If you are buying Dad whiskey this Father’s Day, why not find something special?

Sure, you can close your eyes and buy whatever whiskey the dude at Total Wine likes. Thoughtful, right? Not so much. Like all Dads, different whiskies have different personalities, and finding a perfect match comes down to understanding your choices. Luckily, we did the research for you, so here are new and exciting expressions ranging from experimental craft bourbons to mind blowing single malts.

Photo courtesy of Maker's Mark

Maker’s Mark FAE-01

Loretto, Kentucky
110.6 Proof (60.3% ABV); $60

One of the unique features of Maker’s Mark is consistency: every barrel of its whisky tastes precisely like the one next to it. They achieve this by rotating barrels in the rick-house where they’re stored, allowing each to get the same exposure to Kentucky’s ever-changing climate. While this is well and good for the flagship product, fans of Maker’s Mark like diversity, too. So, to find new flavors, Maker’s introduced the Wood Finishing Series. Here, barrel staves are placed inside barrels with different characteristics (like different levels of charring), which are bottled as limited releases. FAE-01 is their first expression of 2021 and the third in the series.

How Does It Taste?

FAE-01 tastes exactly how the barrel warehouse smells – with rich figgy notes complemented by tobacco undertones and a pleasantly dank woodiness. – CL

Photo courtesy of Bruichladdich

Port Charlotte Heavily Peated PAC 01 2011

Islay, Scotland
103.2 Proof (51.6%), $130

Savory, smoky single malt might not be every Dad’s cup of meat, but any fan of peated scotch will want this special edition Port Charlotte Heavily Peated by Bruichladdich on their home bar. Steeped in history and committed to Islay-born terroir, Bruichladdich loves experimenting with interesting single malt expressions, the best of which are bottled as small-batch, limited editions. Our favorite of late is Laddie’s Port Charlotte Heavily Peated PAC 01 2011. This layered whisky is blended from two distinct parcels, both aged 6- and 7 years respectively in American oak before relocating to French oak ex-wine casks until master blender Adam Hannett decides it’s perfectly balanced.

How Does It Taste?

Intense berry, barbecue, and sweet smoke are balanced by acidic citrus notes and backed up by a second wave of chocolate and caramel. Add a little water to unveil additional layers of vanilla and coconut. –JM

Blackened master blender, Rob Dietrich. Photo courtesy of Blackened

BLACKENED American Whiskey Master Blender Exclusive Batch 112

Denver, Colorado
113.07 Proof (56.5% ABV); $60

Something special happens when you crank up a little Metallica and lose yourself in the body-shaking bliss that follows. The music moves you. But did you know that blasting tunes can help produce great whiskey, too? To make BLACKENED, master blender Rob Dietrich employs a “sonic aging” technique to his maturing barrels. Metallica’s music is played at high volume and low frequency, creating vibrations in the barrel that moves the whiskey through the wood for additional barrel-influenced flavors. Dietrich’s signature release, cask-strength Exclusive Batch 112, is a blend of North American bourbons and rye that’s sonically enhanced before finishing in black brandy casks. The result is a whiskey that’s as complex as an ear-splitting solo from Lars Ulrich himself.

How Does It Taste?

Burnt caramel, oak, and honey aromas lead to intense flavors of honey, cinnamon, allspice, dark fruit, clove, and mint, capped with a long and creamy finish spiked with butterscotch and honey. – CL

Photo courtesy of Westand

Westland Colere Edition 1 American Single Malt Whiskey

Seattle, Washington
100 Proof (50% ABV), $150

If your scotch-loving Pop hasn’t embraced what American single malt has to offer, Colere Edition 1 might just change his mind. Here is the second of three Outpost Series expressions, a portfolio dedicated to exploring the flavor and terroir of native Pacific Northwest grains in conjunction with Washington State University’s Bread Lab in the Skagit Valley. This Colere Edition 1 employs ‘Alba’ six-row winter barley that’s locally malted then matured in first and second fill American oak casks, just like they do it in Scotland.

How Does It Taste?

Pineapple is the dominant flavor note here, which plays beautifully with floral notes and cereal grain on the nose and on the palate, where it dovetails with almonds, dried fruit, and a pinch of black pepper. –JM

Photo courtesy of Heaven Hill

Larceny Barrel Proof Release B521

Bardstown, Kentucky
121 Proof (60.5% ABV); $70

Straight off its win for Best Bourbon in the John Barleycorn Award’s Spring 2021 competition, Larceny Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is the latest small-batch release from Heaven Hill, Kentucky’s largest family-owned independent distilleries. Larceny is known as a ‘wheated’ bourbon, meaning wheat joins corn as the secondary flavor grain in place of classic rye, creating a softer, rounder character. This year’s second release is B521, comprised of 200 barrels of 6 – 8-year-old bourbon bottled non-chill-filtered in all of its cask strength glory.

