It didn’t seem like too long ago when I published my 2020 Best Whiskey Awards. And yet, here we are in December. This year went by so fast! It is already time to review my 2021 awards.
I know, I know, if you’re
only recently enjoying my reviews, you’re likely rolling your eyes and thinking
to yourself, Oh… joy. Another list of
whiskeys that I’ll never be able to taste. As the greatest
clown/philosophizer said many times, Homey don’t play that!
What differentiates my “Best Of” list from most others is that mine is for the average whiskey drinker. What’s
that mean? To begin with, for any whiskey to qualify for one of these awards, it
must meet the following four requirements:
1. It must have been something
I’ve both tasted and reviewed this year. I don’t have a team of tasters who
whittle something down for me to review. It is my palate that you put your
trust in. And, as wonderful as something is, if I wrote about last year and am
still drinking this year, that wouldn’t qualify for this year’s list.
2. It must be fairly reasonable
to get your hands on. I’m not suggesting that you can walk into any liquor
store to find it – the three-tier distribution system makes that impossible. But, it also won’t be something you’d have to sell your soul to
see in person, let alone acquire.
3. It must be reasonably
affordable. I tend to put a ceiling of $150.00 for my awarded whiskeys.
4. It cannot be a store pick. While
these are a fantastic way to taste truly unique whiskeys, the average whiskey
drinker outside of the store’s or club’s locale typically can’t get their hands
on a bottle.
In my opinion, the bottom line is that for “a “Best” Of” list to
have any value, it must contain whiskeys you can actually drink.
Otherwise, what’s the point?
Something else I’ve never
understood is how reviewers can name a Best Whisky/Whiskey of the Year way
before the year is close to over (some publish theirs in September! That's why I wait until mid-December to hand out awards. I can safely say I've found my top whiskeys while still giving you some time to buy presents if you're so inclined.
I also occasionally tweak the
categories. Last year, I added a Please
Santa? Category. It allowed me to point out something genuinely outstanding
that was either extraordinarily difficult to find or way above the average
whiskey drinker’s bankroll. I added a Runner Up to each
category (except Please Santa?) to highlight another excellent option this year. I'll not include links in an attempt to
circumvent social media claiming my annual list is (yet again) clickbait. However, you are welcome to use the search function of my Blog to locate reviews that interest
year, I reviewed somewhere in the neighborhood of 175 whiskeys. While that may
seem like a lot, I've not tasted whiskeys from every available niche. If you don't see something in the category you're interested in, it means I either didn’t drink anything in that category, or if I did, I didn't find anything worthy of “a “Best” Of”
award. Finally, all I care about
is the liquid inside the bottle. It matters not if it is sourced or a brand's own distillate.
And now, let's get to it! Here’s the best of my #DrinkCurious
journey for 2021:
Winner: Barrell Craft Spirits Seagrass
- Date reviewed: March 24,
- Price: $89.99
This is probably the
most unusual whiskey I’ve tried. It was sweet. It was spicy. It was earthy. The
challenge became both exciting and a little frustrating. But, as I experienced
the frustration, I caught myself smiling because the mystifying quality just
worked for whatever reason.
If you’re adventurous
and want to really #DrinkCurious, I’m here to tell you this will stimulate
the heck out of you. Of course, I’m in that camp, which means Seagrass grabs my
coveted Bottle rating.
Runner up: Cat’s Eye Distillery Nassif Family Reserve
- Date reviewed: January 29,
- Price: $39.99
Nassif Family Reserve is
touted as something approachable for beginners yet nuanced enough for more
experienced sippers. Overall, I’d have to agree, although I’m left wondering if
the 107° is a tad too aggressive for newbies. Regardless, I appreciated the
nice balance between sweet and spice. The price offers no real barrier to
entry. Do the math, and this one winds up snagging a Bottle rating.
Winner: Boulder Spirits American Single Malt - Peated
- Date reviewed: August 25,
- Price: $55.00
This is a peated
American Single Malt. There are so few of these out there that they’re special
just by existing. But, this one is also delightful. It is lightly smoked. It is
sweet. It has flavors that naturally transition from one to another. Even if
you don’t like peat, this one is something you can work with. While the cost of
a bottle is about average, there’s nothing average about this whiskey. If you
see it, buy it. American Single Malt - Peated is a slam-dunk Bottle rating.
up: Cedar Ridge The Quintessential American
- Date reviewed: June 25, 2021
- Price: $59.99
The QuintEssential is a
stand-out. I wish more American distilleries tinkered with peat. This American
Single Malt is an excellent introduction because the peat is understated
compared to the rest of this whiskey. I loved the fruitiness, I enjoyed the
complexity, and I wish I could find something to complain about, but I can’t.
Even the price is attractive. This is what American Single Malt should be and a
super-easy Bottle rating.
