex yet approachable, the spirit ably showcases Martinique’s rich terroir in its brilliant amber hue, snickerdoodle spice and satisfying notes of hazelnut, cedar, fresh hay and banana.

Best Cocktail Rum: Don Pancho Origenes Reserva 8 Year

Average Price: $35
Proof: 80
Distiller: Don Pancho Origenes
Country of Origin: Panama

A quality cocktail rum should always aim to strike a happy medium—dark but not too sweet, light but not too dry, bold but mutable, interesting enough to stand on its own but mellow enough to cushion an onslaught of sugar and acid. This Panamanian head-turner, aged for a minimum of eight years in used Kentucky bourbon casks, hits all the marks by delivering a steady stream of supple brown butter, vanilla, roasted chestnut, and spiced wet tobacco.

Best Upgrade Rums

Best Sipping Rum: Foursquare Rum 2007 Single Blended 12 Year

Average Price: $86
Proof: 118
Distiller: Foursquare Distillery (R.L. Seale & Co. Ltd)
Country of Origin: Barbados

Dubbed “the Pappy of rum,” the celebrated distillery behind this limited edition expression is helmed by fourth-generation trader and distiller and renowned rum advocate Richard Seale. This formidable cask strength expression — a pot and column still blend aged separately in ex-Bourbon barrels for 12 years before marrying in the bottle — is as exceptional as it is accessible. Cream and apple pie bursts on the nose while tropical fruit plays across the palate, followed by a rush of toffee and peppery oak that lingers.

Best Rum to Gift: The Real McCoy 14-Year-Old Limited Edition

Average Price: $75
Proof: 92
Distiller: Foursquare Distillery (R.L. Seale & Co. Ltd) & Real McCoy Spirits
Country of Origin: Barbados

Explosive and sophisticated, this 2019 small batch exclusive was bottled by Real McCoy using 14-year-old juice from Barbados’s legendary Foursquare Distillery. If Richard Seale touched it, you know it’s gold, and this one’s no exception. Initially smacking of clove spice and Big Red heat, each sip is richer than the last.

Best Craft Rum: Privateer Navy Yard Barrel Proof

Average Price: $45
Proof: 110
Distiller: Privateer Rum
Country of Origin: USA

It’s no exaggeration to say that Massachusetts’s Privateer Rum is putting out some of the country’s most impressive and inspired small-batch spirits. Derived from 100 percent Grade A Molasses under the watchful eye of Master Distiller Maggie Campbell, the copper-colored charmer rests for a minimum of two years on new American oak before landing in the bottle at a deceptively quaffable 55 percent ABV. It smells like vanilla and tastes like Dr. Pepper.

Best Splurge Rum: Appleton Estate Joy Anniversary Blend 25 Year

Average Price: $250
Proof: 90
Distiller: Appleton Estate
Country of Origin: Jamaica

If you’ve got the cash to burn, this limited edition blend from Jamaica’s iconic Appleton Estate is a bucket-list must. A nod to longtime Master Blender Joy Spence, the elegantly silhouetted bottle is almost as pretty as what it contains; a satiny blend dating as far back as 1981, Spence’s first year with the company. Open the bottle and the room smells like orange zest and ginger. Take a sip and and taste the rum rainbow: butterscotch, marzipan, oatmeal raisin and tropical fruit give way to clove, allspice, pepper and dark brown sugar. There’s nothing like it.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

The 14 Best Rums for Every Occasion, at Every Price Point

The definitive guide to the best rum of 2020 explores everything you need to know to get into the rum game, from crucial terms to key label identifiers and a curated list of the best bottles for every boozy situation at every price point.




With rum-focused bars opening at an increasing speed and top-shelf bottles popping up on liquor store shelves across the country, rum has come a long way since the days of pirate-laden jugs and soap-scented vacation crushers. But despite a recent status boost, it’s hard out here for a would-be rum guy. This guide breaks down everything you need to know to get into the rum game, from crucial terms to key label identifiers and a curated list of the best bottles for every boozy situation at every price point.

The Short List

Best Value Rum: Plantation Barbados 5 Years

Average Price: $23
Proof: 80
Distiller: Plantation Rum/Maison Ferrand
Country of Origin: Barbados

It’s not the cheapest on the shelf, but this crowdpleaser from Cognac powerhouse Maison Ferrand is worth every penny. The pot and column still blend sits in spent bourbon barrels for three to four years before jetting across the pond for a one to two year stay in French oak at its lauded parent company’s Château de Bonbonnet. The result is mahogany-hued layers of toasted coconut, orange peel and vanilla, finished with a hit of cinnamon-dusted marzipan.

Best Cocktail Rum: Don Pancho Origenes Reserva 8 Year

Average Price: $35
Proof: 80
Distiller: Don Pancho Origenes
Country of Origin: Panama

A quality cocktail rum should always aim to strike a happy medium—dark but not too sweet, light but not too dry, bold but mutable, interesting enough to stand on its own but mellow enough to cushion an onslaught of sugar and acid. This Panamanian head-turner, aged for a minimum of eight years in used Kentucky bourbon casks, hits all the marks by delivering a steady stream of supple brown butter, vanilla, roasted chestnut, and spiced wet tobacco.

Best Sipping Rum: Foursquare Rum 2007 Single Blended 12 Year

Proof: 118
Average Price: $86
Distiller: Foursquare Distillery (R.L. Seale & Co. Ltd)
Country of Origin: Barbados

Dubbed “the Pappy of rum,” the celebrated distillery behind this limited edition expression is helmed by fourth-generation trader and distiller and renowned rum advocate Richard Seale. This formidable cask strength expression — a pot and column still blend aged separately in ex-Bourbon barrels for 12 years before marrying in the bottle — is as exceptional as it is accessible. Cream and apple pie bursts on the nose while tropical fruit plays across the palate, followed by a rush of toffee and peppery oak that lingers.

Rum Terms to Know


Overproof: Rum bottled at more than 50 percent ABV (or 100 proof).

Column Still: One of two basic rum distilling methods employed since the 19th Century. Setups typically consists of two tall, stainless steel tubes filled with metal plates that extract impurities from heated alcohol vapors as they rise through the system.

Pot Still: The older and more straight-forward of rum’s two basic distilling methods. The typical setup includes a wide pot-shaped kettle topped by a taller, thinner gooseneck which connects to a condenser for trapping and separating heated alcoholic vapors.

Agricole/Rhum Agricole: Rum produced in the French West Indies, namely Martinique and Guadeloupe. French for “agricultural rum,” this category is more strictly regulated and must be distilled from freshly extracted sugarcane juice as opposed to molasses. Rhums Agricole are often brighter, grassier and more herbaceous than their molasses-derived counterparts.

Cachaça: A Brazillian spirit distilled from sugarcane juice and bottled at no more than 54 percent ABV. While not widely considered a true rum on the consumer side, US regulators officially categorize it as one.

Demerara: Rums hailing from Guyana, the name is a reference to the Demerara river. Despite the name, these rums are not necessarily made with high-quality demerara sugar.

Esters: Flavorful chemical compounds produced when alcohol mixes with acid during fermentation and barrel-aging. A rum’s ester quantity signifies the intensity of key taste and aroma components like bananas and tropical fruit.

Dunder: Yeasty, ester-rich liquid left over after distillation is complete. Jamaican distilleries often conserve this funky byproduct and use it to facilitate the fermentation of future batches of rum.

Molasses: The thick, sweet, vicious, and dark-hued syrup left over after raw sugar has been crystallized out of cane or sugar beet juice during the refining process. Fermented molasses serves as the primary base liquid for most of the world’s rums.

Vésou: The French word for the freshly-extracted sugarcane juice used in the production of Rhum Agricole.

Quick Guide to Rum Labels


Proof/ABV: All rum imported into the US must list its alcohol content on its label. Most rum is bottled in the 80 proof range, or 40 percent ABV, with overproof running between 75 percent to 80 percent ABV and flavored rums dipping slightly below to 35 percent ABV. As a rule of thumb, rums between 80 and 110 proof are more suitable for sipping while weaker and stronger rums are better suited for layered cocktails.

