From the simple combination of grain, water, and yeast, distillers yield a stunningly complex array of spirits. We’re talking, of course, about the world of whiskey. And it is a veritable planet, with single nations producing myriad styles, and distillers planting flags in each of the metaphorical corners of the globe.
While it’s hard, if not impossible, to reduce each style and nation down to one definitive example, certain bottles serve as shining ambassadors for their categories. Catering to every budget, palate, and drinking occasion, here are 15 of the best whiskeys to drink in 2022.
The World’s Best Whiskey
- Best Bourbon: Knob Creek 12 Year Old Bourbon
- Best Rye: Frey Ranch Straight Rye Whiskey
- Best Single Malt Scotch: Oban 14 Year Old West Highland Single Malt Whisky
- Best Blended Scotch: Johnnie Walker 18 Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky
- Best Irish Whiskey: Green Spot Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey
- Best Canadian Whisky: Crown Royal Noble Collection Rye Aged 16 Years
- Best Japanese Whisky: The Hakushu Single Malt Japanese Whisky Aged 12 Years
- Best ‘New World’ Whiskey: Stauning Floor Malted Rye Whisky
- Best Peated Scotch: Bowmore 15 Years Old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky
- Best Single Barrel Whiskey: 1792 Single Barrel Bourbon
- Best Barrel-Proof Whiskey: Elijah Craig Small Batch Barrel Proof Bourbon
- Best Cask Finished Whiskey: Barrell Craft Spirits Seagrass Rye Whiskey
- Best Budget Whiskey: Larceny Kentucky Straight Very Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey
- Best Splurge Whiskey: Mortlach 20 Year Old Cowie’s Blue Seal Single Malt Scotch Whisky
- Best Limited-Edition Whiskey: Maker’s Mark Wood Finishing Series Bourbon
Best Bourbon: Knob Creek 12 Year Old Bourbon
With an average price of close to $70, this release doesn’t qualify as an everyday sipper for most drinkers. Yet so enticing and characterful is its profile that you might struggle to reach for anything else in your bourbon collection after buying a bottle. At 12 years old and 50 percent ABV, it finds a powerful yet balanced sweet spot, overdelivering on age and quality compared with similarly priced bottles (as well as many that fetch more money and garner more attention). Average price: $68.
Best Rye: Frey Ranch Straight Rye Whiskey
These are exciting times for rye whiskey, especially among the nation’s smaller-scale producers. Among them all — large and small — none capture the spicy, savory, herbaceous essence of the grain in distilled form as purely and attractively as Nevada’s Frey Ranch Distillery. A bonafide grain to grass release, this producer grows all the winter cereal used in this 100 percent rye whiskey, and the finished product is undeniably worth the effort. Average price: $66.
Best Single Malt Scotch: Oban 14 Year Old West Highland Single Malt Whisky
Produced in the small port town of the same name, Oban 14 Year Old delivers the rich, fruity profile commonly associated with Highland malts. With a spray of salty seawater and a wisp of smoke, this release also hints at the distillates more often produced on the Scottish Isles. Consider this a stunning and expressive single malt that offers the best of both worlds. Average price: $89.
Best Blended Scotch: Johnnie Walker 18 Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky
As the second child in the Johnnie Walker family, many might look past this 18-year-old release in favor of the brand’s iconic Blue Label bottling. Where value for money is concerned, this could be considered a mistake. With an average price of around half its elder sibling’s, this expression comes exceedingly close in terms of quality, complexity, and depth of flavor, delivering a greatest hits of the many styles of Scotch in one harmonious blend. Average price: $91.
Best Irish Whiskey: Green Spot Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey
Ireland’s native single pot still style offers a unique experience within the whiskey world, delivering rich, cereal-forward sips with complex texture. Made using a blend of 7- and 10-year-old distillates, Green Spot is a shining example of the style, captivating the senses with oaty, dried fruit aromas, rich banana notes, and playful tannic spice on the palate. Average price: $64.
Best Canadian Whisky: Crown Royal Noble Collection Rye Aged 16 Years
While age statements neither equate to nor guarantee quality, it’s worth stating how remarkable it is that this 16-year-old release carries an average price of just $76. Though admittedly still not cheap, the extensive time in barrel has produced a dazzling array of aromas and flavors, ranging from kettle corn and violets to sweet pepper spice and toasted oak. Average price: $76.
Best Japanese Whisky: The Hakushu Single Malt Japanese Whisky Aged 12 Years
The youngest and most available expression from Suntory’s Hakushu line, this release still arrives with a hefty price tag — but such is the nature of shopping for high-quality Japanese whisky. Stump up for a bottle and rest assured that the liquid inside will deliver considerable consolation. Delicately peated, this single malt serves tantalizing smokiness that weaves wonderfully among savory notes of herbal green tea. Orchard and stone fruit provide a robust, attractive, fruity core. Average price: $204.
