The 2023 Whiskeyfellow "Best Of" Awards Are In!


Each trip around the sun seems to go faster than the last. It is the end of 2023, here we are, and it is time to hand out the annual Whiskeyfellow Awards again (queue the loud cheering).


If you think this is yet another list of whiskeys that you’ll never be able to get your hands on, that’s not how the Whiskeyfellow Awards work. Let the other guys give out awards to the same-old, same-olds that are overhyped and overpriced. All my reviews are written for the average whiskey drinker because I am one. As such, my “Best Of” whiskeys are no different. For any whiskey to qualify for an award, it must meet the following requirements:


It must have been something I’ve both tasted and reviewed this year. Whiskeyfellow is a one-person shop tasting whiskeys and keeping tabs on the ones I enjoy the most. I don’t have a team of interns and don’t take suggestions from outside the company.


Any winning whiskey must be reasonably affordable. I tend to put a cap of $150.00 for my awarded whiskeys. That’s about the most I’d pay for any whiskey, and I’d assume the average whiskey drinker is in that range, too.


You have to have a decent chance to find it. I’m not suggesting that you can walk into any liquor store to find, yet it also won’t be something you’d have to sell your soul to see in person, let alone acquire. When you do, hopefully, you won’t have some store owner or manager charging secondary prices (that I can’t help). 


Absolutely, positively, no store picks. I love store picks. I love picking barrels. But, the average whiskey drinker outside the store’s or club’s locale typically can’t get their hands on a bottle.

The bottom line is that
for a “Best Of” list to have any value for the average whiskey drinker, it must contain whiskeys you can actually drink. Otherwise, what’s the point?


I’ve never understood how reviewers can name the Best Whiskey before the year ends (some publish theirs in September!). That’s why I wait until December to hand out awards. I can safely say that I’ve found my top whiskeys while still giving you time to buy presents if you’re so inclined.


I also occasionally tweak the categories. Three years ago, 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. In 2022, I added a Whiskeyfellow Award for The Sleeper category, which reflects a whiskey that came out of nowhere and blew my mind. I also added a Flavored Whiskey category. All three carry over into 2023.


Here's the weird thing. I’ve refused to name a Whiskey of the Year for the last two years. With these categories and the quality of the offerings, calling a Best in Show is pure guesswork and becomes irrelevant.


I used to include links to my reviews of what wins in a category. Every year I’ve published my list, a particular social media platform that shall remain anonymous (cough cough Meta cough cough) has flagged my post and shut it down, accusing it of being “clickbait.” I stopped doing it two years ago, and magically, no flag was thrown. You can search out any of the reviews of these whiskeys on my Blog.


This year, I reviewed somewhere in the neighborhood of 195 whiskeys. That seems like a lot, right? Amazingly, I’ve not tasted whiskeys from every available niche. If you’re not seeing a category listed, it means one of two things: I didn’t drink anything in that category, or nothing from it was worthy of a “Best Of” award.


All I care about is the liquid inside the bottle. It matters not if it is sourced or a brand’s own distillate, if the packaging is pretty, or if any brand in particular produced it.


And now, let’s get to it! Here’s the best of my #DrinkCurious journey for 2023:


American Single Malt


Winner: Yellowstone American Single Malt Whiskey

  • Date reviewed: March 13, 2023
  • Price: $54.99 for a 750ml


Yellowstone’s American Single Malt stands out and differs from many other American Single Malts I’ve sampled. The fruity notes dominated, much like a Speyside Scotch, but it had a muted maltiness. It was proofed perfectly. I found myself returning to it over the next few days. At $54.99, this is almost a steal, and I’m thrilled to have this in my Whiskey Library. Yellowstone has set the bar high regarding this year’s crop of American Single Malts, and I have no qualms about crowning it with my Bottle rating.


Runner up: Jim Beam “Clermont Steep” American Single Malt Whiskey

  • Date reviewed: July 4, 2023
  • Price:  $59.99 for a 750ml


While the palate was less than complicated, it was flavorful and well-balanced. One of the things I usually find in American Single Malts is a lot of fruity notes. Clermont Steep is off-profile, but that’s okay. It was fascinating to experience what Jim Beam could come up with in this brand-new category. Freddie did well; he made something decidedly different.


