Out of the gate thus far in 2023 is a flurry of innovative and exciting whiskeys from around the world.

Case-in-point is this collection of 10 recent releases in as many whiskey styles, ranging from an Indian single malt aged in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains to a Texas weather-beaten single-barrel of Tennessee bourbon. Ready for a taste? Let’s go!

Bowmore Masters’ Selection 22-year-old Single Malt

Vitals: 103 Proof (51.5% ABV); $450

Islay, Scotland’s Bowmore Single Malt introduced its Masters’ Selection, the latest release in collaboration with luxury car maker Aston Martin. In what the company calls a “meeting of the minds,” what landed in the bottle is Bowmore’s peated single malt scotch, distilled in 1997 and 2000 and matured in American Oak hogsheads with Sherry butts. The masters who selected this whiskey are Bowmore Master Blender Ron Welsh and Marek Reichman, Chief Creative Officer, Aston Martin.

How Does It Taste?
Aromas of honey, vanilla, cherries, and lychees meet licorice and a signature gentle smoke. Expect malty flavors of vanilla and butterscotch mingling with hazelnut, herbs, and pepper. These flavors are encased in Bowmore’s lightly peated profile.

“Marek and I have relished in the opportunity to share experiences, ideas, and thoughts from each other’s worlds, listening and learning from the inherent skill, knowledge, and creativity we both possess.” — Ron Welsh, Master Blender, Bowmore

Learn More About Bowmore Masters’ Selection

Suntory World Whisky ‘Ao’

Vitals: 86 Proof (43% ABV) $55 (700 ml)

‘Ao’ is a collection of whiskies from Beam Suntory distilleries in Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Japan, and the United States. To create Ao, these aforementioned whisky stocks are blended to a final expression by Suntory’s legendary Chief Blender, Shinji Fukuyo. Available only in Japan and travel retail since 2019, this whisky is now officially part of the core lineup of Suntory, which includes Hakushu, Yamazaki, Suntory Whisky Toki, and Hibiki. Meaning “blue” in Japanese, the name is inspired by the oceans tying these whisky regions together.

How Does It Taste?
Aromas of vanilla, pineapple, and lingering wood lead to smoke and cinnamon spice, enveloped in a lovely viscosity. The whisky finishes sweet and smoky.

“Ao is an exceptional whisky which, through the art of Suntory blending, allows you to enjoy the unique characteristics of each of the five major whisky-making regions.” —Shinji Fukuyo, Chief Blender, Suntory

Learn More About Suntory World Whiskey Oa

Kentucky Owl Mardi Gras XO Cask Limited Edition Straight Rye

Vitals: 102.8 proof (51.4% ABV); $500

“Laissez les bons temps rouler!” In time for Fat Tuesday, Kentucky Owl lets the good times roll with this super-limited edition Mardi Gras-themed rye. Here is an 11-year-old straight rye whiskey curated by Master Blender, John Rhea, and finished over a year by Bayou Rum Master Blender Reiniel Vicente Diaz in 38 fresh XO Rum casks in the humid Louisiana climate.

How Does It Taste?
Toasted rye bread and butter meet cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. Rye notes mingle with more spice on the palate and a subtle nutty note, ushered by a nicely balanced mouthfeel leading to a long spicy finish that’s just the right amount of gentle drying.

“There’s a lot of good times rolling around in these barrels.” — Bayou Rum Master Blender Reiniel Vicente Diaz

Learn More About Kentucky Owl

Barrell Craft Spirits Batch 34

Vitals: 114.62 Proof (57.31 ABV); $90

From the mega-award-winning Bardstown-based blending house comes Barrell Craft Spirits Batch 34, a bourbon comprised of whiskeys made in Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. This blend is aged between 6-15 years, beginning with a base of 8-year-old bourbon, spiked up with high corn and high rye mash whiskeys to arrive at this nicely balanced expression. Final touches include 10-and15-year-old bourbon for some oak notes and tannin. Try it with a splash of water.

