If you’re a hardcore whiskey drinker, you probably have some opinions about which bottles are best and which ones are overrated. While we could argue all day if a bottle of Pappy is worth the price, we’d rather learn about more unknown bottles that we should be trying. So we chatted with Kenneth McCoy, founding partner of Ward III—an NYC bar known for its massive whiskey selection—to find out which bottles he believes are underrated. Here are his picks for six under-the-radar whiskeys that every whiskey lover should know.
“This juice is gorgeous and brought to you by PM Spirits,” McCoy says. “These cats know their stuff and this is the real deal.” This is the first bourbon from PM Spirits, and it’s a blend of 20 different casks of bourbon that were distilled in Indiana in 2009. It has a mash bill of 75-percent corn, 21-percent rye and 4-percent barley malt. “I believe there are only 3,000 bottles available,” he says. “If you like whiskey, get yourself some of this caramel heat and spice coming in at 112 proof.”
Every year, Sonoma County Distilling releases three different experimental bourbon expressions. “I’d never heard about these guys until a whiskey friend turned me onto it,” McCoy says. “It’s another high-rye whiskey but with some soft summer mint notes popping through. It’s easy sipping and deserves a look.” We recommend drinking this neat over a large rock or in a Mint Julep to make the cooling herb’s flavor pop even more.
“This came out a few years ago by the same folks behind Lock Stock & Barrel whiskey as well as Slow & Low,” McCoy says. McCoy suggests mixing this expression, which clocks in at 100 proof, into a Manhattan or sipping it neat if you can handle the heat. However you drink it, it definitely deserves your attention, especially for the price. “I really thought it was going to blow up but [it] didn’t,” he adds. “I think it needs another look. Light spice, orange and a little heat, and it’s not expensive.”
Even though Wigle Whiskey is a James Beard Award semi-finalist and the most awarded craft distillery in the United States, its bottles still fly under-the-radar. “This brand out of Pittsburgh is doing some interesting things,” McCoy says. “They have a wheated whiskey that’s very reminiscent of cereal, mint and morning grass. Check 'em out.”
“Based out of Canada, Forty Creek has a Double Barrel Reserve that has a big bold taste and super nutty character,” McCoy says. To make this unique expression, Forty Creek blends corn, rye and barley whiskies, then ages the liquid for two additional years in ex-bourbon casks. The deep amber liquid has notes of vanilla and toasted nuts on the nose before flavors of caramel, vanilla and spice come through on the palate. Forty Creek is also one of Supercall’s favorite Canadian distilleries, so you should definitely give this expression a try.
Gordon Graham’s Black Bottle Blended Scotch Whisky ($26)
This blended scotch combines grain whiskies from the seven distilleries of Islay, but it’s less of a peat bomb than many other whiskies produced on the island. “I don’t know much about it other than it’s been around for a long time, but has gone through a lot of changes,” McCoy says. “As far as a blended scotch goes, I think it’s great and I can’t understand why it’s not more popular—or maybe it is and I don’t know! I feel it should be behind every back bar in place of Dewar’s and Teacher’s.”