If I knew a Bourbon fan who was wary of trying an American Single Malt because they don’t like Scotch or Irish whiskeys, I could easily recommend Clermont Steep. There are enough Bourbonesque qualities to make it an attractive choice, which I bet Freddie was gunning for.


Five years in oak is almost ancient for American Single Malts. Many you find are far less (it seems to mature faster than Bourbon or Rye). For Beam to charge only $59.99 is a bargain in my book, and I’m happy to confer a Bottle rating for it.



American Rye


Winner:  UNBendt Bottled-in-Bond Rye

  • Date reviewed: October 9, 2023
  • Price:  $59.99 for a 750ml


UNBendt Bottled-in-Bond Rye is, simply put, lovely. The mouthfeel was enchanting and mesmerizing. Any whiskey that makes me forget the next step is attractive. I loved the flavors, and I enjoyed the finish. The price is very reasonable. UNBENDT Bottled-in-Bond Rye hits all the checkmarks for a Bottle rating.


Runner up:  Still Austin “The Artist” Straight Rye

  • Date reviewed: January 2, 2023
  • Price: $50.00 for a  750ml


Here’s the thing about Nancy Fraley: her reputation is well-deserved. The Artist is an easy-sipping American Rye that offers plenty of character and can keep your attention without being overwhelming. If you enjoy soft, spicy Ryes, you will fall in love with this whiskey. Still Austin has done it again – this is a fantastic Texas whiskey that you can cherish, and it has earned every bit of my Bottle rating.




Winner:  Barrell Craft Spirits Amburana Cask Finish

  • Date reviewed: September 18, 2023
  • Price:  $89.99 for a 750ml


Do you remember when I doubted the proof? I was so enchanted with the taste and trying to pull out all the flavors that the proof snuck up on me. I could feel it in my head. So, the first thing I will tell you is if you need to go anywhere, make sure you have a designated driver.


Secondly, this was just stupidly delicious. I loved it. I want to find other whiskeys finished in Amburana casks. It would be challenging if you asked me to choose between Amburana and Tokaji casks. Both give dessert sensations, but they’re so different.


Barrell Amburana is one of those I-don’t-care-what-this-costs whiskeys. Just buy yourself a Bottle. Meanwhile, I’m still stunned. While I’ve not yet tasted the second Bourbon, Amburana is the best Bourbon I’ve tasted in 2023 so far. 



Runner up: Ben Holladay Missouri Straight Rickhouse Proof

  • Date reviewed: December 1, 2023
  • Price:  $74.99 for a 750ml


At a smidge over 120°, you’d expect it to affect your palate and head. Nope! While it is a spicy Bourbon for sure, it is neither hot nor do you “feel” the alcohol content. That throws this whiskey into my dangerous category. Drink it up and then try to stand. That’s when the proof becomes evident; you’re not driving yourself home anytime soon.


The great thing about it is you can taste what’s inside the glass versus leaving your hard and soft palates sizzling. And those flavors are bold and beautiful. Holladay’s Rickhouse Proof Bourbon is something to savor slowly. This is one of my favorite Bourbons this year, and while I loved the Soft Red Wheat Rickhouse Proof, this version eclipses that. Don’t miss out on this if you see it on the shelf. Grab yourself a Bottle. You won’t be disappointed. 



World Whiskey


Winner: Proof and Wood “The Globe” Polish Rye Whisky

  • Date reviewed: April 12, 2023
  • Price: $80.00 for a 750ml


The long and short of this is that The Globe may very well be the best thing I’ve had from Proof and Wood. The mouthfeel was almost perfect; the layers and layers of flavor were mesmerizing, and I fell in love with the finish, which seemed to be orchestrated. All of this for $80.00? Yes, please! My Bottle rating is the only option.



