When it comes to making a whiskey sour, you can go in a few different directions. If you’re feeling lazy, you can obviously go for a sour mix and, well, whiskey. Easy-peasy. If you want a true whiskey sour, though, you’re going to be looking to egg whites and lemon to make up the body (and lovely foamy head) of the cocktail.
Either way, the overall flavor of the drink is going to come down to one thing: what whiskey you choose. A shitty whiskey is going to produce a shitty whiskey sour. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it. All of the sour mixes in the world aren’t going to hide that flavor.
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To avoid finding yourself with a glassful of bad whiskey sour, we’ve settled on a list of the best whiskies for a whiskey sour. You’ll find your standard bourbon, but we’ve also included two rye whiskeys, a Canadian whisky, an Irish whiskey, and a Scotch whisky, should you want to branch out a little bit.
Garrison Brothers Texas Straight Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey
Winner of the Bourbon category in The Manual Spirit Awards, this small batch bourbon from Garrison Brothers has big caramel corn and oak flavors with an undercurrent of citrus and a hint of vanilla. There is a decent amount of cinnamon and baking spice on the palate, with more vanilla and some walnut. The finish is long and lingering with toasted oak notes.
For more than 200 years Jim Beam has been the classic bourbon, so the distillery is doing something right. Still crafted by Jim Beam’s great-grandson, the bourbon is cheap and good with caramel and light char notes, perfect for inclusion in a classic cocktail.
Four Roses Bourbon
Four Roses is a bourbon icon. As their standard offering, this bourbon offers up pear and fresh fruit on the nose and on the palate, both of which blend perfectly with fresh citrus. At the price, too, it’s hard to beat.
Old Forester 100 Proof
We continue our list with another gold standard of bourbon, Old Forester Signature 100 Proof. With a backbone that can stand up to a hurricane, the coffee, chocolate, and sweet fruit flavors of this bourbon sing in just about any classic cocktail.
Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
A higher proof bourbon, Knob Creek’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is a full-bodied whiskey with plenty of flavor to come through the ingredients without taking away from the layers of the drink. Fruity notes blend well with the lemon juice and, if you use it, a cherry.
George Dickel Rye Whisky
A Tennessee whisky (which utilizes the Lincoln County Process of charcoal mellowing), George Dickel Rye Whisky presents both spicy and smooth characteristics, creating a layered whiskey sour.
Wild Turkey Rye 101
Looking to turn up the whiskey sour a notch? Grab the Wild Turkey Rye 101. Wild Turkey 101 is nearly synonymous with Wild Turkey bourbon, but Wild Turkey Rye 101 will add the rye spice character (while maintaining the proof).
Bushmills Red Bush
For those looking for a little more Irish in their whiskey sour, Bushmills Red Bush gives drinkers a blend of triple distilled Irish single malt and fine Irish grain whiskey aged in first-fill bourbon barrels. This leads to a medium-bodied whiskey with caramel and nutty flavors that contrast the citrus well.
Crown Royal XO
A blend of 50 whiskies that are then finished in cognac casks, Crown Royal XO is a smooth whiskey that expresses plenty of vanilla and dried fruit to offer a nice counterpoint to the fresh citrus and sweet flavors in the drink. The vanilla also mixes nicely with the creamy mouthfeel from the egg white.
Glenfiddich Fire & Cane
Glenfiddich Fire & Cane is a marriage of peated and non-peated whisky, which were both aged in bourbon casks. After the initial maturation period, the whiskies are married and finished in rum casks from a variety of South American countries for a period of three months. The sweet hints on the end of this whisky make for a lovely sour.
Article originally published by Pat Evans on July 10, 2017. Last updated by Sam Slaughter on September 15, 2019 to include details of The Manual Spirit Awards 2019.
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