Age Statements: Distillers aren’t required to state barrel-aging information, though some elect to anyway. If a label clearly reads “Aged 10 years,” that’s an indication of the final product’s youngest component. Be mindful of brands that add numbers to their names but avoid mentioning “years” (see: Zacapa 23), as these don’t necessarily reflect the blend’s age. The rules around aging rum and age statement requirements differ from country to country, so age statement purists are out of luck.

Rum, Rhum, Ron: Broadly, rum can be separated into three styles: English, French and Spanish. When the label reads “rum,” it’s probably an English-style rum, derived from molasses and produced by a former or current British colony. “Rhum” indicates French-style rums made with fresh sugar cane while Spanish-style “ron” is distilled from molasses and comes from Spanish-speaking Caribbean islands and Latin America.

Country of Origin: Different regions are associated with different fermenting, distilling and bottling practices, resulting in distinct flavor profiles that vary wildly from country to country. In general, English-style rums from Jamaica, Trinidad and St. Lucia are known for their funky, banana-laden boldness and spicy heat; French rhums are often earthier, lighter and more verdant; and Spanish-style rums from Cuba and Puerto Rico tend to be a bit sweeter, rounder and more oily.

Best Budget Rums

Best Value Rum: Plantation Barbados 5 Years

Average Price: $23
Proof: 80
Distiller: Plantation Rum/Maison Ferrand
Country of Origin: Barbados

It’s not the cheapest on the shelf, but this crowdpleaser from Cognac powerhouse Maison Ferrand is worth every penny. The pot and column still blend sits in spent bourbon barrels for three to four years before jetting across the pond for a one to two year stay in French oak at its lauded parent company’s Château de Bonbonnet. The result is mahogany-hued layers of toasted coconut, orange peel and vanilla, finished with a hit of cinnamon-dusted marzipan.

Best Cheap Rum: Cruzan Light Aged Rum

Average Price: $9
Proof: 80
Distiller: Cruzan Rum Distillery
Country of Origin: US Virgin Islands

If you’re looking to jazz up your Coke or spike a tropical party punch without breaking the bank, this Virgin Islands stalwart will do the trick. The newmake spirit is aged on oak for one to four years then filtered to remove the wood-influenced color, making for a surprisingly sturdy white option with light vanilla flavors. It drinks clean and dry, complemented by an relaxed oakiness ideal for mixing.

Best Gateway Rum: Diplomático Mantuano

Average Price: $26
Proof: 80
Distiller: Ron Diplomatico Diplomático
Country of Origin: Venezuela

Spanish-style rums are great sipping rums as they tend to share flavor profiles with familiar brown spirits like bourbon and brandy. This Venezuelan mainstay is a blend of column, batch kettle and pot still rums aged for a maximum of eight years in used bourbon and malt whiskey barrels. Notes of stone fruit and juicy dates dominate the nose, giving way to warm vanilla, chestnut and a tinge of oak that finishes long and dry.

Best Everyday Rums

Best Overproof Rum: Lemon Hart 151

Distiller: Lemon Hart Rum
Country of Origin: Guyana
Proof: 151
Average Price: $33

Overproof rums are tricky. Notoriously powerful, unrepentantly bold and literally explosive, most home bartenders have no clue how to handle them. Here’s a hint: they were made to tiki. Take this brazen Demerara—loaded with salted caramel, fruity esters, baking spices, bitter citrus peel and a heaping spoonful of black pepper. It’s perfect for adding heat, dimension and depth to everything from basic Planters Punches and Hurricanes to more complicated Zombies and Mai Tais.

Best White Rum: Flor De Caña 4 Year Extra Seco

Average Price: $20
Proof: 80
Distiller: Flor De Caña
Country of Origin: Nicaragua

This bargain-priced Nicaraguan refresher opens with a nuanced bouquet of almond butter, vanilla, and orange blossoms followed by crisp green apple, banana, and tobacco on the mid-palate. It’s versatile and reliable and an excellent go-to for warm weather classics like mojitos, punches and daiquiris.

Best Spiced Rum: Chairman’s Reserve Spiced

Average Price: $27
Proof: 80
Distiller: St. Lucia Distillers
Country of Origin: St. Lucia

Spiced rums get a bad rap because the category was long defined by overly sweet frat party juice, rife with artificial colors and other additives. Done right, a good spiced rum goes hard. This column and pot still combo spends five years on American oak before being dosed with an all-natural mix of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, vanilla, coconut, allspice, lemon and orange. After blending, it goes back into the barrel for six months to seal in all those flavors. Herby, refined and intoxicatingly festive, it’s a dessert in a glass.

Best Dark Rum: Koloa Kaua‘i Dark Rum

Average Price: $36
Proof: 80
Distiller: Koloa Rum Company
Country of Origin: USA

Much like its spiced sister, dark rum doesn’t typically make it onto a rum connoisseur’s hit list, but this bottle from Hawaii’s Koloa Rum Company is worth trying (for a solid Dark ‘n Stormy, at least). Distilled in a copper pot still from crystallized sugar, it’s left unaged and instead infused with an extra serving of caramelized sugar for a sexy espresso-toned exterior and a dry, vanilla-laden finish.

Best Gold Rum: Rhum J.M E.S.B. Gold

Average Price: $35
Proof: 100
Distiller: Rhum J.M
Country of Origin: Martinique

Despite tipping the scales at 50 percent ABV and spending just one year aging in re-charred bourbon barrels, Rhum J.M’s award-winning gold rhum agricole exudes remarkable maturity. Complex yet approachable, the spirit ably showcases Martinique’s rich terroir in its brilliant amber hue, snickerdoodle spice and satisfying notes of hazelnut, cedar, fresh hay and banana.

Best Cocktail Rum: Don Pancho Origenes Reserva 8 Year

Average Price: $35
Proof: 80
Distiller: Don Pancho Origenes
Country of Origin: Panama

A quality cocktail rum should always aim to strike a happy medium—dark but not too sweet, light but not too dry, bold but mutable, interesting enough to stand on its own but mellow enough to cushion an onslaught of sugar and acid. This Panamanian head-turner, aged for a minimum of eight years in used Kentucky bourbon casks, hits all the marks by delivering a steady stream of supple brown butter, vanilla, roasted chestnut, and spiced wet tobacco.

Best Upgrade Rums

Best Sipping Rum: Foursquare Rum 2007 Single Blended 12 Year

Proof: 118
Average Price: $86
Distiller: Foursquare Distillery (R.L. Seale & Co. Ltd)
Country of Origin: Barbados

Dubbed “the Pappy of rum,” the celebrated distillery behind this limited edition expression is helmed by fourth-generation trader and distiller and renowned rum advocate Richard Seale. This formidable cask strength expression — a pot and column still blend aged separately in ex-Bourbon barrels for 12 years before marrying in the bottle — is as exceptional as it is accessible. Cream and apple pie bursts on the nose while tropical fruit plays across the palate, followed by a rush of toffee and peppery oak that lingers.

Best Rum to Gift: The Real McCoy 14-Year-Old Limited Edition

Average Price: $75
Proof: 92
Distiller: Foursquare Distillery (R.L. Seale & Co. Ltd) & Real McCoy Spirits
Country of Origin: Barbados

Explosive and sophisticated, this 2019 small batch exclusive was bottled by Real McCoy using 14-year-old juice from Barbados’s legendary Foursquare Distillery. If Richard Seale touched it, you know it’s gold, and this one’s no exception. Initially smacking of clove spice and Big Red heat, each sip is richer than the last.

Best Craft Rum: Privateer Navy Yard Barrel Proof

Average Price: $45
Proof: 110
Distiller: Privateer Rum
Country of Origin: USA

It’s no exaggeration to say that Massachusetts’s Privateer Rum is putting out some of the country’s most impressive and inspired small-batch spirits. Derived from 100 percent Grade A Molasses under the watchful eye of Master Distiller Maggie Campbell, the copper-colored charmer rests for a minimum of two years on new American oak before landing in the bottle at a deceptively quaffable 55 percent ABV. It smells like vanilla and tastes like Dr. Pepper.

