Whiskey can naturally have the flavor or texture of syrup, but distillers are now adding a touch of additional sweetness to their bourbons and ryes. Take the approachability of flavored whiskey, remove the added sugar, up the proof, toss in an element of craft collaboration, and you have syrup-finished whiskey.
Iron Fish Distillery in Michigan has embraced maple flavors, inspired by the state’s robust maple syruping activity. “Our vision from the very beginning was to incorporate maple in a variety of product extensions that embraced the heritage of Northern Michigan,” says co-founder Richard Anderson. Taconic Distillery in New York’s Hudson Valley takes a similar approach, working with a nearby syrup producer for its Double Barrel Maple bourbon.
Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery, also in the Hudson Valley, has offered a maple syrup-finished whiskey since 2013. That whiskey, now called Hudson Short Stack, has remained a part of the core lineup ever since. “It was originally just meant to be a seasonal release,” Hudson Whiskey master distiller Brendan O’Rourke says, “but we’re now trying to keep it on the shelves year-round.” Michael Myers, owner of Distillery 291 in Colorado, is likewise ready to make its maple syrup-finished rye, M, a more permanent fixture because it’s so well received.
These whiskeys are sippable neat, but versatile in cocktails too. Iron Fish sells a bottled Salted Maple Double-Barreled Old Fashioned, while Catoctin Creek founder Scott Harris says that their maple cask-finished cask strength whiskey makes a dangerously delicious Manhattan. Some distillers and syrup producers sell bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup, which Taconic founder Paul Coughlin says is a great replacement for simple syrup in cocktails.
Harris and others have sought to curb the inherent sweetness of the maple syrup by using rye whiskey, but even those who use bourbon are intentional about achieving balance. Lisa Roper Wicker creates a custom blend of straight bourbons for Widow Jane Decadence for that reason. “I’m really looking for things that are going to hold their own against the maple syrup,” she says.
Drinkers have responded to these finishes because the syrupy sweetness remains a complement to the base whiskey. “I think people are pleasantly surprised by the fact that this is not too sweet,” Anderson says. Coughlin agrees: “It’s much more of a hint of maple than something that’s overpowering that you’re bringing to the prom.
Maple Syrup Finishes That Stick the Landing
Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye Cask Proof Maple Finished—60%/Varies, $90
What’s Inside: 100% rye whiskey finished for about a year in Catoctin barrels once filled with certified-organic maple syrup from Mill Gap Farms in Virginia.
Distillery 291 M Colorado Rye—63.45%/Varies, $105
What’s Inside: Aspen wood stave-finished rye whiskey that receives a 4-month secondary finish in Distillery 291 whiskey barrels that previously held maple syrup from Lincoln Country Reserve in Wisconsin.
Hudson Short Stack—46%, $55
What’s Inside: Rye whiskey finished up to 6 months in Hudson whiskey barrels that were then used by Woods Vermont Syrup Company to age maple syrup. Kosher certified.
Iron Fish Bourbon Finished in Maple Syrup Barrels—43%, $45
What’s Inside: Bourbon finished for 6 months to a year in maple syrup barrels from Griner Family Sugar Bush in Michigan.
Taconic Distillery Double Barrel Maple Bourbon—45%, $50
What’s Inside: Bourbon finished in maple syrup barrels from Catskill Mountain Sugarhouse in New York for a minimum of 6 months.
Widow Jane 10 year old Decadence—45.5%, $90
What’s Inside: Blend of straight bourbons finished for about 3 months in Widow Jane barrels that previously held organic maple syrup from Crown Maple in New York.