Runner up:  Hakata 10-Year Japanese Single Malt Whisky

  • Date reviewed: February 27, 2023
  • Price:  $79.99 for a 700ml


If sherry bombs are your jam, you will go wild over Hakata 10. There was nothing not to enjoy about it, from beginning to end. I enjoyed the bone-dry finish. It is reasonably priced, and I can’t think of any suitable rating other than a Bottle.



Canadian Whisky


Winner: Found North Batch 006

  • Date reviewed: April 19, 2023
  • Price:  $149.99 for a 750ml


Wrapping your mind around Batch 006 will drive you batty. Don’t even try. Instead, savor the aroma, get lost in the palate, and bask in the warmth of the finish. It is one of the better whiskies I’ve had in 2023 and is worth every penny you’ll pay. If you see this one on the shelf, don’t dawdle. Just grab the Bottle. You won’t regret it.


Runner up:  Proof and Wood “Good Day & Sunshine”

  • Date reviewed:  May 30, 2023
  • Price:  $99.99 for a 700ml


The original Good Day stole my Bottle rating. It was the first time a purely Canadian whisky was worthy enough to earn it. Good Day & Sunshine took things a step further. The Rum and spice notes created an attention-getting experience. The duration of the finish only enhanced the affair. In a head-to-head competition, Good Day & Sunshine outperforms Good Day (I still have some to verify). It only makes sense that an even better whisky would be crowned accordingly for the same money. Grab a Bottle.


Irish Whiskey 

Winner:  Two Stacks Dram in a Can

  • Date reviewed: February 10, 2023
  • Price:  $4.99 for a small can


Don’t judge a book by its cover. I said that at the beginning of this review. I admit I giggled with curiosity when I first saw this in the store. I hadn’t planned on being impressed, but dang, I am. I smiled. I told Mrs. Whiskeyfellow how much I was enjoying this pour. That, my friends, means it takes my Bottle (Can?) rating.


Runner up:  Northcross Triple Wood

  • Date reviewed: July 3, 2023
  • Price:  $24.99 for a 750ml


The smell and taste were attractive despite the finish. Northcross Triple Wood is highly affordable, drawing it into my #RespectTheBottomShelf realm. My only complaint is that elusive finish, which isn't a deal-breaker considering the rest of what’s tendered. I see this appealing to newbies to Irish whiskey and those who prefer Irish to Scotch. It certainly beats the snot out of the standard-bearers of this price range (**cough cough** Jameson ** cough cough** Bushmills White **cough cough**). I’m happy to have this in my whiskey library, and considering everything as a whole, it takes my Bottle rating.


Scotch Whisky


Winner: Lagavulin 2023 Distiller’s Edition Single Malt

  • Date reviewed: May 24, 2023
  • Price:  $125.00


Thankfully, I was not disappointed. The PX influence was obvious. Lagavulin took an already fabulous whisky and added panache. Is this something that a peat newbie can handle? Not likely. But an Islay fan is going to go absolutely bonkers. This 16+-year-old single malt Scotch is worth the price of admission, and I’m sitting here wishing I had another Bottle.


Runner up: BenRiach “The Sixteen” Single Malt

  • Date reviewed:  March 8, 2023
  • Price:  $115.99 for a 750ml


The spicy-to-fruity transition was an attention-getter. The low-proof turned out well while delivering a light sizzle to my hard palate. Flavors were easy to identify, and transitions seemed natural. Dr. Barrie accomplished her goal of being unconventionally Speyside; it didn’t seem like any other Speyside I’ve tried. I enjoyed this Scotch so much that I plowed through my sample, which I rarely do. There’s no rating but a Bottle to consider.


Budget Whiskey


Winner: Fraser & Thompson North American Whiskey

  • Date reviewed: November 13, 2023
  • Price:  $29.99 for a 750ml


Despite being only 84°, Fraser & Thompson possessed an exciting character. There was enough oomph to keep me captivated. At the same time, neither my hard palate nor my brain buzzed. I discovered that the more I sipped this whiskey, the deeper my mind became cheerfully lost in the drinking experience. It was well-balanced and flavorful, and I poured myself another glass. It was like a beautiful melody running across my tastebuds.