Best Splurge Rum: Appleton Estate Joy Anniversary Blend 25 Year

Average Price: $250
Proof: 90
Distiller: Appleton Estate
Country of Origin: Jamaica

If you’ve got the cash to burn, this limited edition blend from Jamaica’s iconic Appleton Estate is a bucket-list must. A nod to longtime Master Blender Joy Spence, the elegantly silhouetted bottle is almost as pretty as what it contains; a satiny blend dating as far back as 1981, Spence’s first year with the company. Open the bottle and the room smells like orange zest and ginger. Take a sip and and taste the rum rainbow: butterscotch, marzipan, oatmeal raisin and tropical fruit give way to clove, allspice, pepper and dark brown sugar. There’s nothing like it.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

A Rye Whiskey Made by a Famous Bourbon Company Was One of the Best Things I Drank Last Month

Every month, a huge amount of booze moves through the Gear Patrol offices — beer, wine and a whole lot of whiskey. Here are a few of our favorites.

Elijah Craig Straight Rye Whiskey

Elijah Craig Rye. What?

Made of a mashbill of 51 percent rye, 35 percent corn and 14 percent malted barley, it’s only a couple percentage points off its Heave Hill rye predecessors, Rittenhouse and Pikesville (plus, according to the distillery, it’s made with older whiskey). The bigger difference is the proof. At 94, it’s sturdy but noticeably less hot than its 100 and 110 proof cousins. This, combined with a more mature spirit, makes it a little easier to sip neat or on the rocks. I get a lot of honey, cinnamon and cardamom on the first sip and a bitter chocolate nuke on the followthrough. Some bad news: availability is limited to North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Oregon at launch, with rollout beginning later this month. The suggested retail price is $30. — Will Price, Assistant Editor, Home & Design

Stone Brewing Never Ending Haze

Stone Brewing is the latest nationally-distributed brewery to figure out how to make a shelf-stable Hazy IPA thanks to a little help from oats in the malt base. The California brewery’s Neverending Haze IPA is a crushable 4 percent ABV beer that has the look and mouthfeel of a New England-style IPA, but without the fast degradation of one (but it should still be consumed fresh). The brew pours a cloudy orange, with overwhelming peach aromas. Mosaic and Citra hops give this low-ABV beer notes of tropical fruit with a pleasant grapefruit bitterness finish. — Tyler Chin, Editorial Associate

Creature Comforts Brewing Co. Table Beer

It’s no secret that we’re big fans of the lower ABV trend breweries of all types are gravitating towards these days. One particular low-ABV style we’d love to see more of is the table beer. Our friends at Creature Comforts released their seasonal Table Beer and it’s hitting all the right notes for us. It’s bright, snappy and floral easy-sipping Belgian-style blonde ale that you could drink all day long. It’s a nice change of pace to have in the winter and certainly one we could enjoy any time of the year at just 4.2 percent. — Ryan Brower, Commerce Editor

Ar Pe Pe Rosso di Valtellina

When most people hear ‘Nebbiolo,’ if it evokes anything at all, it’s generally big, grippy, maybe-oaky Barolos and Barbarescos. Ar Pe Pe’s take comes from Valtellina right on the Swiss border and way further north than its more famous siblings in Piedmont. The result is a lighter wine that has all those classic Nebbiolo berries and leather and tannins but is toned down by a little more acid, a little more minerality and a significantly lighter body. Never mind that the price is reasonable for a weeknight “nice bottle” and Ar Pe Pe is a standard bearer for quality, modern winemaking in Italy. — Henry Phillips, Deputy Photo Editor

Bell’s Light Hearted Ale

Although there have been a plethora of low-cal IPAs to drop already this year (and more to come), Light Hearted Ale from Bell’s Brewery was certainly one of the beers we were most excited about for 2020. It clocks in at 110 calories, 9 carbs and 3.7 percent ABV but packs more IPA flavor than lots of normal IPAs. Brewed with Centennial and Galaxy hops, the hop character plays more to tropical notes than that of its older sibling Two Hearted Ale. While it’s just hitting all markets now, we’re certainly excited about crushing this one all summer (and year) long. — Ryan Brower, Commerce Editor

Springdale Beer Company IPA

Does it seem like there are too many IPA styles to keep track of these days? Yes. But we’d argue there’s room for one more with Springdale Beer Company’s revamped “bi-coastal” IPA. That’s to say they sought to strike “a balance between tropical bliss and pleasant bitterness.” Combining Citra, Amarillo, Galaxy and Sultana hops it marries the best of East- and West Coast-style IPAs for a beer that we’re pleasantly surprised with. This 6.2 percent IPA is only available in the Northeast. — Ryan Brower, Commerce Editor

Goose Island Beer Company So-Lo

Another low-cal IPA from a nationally-distributed brewery? Goose Island tested So-Lo in Chicago last year and it was a huge success, leading to it being rolled out nationally in January. We had gotten to try it at the Bourbon County Stout tasting last November and it was the perfect palate cleanser for that evening of heavy, bourbon barrel-aged stouts — especially at only 3 percent ABV and 98 calories. It packs plenty of hop character with Idaho 7, Kohatu and Chinook being used while bringing a full-body profile thanks to oat flakes and carafoam malt. So-Lo is going to be an underground gem of the low-cal IPA style in 2020. — Ryan Brower, Commerce Editor

The 10 Best Beers to Drink Watching the Super Bowl, According to Brewers

Super Bowl Sunday is a day for celebration for football fans and non-fans alike. It’s a day where over 1 billion chicken wings will go missing. That’s going to require some good beer to wash all those wings down. So we asked craft brewers what they’ll be drinking when they watch the Super Bowl this weekend. Heed their advice.

Mast Landing Brewing Co. Neon Sails

“Mast Landing’s Neon Sails IPA is a perfect beer for the Miami faceoff. Its tropical flavors transport you to breezy, sunny beaches while its intense hoppiness pairs well with what looks to be a fierce battle between two evenly matched teams. Plus, the can art has a Miami Vice vibe that summons the city’s epic nightlife. Our distro team loves it and I’m sure they’ll all have one in hand on gameday.” — Rob Burns, Night Shift Brewing

Allagash Brewing Co. White

“As a native New Englander and Midwestern transplant, I am tempted to say I’ll be slammin’ Harpoon IPAs and pouring one out for my boy Tommy B cuz he’s the GOAT! However, I’m not actually gonna do that. I will likely be drinking the last of the Allagash White I snagged on a recent trip back to my home state of Maine. Not that far off I guess.” — Niko Tonks, Fair State Cooperative

Industrial Arts Brewing Company Metric

“For me, the Super Bowl is all about the food — it’s a marathon of spicy and savory! I’ll be drinking Metric Pilsner from Industrial Arts to refresh my palate between snacks. It’s a sessionable 4.7 percent and is perfectly clean and crisp. I love their precision and consistency in brewing and that I can almost always find their beers at my favorite local retailer.” — Tara Hankinson, Talea Beer Co.

