John Barleycorn Awards Names The 14 Best Whiskeys Of 2022

December 21, 2022 0 By Cypher9ja

Finding the best whiskey to drink has never been easier and yet… harder at the same time. It’s harder in that there’s just so much on the shelf these days. It’s natural to get overwhelmed with seemingly endless expressions, styles, special releases, and labels. It’s easier in that there’s never been more access to professional information about all of those bottles on the shelf — especially via high-end spirits competitions.

The competitions circuit has made finding a great or even “the best” whiskey a little bit easier. And one of the premier awards to follow is the John Barleycorn Awards — not just because I was a judge this year but also because they exclusively employ whiskey critics, authors, and scholars as judges. Through that roster, the Barleycorn Awards pick their best spirits in both Spring and Fall seasonal competitions. This year, they dove deeper by pitting those best spirits against each other for a “Best of 2022” round via another double-blind tasting. That means the spirit was double-blind tested twice before the finals judges came in to break any ties and check one last time to see which dram truly stood above the rest in yet another double-blind tasting.

Whew. That’s a lot of layers of double blinds to get through to get to the Best Whiskeys of 2022.

Since the list of John Barleycorn Awards’ Best of 2022 Whiskeys (and other spirits) just dropped, I thought I’d list them for you with my own tasting notes. There are some great whiskeys on this list this year. They’re broken down into categories for easy scrolling. And hey, if you dig any of these according to my tasting notes, maybe add them to your bar cart. Let’s dive in!

Also Read: Best Whiskey of 2022, By Category

Best Bourbon — Pursuit United Batch 002

Pursuit United
Pursuit United

ABV: 54%

Average Price: $65

The Whiskey:

This whiskey is vatted from 40 total barrels from three different states. While the team at Pursuit United doesn’t release the Tennessee distillery name, we know the juices from Kentucky and New York are from Bardstown Bourbon Company and Finger Lakes Distilling, respectively. Once those barrels are vatted, they’re slightly touched with water before bottling.

Tasting Notes:

Spicy and sweet mulled wine with a layer of honey, raisins, cinnamon/clove/nutmeg, and a hint of toffee round out the nose as a lurking sense of old porch wicker sneaks in underneath it all. There’s a nice balance of chocolate tobacco and honey cake with cardamon and clove on the palate that leads to a hint of orange oils and sticky toffee pudding. The end leans into warm spices and a sense of prunes and dates with a hint of soft cedar and tobacco.

Bottom Line:

It’s always great to see this brand getting some love. This bourbon was created by true bourbon lovers for bourbon lovers, and that ethos shines through in every sip.

Best Scotch Whisky — Aberlour 18-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch Whiskey

Pernod Ricard

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $168

The Whisky:

The expression from Speyside’s Aberlour also uses old bourbon for its primary maturation and ex-sherry for its finishing maturation. Finally, it’s proofed down with soft Speyside water and bottled as-is.

Tasting Notes:

You’re drawn in with a note of hard butterscotch candies next to a touch of chinotto (bittersweet Italian orange), butter toffee, and the slightest wisp of peach pits. The taste builds out from that peach pit layer with a note of ripe peach flesh and fuzzy skin while jammy blackberry leads towards a soft cedar. The finish really takes its time and leaves you with a silken texture next to a honeyed sweetness and a final roundness of vanilla cream.

Bottom Line:

This is a great Scotch, especially if you’re looking for a wintry pour of the good stuff as the year winds down.

Best Single Barrel Bourbon/Tennessee Whiskey — Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select

Jack Daniel

ABV: 47%

Average Price: $55

The Whiskey:

This was first introduced in 1997. The juice is hand-selected from barrels on the upper floors of Jack’s vast rickhouses. The whisky is bottled at a slightly higher proof to allow the nuance of the juice to shine.

Tasting Notes:

The banana notes are drawn way back here and replaced by a clear sense of toasted oak. That oak is the underpinning for notes of caramel corn, mild spice, and plenty of oily vanilla beans. The sweet banana fruit is there and marries well to a peppery spice, cherry gum, and mulled wine that amps up as the end draws near with plenty of that toasted wood lingering the longest.

