The great thing about whiskey is that it already has an intense flavor and a great range of flavors. There is a whiskey for everyone, whether neat, on the rocks, or with your favorite whiskey. Some may have questioned the need for cinnamon flavored whiskey, but since so many distilleries are now turning to this particular flavor, there is obviously a demand for it.
Before we take a closer look at cinnamon whiskey, here is a list of the top 10 brands on the market today.
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire
Jack Daniel’s was one of the first to experiment with flavored whiskey with the Tennessee Honey bottle. After around three years, the company introduced Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire, a cinnamon liqueur blended with the more traditional Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey at 35% ABV.
If you are looking for Jack Daniel’s usual quality whiskey, you might be surprised. That’s not to say this is a bad drink, on the contrary, but when you first open the bottle, it’s the cinnamon that hits your nose, not the Jack. It smells sweet and hot and once you get past the cinnamon, you will notice vanilla and sugar. Something similar happens on the palate. At first, you will be hit by the cinnamon, then the sweetness of candies and just at the end, the flavor of whiskey comes about. It is great if you are looking for sweet shots and a cinnamon whiskey that doesn’t linger.
Jim Beam Kentucky Fire Whiskey
We gave Jim Beam credit for the bottle design. It slick, modern and the flames warm you up before you even taste it. It is made by taking the Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey and infusing it with cinnamon liqueur. This cinnamon whiskey is also 35% ABV.
Jim Beam did an excellent job at balancing the cinnamon with the whiskey. Neither of the two flavors is overpowering. The cinnamon offers a nice sweetness to the bourbon and it is nice that you can still enjoy a smooth finish that is associated with Jim Beam’s whiskeys. You can drink the Jim Beam Kentucky Fire Whiskey however you prefer but it is especially nice with apple cider or add a shot of espresso.
Then, if you want to stick to Jim Beam, you could also try Jim Beam Red Stag Spiced, which is a little lighter than the Fire Whiskey. It is a touch sweeter and preferred for cocktails.
Jeremiah Weed Cinnamon Flavored Whiskey
Diageo released Jeremiah Weed Cinnamon Whiskey in 2014 along with two other flavored whiskeys. We also have Diageo to thank for drinks like Smirnoff and Baileys. The Jeremiah Weed website has a fantastic list of cocktails including some ideas for its cinnamon flavored whiskey.
On the nose, you can detect cinnamon, vanilla, and a decent amount of whiskey. With the first sip, there is a lovely syrupy sensation beginning with the vanilla and cinnamon and then slowly building up to the hot sweetness. Unlike other cinnamon whiskeys, you can detect an oak-aged flavor, reminding us slightly more of a traditional whiskey. This 35.6% ABV cinnamon whiskey has won awards and after one ice-cold shot, you can see why.
Bird Dog Hot Cinnamon Flavored Whiskey
Bird Dog is the king of sourcing bourbon, tweaking it with new flavors and then bottling it with the infamous spaniel in the countryside label. It’s slightly stronger at 40% ABV and we assume from its color that it is quite young.
Still, the bold flavor is what you would expect from Bird Dog. It reminded us of the old cinnamon bubblegum, especially the warmth on the palate. There was also a nice taste of tarty fruit along with the cinnamon. Like the Jack Daniel’s, if you are looking for the whiskey flavor, you might not find it here, but it does make an excellent addition to your cocktails.
Sinfire Cinnamon Whisky
As the world turns to Smart technology to make our lives easier, Hood River Distillers has cleverly added a thermochromic temperature triggered color-changing label (it will turn blue) so that you know when it is at the optimal temperature- 32 degrees.
It is a rather uncomplicated cinnamon whiskey. The smell is more of a toasted cinnamon, certainly not as spicy as some of the previous whiskeys we tasted. The other advantage is that it isn’t too sweet. Instead, you get a nice buttery taste and it’s quite smooth for this type of whiskey. When the sweetness does hit the midpalate, it’s not the candy flavor we expected but more brown sugars. Sinfire was just what we wanted from a neat cinnamon whiskey and went down well when served on ice too.
Stillhouse Moonshine Red Hot Whiskey
We loved the unique design of the stainless-steel cans. You can pop the can into the freezer, let it chill and take it with you ready to serve chilled. If you wanted to collect the other flavors from Stillhouse, they line up like bookends on a shelf. One that also intrigued us was the mint chip-flavored whiskey. At 34.5% ABV, this is a 100% clear corn whiskey that is infused with natural cinnamon.
Red hot implied that we were going to get a flaming kick from this drink, but it wasn’t the case. There was heat from the cinnamon and it was nicely counteracted with a candy sweetness. There is no heat from the whiskey and therefore no burn, just a pleasant warmth. We recommend the American Pie cocktail with an equal amount of apple juice and plenty of ice.
