War of the Whiskeys

Everyone has their own personal favorite style of whiskey, and North America has something for everyone. Whether you prefer the sweetness of Canadian whiskey, the spicy bite of American Rye, or the smooth sipping of real Kentucky Bourbon, the continent has it all. As great as having that variety is, it can make figuring out which whiskey you should pour in your drink an overwhelming task. Tastings.com has taken care of that task for you by testing dozens of whiskies to determine which ones mix best in two classic drinks: the Manhattan and the Sazerac. First up: the Manhattan.
Still the One: Great Lakes Still & Oak Rye

Still the One: Great Lakes Still & Oak Rye

Photo Credit: Tastings.com
Great Lakes Distillery Still and Oak Rye is the kind of whiskey that was made for classic cocktails. Without the excess ingredients of more complicated drinks, a Manhattan, like a Highball, requires a bold base whiskey to take center stage. Still and Oak Rye has boldness in spades with a litany of herbaceous spice flavors. Rosemary, pepper, carraway, and tarragon are all present and accounted for, along with sweet notes of gingerbread, caramel, and peanut butter. The vermouth and bitters highlight these flavors and aromas, making Still and Oak Rye the Tastings.com bronze-medal-winning whiskey for a Manhattan.

Don’t Fly Over This Whiskey: Middle West

Don’t Fly Over This Whiskey: Middle West

Photo Credit: Tastings.com
If you need any proof that the Midwest can make whiskey just as well as Kentucky and Tennessee, you can find it in Middle West Dark Pumpernickel Straight Rye. Its tingling mouth-feel and dark, flavorful kick amplify this rye to the next level. Chai latte, sandalwood, carob cookie, and ginger notes warmly envelop you with every sip. Middle West works great in any cocktail, but especially shines in a Manhattan, earning it our third place pick. To make your own unforgettable Manhattan, check out Manhattans Mastered to learn about premium vermouths that will do a whiskey like this one justice.

Back in Black: Virginia Black

Back in Black: Virginia Black

Photo Credit: Tastings.com
Despite bordering both Kentucky and Tennessee, Virginia has yet to make a name for itself in the whiskey world. That could be changing very soon, however, as our second place winner, Virginia Black, hails from the Old Dominion State. The aromas that swirl from this spirit are dripping with decadence; brandied cherries and chocolate-covered caramels -- perfect for adding depth to a Mint Julep. Its flavors of toffee popcorn and Spanish peanuts are equally indulgent. Our tasters agreed that Virginia Black is just as at home neat as it is in a cocktail, and it rightfully earned its accolades as the second place whiskey for a Manhattan.

No Reservations: Davidson Reserve

No Reservations: Davidson Reserve

Photo Credit: Tastings.com
At 100 proof and touting a long list of luscious flavors, our first-place Manhattan whiskey is Davidson Reserve Tennessee Straight Sour Mash. Our tasting panel found that its 'complex and rich cognac-like sophistication' will warm you and any classic cocktail right up (and if you like cognac, you can always swap it into your next Manhattan to create a Harvard Cocktail after consulting our Cognac Guide). This platinum pick envelops you in notes of cured meats, dried cherries, and marcona almonds; all of which compliments the charcuterie board that will certainly accompany your Davidson Reserve Manhattan.

Slidin’ Into Sazeracs with Davidson Reserve

Slidin’ Into Sazeracs with Davidson Reserve

Photo Credit: Tastings.com
Let's be clear: despite placing first in the Manhattan category, Davidson Reserve's fourth place showing in our Sazerac evaluation is not a demotion. The Manhattan and Sazerac have wildly different flavor profiles which can bring out a dazzling array of flavors and aromas in an excellent whiskey such as this one. The leather and fruitcake notes that Davidson Reserve Tennessee Sour Mash commands played exceptionally well in our panelists' bronze-medal Sazerac pick.

Signal Hill Sazer-action

Signal Hill Sazer-action

Photo Credit: Tastings.com
Yes, we know that a 'true' Sazerac is made with rye whiskey, but this slight deviation from tradition is well worth it. In fact, if we're really splitting hairs, the first Sazerac was made with cognac, making variation and innovation integral parts of the drink's history (if you want to taste a Sazerac the way it was originally made, consider using Chalfonte Cognac, our 2016 pick for best cognac of the year). Our judges' silver medalist Signal Hill Canadian Whisky has a brown sugar aroma and dried apricot notes that perfectly complement the cocktail's requisite absinthe and Peychaud's bitters.

