If you’re seeking the next big trend in whiskey, look to American single malts. These highly original whiskeys belongs to a vibrant, sometimes contentious movement in American whiskey that isn’t yet bound by a legal definition. But the lack of formal regulations hasn’t prevented this budding style from flourishing, with distillers across the country creating a dazzling range of flavors.
Leading the charge for recognition is the American Single Malt Whiskey Commission, an organization founded by nine distilleries in 2016 that has since grown to include more than 150 distillers who seek to establish a standard of identity for American single malt. “What’s most important is that the industry at large—the trade, the retailers, the bars and restaurants of the world, and ultimately consumers—starts to recognize this category,” commission president Steve Hawley tells Whisky Advocate. “We want consumers to have confidence that what they’re picking up off the shelf, what they think is in that bottle, is actually in that bottle.”
Yet some distillers believe it’s too soon to establish strict regulations. As this disparate group of innovators grapples for consensus, pour yourself a glass of one of these high-scoring American single malts from Whisky Advocate’s Buying Guide, and discover why this style is sparking such strong debate.
Pushing the bounds of flavor: 10 American single malts to try now
Balcones Brujeria Sherry Cask-Finished (Batch 18-1)—93 points, $130
Raisins and dried chile on the nose, a full, tannic palate, and dark chocolate on the finish.
Virginia Distillery Co. Courage & Conviction (George G. Moore Batch)—91 points, $75
Lemon and orange oil, guava, kiwi, dried leaves, nutty tobacco, and peppery spice, with a gentle, slow-fading finish.
Stranahan’s Sherry Cask (Batch 004)—90 points, $80
Milk chocolate Toblerone, grape soda, raspberry coulis, candied ginger, almonds, Fig Newtons, and drying oak.
Westland Garryana (Batch 4|1)—90 points, $150
A gentle nose precedes a rich, robust palate with nuts and mocha, and a short but satisfying finish.
10th Street—89 points, $65
Briny, with rubbery, mineral peat on the nose, a sweet and savory palate, and a nutty finish.
Hillrock Estate (Barrel No. OPX-30)—89 points, $105
A vibrant nose of baby back ribs and grilled corn; finishes with lingering savory smoke.
McCarthy’s (Batch W13-01)—88 points, $55
Bold peat with creamy malt leads to a refined finish.
Whiskey Del Bac Dorado—88 points, $56
Dripping with barbecue flavors; cayenne, walnuts, and spiced ginger balanced with apples, oranges, and pears.
St. George (Lot 19)—87 points, $100
Chocolate-covered marshmallows, plums, nectarines, and hot cocoa with whipped cream.
Westward—87 points, $80
Creamed honey, caramel, and candied nuts balance big vanilla from new charred oak.