Yukon Jack Wicked Hot Cinnamon Whiskey
Yukon Jack liqueur has been passed over to many different companies, one of which was Diageo. Before that, it was first imported into the US in the 1970s by Heublien, who at the time owned Kentucky Fried Chicken. It is actually a Canadian whiskey with added honey, so it is sweeter than bourbon. It is then blended with cinnamon flavors.
Even though there is the additional sweetness of the honey, the Yukon Jack Wicked Hot Cinnamon Whiskey has a surprising kick of heat to it on the nose and the palate. It really tickles the tastebuds with both its bold flavors and smooth finish. This whiskey is 35% ABV and works well neat, over ice, or in cocktails.
Cinerator Hot Cinnamon Whiskey
There is something simple yet elegant about the design of this bottle. There are no images except for the red flames and no description, just 91.1 proof Cinerator Hot Cinnamon Flavored Whiskey. Simple yet effective.
This is definitely still a whiskey with a good bold kick to it. The hot cinnamon is the first thing to reach the nose and the palate, but it still has the smoothness you hope to get from an American whiskey. At 45.5%, it’s one of the strongest cinnamon whiskey we tried and for this reason, we loved it well chilled and neat.
Evan Williams Cinnamon Reserve
Evan Williams was the first commercial distillery in Kentucky. However, back when the distillery first opened its focus was on moonshine rather than bourbon. Today, Evan Williams is owned by Heaven Hill. It’s 35% ABV and offers a great range of flavors.
The Kentucky bourbon has been well-aged, and the intensity shines through in the taste. It has plenty of cinnamon, both on the nose and the palate but you will also smell hints of white pepper and even cherry. The cinnamon flavor isn’t too hot, and it’s nicely followed with a zesty orange taste.
The name gives it all away really. Whiskey of any particular brand can be infused with a cinnamon liqueur. A liqueur is a distilled spirit (as is a liquor) that has been sweetened with flavors, oils, or extracts. Liqueurs can have a low ABV of 15% or much higher at up to 55% ABV. Liqueurs are generally quite sweet, which is why they make great mixers.
The quality and intensity of a cinnamon whiskey will depend on the brand of the whiskey and their distilling process as well as the infusion of the cinnamon liqueur and any other ingredients that might be integrated.
The History of Cinnamon Whiskey
You may have noticed that the ultimate cinnamon whiskey is not in our top 10. This is because the history of cinnamon whiskey is all about the original and still popular- Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey.
Back in mid-1980s, Seagram produced a line of flavored schnapps. The cinnamon schnapps was apparently an attempt of a Canadian bartender to warn up from an Arctic Blast. In 1989, the brand was purchased by The Sazerac Company, the current manufacturers.
This Canadian whiskey is blended with cinnamon flavoring and sweeteners. It is bottled at 33% ABV. For many years, it was only popular in Canada, but it didn’t take long for it to become a big known beverage in the U.S. In fact, in 2104, Bloomberg named it one of the most successful liquor brands in decades. In 2015, estimated sales reached $150 million, overtaking Jägermeister as the top-selling liqueur in the U.S. It was recalled in many European countries due to a high level of propylene glycol, which might have been what encouraged other whiskey brands to explore the potential.
Once other whiskey brands saw the popularity of cinnamon whiskey, it wasn’t long before other distillers started creating their own versions of Fireball, though none have really managed the same success as the original.
The Fireball Whiskey website has an interesting range of recipes, mostly including the word fire in the name. Some are Fireball twists on traditional cocktails, like the Fireball Mule, others like the Firebagel are completely original, and yes, there is a bagel. Like many of the other cinnamon whiskeys, Fireball is sweet with a cinnamon candy taste and there isn’t a strong flavor of traditional whiskey. It can be drunk neat or on the rocks, but most commonly used for shots or in cocktails.
How Is Cinnamon Whiskey Made?
None of the brands we have looked at provide a lot of information on how they infuse their whiskey with cinnamon and what other ingredients are added. We decided that the best thing to do was to see how easy it is to make our own cinnamon whiskey.
- A bottle of your favorite bourbon
- 8-10 sticks of cinnamon
- 1/3 white sugar
- 1 tbsp of red pepper flakes
- A few drops of vegetable or peanut oil
- Pour the bourbon into a large container, add the cinnamon sticks, stir in the sugar and leave for 8 days.
- Warm up the oil and add the chili flakes, cook for a few minutes and then leave to cool. We put this into a pestle and mortar and ground it into a paste.
- Add a couple of drops of the chili paste and taste, start off small and add more if you feel the need.
- Take out the cinnamon stick and pour your cinnamon whiskey back into the original bottle.
When comparing our homemade cinnamon whiskey with the brands we had tried, we noticed that it wasn’t too sweet, which was nice. We liked the heat from the chili and found that we could still taste the whiskey over the cinnamon, so an all-round success. You can also play around with the amount of sugar, chili, and even take the cinnamon out before the 8 days if you wanted to reduce the warmth.