This spring is an especially auspicious time for whisky enthusiasts seeking something new. On shelf at your local liquor store are a parade of labels you probably haven’t seen before. Many of them are worth taking home with you. And since these releases run the gamut of prices–ranging from the cost of two tickets to movie night all the way up to the re-sale value of a lightly used car–there’s something to satisfy every budget. Here’s a look at the season’s most exciting offerings, and what you can expect to taste when you’re ready to pour.
WhistlePig PiggyBack — $49.99
This April release marks the first from the Vermont-based producer since the passing of its legendary master distiller, Dave Pickerell. It’s a younger variation on the brand’s flagship rye–this one carrying a 6-year age statement as opposed to the original’s 10. Designed to play well in Manhattans and Boulevardiers, the liquid maintains a strong cinnamon spice in the finish which also plays perfectly well when sipped neat. It’s 96.56-proof in the bottle is a nod to Pickerell’s birth year, 1956.
Bulleit Rye 12-Year-Old — $49.99
In the opposite direction, Bulleit just announced a rye with an older age than its popular flagship. Initially carving a name for itself in the bourbon category, the Diageo-owned brand has found great success delving into that other American whiskey category. This is its first permanent extension into rye, a dry and oaky offering that ends in toffee and graham cracker spice. Overall, an assertive entry point into the world of super-premium ryes.
Starward — Nova Australian Single Malt — $55
Australian single malt is positioning itself to be the next big category of world whisky. This is the country’s first major release in American markets, one that is largely shaped by maturation in ex-shiraz barrels from Down Under. It demonstrates a surprising degree of complexity and tongue-tickling astringency for a spirit that spent not much more than three years in wood. It’s worth getting your hands on now; if Australian single malt goes the way of Japanese whisky, it won’t sit on shelves for long.
Barrell Bourbon Batch 018 — $84.99
Barrell has earned a reputation as one of the country’s premiere non-distilling producers. They don’t have to make the stuff, when they’re this good at sourcing and blending it. To wit, this 11-year-old gem just took home Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Billed as a ‘cinnamon bomb’, Batch 018 is a careful combination of bourbons aged in both Kentucky and Tennessee. The younger liquid in the mix has bright tropical notes, balanced out by the structure of a spicier spirit–aged for upwards of 15 years in an American rickhouse. Together there is complexity and backbone in a full-flavored sipper, clocking in at a whopping 111.56 barrel-proof. Add a drop or two of water and enjoy.
The GlenDronach 15 Year Old Revival — $89.99
Want to know why this highland scotch maker has amassed a cult following? In a word: sherry. Want to taste it for yourself? Procure a bottle of the recently re-released Revival. This one went away briefly in 2015 as old stocks dwindled but its return is a triumphant reminder of what we’ve been missing. All of the distillate here matures in wood sourced from the sherry bodegas of Jerez, Spain. Revival spent time in butts that formerly held Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso. What rolls out of the wood is a rich whisky with dark and sweet notes of figs, dates and raisins. An exquisite sipper that could still be a bargain at twice the price.
Orphan Barrel Forager’s Keep — $399.99
Orphan Barrel specializes in bringing to market notable whiskies from now-defunct distilleries. These shuttered warehouses were confined to North America, housing extra old barrels of rye, bourbon, Canadian whisky. Now they dive headfirst into the world of scotch with this 26-year-old single malt from Speyside. Pittyvaich closed permanently in 1993, and was not long for this world. In fact, this limited release now carries more age than its distillery ever did. Now available for pre-order, this gentle liquid meets the mouth with a pronounced creaminess and sustained notes cedar and citrus pith. It’ll hit shelves, briefly, on June 3rd of this year.
The Last Drop Distillers 1969 Glenrothes Single Malt Whisky — $6,250
If budgetary constraints are of no concern, you ought to consider the newest release from The Last Drop. The London-based company is a connoisseur’s dream brought to life; dedicated to the procurement of impossibly rare stocks of aged spirit that will never exist again. This month they unveiled a 50-year-old Speyside malt sourced entirely from two casks at the Glenrothes distillery. The first barrel yielded just 130 bottles of whisky. The second, 141. So an allotment of only 271 will make its way across the globe. If you’re lucky enough to snag one you can expect smooth texture, light hints of cigar smoke, and the ineffable umami complexities that only half a century’s worth of maturation can deliver.