Summer’s balmy embrace is long gone. Winter and the holidays are barreling toward us like an out-of-control locomotive. And while a crackling fire can replace the warmth of the sun on your skin, we prefer to warm up from the inside out. Because, truthfully, there’s no greater feeling than staving off a chill with the season’s greatest warming whiskeys.
When we say whiskey, we don’t mean we’re sticking to just one category. The fall calls for Scotch, rye, and bourbon. And, when it comes to warming, this usually means a high proof.
When we need a respite from the cold, we turn to barrel-strength and cask-strength whiskey. These are highly potent potables in the 100-plus range—the kind of heat that sets a fire in your belly and radiates warmth to your bones. But not just any cask-strength whiskey will do. Below, you’ll find 10 of our favorites, chosen for their balanced ratio of quality to warming effect.
1. George Dickel Bottled in Bond
When people think of Tennessee whiskey, one name immediately comes to mind: Jack Daniel’s. But an argument can be made for the second most popular brand from the Volunteer State: George Dickel. That’s because of expressions like Bottled in Bond. Released a few years ago, this 100 proof expression was aged for 13 years, giving it rich charred oak, dried fruit, toffee, and sweet vanilla flavors.
2. Redbreast Cask Strength 12 Year Irish Whiskey
When it comes to warming whiskey, you definitely shouldn’t overlook Irish bottles. One of the best is Redbreast Cask Strength. This high-proof version of its iconic 12-year-old was aged in both ex-bourbon barrels and Oloroso sherry butts. The result is a bold, nuanced whiskey with hints of caramel apples, dried cherries, caramel, vanilla, rich oak, and toasted vanilla beans.
3. Alberta Premium Cask Strength Canadian Rye Whisky
This previously under-the-radar Canadian whisky’s popularity exploded when Jim Murray named it “Whisky of the Year” in his Whisky Bible. Distilled in Calgary with a mash bill of 100 percent Alberta rye, it’s aged for at least five years and bottled at cask strength. This results in a warming, spicy whisky with notes of dried fruits, butterscotch, vanilla beans, and a gentle, spicy cracked black pepper finish that leaves you craving more.
4. Woodinville Cask Strength Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Made in the same style as its original straight bourbon, Woodinville Cask Strength is crafted only with corn, rye, and malted barley sourced from its home state of Washington. It spends five years in the barrel before being bottled at cask strength, creating a unique, flavorful whiskey highlighted by flavors of fudge, wood char, caramel corn, dried fruits, and a gentle, warming finish.
5. Balcones True Blue 100 Blue Corn Whiskey
In the past decade, a new frontier of whiskey has begun in Texas. One of the best examples is Balcones. And, if you’re looking for a warming whiskey from the Waco-based distillery, give True Blue 100 a try. This award-winning corn whiskey is known for its sweet, mellow flavor with notes of clover honey, sweet corn, and just a hint of spice to bring everything together.
6. Ardbeg Uigeadail Single Malt Scotch Whisky
A doozy to pronounce, this single malt Scotch whisky is a great example of a high-proof, sherry-finished whisky. A favorite among fans of the distillery, this whisky got its name from a loch near the distillery. The non-chill-filtered whisky is loaded with flavors like salted caramel, dried cherries, sweet sherry, sticky toffee pudding, and a heavy dose of campfire smoke to remind you that it’s from Islay.
7. Sagamore Spirit Cask Strength Rye Whiskey
Sagamore Spirit has made quite a name for itself in the rye whiskey world in the last few years, racking up countless awards. Its Cask Strength Rye is not only one of its best, but one of its most warming. It’s a blend of straight high-rye and low-rye whiskeys aged between four and seven years. The result is a bold expression with notes of butterscotch, dried fruits, clover honey, and a wallop of cracked black pepper.
8. Aberlour A’bunadh Single Malt Scotch Whisky
If you took a poll of bartenders’ favorite sherry bombs in the single-malt world, there’s a good chance many of them would mention Aberlour A’bunadh. This high-proof, single-malt Scotch was aged completely in Oloroso sherry casks, resulting in a decadent, dessert-like expression with flavors of dried cherries, sweet sherry, caramel, vanilla, and a gentle, nutty sweetness.
9. Maker’s Mark Cask Strength Bourbon
When it comes to bargain bourbons, it’s difficult to beat the price-to-quality ratio of classic Maker’s Mark. A step up would be its Cask Strength. This non-chill-filtered expression is surprisingly smooth and soft, with notes of candied pecans, cinnamon sugar, caramel corn, vanilla beans, and just a hint of spice at the very end.
10. Laphroaig 10-Year-Old Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Laphroaig is a truly unique single-malt Scotch whisky. Known for its medicinal, briny, smoky flavors, its flagship expression is its 10-year-old. Recently, the distillery released a cask-strength version of the beloved tipple. It’s bold and potent, matured for 10 years in ex-bourbon barrels, and carries flavors like ocean brine, salted caramel, dried cherries, candied orange peel, oaky wood, and the peat smoke Islay drinkers have grown to expect.