What Does #1 Taste Like?

Earlier this week, Whisky Advocate released its top 20 Most Exciting Whiskies of 2022. The announcement of their top spot hit my inbox as I was driving past a liquor store that had some in stock, so I popped in and grabbed a couple of bottles to see what #1 tastes like.

Before we get there, a brief detour.

Whisky Advocate is a Marvin Shanken publication, as is Wine Spectator, which itself released its Top 100 Wines of 2022 last month. This list, which serves as a "must have" list for some, always makes me cringe. For starters, the wines are perennially expensive. Very expensive. This year the average price is $63, and if you just look at the top 10, that jumps to $136. That's just bananas. And, as I've observed in the past, the rankings do not necessarily correlate to drinking enjoyment.

By contrast, numero uno on Whisky Advocate's list is a $30 bottle of Jack Daniels. The average of the top 10 is around $75*, or close to half of Wine Spectator's top 10. It is also noteworthy that the discrepancy between the prices points on these two lists goes beyond just dollars - one is for wines, a bottle of which will likely be enjoyed in one sitting. Whereas the other is whiskies, a bottle of which is going to offer (hopefully) many sittings during which to enjoy.

So, what does #1 taste like? Well, the Jack Daniel's Bonded ($30) tastes like Jack Daniels. That is what it is, after all. It has their signature unique Tennessee sour mash profile, but it's more refined, richer, and with greater gravitas thanks to being bottled at 100 proof. It's a pleasurable beverage when enjoyed with a little ice and water.

The decision to make such an affordable, available bottle number one is worthy of applause.

Should you go out and grab a bottle of this? Well, if Tennessee sour mash is your jam jar, then yes. But no consumer should be under the illusion that earning such a vaunted position somehow makes the product universally-appreciable. 

Chasing points (as I absolutely did in this case) is ultimately a foolhardy pursuit as compared with chasing your own tastes and curiosities. 

* The average price of the top 10 whiskies is skewed significantly higher thanks to the inclusion of the $200 Midleton Very Rare, and extraordinary Irish whiskey I can confirm is very special indeed.