Wren House Brewing Co. Pollinator

“Watching the (most likely) high-scoring Super Bowl LIV, I will be drinking Wren House’s Pollinator lager. On a recent trip to Tucson I bought as many four packs I could get my hands on after trying it at Tap & Bottle. This Honey Lager is full of oat flavor, light berries, mild honey, a little nuttiness and has a crisp clean finish. This beer is as flavorful as it gets for 4.5 percent and is perfect to enjoy during the game.” — Kyle Harrop, Horus Aged Ales

Miller High Life

“As a guy who makes a lot of IPAs, I’m counting the days till I can justify making a simple and easy-drinking lager beer. And if I’m watching the game, or really the ads and the halftime show, I may as well be drinking something that I can drink all day long. Sometimes it’s nice not to think too terribly hard about the beer you’re drinking. No complicated hop combos, no questions on if the aroma is true to rubbing, no thinking about funky yeasts! We say drink whatever, y’all.” — Gage Siegel, Non Sequitur Beer Project

Wayfinder Beer Hell

“I’ll be drinking Wayfinder Hell because the only thing I know about the Super Bowl is that it lasts for four hours. My qualifiers for drinking beer these days are pretty rudimentary: I want something crisp, clean and noble. Wayfinder visits session heaven with this helles, and there may be no better choice for an event that is only halfway through when J-Lo takes the stage.” — Jake Miller, Heirloom Rustic Ales

Oxbow Brewing Company Luppolo

“I will be sampling some treats from Oxbow Brewing in Newcastle, Maine. They make fantastic beers and are just really great people. Top of my list is Luppolo, an unfiltered Italian-style dryhopped pilsner. It’s crisp and crushable with a spicy, floral nose and nice crackery malt character that will pair elegantly with the pile of wings I plan to destroy on Sunday.” — Mark Safarik, Dogfish Head

Wynwood Brewing Company La Rubia

“I’m actually going to the game — I’m a Bills fan but the game is here in our backyard and I’ve always wanted to go to a Super Bowl so I’m going. So [I’ll] probably be drinking the best craft beer options I can get my hands on at the stadium. Saltwater and Wynwood Brewing have their beer at the stadium. Most likely will be drinking their stuff.” — Corey Artanis, 3 Sons Brewing Co.

Coors Banquet

“I’m headed to a Super Bowl party so I’ll probably be drinking whatever’s in the fridge. That being said, I like to keep things simple with a Coors Banquet or a High Life. If the ingredients are there, I might make a Michelada. There’s a lot on the line in every Super Bowl so I’m looking for a beer that doesn’t distract from the action.” — Mike Schnebeck, Fort Point Beer Company

Threes Brewing Vainglorious

“Our neighbors at Threes celebrate their birthday in mid-January, so there’s always something special to drink this time of year. Their newest anniversary beer, Vainglorious, is a riff on their iconic Vliet (which is already a staple beer for me). It’s a delicate crusher with a bright hop aroma — the perfect beer for drinking all damn day.” — Gage Siegel, Non Sequitur Beer Project

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.
Ryan Brower

Ryan Brower serves as a Project Coordinator for Editorial Operations and also writes about beer and surfing for Gear Patrol. He lives in Brooklyn, loves the ocean and almost always has a film camera handy.

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15 Beers Brewers Couldn’t Live Without

Nobody knows beer like the people who make it. We asked four premier brewers about what they drink after a long day, what they’re trying to hunt down, what they’ve been into recently and more.

John Walker, Athletic Brewing Co.

John Walker was tired of O’Douls dominating the non-alcoholic beer space, so he made a challenger. The head brewer at Athletic Brewing Co. and fellow cofounder Bill Shufelt homebrewed hundreds of batches of what became their Golden Ale to perfect their zero-ABV brews. Instead of using macrobrews as a reference, Walker entrenches himself and his brewery firmly within classic American craft styles. That experience informs Walker’s own tastes. From classic American Pale Ales to boundary-pushing bourbon barrel-aged stouts, here’s what he drinking nowadays.

Favorite Everyday Beer: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Pale Ale

ABV: 5.6%
Beer Style: American Pale Ale
Availability: National, year-round
“Just an all-time favorite: full flavored, balanced, complex sessionable classic that is as consistent as it gets. This was my true introduction to quality suds — the beer I drank with my dad as opposed to the garbage my sisters’s peers brought over in college. He would throw one back after a run and then give me a couple sips and yammer on about how refreshing and nutritional beer can be… you know, before carbs were a curse word. It is still perfect and is still the gold standard for quality.”

Grail Beer: Avery Brewing Co. Tweak

ABV: 14.7%
Beer Style: Bourbon barrel-aged coffee stout
Availability: Limited, seasonal
“It is just obscene: huge, alcoholic, toasty, coffee, bourbon, warming and absolutely delicious. Perfect to drink on dark winter nights or with your laser-building-applied-mathematician-friends (my introduction to the beer). A level of complexity that most brewers can only hope to attain in a full and fruitful career. Think fur coat, fire, chocolate sauce and some heavy metal. If you can find one, get it.”

Best Beer You Drank Recently: Second Street Brewery 2920 IPA

ABV: 7.3%
Beer Style: IPA
Availability: Local, year-round
“It is the brightest and most refreshing IPA out there — super pale yet complex pils malt character with a wild, diesely, tropical, oily goodness from an incredible portfolio of Northwest and New Zealand hops. My friends and mentors at my old stomping grounds are killing it with this SoCal-inspired IPA. It is a perfect example of how to utilize non-traditional ingredients to create a super unique product in a market saturated with amazing competition. Perfect for those beautiful New Mexico mountain sunsets.”

The Beer That Changed Things for You: La Cumbre Brewing Co. Elevated IPA

ABV: 7.2%
Beer Style: IPA
Availability: Local, year-round
“It was one of the first craft IPAs that made me realize you can marry traditional ingredients, new school techniques and a load of passion to refresh and elevate classic styles. One of the best IPAs ever.”

Nick Nunns, TRVE Brewing

If you walk into the taproom at TRVE Brewing (pronounced “True”) in downtown Denver, Colorado you’ll quickly realize it’s a bit different — black walls, pentagrams and heavy metal music are the norm. But while TRVE can be intimidating at first, once you order a beer (probably of the mixed fermentation variety) from founder Nick Nunns, it’s apparent the brewery, beers and Nunns himself are incredibly approachable. Since 2012, TRVE has made beers that aim to go “beyond the pale” (a fancy way of saying it’s not just IPAs), and his own tastes run the spectrum from classic macro-lagers to Belgian-style icons. Here’s what he’s drinking nowadays.

Favorite Everyday Beer: Coors Banquet

ABV: 5%
Beer Style: Lager
Availability: National, year-round
“I’m lucky to be in a city where we’re awash in great independent beer. I’m also lucky enough to be able to bring home excellent, everyday beers from work. However, when I think of an everyday beer, it’s one that you could get at a venue controlled by the shitty mega-distributors, or a beer you could find in some rural town with a single stoplight. For me, this beer is Coors Banquet. It’s never disappointing, ridiculously shelf-stable (thus, generally always fresh), and in my opinion, is one of the best macro-lagers out there. Do I drink it every day? Nah. Is it a great everyday beer? Hell yeah.”

Grail Beer: Allagash White

ABV: 5.2%
Beer Style: Witbier
Availability: National, year-round
“I’m a chronic hobbyist and as such searching for beers has long been replaced with new passions. I don’t think a grail beer to me would need to be rare, or even particularly laborious, aged, ingredient-heavy, etc. When I’m lucky enough to be in a state where I can find it, I’m almost always on the lookout for Allagash White. It’s about as much of an Arthurian quest for a beer as I’m willing to pursue these days.”

Best Beer You Drank Recently: Free Range Party Time

ABV: 6.4%
Beer Style: Festbier
Availability: Local, seasonal
“I just got back from Arizona Wilderness’s Camp Coolship, which was an incredible weekend. They hosted a tap takeover with all the participating breweries at their downtown Phoenix location the night after we camped out, so I got to try a bunch of really great beers. One of the standouts for me was Party Time, a festbier from Free Range out of Charlotte, North Carolina. I haven’t had a lot of opportunities to try their beers up until now, and apparently this was the first lager they ever brewed. If this is where they’re starting off I think their lager program is gonna be great.”

Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, Evil Twin Brewing

There are not many brewers more willing to experiment with ingredients, flavors and beer-naming-conventions than Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, founder of Evil Twin Brewing. The Danish-born New York City transplant has made a name for himself doing just that by brewing big pastry stouts, New England IPAs and palate-challenging sours.

He recently opened up his first taproom in Ridgewood, Queens for the Evil Twin New York City brand where he will continue to push the envelope (and make some simple pilsners, too). Jarnit-Bjergsø’s own drinking tastes are heavily-rooted in traditional Belgian styles which is the perfect foundation for American craft beer innovation. Here’s what he’s drinking nowadays.