Bottom Line:

Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel might be one of the most under-appreciated bottles by the public. This is a true gem of a whiskey that deserves all the hype it gets from insiders — hint, hint. It also makes a mean Manhattan.

Best Luxury Whiskey — Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond Spring 2022

Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond 17
Heaven Hill

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $1,276

The Whiskey:

This whiskey was distilled and laid down in barrels back in 2004. The barrels were vatted after 17 years and proofed down to the bottled-in-bond standard of 100 proof and then bottled in the iconic Old Fitz decanter for a Spring 2022 release.

Tasting Notes:

A hint of woodiness comes through on the nose via cherry tree bark with the faintest echo of dried rose next to soft vanilla oil, a hint of cedar, a distant thought of old leather, and a touch of burnt orange peels. The palate starts off softly with a lush vanilla cream that builds towards a winter spice matrix of nutmeg, allspice, and clove with a touch of cherrywood that sweetens toward dried cherries. That mid-palate builds on the cherry with spices (nutmeg and allspice) and sticky tobacco vibes as the finish arrives next to a super creamy dark cherry in vanilla cream feel with a dusting of dark chocolate and more of that dry cherry tree bark.

Bottom Line:

This is a stellar pour of whiskey that’s also a shining example of quality bourbon.

Best American Single Malt — Cedar Ridge The Quintessential

Cedar Ridge The Quintessential
Cedar Ridge

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $55

The Whiskey:

This whiskey is all about a grain-to-glass experience. The juice is made with 100% 2-Row Pale Malted Barley (the same stuff used in some of the biggest craft beers) from up in Saskatchewan. The whiskey is matured in ex-bourbon barrels for an undisclosed term. That whiskey is then finished in a combination of brandy, rum, wine, port, and sherry barrels before it’s vatted. The whiskey’s blend is then made using the solera method — where the vat is never fully emptied before the next barrel is added.

Tasting Notes:

The nose is immediately full of bright fruit with a peach and pear vibe that leans into a malty banana bread with plenty of butter, cinnamon, and walnut next to a touch of Almond Joy (but the good ones from a high-end shop). The palate is soft and subtle with hints of spiced malted gingersnaps, light cream soda vibes (maybe a light sasparilla), and a mellow and creamy base of chocolate that’s not dark but not milky either. The mid-palate has a nice sweetness that’s slightly apple adjacent with an apricot hint that mellows into a final note of chewy toffees with rum-raisin lurking on the very backend.

Bottom Line:

This is Cedar Ridge’s crowning achievement and a wonderful sipper for anyone looking for something a little different in the American whiskey scene.

Best Rye Whiskey — New Riff Balboa Rye

New Riff Balboa Rye
New Riff

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $210

The Whiskey:

This whiskey is built around heritage rye from Indiana, Balboa rye, which was popularized in the 1940s. The juice is hewn from a 95/5 rye/barley recipe and aged for up to five years before batching, proofing, and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a trace of saltwater taffy on the nose (or maybe just the wax paper wrappers) next to an almost buttery chili rub with a good dose of salt and red pepper spice that’s both lush and deep. The palate leans into a spicy orange marmalade as a medley of dry grasses, woody spices, and creamy vanilla mingles on the senses. The end is a spiced cherry cola next to more woody spice (clove and allspice berries especially) with a luxurious landing on waxy mint taffy, soft capsicum spice, and dry cedar bark braids.

Bottom Line:

This is delicious whiskey that will hopefully be more widely available in 2023.

Best Single Barrel Rye — 291 Colorado Whiskey Finished with Aspen Staves, Barrel Proof Single Barrel

291 Single Barrel Rye
291 Colorado Distillery

ABV: 64.3%

Average Price: $108

The Whiskey:

291 uses a quick aging process. For this single-barrel expression of rye whiskey, they added Aspen wood staves into the barrels to accelerate the aging process while adding depth to the spirit. Once those barrels hit just the right flavor profile, they were bottled as a single barrel expression with no fussing, filtering, or cutting.

