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The Best American Single Malt Whiskey

The Manual Spirit Awards recognize the best craft liquors distilled in the U.S. We blind-tasted bottles from around the country in eight categories — Bourbon, Single Malt Whiskey, Rye Whiskey, Gin, Vodka, Unaged Rum, Aged Rum, and Liqueur — to determine our champions. Each of the winners was judged on aroma, palate, and finish. Cheers to your next drink and to American craft spirits.

Best Single Malt Whiskey

Balcones Distilling Texas Single Malt Whisky

Waco, Texas

The Manual Spirit Awards 2019 Best Single Malt Whiskey
Image used with permission by copyright holder

A single malt whiskey is produced from just that: a single malted grain, whether it be rye, wheat, corn, or barley. While the category is more widely recognized in Scotch and Irish whiskies, American single malt is a rapidly growing category — though not one that is officially recognized like bourbon and rye whiskey — as more and more craft distilleries are perfecting recipes.

As a result, this is perhaps the most exciting category in The Manual Spirit Awards. With so much attention on single malt whiskies from other countries, we love that American producers are finally getting a stage to show off on.

What impressed us most about Balcones Distilling Texas Single Malt Whisky — the winner of the Single Malt Whiskey category in The Manual Spirit Awards 2019 — was the body. It was full and silky smooth with loads of flavor from the beginning to long after we swallowed. It feels like the kind of whisky you’d find the hero of countless Westerns sipping right after he’s captured the baddies, saved the damsel, and taken a damn shower. The slight smoky notes complement the malt flavors for a well-rounded whisky.

Balcones Texas Single Malt Whisky is 53% alcohol by volume and is available in most states as well as online.

About the Distillery

Balcones Distilling began in 2009 in Waco and bills themselves as the “original Texas whisky.” Since then, the distillery worked to produce spirits that are emblematic of the Lone Star State, utilizing local grains (especially the first Texas-grown barley for malting) to craft quite a variety of products. Balcones produces a wide variety of whiskies in addition to their Texas Single Malt Whisky. The core lineup features Baby Blue Blue Corn Whisky, Texas Pot Still Bourbon, Texas Rye, and True Blue Straight Corn Whisky. The lineup of special releases includes Staff Selection Texas Single Malt Whisky, Rum Cask Finished Texas Single Malt Whiskey, Texas Rum, Rumble Cask Reserve, and True Blue Cask Strength. Balcones also has a collection of extremely limited releases and a single barrel private selection program.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Tasting Notes

Nose Honey, sweet orange, and candied lemon peel reveal themselves before oak, some bready notes, and peach jam lead you into the palate.
Palate Malty notes abound, with just enough sweetness to provide a very smooth and rich drinking experience.
Finish A lingering finish, with somewhat smoky, toasted oak notes melding with cooked sugar flavors.

How to Enjoy It in a Cocktail

While this cocktail, the Blood and Sand, is meant for Scotch whisky, we decided this American-made single malt whiskey was a more than suitable substitute. Named after a Rudolph Valentino bullfighting movie of the same name, the cocktail has been around since at least the 1930s. The mix of smokiness from the whiskey and sweetness from the brandy, vermouth, and blood orange juice offer up not only a visually appealing drink, but one that is balanced and refreshing.

Blood and Sand

Glass: Coupe

Tools: Shaker, lighter

  • .75 oz Balcones Texas Single Malt Whiskey
  • .75 oz sweet red vermouth
  • .75 oz cherry brandy
  • .75 oz blood orange juice
  • Orange peel for garnish

Method: Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice. Shake well. Strain into a coupe glass. Take orange peel and flame it over the glass before dropping it in.

Best Single Malt Whiskey Runners-Up

FEW Single Malt Whisky

FEW Spirits – Chicago, Illinois

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Dark chocolate notes are plentiful and they balance the bready, malty sweetness of this whisky in a great way – like a slice of dark chocolate on toast. Oak and spice round out the major flavor components.

Stranahan’s Diamond Peak

Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey – Denver, Colorado

Image used with permission by copyright holder

A blend of hand-selected barrels, this single malt from Colorado has bountiful apricot notes on the nose and palate, as well as cedar and spice.


Written by Sam Slaughter

Copy editing by Nicole Raney and Jeremy Abrams

Photography by  Riley Young and Dan Baker

Video by Riley Young

Art direction and page layout by Genevieve Poblano

Creative team: Will Hawkins and Chris Raymond

Sam Slaughter
Sam Slaughter was the Food and Drink Editor for The Manual. Born and raised in New Jersey, he’s called the South home for…
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