How Does It Taste?
A complex nose yields baking spice, stewed apples, dried apricot, and floral notes. Expect jammy notes on the palate mingling with cinnamon, cola, and pecan with a hint of salinity on the back. Finishes with a slight minerality, nutty notes, and licorice on the finish.

“We chose each of the barrel lots for its specific contribution to Batch 34. The 6, 8, and 10-year-old barrels, when introduced properly, create a well-rounded and complex bourbon base blend that receives the 15-year barrels through our precision blending process, which delivers a sophisticated and robust bourbon.” —Joe Beatrice, Founder and Master Blender, Barrell Craft Spirits

Learn More About Barrell Craft Spirits

Milam & Greene The Wildlife Collection, Scorpion Single Barrel

Vitals: 123.3 proof (61.65% ABV); $100

This Scorpion Single Barrel is a perfect addition to any white unicorn collector’s whiskey stash, the first bourbon in Milam & Greene’s Wildlife Collection. This new “Texas finish” series from CEO and Master Blender Heather Greene explores the effects of extreme Texas weather on aging whiskey. This inaugural Scorpion Barrel is four-year-old Tennessee bourbon that finished an additional eight months in Texas during a tumultuous year of extreme storms and heat. To score a bottle, head to the Milam & Greene website on February 22. Bottles will also be available at the distillery tasting room at 3:00 PM.

How Does It Taste?
The result is an intense, brooding bourbon with a deep copper color. It has rich scents of maple glazed donuts, a viscous texture with bold herbs, black pepper, candied orange peel, and tobacco flavors with a dry finish punctuated by fresh-cut lumber notes.

“Scorpion is truly a ‘Texas finished, Tennessee Whiskey’ that belies its age. I find the minutia of what happens in a cask to be some of the most fascinating and misunderstood aspects of what makes a whiskey beautiful.” —Heather Greene, CEO and Master Blender, Milam & Greene


Learn More About Milam & Greene

Compass Box Delos: The Extinct Blend Quartet

Vitals: 98 Proof (49% ABV); $325

Delos is the second of four releases from the Extinct Blends Quartet Series, which recreates and elevates beloved Compass Box Scotch expressions from the past. This inaugural Limited Edition of 2023 is a nod to ASYLA, which was created in 2001 and discontinued in 2018. What’s in the bottle is malt whiskies from Speyside distilleries Glen Elgin, Imperial, and Miltonduff, aged in American oak barrels. The release is 5,520 bottles released worldwide.

How Does It Taste?
Fruit flavors like ripe pear, pineapple, orange, and vanilla evolve into guava, honey, and chai spices.

“While inspired by the style and recipe structure of Asyla, Delos has richer and rounder flavors from older stocks of whiskies which amplify the character, bringing more grandeur to it and making it more resonant. For me, sipping Delos feels like a holiday.” — Compass Box Whiskymaker James Saxon

Learn More About Compass Box

Westland Garryana American Single Malt Edition 7

Vitals: 100 Proof (50% ABV), $150 (700ml)

Garryana is one of three annual releases making up the brand’s Outpost Range, a collection of American single malts focused on the Pacific Northwest terroir where Westland is based. This whiskey begins with a medley of malt barley styles (including a touch of peat), fermented with Belgian brewer’s yeast and cooked in pot stills. The liquid is aged in a trio of barrel types: 50% Washington State red wine, 46% virgin Quercus Garryana oak, and 4% first-fill ex-bourbon. The final blend was finished in locally sourced Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon casks.

How Does It Taste?
Blackberry jam, clove, baked bread, and apple turnover aromas lead to flavors including molasses, charred cedar, black currant, and apple.

“Garryana Edition 7’s rich and savory Garry Oak interacts with sturdy Washington wine casks, resulting in a mix of spice and savory fruit.” — Westland Co-Founder Matt Hofmann.