Tasting Notes:

The whiskey opens with a bold sense of wet pine with a pitchy vibe next to maple syrup over sourdough pancakes with a hint of sour apple and toffee in the background. The palate has a grassy nature that’s supported by an echo of vanilla, more resin, and woody/warm winter spices with a hint of cherry lurking somewhere in there. The end leans into sharp and warm spices with a focus on Red Hots and maybe even some nasturtium with a wet oak sweetness and a twinge of bitter espresso bean.

Bottom Line:

This Colorado crafty whiskey is an easy sipper that offers a deep profile and rewarding feeling.

Best American Whiskey — Copper Sky Cigar Blend Whiskey Finished in Amburana Barrels

Copper Sky Cigar Blend Whiskey
Copper Sky

ABV: 68.2%

Average Price: $109

The Whiskey:

This is classic rye whiskey that ages in new American oak for a few years. After the whiskey hits the right spot, it’s batched and then re-barreled into Brazilian Amburana casks for a final rest. Those barrels are then re-batched and this is proofed down before bottling.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a sense of fresh gingerbread on the nose that leads to sticky toffee pudding, salted caramel, buttercream, and a sense of almost mossy tobacco. The palate has a spiced plum jam with a buttery scone, clotted cream, and spiced orange marmalade next to woody cedar bark, old wicker, and dry — almost singed — tobacco stems. The finish has a dark stewed fruitiness with dates, prunes, and figs next to cinnamon bark and allspice berries with cherry tobacco, a touch of mochi, and cedar boxes.

Bottom Line:

This is a classic “cigar blend” with plenty of bold spice and tobacco notes, making this a great pairing with your favorite cigar.

Best Tennessee Whiskey — Uncle Nearest Master Blend Edition Batch 009

Uncle Nearest Masters Select
Uncle Nearest

ABV: 59.2%

Average Price: $150

The Whiskey:

While Uncle Nearest is distilling their own juice these days, this is still the work of Master Blender Victoria Eady Butler with carefully sourced Tennessee whiskey barrels. In this case, Eady Bulter hand-selected the best-of-the-best from their inventory to create the perfect whiskey to exemplify the brand and Tennesee whiskey traditions.

Tasting Notes:

This draws you in with a piping hot fresh batch of cinnamon rolls with plenty of white sauce frosting, cinnamon and brown sugar filling, a touch of nutmeg, pecans, firewood bark, and a hint of pipe tobacco. The palate delivers on the bigger notes of the nose with pecan shells, cinnamon sticks dipped in cherry syrup, wet corn husks, old leather gloves that have worked in dirt and firewood, and mild yet spiced cherry tobacco. That mild cherry sweetness drives the mid-palate toward a hint of maple syrup that leans woody as firewood piled in black dirt rounding out the finish with an echo more of that peppery tobacco.

Bottom Line:

This is a wonderful whiskey that’s perfect for slow sipping after a big holiday meal.

Best Canadian Whisky — Found North Batch 004

Found North Batch 004
Found North Whisky

ABV: 62.4%

Average Price: $145

The Whiskey:

This blended whisky is a mash-up of corn and rye whiskies, which equate to a mash bill of 80% corn, 19% rye, and a mere 1% malted barley. Those whiskies are sourced from barrels that are between 21 and 25 years old. Once vatted, the whisky is bottled as-is with no water, filtering, or coloring.

Tasting Notes:

This whiskey opens with a sense of dark dried fruits — rum raisin, dates, prunes — next to mulled wine sourness and sweetness with plenty of cinnamon, star anise, and clove next to a hint of creamy eggnog nutmeg. The palate is largely the same with a soft warmth from the ABVs that gives way to woody spiced plum tobacco, a big slice of fruit cake, and a dose of vanilla oils cut with orange oils. The end has a dark fruit tobacco vibe that’s accented by a sweet sense of vanilla and caramel.

Bottom Line:

This is a spectacular Canadian whisky that’ll upend any preconceived notions you have about the juice from up north.