How Does It Taste?

Sweet aromas of caramel, vanilla, cinnamon, and chocolate translate to the palate and mingle with dark fruit and walnuts. Vanilla pops up on the long and lingering finish along with oak and leather. – CL

Photo courtesy of Dewar's

Dewar’s The Champion Edition 19-Year-Old

Perthshire, Scotland
80 Proof (40% ABV); $80

How about a 19-year-old whiskey on the 19th hole? Kicking off just in time for the match, Dewar’s “The Champion Edition” is the first limited release of a multi-year partnership between Dewar’s and the U.S. Open. For this inaugural release, esteemed master blender Stephanie Macleod assembled this combo of extra-aged grain and single malt whiskies that are married and finished in ex-bourbon American oak casks. Buyer beware, this limited bottling won’t last long, so check out Reserve Bar to snag one before they are gone.

How Does It Taste?

Expect aromas of toffee, popped corn, and soft panna cotta, balanced with floral notes of freshly cut grass. Honey, toffee, vanilla, and ripe cherries pervade on the palate, with a long, honey-laden finish…Dewar’s signature flavor profile. –JM

Photo courtesy of Nomad Outland

Nomad Outland Whisky

Jerez, Spain
82.6 Proof (41.3% ABV); $50

The rules are clear in the whisky community that those produced outside of Scotland cannot be called “scotch” and must carry another title. Nomad Outland Whisky proudly reminds you in its name that, though it might have started off in Scotland, it roamed elsewhere to finish its journey. Nomad was, in fact, born in Scotland as a blend of about 30 Speyside whiskies aged in American oak casks that were seasoned with Oloroso Sherry. From there, Nomad traveled to the cellars of González Byass in Jerez, a legendary sherry producer, for an additional year of secondary maturation in Pedro Ximénez casks. The result is a blended scotch with intense sherry influences that’s just a little different from anything Dad has likely tried before.

How Does It Taste?

Expect aromas of oak and malted grains, with sweet hints of dried fruit. But the sherry influence shines on the palate where intense and sweet red fruit meets honey, cherry, and almonds. The finish follows suit, picking up additional layers of oak and vanilla on the way down. – CL

Photo courtesy of Jim Beam

Lineage Bourbon

Clermont, Kentucky
Vitals: 110 Proof; (55%); $250 (.700 liter)

Hey fellow travelers, are you ready for a bourbon hunt? In Travel Duty-Free shops, the whiskey to seek out is Jim Beam’s Lineage, the first official collaborative effort by Father and son team Fred and Freddie Noe, Beam’s 7th and 8th generation of family distillers. But, a great story aside, this is a serious bourbon for serious bourbon fans and collectors alike. Cherry-picked from Beam’s fabled “Warehouse K,” Lineage is some of the finest liquid in Beam’s two million or so resting barrels, aged at least 15 years and bottled at a robust 55% ABV.

How Does It Taste?

Classic Beam caramel and vanilla flavor are balanced by intense spice, gentle tannic oak, and dried fruit. The discerning taster will find chocolate notes lingering in the background. –JM

Photo courtesy of Redbreast

Redbreast 27 Year Old

Cork County, Ireland
109.2 Proof (54.6% ABV)

Redbreast was the brainchild of a wine merchant company who, since the turn of the 20th century, used wine barrels to set their whiskey apart. The brand’s latest and most mature addition to the core lineup to date is Redbreast 27-Year-Old. Aside from extra-aging, what makes this whiskey special is the inclusion of ruby port barrels from Portugal’s Douro Valley, lending a unique sweetness and a completely different level of complexity to what’s already being hailed as some of the best whiskey Ireland has to offer. An extraordinary liquid for a Dad who enjoys the finer things in life.

How Does It Taste?

Where do we begin? Dried and fresh fruit is complemented by a bouquet of herbs and oak-born spices, layered with flavors of sweet vanilla and toffee, combined with the nuttiness of toasted wood. This exceptional whiskey finishes with a long balance of ripe fruit and wood spices that lingers for days. –CL

Photo courtesy of Paul Sutton Bourbon

Paul Sutton Bourbon

Danville, Kentucky
100 Proof (50% ABV); $60

The Sutton family has been making whiskey for friends and family in Alabama for over 100 years. When company founder Myra Barginear (a New York-based oncologist) discovered mason jars filled with her late grandfather’s homemade hooch. Myra teamed with Firm Solutions in Danville, Kentucky, who reverse-engineered the juice to determine what they believe is the original mash. Seven years of development and aging later, Paul Sutton Bourbon, made of Alabama grown grains and comprised of 72% corn, 13% rye, 15% malt barley, was born in March 2021.

How Does It Taste?

