Each year we taste and review hundreds of American whiskeys, which are predominantly bourbons but also include ryes, malts, finished whiskeys, and other classifications of American-made whiskeys. Our annual “Best Whiskeys of the Year” series features four categories: “Best Finished,” “Best Rye,” “Best American Whiskey,” and “Best Bourbon,” finally culminating with our overall #1 Whiskey of the Year.
Our Best Whiskeys of 2022 start with those we have reviewed in the current year and rated 3.5 barrels or higher, but are not based purely on our initial tasting and individual rating. Instead, we retaste and discuss this wide range of whiskeys extensively. We ask questions, such as is the whiskey exciting, memorable, unique, and most importantly, how does it compare to the rest of the field for the year. We look for whiskeys that move us, and dig into whiskeys that may be off the beaten path. While availability and price are factors, they are not absolute. The intent is to highlight the whiskeys of the year that stand out the most to us, even if they might be difficult to obtain - and the reason we maintain evergreen “Best of” lists to highlight more readily accessible whiskeys (which will see updates at the beginning of 2023). Ultimately, we must agree on which whiskeys make the list, and which do not - combining the diversity of our different palates.
Hailing far away from Kentucky, Corbin Cash is produced by Corbin Cash Sprits out of Atwater, California. The company’s standard Merced Rye is nice, however, ramping the proof up by 33 points certainly transforms it into a beasty barrel-proof rye. Corbin Cash 1917 Merced Rye Barrel Proof delivers silky sweet and spicy flavors that pack a punch, and a sip that is everything you want out of a rye. While the finish is on the drier side, it's not a negative, as it still competes head-to-head with the best whiskeys of the year. A 100% rye mashbill is a rare thing to see, and Corbin Cash 1917 Merced Rye Barrel Proof shows that when done right, you end up with a really intriguing sip that shows the distilling prowess of Corbin Cash Spirits.
Sazerac 18 Year Rye has been trying to find its footing ever since 2016 when the brand moved away from the famed “steel tanked” batch that it originally built its name off of. The past few years have produced fine pours often ranging from just average to above average but the rye was never able to arise to the same level that it once was. It’s safe to say that Sazerac 18 Year is back to its old form this year, thanks to a sip that is full of light and sweet flavors along with well-defined classic aged rye characteristics. The 18 years it spent in the barrel is evident, offering a nice depth of flavors yet never coming across as over-oaked. Sazerac 18 Year (2022) offers a well-balanced and integrated sip from start to finish that excites you with the fact that it's back, and the future once again looks very bright for this brand.
America’s Dairyland might be known for its cheese, but it turns out Wisconsin can produce a mighty fine rye whiskey if they put their mind to it. And this one caught us by surprise. Distilled by Yahara Bay Distillers, which opened in 2007, this 8-year-old, 95% rye, 147+ proof rye was selected and bottled by independent bottler Two Souls Spirits, and bottled as a single barrel under their label. Part of their two barrel inaugural release, the unofficial tasting notes of “HOLY @$#&” written on the bottle’s back label isn’t just fun, it’s also spot on. While it is a straightforward rye, its combination of intensity and drinkability brings with it a WOW factor that fans of high proof, high rye rye whiskeys will absolutely love. Two Souls Spirits Wisconsin Straight Rye highlights the capability of Yahara Bay Distillers to create a fantastic Wisconsin Rye whiskey and Two Souls Spirits ability to discover and highlight it.
If taste buds could howl, Wolves Rye Project Batch 2 would wake up the whole neighborhood. This 114.7 proof blend of ryes - one from Willett Distillery and the other from a distillery in Indiana - is spicy and intense in the right kind of way. Blending 6 and 7 year old rye whiskeys with 51% and 74% rye mashbills, this one-off project from Wolves is packaged in an eye-catching bottle that prominently bears the Willett Distillery family crest. Its uniquely effervescent aroma is followed by rich flavors of raisin, stone fruit, and anise, finally culminating in a gripping wave of rye spice. The whiskey’s age isn’t the focus here, and it’s not finished in any other type of barrel that might distract you. Instead, Wolves Rye Project - Vol. One, Batch 2 is a straightforward, modestly aged rye whiskey that’s spot on when it comes to delivering a quintessential rye flavor profile.