Grandparents swear by the benefits of honey and whiskey. If you have never had a hot toddy when you have a cold, we strongly recommend this hot honey whiskey drink. Despite flavored whiskeys getting some grief, there are some brands that have managed to perfect the blend of a true whiskey and additional flavors.
Today, we can find plenty of flavored whiskeys and though you might assume Fireball was the original, it was honey that was first blended with whiskey and not cinnamon. Let’s look at the most famous honey whiskeys on the shelf today.
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey
In 2011, Jack Daniel’s took the infamous No.7 Tennessee whiskey and added their own honey liqueur to it. Its simplicity makes it incredibly easy to drink neat, on the rocks, or with your favorite mixer.
The great thing is that Jack Daniel’s didn’t make the honey too overpowering and the first thing you can smell when opening the bottle is that familiar No.7 Tennessee whiskey. There is just a hint of spice along with oak, vanilla, and lemon zest. The honey is pleasantly balanced with buttery toffee and on the palate, you might even notice the bitterness of dark chocolate or espresso. At 35% ABV, nothing dominates in this whiskey and you will be left wanting more.
Jim Beam Honey Bourbon Whiskey
It doesn’t speak for the whiskey, but we did like the bottle design. The warm golden color of the honeycomb highlights the rich darkness of the liqueur. Jim Beam has made a name for its quality whiskeys at affordable prices, and the same can be said for the Jim Beam Honey Bourbon Whiskey at 35% ABV.
On the nose, you can appreciate a young whiskey and corn with a splash of honey. It smells of the summer countryside just around harvest time. It is blended with a natural golden honey which some are going to find too much either neat or on the rocks. The sweetness of the honey takes away quite a bit of the whiskey flavor with just a hint of corn towards the end. Definitely pay the Jim Beam website a visit for some inspiring cocktails.
Western Honey Pepper Whiskey
Different people seem to think this whiskey is from different places from Pennsylvania to New Jersey, even Norway. What is certain is that this is a small batch, hand-crafted artisanal whiskey with an ABV of 35%. Western Honey Pepper Whiskey is made with completely natural ingredients.
The whiskey is a premium 4-year bourbon combined with natural clove honey and chili pepper. Remove the cork and you are hit with a tempting heat and sweetness. On the palate, the bourbon provides oak and vanilla which is complimented by the smoothness of the honey. We finish with just a kick of heat from the pepper, it’s the perfect amount that leaves your wanting more. Regardless of where it is from, you will want to take this with you!
Evan Williams Honey
Again, the design of this bottle is one that encourages you to pick it up off the shelf. It’s simple with the outline of a bee and just the right number of words to tell us what we need to know. This allows all of your focus to be on the rich gold color of the liqueur. This 35% ABV honey whiskey comes from extra-aged bourbon infused with real honey.
Rather than strong scents of honey, you are welcomed by citrus and a little bit of the bourbon too. The flavor is not a complex one, but it is everything you would want from a flavored whiskey. There is a taste of orange, the right amount of honey and final the lovely rich bourbon. It’s definitely not too sweet and is perfect served on the rocks. IT’s also excellent value for money.
Black Eagle Honey Bourbon
If you have ever tried Black Eagle Bourbon, you will appreciate that this is one of the smoothest whiskeys you can find. From Minnesota, this whiskey is distilled from the best quality ingredients using old-style hand-crafted techniques. It is then blended with sweet southern honey that works so well with the oak of the bourbon.
It’s another well-priced, 35% ABV honey whiskey that has a few awards under its belt. This whiskey is rich and complex but not in the same way as others. You don’t get bursts of numerous different flavors, but what the flavors you do get are intense and perfectly balanced. We noticed the oak of the bourbon and the sweetness of the honey. There was no heat but a warmth that lingered for just a few seconds. Because of the smoothness, this is perfect slightly chilled or on ice.
Bluebird Honey Whiskey
It was nice to finally taste a honey whiskey with a bit more strength. The Bluebird distillery in Phoenixville. Pennsylvania is a grain-to-glass distillery. The combination of four grains, straight rye and wheat makes this a very intricate bourbon. Then, once the locally sourced wildflower honey is added, it becomes a truly unique whiskey experience.
At 40% ABV, the honey whiskey is bold yet balanced with the honey being the hero. On the nose, you can also get a vanilla and floral hint. The flavors include the warmth of the whiskey, the freshness of flowers, and the sweetness of caramel, toffee, and honeysuckle. This is definitely an all-year-round whiskey that can be drunk in any way you prefer.
Bird Dog Jalapeno Honey
We do love Bird Dog for its ability to experiment with whiskey flavors. They source various whiskeys and dedicate themselves to exploring flavors, many of which are multiple-award winning. The combination of jalapeno and honey is so bizarre you almost have to taste it. The 40% ABV Jalapeno Honey Flavored Whiskey won a Gold medal in the 2016 San Francisco World Spirits.
