Flavored whiskies have come a long way in recent years, growing steadily in popularity. But, that doesn’t mean they’re brand new to the scene. There are plenty of types too, including some unusual options, like peanut butter whiskey.
The famous cinnamon-flavored Fireball is often top of mind when you think about flavored whiskies, but it’s not actually the original. It is one of the earliest, having been around since the 1980s, but it would be another 20+ years before it became as popular as it is today. Unbeknownst to many, honey whiskey is another one that goes back quite a ways.
Wild Turkey has been making their honey whiskey for more than 20 years now. The goal behind this one was simply to create a whiskey that the Master Distiller’s wife could enjoy. It ended up being a hit with the public and it remains one of their best-selling flavored whiskies and many brands have followed suit. It’s a favorite among those with a sweet tooth and the best honey whiskey is one made carefully, with natural honey and a solid whiskey base.
Many classic brands have a honey whiskey in their portfolio, while others are what started a distillery on the path of making whiskey. Either way, there are plenty of sweet honey treats out there for all whiskey-lovers. This type of whiskey can sometimes be used in a cocktail or with a mixer, although it might take some trial and error to get the flavor balance just right.
The Best Honey Whiskey
1. Bell Mead Honey Cask Bourbon
Generally, the term “honey barrel” is distillery jargon for any barrel that produces flavors of exceptional quality. Bell Mead Honey Cask Bourbon takes the idea to the next level, using actual honey. To do this, they partner with a local artisan honey producer who does things the right way and makes the best honey around.
They start by giving the honey farmers their best barrels, ones previously used to age their 11-year-old single barrel bourbon. The barrels are then filled with the local wildflower honey where it sits for a while and produces the company’s, barrel-aged honey.
The barrels are then emptied and returned to the distillery where they are filled with Bell Mead’s signature high rye bourbon. After aging in these literal honey barrels, the most exquisite honey whiskey is made. It’s unlike anything else on the market with its bold, unique, and delicious flavors.
The aroma is elegant and lush with notes of tropical fruit, jasmine, and spice. The palate follows with a light mouthfeel despite the strong notes of sweet, delicious honey. Also noticeable are hints of oak, cherry, and lemon.
2. Bushmills Irish Honey Whiskey
Bushmills Irish Honey Whiskey combines Irish honey with Bushmills original Irish whiskey. The bottle tells you there are “other natural flavors” in there but they don’t indicate anything specific. However, there are strong notes of apples and pears on the palate, in addition to the honey-forward flavor.
Upon sipping, the whiskey is extremely sweet and light, almost making it hard to believe it’s 70 proof. Beyond the notes of honey and fruit are subtle hints of cereal grains in the middle. The finish is a lovely experience, perfectly blending all these flavors before ending with the slightest touch of spice and a lingering hint of honey that stays with you.
The aroma offers a similar experience, with clear, sweet honey on top followed by pears and apples in equal strength and a hint of grains in the background.
3. Jim Beam Honey Bourbon Whiskey
Jim Beam is well-known and widely-respected with a fine collection of quality spirits. Their Honey Bourbon Whiskey is no exception. It’s made with their classic Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey which is then infused with natural, beautifully golden honey.
The result is a deep, rich, and sophisticated profile. The aroma is nothing but straight, sweet honey that invites you into a more complex flavor profile. The palate offers notes of oak and vanilla, taken from the bourbon. The honey really comes out in the end, offering a short and sweet finish of sweet honey and sugar.
It’s sweet enough to drink neat but not so sweet that it’s unbearable, making it both unique and versatile.
4. Wild Turkey American Honey Whiskey
Wild Turkey is another well-known brand that’s jumped into the world of sweet honey whiskey. Their American Honey Whiskey was created by their Master Distiller a good three decades ago. It’s an original recipe that received 91 points from Wine Enthusiast.
