whiskey in 2021
There's been a lot of great whiskey in 2021
While “best of” lists are very popular this time of year, I’m going to take my own approach and talk about noteworthy and memorable (in a positive way) whiskeys that I had in 2021. As always, I’m only going to include ones that I reviewed.
While I mostly drank bourbon, I still had quite a few memorable non-bourbon whiskeys (e.g., rye, wheat whiskey) worth mentioning. This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list that leads to the “best” of anything, but instead a compilation of what I thought was very good, interesting, and memorable across various prices and levels of accessibility.
So given the scope of what I reviewed this year, here are my noteworthy whiskeys for 2021, spanning from affordable to premium.
As an FYI, I bought and use these Glencairn glasses for everything (they’re the best): Glencairn Crystal Whiskey Glass Set of 6, Set of 4, Set of 2, or just one. Full transparency, this is an affiliate link, so I may earn a commission if you buy this or something else from Amazon.
Rye Of The Year
Michter's 10 Year Single Barrel Rye
Regardless of ABV, this Michter’s 10 Year Rye is absolutely loaded and layered with rich honey, dark licorice, cherry, dark fruit, pineapple, dry ginseng, rose, and more that explode out of the glass and into my nostrils and mouth. It’s absolutely deep, complex, and incredible to experience, I think one of the best ryes out there today. It would be the best rye whiskeys I’ve ever had, but #1 is taken by another one on this list.
Kentucky Owl Rye Batch 1
This is the best rye I’ve ever had, but it’s not rye of the year because this batch is long gone, never to be found again. Batch 1 was a one-time release in 2017 that I happened to find and review in 2021, making it even more difficult to find than Michter’s 10 Year Rye. It is the most memorable rye whiskey I had this year, and maybe for years to come.
Willett Family Estate 4 Year Rye
Their main and accessible-ish release is their Family Estate 4 Year Rye, and whoa it’s excellent. It may be young based on the label, but somehow Willett crafted a densely dark, herbal, fruity, black tea, and lemon-y rye that drinks far more mature than it should and without any youthful graininess. This is what I thought Rare Breed Rye was going to be, but it’s not
Biggest Pleasant Surprise & Craftsmanship
Flying Ace White Dog
This new make is truly one of a kind because the 75% corn / 20% wheat / 5% barley mash bill uses bloody butcher corn, (a red heirloom corn hence the name) that’s grown, harvested, and milled on site. Apparently the yield is far lower than the usual corn used for whiskey, so it’s a bit of a pain to grow and harvest. But that level of care and detail really shows in the tasty new make.
Bernheim Wheat Whiskey
This affordable Heaven Hill wheat whiskey has been around for years, but I only got to it in 2021. Turns out I was missing out on a dark, mature, and rich wheat whiskey that drinks older than it’s 7 year age statement. I call it wheated bourbon on steroids…or at least it’s been eating it’s Wheaties for breakfast.
While it has the usual caramel and vanilla, it has even more amped up cinnamon, clove, coconut, and cocoa powder that outperforms Weller Special Reserve and Maker’s Mark.
Wheated Bourbon may be very popular, but Bernheim Wheat Whiskey (not wheated bourbon) is a terribly overlooked and underappreciated whiskey that provides a unique and flavorful pour that should be tried. For the price, it’s also an easy no-brainer to buy.
Meet the Author: Alex
I have far too much fun writing about whiskey and singlehandedly running The Whiskey Shelf to bring you independent, honest, and useful reviews, comparisons, and more. I’m proudly Asian American and can speak Cantonese, Mandarin, and some Japanese.
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If you’re on the move, this Glencairn-like stainless steel snifter glass should survive your travels. Shattered glass Glencairn’s really suck. Full transparency, this is an Amazon affiliate link, so I may earn a commission if you buy this or something else from Amazon.
BrüMate NOS’R, Double-Wall Stainless Steel Whiskey Nosing Glass – 7oz (Matte Black)