Winner: Stellum Rye
- Date reviewed: April 14,
- Price: $54.99
I’m not a fan of anise -
at all. And, yet, Stellum managed to make anise work for whatever reason. This
rye is a spice bomb. If you’ve never had American Rye before but have a
preconceived notion of what it would taste like, Stellum Rye fits that bill
All the various spices
mingled as if they were meant to be together (even the anise). The $54.99 price
is more than fair, especially when you consider this is barrel-proof. I’m happy
to convey my coveted Bottle rating for it.
up: Coalition Whiskey Margaux Barriques
- Date reviewed: January 27,
- Price: $89.99
Barriques was, simply put, elegant. I’ve had several wine-finished
whiskeys, and this one is a stand-out. The whiskey is a quality base, and the
wine barrels were top-notch before the two even interacted. There was
absolutely nothing not to like from nose to finish. Even the mouthfeel was luxurious.
The fancy decanter was unnecessary - this could be packaged in a mason jar, and
I would still not have any problem dropping $90.00 on it. Obviously, this grabs
my coveted Bottle rating.
Winner: Remus Repeal Reserve V
- Date reviewed: July 19, 2021
- Price: $89.99
Everything about this
Bourbon was delicious. But strange as this may sound, the luxurious mouthfeel
eclipsed all that. This was easily the best batch of Remus Repeal Reserve I’ve
had, the price is right, and I love the fact it is pretty easy to get your
hands on. This is a slam-dunk Bottle rating. If I had, say, a Case
rating, this would take that.
Blood Oath Pact 7
- Date reviewed: April 26,
- Price: $99.99
All the Blood Oath Pacts
are unique from one another, and of the (now) four I’ve reviewed, I’ve yet to
find a cadaver. While Rempe won’t ever pony up his recipes, he knows what he’s
doing. The more I sip this one, the more I enjoy it. I give props to Lux Row
for keeping the price the same over the years and am happy to have this one in
my library. Pick up a Bottle; you won’t be disappointed.
John Christmas Edition 2021
- Date reviewed: November 5,
- Price: $84.99
This is everything
Christmas should be. It is sweet, smoky, and savory, and the flavors blend
stupendously with one another. The fact that I only had a 50ml is heartbreaking
because this whisky is stunning. The good news is that in my area Paul John Christmas
Editions aren’t too difficult to come by, and I’ll track a Bottle down
to earn a coveted place in my whiskey library.
up: M&H Elements Peated
- Date reviewed: January 22,
- Price: $65.00
The Elements Peated did
an admirable job of reminding me of an Islay Scotch while still offering
something a bit different. While not as heavily peated, if you told me
that Ardbeg was the distiller, I’d accept it as gospel and wouldn’t
balk at the price at all. The fact that it isn’t Ardbeg makes it even more
intriguing, and as far as a rating goes, I’m sold! M&H Elements
Peated takes a no-brainer Bottle rating.
Winner: Blue Spot
- Date reviewed: October 8,
- Price: $100.00
This is one dangerous
whiskey. At no point did I recognize the proof. But, it sure recognized me. It
came at me like a wave; I could feel the flush in my head. Despite that, I
enjoyed every iota of Blue Spot. Is it worth $100.00? Yeah, it is. It also
earned my Bottle rating, and if there were something higher, it would
take that, too.
up: Jameson Black Barrel
- Date reviewed: December 1,
- Price: $34.99
This is very likely the
best $7.00 I’ve spent on a bottle of whiskey. I have no idea why this was on
the store’s clearance rack, but I’m thankful for the opportunity. I loved
everything about Jameson Black Barrel except for one thing. I really adored the
finish and wanted it to last longer. Now, as far as a $34.99 bottle goes, I’d
still rank it a Bottle all day long.
- Date reviewed: April 28,
- Price: $39.99
It is difficult to see a
bottle of Ardbeg at this price and ignore it, youthful or not. Some distillers
have that sort of magical power, and I’m not talking hype. Wee Beastie
doesn’t disappoint with its smoky punch, character, and distinct mouthfeel. Not
only do I think this was a good purchase, but I believe it is a steal. Wee
Beastie is an absolute Bottle rating.
up: Kilchoman Sanaig
- Date reviewed: December 6, 2021
- Price: $70.00
one of those mind-blowing whiskies. The nose and palate were amazingly
complicated but also managed to complement one another. I loved the nosing to
finish and everything in between. In my opinion, Sanaig blows Machir Bay out of
the water, and I enjoyed Machir Bay tremendously. There was a total lack of
anything remotely astringent, which is another plus. Tie all that up with the
very affordable investment, and that’s a perfect recipe for a Bottle rating.
Winner: Paul John Mithuna
- Date reviewed: April 2, 2021
- Price: $300.00
I gave this away
already, but I’m confident in my Bottle rating. Mrs. Whiskeyfellow
gave this a sip and was blown away. Frankly, so was I. I cannot understand how
aging something in virgin oak and ex-Bourbon casks equals a nuclear sherry
explosion in every aspect of the whisky. If you want a complex nose, Mithuna
has it. If you desire a crazy-good palate, Mithuna will deliver. If you seek an
Energizer Bunny finish, Mithuna will satisfy that desire. If you’ve got $300.00
to invest in a beautiful pour, this should be what you spend it on.
And that, my friends, leaves
one final order of business to conduct. Which of those named best in their
respective classes is my Whiskey of the Year? Everything that I've listed was unique. However, only one can be king, and the
crown goes to the King of Bootleggers, Remus
Repeal Reserve V.
Congratulations to the distillers who made this year's cream of the crop. Cheers!
Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit
but begs you do so responsibly.