Best ‘New World’ Whiskey: Stauning Floor Malted Rye Whisky
Made to the same specifications as American rye whiskey, Stauning uses locally sourced grains, floor malting, and pot distillation for this remarkable Danish release. Stylistically, its profile mimics Nordic cuisine, with notes of caraway seeds defining its personality-rich nose and palate. Bottled at 3 years old, it delivers complexity well beyond its age. Average price: $80.
Best Peated Scotch: Bowmore 15 Years Old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky
The quintessential crowd-pleaser, Bowmore 15 effuses enough smokiness to entice peat lovers while also serving a profile that’s approachable for those new to the style. A prominent characteristic though it is, smoke is but one feather in this single malt’s cap. Expect vibrant aromas of red berries and violets, followed by the rich, powerful character of dried fruits and honeyed nuts on the palate. Average price: $90.
Best Single Barrel Whiskey: 1792 Single Barrel Bourbon
This single barrel release is produced at Buffalo Trace’s Barton 1792 Distillery in Bardstown, Ky. Sure to please those who enjoy their bourbon on the decadent side, it opens with nutty, caramelized banana aromas, then follows with toasted oak and a touch of rye spice. Each sweet, concentrated sip coats the palate in a warm, flavorful embrace. Average price: $53.
Best Barrel-Proof Whiskey: Elijah Craig Small Batch Barrel Proof Bourbon
Heaven Hill treats fans of high-octane, cask-strength whiskey to three annual Elijah Craig releases, each distinguished by different letter and number combinations like A121 and B519. Arriving at 120-plus proof, these bourbons are intensely aromatic with an endless depth of flavors on the palate. Add a single large ice cube and enjoy as the whiskey develops with slow dilution in the glass. Average price: $78.
Best Cask-Finished Whiskey: Barrell Craft Spirits Seagrass Rye Whiskey
The term “cask-finished” is something of an understatement for this release. Where most whiskeys made in this style spend a final resting period in used wine or spirits barrels, this expression sees Indiana, Tennessee, and Canadian rye whiskeys finished separately in rhum agricole, apricot brandy, and Madeira casks. The influence of each vessel shines in the final blend, though the distinct character of rye also persists. Average price: $90.
Best Budget Whiskey: Larceny Kentucky Straight Very Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey
As a wheated bourbon, this is not only a budget-friendly option but one that arrives with an approachable flavor profile. At the $20-ish price point, most whiskeys typically don’t offer much beyond their suitability for cocktails. Larceny Small Batch proves a reliable, enjoyable, and modestly complex sipper. It also mixes a mean Whiskey Sour. Average price: $24.
Best Splurge Whiskey: Mortlach 20 Year Old Cowie’s Blue Seal Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Mortlach’s Speyside single malts are notable for a number of reasons, including arriving without the influence of peat, being distilled 2.81 times, and the fact that they form one of the components of the Johnnie Walker Blue blend. This release is also notable for being absolutely superb and carrying a dazzling array of flavors and aromas that span the spectrum of fruit, flowers, nuts, spices, and oak. Heavy sherry cask influence ensures each sip lands and finishes as smooth as a ride in a Rolls Royce. Average price: $240.
Best Limited-Edition Whiskey: Maker’s Mark Wood Finishing Series Bourbon
Launched in 2019, Maker’s Mark’s Wood Finishing Series sees mature, cask-strength whiskey finished in barrels containing different wooden staves, then aged for a further period in the distillery’s limestone cellar. The combination of staves is different for each release, with one each arriving in 2019 and 2020, and two in 2021. The process has a profound influence on the final profile of the bourbon, and the release remains obtainable at close to MSRP. With last year’s first bottling, FAE01, clinching the No. 1 spot in VinePair’s annual 50 Best Spirits ranking, to say we’re excited for what 2022 will bring is an understatement. Average price: $65.
What is the smoothest whiskey?
What is the best whiskey?
Based on tastings of hundreds of whiskeys from around the world this year, the best bourbon is Knob Creek 12 Year Old Bourbon. The best rye is Frey Ranch Straight Rye Whiskey. The best single malt Scotch is Oban 14 Year Old West Highland Single Malt Whisky. The best Irish whiskey is Green Spot Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey. The best Japanese whisky is The Hakushu Single Malt Japanese Whisky Aged 12 Years. The best Canadian whisky is Crown Royal Noble Collection Rye Aged 16 Years.