Sweet notes of vanilla and caramel are tempered with rye and barrel spices, almonds, and deep cherry. Just the right amount of tannin and alcohol is the glue that holds it all together. –JM

Photo courtesy of Ardbeg

Ardbeg Scorch Limited Edition

Islay, Scotland
102.4 Proof (51.7% ABV); $120

Ardbeg has been distilling smoky, peated single malt on Scotland’s Isle of Islay since the late 18th century, so naturally, they’re proud of both their history and their tiny island. To celebrate, Islay distillers sponsor the Islay Festival of Music & Malt to celebrate their distilling legacy. The last day of this festival is Ardbeg Day, and each year the distillery releases a special limited bottling to mark the occasion. This year’s expression is Scorch, a funky and rich whisky that just begs for a good cigar on a back porch.

How Does It Taste?

You’ll find Intense smoke on the nose that’s spiced up with aniseed and licorice. The palate is all about smoky charred oak, seared meat, and more licorice capped by a lingering, creamy finish of campfire and spices. –CL

Photo courtesy of Booker's Bourbon

Booker’s Bourbon ‘Tagalong Batch’

Clermont, Kentucky
127.9 Proof; $99

While Jim Beam’s Booker’s Bourbon is hardly something new, now is an excellent time to inform the uninitiated. While this classic, cask strength ass-kicker has been around since 1996, the liquid in each small batch parcel of Booker’s is reborn several times each year and released in limited quantities. This year’s second release is Tagalong Batch, a monster of a whiskey that’s aged over six years and clocks in at a cut under 130 proof, just like the late Booker Noe, for whom the whiskey’s named, liked to drink his.

How Does It Taste?

Like all Booker’s releases, Tagalong Batch is all about classic bourbon flavors of caramel and vanilla. But this expression has a distinct oak and brown sugar vibe with a hint of black cherry in the backdrop. A little water goes a long way with Booker’s, and it’s fun to explore how the whiskey changes as the proof calms down. –JM

Photo courtesy of Barrell Craft Spirits

Stellum Spirits Bourbon and Rye

Bourbon: 114.9 Proof (57.45 % ABV)
Rye: 116.24 Proof (58.12% ABV)

Stellum Spirits is a new brand created by Barrell Craft Spirits, blenders of unique rums and whiskeys whose cask strength expressions have quickly become synonymous with innovative, high-quality spirits. Stellum bourbon is a blend of cherry-picked barrels from Tennessee, Kentucky, and Indiana, containing a range of mash-bills from high-rye to corn-centric that somehow manages to balance on a pin.

Stellum Rye is based on a spicy 95% Indiana rye mash bill that’s mingled with sweeter, more corn-forward Kentucky and Tennessee ryes. The result is just the spicy meatball rye enthusiasts love, tempered by a buttery mellowness that adds complex layers only found in a damn good rye whiskey.

How Does It Taste?

Stellum Bourbon features intense, nutty aromas of clove and allspice with tendrils of tobacco, cotton candy, and vanilla. Sweet, puffy marshmallow spiked with spices like cinnamon, black, and cayenne pepper. Stellum rye opens with a fruity nose of apple and peaches that’s backed up with undertones of rye and baking spices. Next, aniseed, cardamom, and coriander take center stage on the palate with hints of lemon peel and tangerine, capped by a spicy but cooling mint finish. –CL

Photo courtesy of Russell's Reserve

Russell’s Reserve 13 Year Old

Lawrenceburg, Kentucky
Proof 114.8 (57.4% ABV); $70

Fans were beyond stoked that Wild Turkey master distiller Eddie Russell created Russell’s Reserve’s 13 Year Old, the brand’s most mature age stated addition to the Russell’s lineup to date. Aged into its teen years and bottled at barrel proof, sans chill filter, this release is what Eddie Russel considers his “most rewarding experiences as a distiller.” This is a bold statement since the son of bourbon legend Jimmy Russell is celebrating his 40th year with Wild Turkey Distillery this year.

How Does It Taste?

Dried dark fruit and charred oak greets the palate, evolving into honey and chocolate on it’s way down. The wallop of cask strength alcohol is tempered by a mouthcoating viscosity, setting you up for a long and silky finish. –JM


Clint Lanier is a professor in the English Department of New Mexico State University. He is also the co-author of Drunken History, Bucket List Bars: Historic Saloons, Pubs, and Dives of America, and Craptails: the World’s Worst, Weirdest, and Most Disturbing Drinks. He has also written about spirits and travel for The Huffington Post, Fodors, Eater, and Liquor.com.

John McCarthy is a spirit, travel, and lifestyle journalist, managing editor, and author of The Modern Gentleman and Whiskey Rebels. McCarthy is also Director of Judging for the John Barleycorn International Spirits Competition and editor of Barleycorn Drinks.