Learn More About Westland

Old Elk Straight Rye Whiskey Rum Cask Finish

Vitals: 101 Proof (50.5% ABV); $100

Fort Collins, Colorado-based Old Elk released its first rye offering in its Cask Finish Series, a 95% rye mash aged five to six years, then finished for six months in 14-year-old Barbadian rum barrels and bottled cask strength. This Rum Cask Finish joins a pair of signature Old Elk “high malt” bourbons finished in port and cognac barrels. These whiskeys were released in limited quantity last year but are being re-released with the Rum Cask expression so fans can collect all three. According to Old Elk Master Distiller and industry legend Greg Metze, additional releases will come soon.

How Does It Taste?
Aromas of allspice and complex flavors of tobacco and ripe pineapple

“We selected freshly harvested barrels from some of the most exclusive Caribbean producers and are looking forward to adding a new and exciting character to our Old Elk family of whiskeys.” — Old Elk Master Distiller Greg Metze

Learn More About Old Elk

Buzzard’s Roost Smoked Barrel Rye

Vitals: 105 Proof (52.5% ABV); $70

Buzzard’s Roost finishes mature whiskey in light, char #1 barrels, then fine-tunes toast levels to coax flavors, like the candied orange note in this rye. In the bottle is four-year-old “high rye” rye barrels, blended and re-casked into “cold smoked” virgin oak, imparting a nicely integrated campfire vibe.

How Does It Taste?
Classic vanilla caramel aromas meet cardamom, cinnamon, banana bread, and smoke. On the palate are candied oranges plus more vanilla, caramel, baking spices, and campfire, which is most prominent on the finish.

“The cold-smoking process – where the smoke is generated in a machine and then filtered in and out of the barrel – lends a very gentle, but discernible note to the whiskey that we love.” — Buzzard’s Roost Master Blender Jason Brauner.

Learn More About Buzzard’s Roost

Rampur Select

Vitals: 86 Proof (43% ABV); $140

Fans have been waiting a few years now for the return of Rampur Select, but their beloved single malt that kicked off Rampur’s whisky program in the US is finally back, for now. It will likely sell out quickly. Here we have 100% Indian malt barley distilled in copper pot stills, and here comes the cool part, matured in first-fill bourbon casks in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains. Who wouldn’t want to taste that?

How Does It Taste?
Tropical fruit aromas lead to honey, apples, and apricots on the palate as it builds toward a long, spicy finish.

“This incarnation of Rampur Select embodies everything we loved about the original release while succeeding in pushing the whisky beyond even our expectations; this is truly a whisky meant for lovers of the extraordinary; it will not last long.” — Sanjeev Banga, President of International Business

Learn More About Rampur Select

Bernheim Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey

Vitals: 118.8 proof (59.4% ABV); $65

For the first time in its 18 year existence, Heaven Hill is releasing its Bernheim Wheat Whiskey in all its cask strength glory. This limited edition will be released twice a year under the leadership of Bernheim Master Ditiller Conor O’Driscol. The first offering, Batch A223 contains 7-9 year old whiskey from a mash of 51% wheat, 37% corn, and 12% malted barley, bottled non-chill filtered and clocking in a 59.4% ABV.

How Does It Taste?
Company tasting notes promise oak staves and fresh bread with hnits of buttery caramel and honey, and clove. More honey and caramel on the “soft yet complex” finish.

“We know this is a product consumers want, and we think this batch has the smoothness they’ll recognize from Bernheim Original, but with an even greater depth of flavor.” —Conor O’Driscoll, Master Distiller

Learn More About Bernheim Barrel Proof Wheat Whiskey

Spirits writers, marketers and designers are among the most influential forces in the spirits industry. Their opinions, ideas and creative talents inform and influence consumer perceptions and buying decisions. The John Barleycorn Society was started by a group of spirits journalists seeking to honor excellence in all facets of the industry. The journalists spent several years creating a comprehensive competition that became the John Barleycorn Awards. An elite team of authoritative and influential spirits journalists was selected to administer the flagship component of the Awards, a blind tasting competition destined to become the preeminent arbitrator of spirits taste, quality and character.