The 5 Best Flavored Whiskeys for Non-Whisky Drinkers
The best flavored whiskeys make the brown liquor more accessible. Whiskey sometimes invokes the image of a wood-paneled room filled with cigar smoke, the smoky flavored imbued from the charred barrels in which the spirit ages. For many people, whiskey is the perfect spirit to drink, but for others, that smoky flavor can be a turn-off.
If you’re not a fan of Manhattans and Whisky Sours, you might shy away from cocktails that include whiskey at all. However, a range of flavored whiskey options surprises with amazing flavor that even non-whiskey drinkers would enjoy.
Here are five of the best flavored whiskeys that even non-whiskey drinkers would like and where you can pick up a bottle.
What is Whiskey/Bourbon?
Whiskey is an alcohol that is produced from distilling a fermented mash mix of barley, wheat, corn, and rye. Sometimes the grain is malted before fermenting, which is a process where the grain seeds are germinated. Germination is where a seed starts growing into a seedling.
Bourbon is a type of whiskey made in America, where corn is used as the primary grain in fermentation. Tennessee whiskey is technically a bourbon by definition thought some distilleries may not market their whiskey as such.
Whiskey and bourbon are both aged in wooden barrels after fermentation. Many of the flavors of whiskey and bourbon come from the charred residue in the barrel. In order for a whiskey to be officially named a bourbon, the whiskey must be aged in a new, charred, oak barrel, and comprised of at least 51% corn.
Straight whiskey or bourbon is theoretically supposed to be free from flavorings, colorings, and other additives, so the whiskeys on this list do not qualify. If you are considering trying a whiskey, even if the flavor profile notes distinctive flavors, if it’s labeled as straight whiskey it will not be a flavored whiskey.
This is widely considered one of the best flavored whiskeys by college students across the country. Fireball’s website says it all; this cinnamon whiskey “needs no introduction.” Fireball shots are in high demand at college parties and bars everywhere, especially during the winter. However, many people may not realize that it’s even whiskey.
This whiskey is known for its sugary-sweet cinnamon flavor that covers up its 33% ABV. It may not be the best whiskey to sip on the rocks, but it’s a great addition to an endless number of cocktails. An amazing drink to try is “Angry Balls,” by adding a shot of Fireball to a pint of Angry Orchard Cider.
Cinnamon whiskey is so popular that a majority of the major whiskey distilleries produce a version. Jack Daniel’s version is Tennessee Fire, Jim Bean has Kentucky Fire, Jim Beam has Red Stag Spiced. Then there is Jeremiah Weed, Evan William, plus other smaller distilleries. Cinnamon seems to be the first choice for flavoring a whiskey, pairing well with the natural flavors, such as vanilla, caramel, or burnt sugar, that is common in whiskey or bourbon.
Fireball is easily found in almost every grocery store, big-box store, liquor store, and even most gas stations. Sizes range from small 1.5 oz shot bottles to full handles, where a handle can be found for about $20-22.
Jim Beam Red Stag makes a Hardcore Cider that is anything but cider; this whiskey is still a whopping 40% ABV. However, this flavored whiskey isn’t just reminiscent of an apple cider. It’s like cider was distilled down to pure alcohol.
Red Stag uses four-year-old Jim Bean Kentucky bourbon whiskey as its base, then infuses it with apple cider. With less cinnamon flavor and sugary sweetness than Fireball, this whiskey is the next step when branching out from the college favorite.
Try this one as an alternative to “Angry Balls”, like a “Strongbow Stag” for an alternative. Or, at the risk of being mobbed, serve warm like a true mulled apple cider.
Red Stag Hardcore Cider can be found at many liquor stores and most Bevmo or Total Wines for about $16 for 750 ml. You can also find one of the best flavored whiskeys online at Drizly.
Screwball whiskey hails from Ocean Beach, a neighborhood in the City of San Diego. This peanut butter flavored whiskey might sound strange, but this whiskey tastes just like a peanut butter cup and is good enough to sip for non-whiskey drinkers.
Screwball hits home with 35% ABV, two points higher than Fireball. With the smooth peanut butter taste, you won’t notice the alcohol burn. On the Screwball website you can find a cocktail recipe for a PB&J Manhattan that includes sweet vermouth and a quinine laced wine.
Right now, retailers such as Bevmo may only ship to California, Washington, and Arizona, but other options through websites like Drizzly may help you get your hands on it. 750 ml will run about $28-30.
Knob Creek Smoked Maple
There’s something about sweet flavors that helps cut the smoky flavors that non-whiskey drinkers tend to avoid. Knob Creek uses maple syrup in their Smoked Maple Whiskey.
This whiskey beats out all the others on this list for alcohol content at 45% ABV, and might be the strongest in whiskey flavor too. Some whiskey purists might say that it’s still too sweet for their tastes.
With undertones of vanilla and caramel, if the alcohol content and whiskey flavor are overwhelming, try this one in an Old Fashioned, with apple brandy as a twist.
Knob Creek’s Smoked Maple can be found in many big box stores liquor stores for about $26-28 for 750 ml.
BSB: Brown Sugar Bourbon
Bartenders at Heritage Distilling Company in the Ballard Neighborhood of Seattle convinced me to try this one by comparing it to a pecan pie. Adamant that I did not like whiskey, one sip later I was convinced I needed to take home a bottle.
On their website, Heritage notes that the BSB was named the “World’s Best Flavored Whiskey” two years in a row by Whisky Magazine. BSB is slightly lower in alcohol at 30% ABV than the others, but in making this whiskey Heritage adds real brown sugar to give it the authentic taste.
This is another great flavored whiskey to sip, but you can use it in plenty of other cocktails. I’ve also thrown a shot in while baking pecan pies to take the flavor up a notch. You might be able to find this on in large liquor stores on the west coast for about $29-30, but bottles can be purchased online through Heritage’s website for about $35.