On the nose, it is just what you would expect, you have a sweet honey scent along with a blast of fresh, crisp jalapeno. The flavor includes a hint of vanilla with honey and you finish the sip with the spiced heat of the jalapeno, not fiery but warm enough to appreciate. You can have great fun on the Bird Dog website with the mixology section.
Garrison Brothers Honey Dew
A fun fact is that Dan Garrison was highly opposed to flavored whiskeys. It was his wife and business partner who wanted to expand into the market. He soon came around when he tasted the 40% ABV liqueur and realized the potential it had. The distilling process used for Garrison Brothers Honey Dew is different from all of the others and allows for a light and delicate liqueur for all occasions.
This is infused with 100% Texas-made Burleson’s wildflower honey and this is the first thing you get on the nose. Along with perhaps a hint of dried apricot. There is a refreshing taste of stoned fruits. The honey is there, but it doesn’t mask the quality of the bourbon. You finish off with a rich warmth and a touch of floral. If you add just a little water, all of the flavors are more apparent. This bottle doesn’t come cheap though.
Wild Turkey American Honey Sting
Jim Russell stuck to the original Wild Turkey Bourbon from Kentucky for the base of this blend. Nearly four decades ago, he created the Wild Turkey American Honey whiskey but more recently added a bit of kick with the sting. Both of which though is 35% ABV.
Don’t let the ghost pepper put you off. There is heat and this encourages some people to compare it to Fireball, but the flavors are completely different. On the nose, you will first notice a sweet honey syrup combined with black pepper. The heat that you detect in the smell is still there in the taste and you can enjoy the heat moving down your throat. But the heat is calmed down with the honey, which is why some might still be asking where the ghost pepper is. The nice thing is that neither the sweetness nor the spice takes away the flavor of the whiskey.
Dewar’s Highlander Honey
We do love about of whiskey controversy and Bacardi stirred things up when it released the Dewar’s Highlander Honey. This was the first Scottish brand of whiskey to be infused with any flavor. In the US, this was a normal practice, but the Scottish Whiskey Association strictly states that only caramel coloring and water can be added to a Scottish whiskey.
Dewar’s White Label whiskey is a blended scotch and the brand uses 40 different malts and grains filtered through oak cask wood. It is then infused with honey from Aberfeldy, Scotland before being bottled as 40% ABV Highlander Honey. On the nose, you get a waft of citrus and honey with a touch of oak. The first flavors are still the citrus, followed by honey and then an unexpected heat. The heat might be a little too dominant for some, so it is a good option for cocktails and possibly sipping over ice.
What Is Honey Whiskey?
As we have seen, different whiskey associations will have their own rules about what you can and can’t add to a whiskey in order to call it a honey whiskey. Generally speaking, honey whiskey is a whiskey infused with honey to create a liqueur that mellows the warmth of a whiskey with a touch of sweetness. Because of the popularity of flavored whiskeys in the U.S., you will more often find that the whiskey is bourbon.
Honey whiskeys can be sipped neat or with a splash of water. Some are better served over ice. They are often added to hot water to make the infamous Hot Toddy and also with mixers to create amazing cocktails.
The History of Honey Whiskey
Honey whiskey has grown in popularity over the last 2 decades, but it has been around for much longer. The first time honey was officially introduced into whiskey was in Scotland in the late 1800s, and so Drambuie was born. Legend says that is may date back even further to the MacKinnon Clan, however, at the time, the recipe had no name. In the 1880s the recipe was changed from brandy to scotch whiskey.
The trademark name Drambuie was registered in 1893- When the creator, John Ross, died, his wife sold the recipe to another MacKinnon family, who manufactured in until 2014 when Morrison Grant & Sons took over.
Because Scottish and E.U laws state that only water and caramel coloring can be added to scotch whiskey, it is not branded as a honey whiskey. Instead, Drambuie is a liqueur.
The original recipe is still used today. It contains scotch whiskey, heather honey, and mixed with other herbs and spices. It is still bottled at 40% ABV as it was more than 100 years ago.
How Is Honey Whiskey Made?
In most cases, whiskey is infused with a honey liqueur. The various flavors come about due to the type of honey and the distilling process of the whiskey. In the case of a bourbon, it must be made of at least 51% corn and aged in oak barrels.
Garrison Brothers took honey whiskey to a whole new level when the company patented the technique called Fiber Fusion Technology. Donnis Todd, a master distiller took 176 barrels of the four-year-old Garrison Brothers Small Batch Bourbon and poured it all into a stainless-steel tank. This was left to mellow for 7 months. In the meantime, he took the small barrels which had held the whiskey and sawed them into cubes. Then he left the cubes to soak in Burleson’s Texas Wildflower Honey.
Finally, once the cubes had absorbed enough honey, they were wrapped in cheesecloth and immersed into the stainless-steel tank every day for 6 months. With all that work, it is understandable why the Garrison Brothers Honeydew carries a higher price tag.