Best Beer You Drank Recently: Burley Oak Double Carrot Cake J.R.E.A.M.

ABV: 7%
Beer Style: Fruited Sour Ale
Availability: Regional to Mid-Atlantic

“The Burley Oak Double Carrot Cake J.R.E.A.M. Burley Oak is known for making heavy fruited sours but their use of vegetables, in this case, brings a more savory flavor and is just spot on! I was honestly blown away by everything in this beer — from color to mouthfeel to flavor.”

Favorite Everyday Beer: Belgian Duvel

ABV: 8.5%
Beer Style: Belgian Strong Golden Ale
Availability: International

“That’s a very difficult question, as I tend not to drink the same beer every day. But the one I find myself drinking the most is the Belgian Duvel. Good tripels from Belgium while being very flavorful. These have a balance and complexity that make them easy to drink even with the high ABV.”

Grail Beer: Brouwerij De Dolle Stille Nacht

ABV: 12%
Beer Style: Belgian Strong Golden Ale
Availability: Limited

“I’ve had a lot, but one that really stands out to me — and has for many, many years — is the Belgian Christmas beer from De Dolle called Stille Nacht. Again, so much balance, so much complexity and at 12 percent ABV, it’s perfect for the colder months.”

Veronica Vega, Deschutes Brewery

Veronica Vega did not come to brewing in the traditional way. When most brewers get their start by homebrewing, Veronica was enamored with the scale of production brewing when she started at Deschutes as a tour guide. Having a degree in biology, she was blown away by the magnitude of the equipment and the delicate balance it required to operate.

Now the Director of Product Development at Deschutes Brewery, Vega’s tastes run the spectrum of fruit beers to the real champagne of beers to porters (she does work at Deschutes remember). Here’s what she’s drinking nowadays.

Best Beer You Drank Recently: Cerveceria Cyprez Saison

ABV: 6%
Beer Style: Farmhouse Ale – Saison
Availability: Local, Year-Round

“I had the pleasure of being a judge at Copa Cerveza, the competition for Mexican Craft Beer. I judged the medal round for saisons, one of my favorite beer styles, and we gave the gold to Saison by Cerverceria Cyprez. It was so magical and memorable.”

Favorite Everyday Beer: New Belgium x Primus Mural Agua Fresca

ABV: 4%
Beer Style: Fruit Beer
Availability: National, Year-Round

“Honest answer: I never drink the same beer every day, which I am annoyed at myself for admitting. I can be very seasonally or situationally inclined when it comes to any beverage really. Fall is my time for CDAs and Bier de Gardes. If it’s just a one-pint situation, I typically go for hoppy. If I’m on a boat, Modelo. Pairing with sushi or Thai food, a saison. With cheese, a beer with brett character. This summer I really dug New Belgium/Primus Mural, a beer I actually purchased twice.”

Grail Beer: Brouwerij Bosteels DeuS

ABV: 11.5%
Beer Style: Brut de Flandres
Availability: International, Year-Round

“Somewhat rare, though more so a beer I find impossible to replicate is DeuS by Brouwerij Bosteels. It’s a Brut de Flandres — the closest thing to champagne that a beer will ever be. They follow the method champenoise, a painstakingly long and tedious bottle conditioning technique that includes riddling (turning the bottle half turns regularly to motivate the yeast down towards the neck) and disgorging (freezing the yeast in the neck, removing it and then corking). It carries beautiful, elegantly light spice notes from the Belgian yeast, but also herbal elderflower, light mint, and lemon. It’s magical. Eleven percent for special occasions, or when you find yourself at a Belgian beer festival and never leave the booth because it’s the best thing there.”

The Beer That Changed Things for You: Sierra Nevada Porter

ABV: 5.6%
Beer Style: Porter
Availability: National, Year-Round

“Sierra Nevada Porter introduced me to craft in general. Brought a feeling of fulfillment and delight to my solo camping adventures in college. I would pack my dog, a stick of salami, a cheese block, crackers and mustard and Sierra Nevada Porter and all was right in the world. Porter comes back full circle in that I ended up at Deschutes, whose Black Butte Porter has defined the category and remains one of my favorite beers today, especially on nitro.”

Beer You’re in Search of (ISO): Odell Brewing Co. Mountain Standard IPA

ABV: 6.5%
Beer Style: IPA
Availability: Local, Year-Round

“This summer I got to try Odell’s Mountain Standard on a trip to Idaho and I’m in search of it in Oregon because it might be the perfect IPA. Yes, I said it. I am also currently working on NA beers. We have a really cool Irish Stout in development and so I’m always keeping an eye out for craft NA to keep my finger on the pulse.”

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.
Ryan Brower

Ryan Brower serves as a Project Coordinator for Editorial Operations and also writes about beer and surfing for Gear Patrol. He lives in Brooklyn, loves the ocean and almost always has a film camera handy.

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The 15 Most Underrated Beers in the World

Hardly a week goes by anymore that isn’t accompanied by a beer release hailed as the next best thing. This makes it all too easy to forget the many exceptional ales and lagers that have stood the test of time. So we asked 15 brewers from across the country to name a beer they consider underrated. The results run the gamut of styles, and include at least a few surprising answers. When was the last time you had one of these beers?

Editor’s Note: Some responses have been edited for clarity and length.

Ecliptic Capella Porter

Style: Porter
ABV: 5.2%
Brewery Location: Portland, Oregon
“Maybe it’s a stretch to call a beer that has won gold at [the] World Beer Cup and the Oregon Beer Awards underrated, but this is the kind of beer that often gets overlooked in today’s landscape where raves are reserved for bombastic pastry stouts, hazies, and crispy lagers. John Harris is a master of the brown porter, so much so that no one else in town need even attempt it! I feel lucky to be able to find this reliably around Portland, fresh, all the time.” — Ben Edmunds, Breakside Brewery

Pilsner Urquell

Style: Czech Pilsner
ABV: 4.4%
Brewery Location: Plzen, Czech Republic
“It’s refreshing and crisp, yet has enough of a malt backbone to keep it interesting. The grassy, floral hop aroma is inviting but doesn’t dull the senses as many hoppy beers are likely to do. Amazingly it makes it to the U.S. in pretty good shape, too!” — Patrick Rue, The Bruery

North Coast Tart Cherry Berliner Weiss

Style: Berliner Weiss
ABV: 4.1%
Brewery Location: Fort Bragg, California
“They blend in Montmorency cherry juice which gives it a balanced acidity, delicate aroma and a beautiful color. It is low in alcohol, very sessionable and delicious; three of the things I always look for in a beer.” — Fal Allen, Anderson Valley Brewing Company

Mayflower Porter

Style: Porter
ABV: 5.2%
Brewery Location: Plymouth, Massachusetts
“We fly through 5.5 percent stouts and porters on tap, but no one really talks about these beers and they are even becoming tough to find in a liquor store. These are malt-driven beers with no donuts, hamburgers, vanilla, yuzu or any other odd ingredient, classic but thoroughly flavorful beers with traditional ingredients. A seasonal beer that people seem to gulp down in a bar setting while talking with friends, who are likely not checking them in on Untappd.” — Mark Sigman, Relic Brewing Company

Georgetown Bodhizafa

Style: IPA
ABV: 6.9%
Brewery Location: Seattle, Washington
“Locally, people know this beer hits all the marks for an IPA: It’s balanced, fruit forward, consistent, and clean, but it’s neither west coast or hazy [and] juicy. Even despite winning a gold at GABF for American IPA a few years ago, I don’t think that many people are aware of the beer or even the brewery outside of [the Northwest].” — Steve Luke, Cloudburst Brewing Company

Birra Moretti La Rossa

Style: Doppelbock
ABV: 7.2%
Brewery Location: San Giorgio di Nogaro, Italy
“While regular Birra Moretti is a relatively bland industrialized lager, the La Rossa is a wonderful German-style doppelbock made in Italy. Clear, malty, and bitter enough to balance the sweetness. It arrives in the United States in very good condition and not as oxidized and old tasting as most of the doppelbocks from Germany and it is relatively easy to find.” — Ashleigh Carter, Bierstadt Lagerhaus