This is only a $30.00 whiskey? Really? Fraser & Thompson may be one of my more shocking experiences in 2023. I’m proud to have this in my whiskey library and am thrilled to crown it with my Bottle rating.


Runner up: Compass Box Glasgow Blend Scotch

  • Date reviewed: July 21, 2023
  • Price: $35.00 for a 750ml


Interestingly enough, the peat and seaweed from the Laphroaig content were easy to pick out despite being only 18% of the blend, as was the Clynelish waxiness of the mouthfeel, yet that was only 10%. I found it fascinating that Compass Box could maintain these signature qualities with all the variants involved.


There’s also a lesson to be learned: Never be afraid to return to something you initially disliked. Our palates change with both age and experience. I’ve often been surprised that things I was not too fond of years ago are now delightful. Such is the case with Glasgow Blend. It earns every bit of my Bottle rating.


Flavored Whiskey


Winner:  Misunderstood Ginger Spiced Whiskey

  • Date reviewed: June 7, 2023
  • Price:  $31.00 for a 750ml


If you’re looking for a whiskey that tastes like whiskey, Misunderstood won’t make you very happy. There are very few whiskeyish qualities to it. But, to expect that is to misunderstand Misunderstood.


I don’t know if hard ginger beer exists, but if I were to design one, it would taste exactly like Misunderstood Whiskey.


Just for fun, Mrs. Whiskeyfellow provided barbecued baby back ribs for dinner. I jotted down all my tasting notes before dinner and reapproached Misunderstood Whiskey with the ribs. ¡QuĂ© bueno!


My guess is Misunderstood Whiskey would make a delicious cocktail base. I didn’t go in that direction because that’s not how I rate whiskeys. In truth, I can’t see myself reaching for Misunderstood if I wanted to sip on a glass of whiskey. But, if I wanted to relax with an incredible “hard” ginger beer, I’d happily grab a Bottle of this and it wouldn’t be a forgotten volume in my whiskey library.


P.S. I blew through three glasses on the first night.


Runner up: Blaze Cinnamon Flavored Whiskey

  • Date reviewed: October 21, 2023
  • Price:  $29.99 for a 750ml


As a rule, I’m not really into cinnamon-flavored whiskeys. I enjoy cinnamon as a whiskey’s component on the palate. With that being said, I had fun drinking BLAZE. At 66°, it is an easy sipper, despite its name. Nothing resembled Red Hots candy, just a nice dose of cinnamon. I’d assume BLAZE would make a lovely cocktail base. When sipped neat, there’s absolutely nothing not to like about BLAZE. There’s genuine quality here, and this flavored whiskey deserves its Bottle rating.



Please Santa? 

Winner:  Remus Gatsby Reserve

  • Date reviewed: November 17, 2023
  • Price:  $199.99 for a 750ml


15+ year Bourbons aren’t a dime a dozen, and that’s because the older a Bourbon is, the more it tends to become over-oaked. I’ve had several that spent too much time in wood; it was as if I was sucking the moisture from a barrel stave. Either they have to be proofed way down, or they become undrinkable. The distiller takes on a risk by allowing it to continue to age.


Gatsby Reserve is a delightful Bourbon. There was no indication of it getting past its prime. I could drink on this all day and keep a smile on my face. I’m thrilled to have it in my whiskey library – I wish I had a backup. I don’t recommend too many $199.00 American whiskeys, but Remus Gatsby Reserve deserves my Bottle rating. If you see it, get it. Trust me on this.



The Sleeper

Winner: Three Chord Honey Toasted Whiskey

  • Date reviewed: May 1, 2023
  • Price:  $59.99 for a 750ml


Three Chord Honey Toasted Whiskey was impressive as hell and truly wowed me. It is one of the finer whiskeys I’ve tried in 2023, and that takes into consideration some very impressive pours. It is stupid-affordable, and you’d be a fool to pass this one up. In other words, it steals my Bottle rating.


And there you have it; these are the best whiskeys I’ve tasted in 2023. Lift a glass to the winners and runners-up, and let’s see what 2024 brings. Cheers!


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you to do so responsibly.