Their sweet honey drink is made with a base of their Kentucky straight bourbon which is infused with pure, natural honey. The whiskey is aged in heavily alligator charred American oak barrels. Charring is usually rated on a scale of 1-4, which 4 being the highest. These barrels are charred so much that their insides look like an alligator hide.
The recipe for this honey whiskey has stood the test of time, remaining untouched since its inception. On the nose, you’ll find gentle, pleasant notes of vanilla and citrus. The palate follows with a thick, honey-coated mouthfeel and sweet honey flavors. The finish offers notes of butter and caramel.
5. Bird Dog Jalapeno Honey Whiskey
Bird Dog Jalapeno Honey Whiskey is for the fans of sweet and spicy. They took a risk with this one, playing on the idea that opposites attract. Sweet and spicy can go well together but it must be done right. You may not think that spicy peppers and sweet honey should be in the same drink, but in this case, the combination works really well.
The uniquely flavored whiskey won a double gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and it’s featured in Bird Dog’s special Belasco cocktail.
The body is smooth and light with the heat appearing on the front of the palate. The sweetness of the honey enters before the heat becomes overwhelming, though, with subtle hints of vanilla coming through as well.
The aroma begins with sweet honey and crisp citrus, with a blast of jalapeno on the end. The finish is warm and sleek, leaving you with notes of spicy heat on the end, prompting another sip for more balancing sweetness.
The sweet and spicy combination performs well in several cocktails, but sipping it neat is an experience of its own.
The Best Honey Whiskey Cocktails
While honey whiskey is a delicious sweet treat, it is more of a niche flavor. You can’t go throwing honey whiskey into any and all cocktails and expect it to work out. The sweetness doesn’t work everywhere, but there are some amazing combinations out there to try.
Honey Whiskey Iced Tea
This one is perfect for the heat of the summer when you want a sweet refreshing drink that’s also nice and boozy. The base recipe for this one is simple:
- Two ounces of your chosen honey whiskey
- One part lemonade
- One part unsweetened iced tea
- Lemon slice to garnish
With these ingredients, follow this simple process:
- Pour the whiskey into a glass full of ice
- Slowly add lemonade and iced tea and stir well
- Add a lemon slice to the rim as garnish
And that’s it, nice and easy! This is a fairly strong drink that’s meant to be sipped slowly, so make a bunch and enjoy it with your friends.
Whiskey Apple Cider
A little spicier, this one is great year-round and it’s a fun way to further enhance a tasty beer cider. You’ll need the following ingredients:
- Two ounces apple cider, spiced or regular, and chilled
- Two ounces of cider beer, hard and chilled
- One ounce honey whiskey
- A splash of angostura bitters
- Apple slices to garnish
This cocktail is best shaken as opposed to stirred, and the process is pretty simple:
- Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add your liquid ingredients
- Add the Angostura bitters carefully, making sure you don’t go overboard. Just a dash or two will do.
- Shake well and pour the drink into a glass over more ice. The colder this drink is, the better.
- Add an apple slice and cinnamon sticks for extra flavor
Apple Cider Sangria
This one is best for the wine-lovers out there who want to break the status quo once in a while. It’s a little more complex than a simple iced tea or cider, but the results are more than worth it. Sangria is a great drink to share, so the following recipe makes four servings, but you can adjust the ratios for what you need:
- Two cinnamon sticks
- Half of a red apple
- Half of a green apple
- Half of a pear
- One bottle of your chosen white wine
- Two cups of apple cider
- Half a cup of honey whiskey
- ¼ cup caramel vodka
Despite the longer list of ingredients, it’s not a difficult drink to make:
- Start by chopping all the fruit into pieces
- Add the fruit and cinnamon sticks into a large pitcher, making sure there’s room for everything else
- Pour the wine into a pitcher first, adding the honey whiskey, apple cider, and caramel vodka, and stir well
- Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors of the fruit and alcohol to mix well
If you want to make more of the drink without adding more alcohol, fill the extra space with more apple cider. If you want to make it a little fizzier, add a cup of club soda right before you serve it.