Brauerei C. & A. Veltins Pilsener

Style: German Pilsner
ABV: 4.8%
Brewery Location: Meschede-Grevenstein, Germany
“As much as I love a good hoppy IPA or a robust, malty beer, sometimes I just want something crisp, light, and refreshing. Veltins Pilsener is my go to beer when I need a palate break. It’s crisp and light without being tasteless. I love the hint of malt sweetness and grassy, floral hop bite.” — Robyn Schumacher, Stoup Brewing Company

Fullers London Pride

Style: English Bitter
ABV: 4.1%
Brewery Location: London, England
“I was born close to the brewery and worked for many years close to it, driving past it every day. It exudes London—ester forward British yeast, smooth British caramel malt, and earthy hops. Such a sessionable beer, born in (parti-gyle) tradition.” — Adam Robbings, Reuben’s Brews

Schilling Schlaumeier

Style: Hefeweizen
ABV: 4.8%
Brewery Location: Littleton, New Hampshire
“There is a large amount of effort and love put into brewing this style to pull out the nuance in each batch. The goal is to balance the delicate phenolic clove and spiced flavors mixed with bold esters of banana and bubblegum notes. [This is] my personal favorite.” — Chris Naro, Throwback Brewery

Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier

Style: Rauchbier
ABV: 5.1%
Brewery Location: Bamberg, Germany
“I think a largely unappreciated category of beer is smoked beer. And of course, the high water mark for the category has got to be Schlenkerla. I was fortunate enough to visit them at the source in Bamberg this past summer. And it was lovely to see dozens of locals drinking it as their local beer… like no big deal. Smoke and all.” — Scott Smith, East End Brewing Company

The Alchemist Heady Topper

Style: Double IPA
ABV: 8%
Brewery Location: Stowe, VT
“[John] Kimmich inspired so many of us along the way that people often consider it a trailblazer forgetting how perfectly it balances all the aspects of what an American IPA has come to mean. Blowing out different palate [and] aromatic components of an IPA is fun and wonderful, blowing them all out, and remaining tight, that far out is art.” — Augie Carton, Carton Brewing Company

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

Style: Pale Ale
ABV: 5.6%
Brewery Location: Chico, California
“I think some folks have lost touch with (or have never known) how good the old school guys make beer. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale was the beer that opened my eyes to the magic of hops back in the ‘90s. These guys have been pounding out liquid forever and still put out the same great beer day after day. Everyone should have one every now and then, if for no other reason than as a way to say thanks to Mr. Grossman.” — Mike Halker, Due South Brewing Company

Brasserie Dupont Saison Dupont

Style: Saison
ABV: 6.5%
Brewery Location: Leuze-en-Hainaut, Belgium
“Saison Dupont, a beer born before the current era of fervent rating culture, generally available, packaged in a bottle and a style that generates as much chatter as… things that generate no chatter. It’s wonderfully drinkable, dry and lightly funky, shining with its namesake yeast character and green bottle must. It’s effervescent, crisp and just tasty AF bro.” — Basil Lee, Finback Brewery

North Coast Old Stock Ale

Style: Old Ale
ABV: 10.2%
Brewery Location: Fort Bragg, California
“At least out here, North Coast Old Stock doesn’t get the attention it deserves. It’s a bottle shop sleeper, and becomes something really special after aging for a few years. I’ve been picking some up annually since I’ve been a brewer, and it’s always fun to crack a dusty one from the back of the cellar.” — Seth Morton, Jackie O’s Brewery

Matt Brewing Utica Club

Style: Pilsner
ABV: 5.0%
Brewery Location: Utica, New York
“I like beers that are refreshing in nature, with fewer frills, great core ingredients, and flawless execution. Utica Club is produced by a great family-run business, supported by a community of wonderful employees. It has a timeless quality that speaks to a variety of beer enthusiasts.” — Andrew Hausman, Ithaca Beer Company

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

Why Sierra Nevada Pale Ale Is Still the Perfect Everyday Beer

John Walker was tired of O’Douls dominating the non-alcoholic beer space, so he made a challenger. The head brewer at Athletic Brewing Co. and fellow cofounder Bill Shufelt homebrewed hundreds of batches of what became their Golden Ale to perfect their zero-ABV brews. Instead of using macrobrews as a reference, Walker entrenches himself and his brewery firmly within classic American craft styles. That experience informs Walker’s own tastes. From classic American Pale Ales to boundary-pushing bourbon barrel-aged stouts, here’s what he drinking nowadays.

Favorite Everyday Beer: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Pale Ale

ABV: 5.6%
Beer Style: American Pale Ale
Availability: National, year-round
“Just an all-time favorite: full flavored, balanced, complex sessionable classic that is as consistent as it gets. This was my true introduction to quality suds — the beer I drank with my dad as opposed to the garbage my sisters’s peers brought over in college. He would throw one back after a run and then give me a couple sips and yammer on about how refreshing and nutritional beer can be… you know, before carbs were a curse word. It is still perfect and is still the gold standard for quality.”

Grail Beer: Avery Brewing Co. Tweak

ABV: 14.7%
Beer Style: Bourbon barrel-aged coffee stout
Availability: Limited, seasonal
“It is just obscene: huge, alcoholic, toasty, coffee, bourbon, warming and absolutely delicious. Perfect to drink on dark winter nights or with your laser-building-applied-mathematician-friends (my introduction to the beer). A level of complexity that most brewers can only hope to attain in a full and fruitful career. Think fur coat, fire, chocolate sauce and some heavy metal. If you can find one, get it.”

Best Beer You Drank Recently: Second Street Brewery 2920 IPA

ABV: 7.3%
Beer Style: IPA
Availability: Local, year-round
“It is the brightest and most refreshing IPA out there — super pale yet complex pils malt character with a wild, diesely, tropical, oily goodness from an incredible portfolio of Northwest and New Zealand hops. My friends and mentors at my old stomping grounds are killing it with this SoCal-inspired IPA. It is a perfect example of how to utilize non-traditional ingredients to create a super unique product in a market saturated with amazing competition. Perfect for those beautiful New Mexico mountain sunsets.”

The Beer That Changed Things for You: La Cumbre Brewing Co. Elevated IPA

ABV: 7.2%
Beer Style: IPA
Availability: Local, year-round
“It was one of the first craft IPAs that made me realize you can marry traditional ingredients, new school techniques and a load of passion to refresh and elevate classic styles. One of the best IPAs ever.”

Why Coors Banquet Is the Perfect Everyday Beer

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Since 2012, Nick Nunns of TRVE has made beers that aim to go “beyond the pale” (a fancy way of saying it’s not just IPAs), and his own tastes run the spectrum from classic macro-lagers to Belgian-style icons. Here’s what he’s drinking nowadays. Read the Story

Ryan Brower serves as a Project Coordinator for Editorial Operations and also writes about beer and surfing for Gear Patrol. He lives in Brooklyn, loves the ocean and almost always has a film camera handy.

More by Ryan Brower | Follow on Instagram · Contact via Email

The Best Bourbons You Can Buy for Less than $100

There was a time when drinkers thought spending more than $50 on a bottle of bourbon was pretty insane. This was before the bourbon boom, mind you. Nowadays people buy rare bottles that cost as much as a used car. But the hesitation remains: there are so many great bottles of bourbon that cost $30 or $40 that it seems a tough sell to spend twice that on anything at all.

It’s not a bad point. Except for a few exceptions. These are the bottles we’ll splurge on, occasionally, when our bonus rolls in or a big deal goes through. Just don’t tell anyone we’ve got them. We’re not sharing.

Stagg Jr.

Distillery: Buffalo Trace
Proof: ~133
Price: $60-$70
Boy Wonder: It’s a younger version of the renowned George T. Stagg bottle — and good luck finding that one. The Jr.-version is hot as hell, with lots of flavors to boot. If you like that sort of thing, and are hunting the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, it’s a good treat.