Best Irish Whiskey — Waterford The Cuvée

Waterford Cuvee
Waterford

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $85

The Whiskey:

Waterford is an interesting experiment in whiskey, in general. This expression utilizes the distillery’s many single-farm-origin whiskeys to create something heightened. The whiskey is a blend of those single farm whiskeys that highlight the terroir from all around Ireland, along with Waterford’s high-level skills.

Tasting Notes:

Red apple peels and rye crust open the nose before soft soil and green grass takes over. The palate is all about the butterscotch candies, with light florals, oat cookies, orange peels, and fresh mint acting as support. The mid-palate has a clove candy vibe that leads to white pepper, grapefruit peel, dark chocolate and cherry tobacco, and a final note of poppyseed cake.

Bottom Line:

This is one of the most interesting whiskeys being made right now. It’s changing the way we think about terroir in whiskey while also delivering a delicious product.

Director’s Choice Awards — Amrut Neidhal Indian Single Malt Whisky

Spirit of India
Single Malts of India

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $105

The Whiskey:

This Peated Indian single malt whisky is from the famed Amrut Distillery. The juice is a special release of 12,000 bottles that highlight the “Neidhal” or coastal region and the tropical vibes of Southern India.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a clear sense of briny and smoky peat on the nose with a hint of smoldering papaya and mango skins and maybe some burnt sugar cane next to deep tropical fruits and spice malt biscuits. The palate has a nice mix of grilled tropical fruits with burnt sugars, singed spice barks, and a fleeting sense of rich tobacco with a moist toffee cake filled with nuts. The end is short but sweet with a smoky vibe filled with savory and sweet fruits, spicy tobacco, and nutty creaminess.

Bottom Line:

This is a tasty peated whisky that leans so far into the fruit, you might not even notice the smokiness after a while.

Director’s Choice Awards — WhistlePig Double Malt Rye 18-Year-Old

WhistlePig 18
WhistlePig

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $450

The Whiskey:

This Canadian whisky is made from two malts with a lot of rye. The mash bill is 79% rye, 15% malted rye, and 6% malted barley. That whisky was left to mellow for 18 long years before heading to Vermont for batching, proofing, and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

The nose opens with a sense of cedar kindling and whole nutmeg bulbs next to cinnamon toast, orange marmalade, and spiced apple cider with a hint of cellar must. The palate leans into the dark marmalade and spicy apple cut with tart dried red berries, fresh vanilla pods, sweet oak, and a flutter of potpourri. The end is soft and full of spiced nuttiness with a touch of dried apple chips, burnt orange, marzipan, and winter-spiced tobacco leaves layered with cedar bark in an old leather pouch buried in a cellar.

Bottom Line:

This is good Canadian whisky. It’s a little musty, but if that’s what you’re looking for … go for it!

Best World Whiskey & Spirit of the Year — Cotswolds Bourbon Cask Single Malt Whisky

Cotswolds Bourbon Cask
Cotswolds

ABV: 59.1%

Average Price: $102

The Whiskey:

This English single malt is made with 100% locally grown barley that’s floor-malted on-site in the Cotswolds. Those malts are fermented with two yeast strains (Anchor and Fermentis) with demineralized village water to extract fruity flavors from the malt. After pot still distillation, the hot juice is filled into ex-bourbon barrels from Kentucky for a long rest. Finally, those barrels are batched and the whiskey is bottled completely as-is.

Tasting Notes:

Vanilla malted shakes and thick crème brûlée dominate the nose with a sense of date-fueled sticky toffee pudding with salted toffee, fresh orange zest, and big flakes of salt. The palate opens with bold dark dried fruits — rum raisin, figs, prunes — that lead to a moist vanilla cake frosted with cinnamon-honey buttercream icing and dusted with nutmeg, cinnamon, and dark chocolate shavings. The end sweetens slightly with a honeyed fig vibe next to old wicker porch furniture, cinnamon-spiced tobacco, and soft vanilla malted biscuits dipped in rum-raisin salted chocolate sauce and honey.

Bottom Line:

This is a delicious whisky. Grab one for winter sipping before it’s sold out.