Henry McKenna 10 Year Single Barrel

Distillery: Heaven Hill
Proof: 100
Price: $99
A Real Winner: If you’re a whiskey fan, pray your favorite bottle doesn’t win any big awards. Before it won Best In Show, Whiskey at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition this year, McKenna 10 went for $35; now it’s good for about $99. Still, maybe you can find it at the right price and try a winner.

Barrell Bourbon

Distillery: Various sourced
Proof: Varies
Price: $90+
League of Its Own: It’s a standout for several reasons, the first of which is it’s not distilled, blended or bottled by one of the Big Four distilleries. Instead, founder Joe Beatrice and master distiller Tripp Stimson create new blends using sourced whiskies from Indiana, Kentucky and beyond. Several of their bourbons are less than $100; for the right bourbon lover, trying their blends is worth the splurge.

Maker’s Mark Cask Strength

Distillery: Jim Beam
Proof: 108-114
Price: $50-$55
Wheater Wonder: If you love Maker’s Mark and Maker’s 46, this is the logical splurge for you. There’s much to be said for the smoothness that a wheater imparts, even at big, bold, barrel proof. And it’s available in a 375mL bottle — a “sampler” size that helps the wallet.

Blanton’s Single Barrel

Distillery: Buffalo Trace
Proof: 93
Price: $80
History in a Bottle: Come for the collectible stopper, stay for the sexy flavor profile. Whiskey historians point to Blanton’s as one of the first single-barrel bourbons. It’s got history, a gimmick and delicious notes of spice and sweetness. What’s not to love?

Elijah Craig Cask Strength

Distillery: Heaven Hill
Proof: Varies by batch
Price: $65
Worthy Investment: The price of this barrel-proof gem has crept up steadily over the years (Breaking Bourbon reports that it started out at $35 when it was first released!) but it’s still a solid deal, and one of the best barrel-strength splurge bottles on the market.

Booker’s

Distillery: Jim Beam
Proof: 128.5
Price: $70
Flavor Bomb: Do not mess around with this bourbon. Jim Beam’s highest-proof whiskey is an absolute explosion of big-bourbon flavors. And if you drink it willy-nilly, you’ll wake up somewhere you don’t recognize.

Noah’s Mill

Distillery: Unknown (Willett, sourced)
Proof: 114.3
Price: $60
Soaring High: We agree that Willett is for diehards. Their sourced stuff gets big respect; while you can’t afford their Red Hook Rye (it goes for more than $1,000), you can splurge on their Noah’s Mill, with its huge 114.3 proof. It’s a fun exercise in tasting what the respected blenders there have collected over the years from great old stocks of bourbon.

W.L. Weller 12 Year

Distillery: Buffalo Trace
Proof: 90
Price: $100+
Pappy Potential: Being baby Pappy is a blessing and a curse. Yes, it’s true that it’s blended using younger versions of nearly the same juice that eventually ends up in the Pappy Van Winkle line. But in the overhyped bourbon market, that connection sometimes balloons its cost from MSRP ($30) to upwards of $200. Still, you might find it for less than $100, if you’re lucky — and it is tasty.

Four Roses Single Barrel Cask Strength

Distillery: Four Roses
Proof: Varies
Price: $70
Mixed Bag: Four Roses uses five different strains of yeast and multiple mashbills in its blended whiskey. This is your chance to try a honey barrel; there have been different releases over the year, depending on which mashbill and yeast strain was in the barrel.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

5 New Bottles of Whiskey We’re Dying to Try in 2020

A treasure trove of interesting and lesser-known whiskeys was unveiled and lost in the hubbub of the decade’s closing. From a bourbon brand’s first-ever rye to an indie whiskey landing on more shelves, here are five of the most intriguing bottles of brown to hunt down in the new year.

Old Forester Single Barrel (Barrel Proof)

Before your hopes get up, allow me to crush them: Old Forester is not releasing a single barrel product at retail. The brand just announced it’s bettering its existing private barrel program, which allows store owners to purchase a single barrel to bottle and sell at their store.

What’s new: Old Forester Single Barrel bottlings will now be available in 100 proof and barrel proof offerings instead of its former 90 proofing. The brand says it’s doing to sate “demand from bourbon fans, bartenders and distributors that are looking for a higher-proof and unique flavor profile.” The 100 proof bottles are priced at $50 while the barrel proof sit at $80. You’ll also be able to buy bottles at Old Forester’s Visitor’s Center in Louisville.

Elijah Craig Rye

At first glance, Elijah Craig Rye makes no sense. It’s a bourbon brand that’s routinely turned out some of the best whiskeys in America for decades. Then you realize Heaven Hill, the company behind Elijah Craig, is among the most respected rye producers in the country. Heaven Hill Distillery’s Rittenhouse ($25) and Pikesville ($50) ryes are both in contention for best-in-class in their own categories, and the Elijah Craig rye shares some of their DNA. Made of a mashbill of 51 percent rye, 35 percent corn and 14 percent malted barley, it’s only a couple percentage points off its predecessors (plus, according to Heaven Hill, it’s made with older whiskey, too).

Bad news: availability is limited to North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Oregon at launch, with rollout beginning later this month. The suggested retail price is $30.

High West American Single Malt

If Japan and Scotland have trademark single malts, why don’t we? That’s the question hundreds of American distillers have been asking and attempting to remedy for a few years now, and one High West answered for itself in typically weird High West fashion. It’s a blend of whiskeys matured between 2 and 9 years, some of which are peated and some aren’t, and part of the blend is finished in port wine barrels. It’s launching exclusively in Utah for $80. For more American Single Malt variants, check the American Single Malt Commission’s member list.

Wilderness Trail Bottled-in-Bond Single Barrel

This isn’t new whiskey, but it’s going to be new to most people. Based in Danville, Ky., Wilderness Trail is an independent whiskey darling, and starting late winter 2020, it’ll be available in Ca., Wa., Nv. and Tx. on top of the states it already has shelf space in (check this map for details). Wilderness Trail first gained notoriety for successfully operating as a sweet mash whiskey making outlet, which turned the heads of whiskey luminaries like Fred Minnick and Chuck Cowdery.

Larceny Barrel Proof

Retailing around $25 and available all the time, regular old Larceny has shared the title of best entry-level wheated bourbon with Maker’s Mark for years. Starting this month, you’ll be able to drink it a staggering 30-plus proof points higher. Heaven Hill says the Barrel Proof variant will release thrice yearly and will retail for $50.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

Will Price is Gear Patrol’s home and drinks editor. He’s from Atlanta and lives in Brooklyn. He’s interested in bourbon, houseplants, cheap Japanese pens, and cast-iron skillets — maybe a little too much.

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The Best Bourbon Whiskeys You Can Buy for $100 and Up

So, you want to spend more than $100 on a bourbon. Great! This is your right. (If you haven’t tried the army of great bourbons for less than $50 or $25, you should probably start there first.) There are loads of “high-end” bourbons to choose from. Since the bourbon boom in the early 2000s, a whole marketplace of very expensive bourbons has exploded, despite dismay from thrifty collectors, incredulity from the old guard and downright legal actions against the burgeoning black market.

Here’s what you need to know: at this price point, buying bourbon becomes a lot more like buying collectible Air Jordans: it’s a lot more about supply and demand than it is quality and value for your dollar. But fear not. These are the ones we’d give an arm and a leg for, if we decided to splurge.

The Pappys

Distillery: Buffalo Trace
Proof: varies
Price: $250 – $2,000+
The Legends: The “Pappy Suite” is the most recognizable name in expensive bourbon. It was first sold by its namesake’s son and grandson in the 1980s, who had bought up sweet barrels from shuttered distilleries like Stitzel-Weller; in the early 2000s, just after its hype train really started rolling, the Van Winkles turned over its production and bottling to Buffalo Trace. Today they sell five consistently (plus a well-loved rye): the 10- and 12-year olds, which are technically not “Pappy” but are still pretty great, and the 15, 20, and 23 year old versions. Good luck finding those last three for under a grand.

Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond

Distillery: Heaven Hill
Proof: 100
Price: $150+
Corn, Meet Wheat: Heaven Hill’s top-end beauty is a corn-and-wheat-forward monster they release twice a year. Age statements vary, but in the past it tended to be around 10 years; the 2019 spring edition, however, was 13 years old—and the fall edition a whopping 15.

Buffalo Trace Antique Collection

Distillery: Buffalo Trace
Proof: varies
Price: $250+
Top Dogs: “Pappy” might have the catchier name, but it’s the members of the “BTAC” (Buffalo Trace Antique Collection) that really make collectors’ eyes light up. Between Eagle Rare 17 (the elder statesmen of the bunch), William Larue Weller (a wheated beauty) and George T Stagg (15 years, barrel proof, the older brother of Stagg Jr.) — not to mention the other non-bourbon members of the club, Sazerac Rye 18 and Thomas H Handy Sazerac — these are some of the undisputed top dogs in American whiskey, with the sweetest juice from BT to be found on the market.

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon

Distillery: TK
Proof: varies
Price: $300+
Happy Birthday to You: Bourbon’s best birthday tradition belongs to Brown-Foreman, which every year marks the birthday of its founder, George Garvin Brown, with the best it’s got. The Birthday Bourbons I’ve tasted have had wildly interesting flavor profiles, full of spice. Delicious.

Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel

Distillery: Buffalo Trace
Proof: 90
Price: $200+
Single Barrel Benchmark: While Elmer T. Lee was a master distiller at Buffalo Trace for nearly four decades, he helped popularize the single-barrel bourbon. His namesake bourbon from BT is perhaps the purest example of the beautiful, surprising flavors that come from a single barrel of the best juice.

Michter’s 10 Year

Distillery: Sourced
Proof: varies
Price: $125+
New Kid on the Block: People love this new kid on the block. Michter’s, a distillery based in Pennsylvania that went bankrupt in 1989, was re-imagined in Joe Magliocco in the 1990s and early 2000s, and great whiskey has accompanied the name since. They opened their massive Shively Distillery a few years back, which means this 10-year-old is sourced, like their other whiskeys, for now.

Weller CYPB

Distillery: Buffalo Trace
Proof: 95
Price: $250+
The Crowd Favorite: Back in 2015, Buffalo Trace launched a creative and relatively innocuous interactive website feature: fans could answer six questions (which mashbill? How to make it? Light or dark char barrel? Where to store the barrel in the rickhouse? How long to age? What bottling proof?). Then, two years later, they “used the input” to “create” what they said drinkers had asked for: CYPB, or “Craft Your Perfect Bourbon,” a wheater aged 8 years and bottled at 95 proof. As some reviewers noted, it’s incredible that they made an eight-year-old bourbon in just under three years — but regardless, it’s a cool special edition that continues to be sought out.

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An Obscure Whiskey Made by Sneakerheads Is One of the Best Things I Drank Last Month

Every month, a huge amount of booze moves through the Gear Patrol offices — beer, wine and a whole lot of whiskey. Here are a few of our favorites.

Wolves Whiskey Winter Run

Wolves Whiskey was launched by streetwear figures James Bond of Undefeated and Jon Buscemi as an experiment into hype culture in the whiskey world. The brand drops bottles in limited quantities every few months, and its second release, dubbed Winter Run, doesn’t disappoint. Distilled and aged at Charbay Distillery, it’s a blend of whiskeys made from stout beer, pilsners, rye and malted barley aged in both American oak and French oak barrels. It sounds muddled and confusing, but it tastes bittersweet chocolate and oranges.

Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout

It’s officially stout season. And there’s no better stout to warm yourself with than Goose Island’s Bourbon County Brand Stout. While some of the rarer variants are really good this year (the Double Barrel and the 2-Year are incredible), they’re also near-impossible to find. The flagship Brand Stout is available just about everywhere though and offers notes of chocolate fudge, almond and leather with a rich mouthfeel. Aged in Heaven Hill, Buffalo Trace, and Wild Turkey barrels, it clocks in at 15 percent ABV and is the perfect remedy for a cold winter’s eve.

Deschutes Brewery Fresh Funk Wild IPA

An IPA you can age? While that may sound like the exact opposite of what you should be doing with a beer that relies on hop character, Fresh Funk Wild IPA from Deschutes Brewery utilizes the Brettanomyces yeast strain that’s more commonly found in wild fermentation beers. Do not be mistaken though: Fresh Funk is not a Sour IPA. Using Simcoe, El Dorado and Amarillo hops means it still carries plenty of citrusy, tropical notes. And the wild fermentation portion comes through more like a dry, Brut IPA to mellow out any sourness you’d might expect. It clocks in at 6.2 percent ABV and just released, so you may not be able to find this one just yet. But if you come across, we highly recommend it.

Proteau Ludlow Red

Momofuku vet John deBary crafted a non-alcoholic aperitif that I can’t stop drinking. It’s made up of a bunch of different bontanicals, but blackberry and black pepper are the most vibrant. Most importantly, it’s not overly sweet. I can drink it slowly over ice, I can mix it with vodka and I can go halvsies with club soda for an extremely funky highball. Buy it.

Westward Oregon Stout Cask American Single Malt Whiskey

Christian Krogstad takes his Oregon distillery’s fully matured American Single Malt Whiskey and dumps it into barrels that previously housed stout beers for another year of aging. The result is a malty, caramelly, bready, chocolatey flavor bomb. It’ll be tough to track down bottles in states outside the brand’s distribution range, but it’s worth a shot if you see it in the wild.

Bearded Iris Brewing x Threes Brewing Dreams of Tomorrow

If you’re not drinking dark lagers let this be your notice to start doing so. When done right, the style is a balance of a crisp lager and a dark, roasted malt porter — maybe even a little smokiness to finish things off. One of the newest additions to the style is this collaboration between Bearded Iris Brewing of Tennessee and Threes Brewing of New York City. Brewed with Czech malt, Saaz hops and oyster shells, this intricately balanced dark lager offers a subtle roasty malt and a faint hint of minerality and smoke on the finish. At 5 percent ABV it’s one you can enjoy a couple of on a cold evening and feel as smooth as the calm sea on a flat winter’s day.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

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The Best Whiskey of 2019 Is a $36 Bottle You’ve Never Heard of

Announced last week, Whisky Advocate’s best whiskey of 2019 is George Dickel Bottled in Bond Tennessee Whisky. Scratching your head? You’re not the only one.

Released in limited quantities early in the summer, it’s a 13-year-old whiskey from a distillery that’s not on many radars. George Dickel is a large Tennessee whiskey-making operation, but it exists in the shadow of the state’s whiskey champion, Jack Daniel’s. On top of that, the bottle was released early in the summer, which is traditionally a semi-dry period for heavy-hitting whiskey releases.

That all said, there wasn’t a whiskey released this year — or in recent years — that looks better by the numbers. George Dickel’s award-getting expression is aged for 13 years, cut to a sturdy 100 proof and sold for $36. That is unheard of in today’s whiskey market and would’ve been a steal almost a decade ago, too. “Such bargains result because Tennessee whiskey lives in the shadow of bourbon, which can easily command three or four times the price at this age.” Jeffery Lindenmuth explains in Whisky Advocate’s writeup. Lindenmuth suggests the whiskey leans heavy into peanuts, fruit and chocolatey flavors.

The unveiling of the magazine’s top whiskey of the year coincides with a release of its greater top 20 list, which includes other 2019 heavyweights like Four Roses’ Small Batch Select, Heaven Hill’s updated Bottled-in-Bond and the new-and-improved Baker’s Bourbon.

Will Price is Gear Patrol’s home and drinks editor. He’s from Atlanta and lives in Brooklyn. He’s interested in bourbon, houseplants, cheap Japanese pens and cast-iron skillets — maybe a little too much.

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