Keepin’ it Classic With Sazerac Rye

Keepin’ it Classic With Sazerac Rye

Photo Credit: Tastings.com
True to its name, Sazerac Straight Rye Whiskey is a perfect addition to its namesake cocktail. Its candy-coated aniseed aroma and peppery body were almost certainly created with absinthe in mind, and its bright ginger flavors were undoubtedly curated in consideration of the Peychaud's bitters. Our tasters agreed that the Sazerac Rye's 'snappy and satisfying' profile makes a fantastic Sazerac. Be sure to fortify yourself with one before taking to the streets next time you're in New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail.

Virginia Black Rules the Sazerac

Virginia Black Rules the Sazerac

Photo Credit: Tastings.com
Another multiple award winner, Virginia Black, proves that a versatile whiskey is a great whiskey. The créme anglaise aroma and Spanish peanut flavors temper the absinthe and bitters to create a delectable Sazerac that you will not want to stop sipping. With its wide range of applications, our first-place-pick rights in at only $39.99 a bottle, and we think you'll agree with our testers that it 'overdelivers for its category.' Bottoms up!

Still the One: Great Lakes Still & Oak Rye
Don’t Fly Over This Whiskey: Middle West
Back in Black: Virginia Black
No Reservations: Davidson Reserve
Slidin’ Into Sazeracs with Davidson Reserve
Signal Hill Sazer-action
Keepin’ it Classic With Sazerac Rye
Virginia Black Rules the Sazerac
War of the Whiskeys
Everyone has their own personal favorite style of whiskey, and North America has something for everyone. Whether you prefer the sweetness of Canadian whiskey, the spicy bite of American Rye, or the smooth sipping of real Kentucky Bourbon, the continent has it all. As great as having that variety is, it can make figuring out which whiskey you should pour in your drink an overwhelming task. Tastings.com has taken care of that task for you by testing dozens of whiskies to determine which ones mix best in two classic drinks: the Manhattan and the Sazerac. First up: the Manhattan.

Still the One: Great Lakes Still & Oak Rye

Still the One: Great Lakes Still & Oak Rye
Photo Credit: Tastings.com
Great Lakes Distillery Still and Oak Rye is the kind of whiskey that was made for classic cocktails. Without the excess ingredients of more complicated drinks, a Manhattan, like a Highball, requires a bold base whiskey to take center stage. Still and Oak Rye has boldness in spades with a litany of herbaceous spice flavors. Rosemary, pepper, carraway, and tarragon are all present and accounted for, along with sweet notes of gingerbread, caramel, and peanut butter. The vermouth and bitters highlight these flavors and aromas, making Still and Oak Rye the Tastings.com bronze-medal-winning whiskey for a Manhattan.

Don’t Fly Over This Whiskey: Middle West

Don’t Fly Over This Whiskey: Middle West
Photo Credit: Tastings.com
If you need any proof that the Midwest can make whiskey just as well as Kentucky and Tennessee, you can find it in Middle West Dark Pumpernickel Straight Rye. Its tingling mouth-feel and dark, flavorful kick amplify this rye to the next level. Chai latte, sandalwood, carob cookie, and ginger notes warmly envelop you with every sip. Middle West works great in any cocktail, but especially shines in a Manhattan, earning it our third place pick. To make your own unforgettable Manhattan, check out Manhattans Mastered to learn about premium vermouths that will do a whiskey like this one justice.

Back in Black: Virginia Black

Back in Black: Virginia Black
Photo Credit: Tastings.com
Despite bordering both Kentucky and Tennessee, Virginia has yet to make a name for itself in the whiskey world. That could be changing very soon, however, as our second place winner, Virginia Black, hails from the Old Dominion State. The aromas that swirl from this spirit are dripping with decadence; brandied cherries and chocolate-covered caramels -- perfect for adding depth to a Mint Julep. Its flavors of toffee popcorn and Spanish peanuts are equally indulgent. Our tasters agreed that Virginia Black is just as at home neat as it is in a cocktail, and it rightfully earned its accolades as the second place whiskey for a Manhattan.

No Reservations: Davidson Reserve

No Reservations: Davidson Reserve
Photo Credit: Tastings.com
At 100 proof and touting a long list of luscious flavors, our first-place Manhattan whiskey is Davidson Reserve Tennessee Straight Sour Mash. Our tasting panel found that its 'complex and rich cognac-like sophistication' will warm you and any classic cocktail right up (and if you like cognac, you can always swap it into your next Manhattan to create a Harvard Cocktail after consulting our Cognac Guide). This platinum pick envelops you in notes of cured meats, dried cherries, and marcona almonds; all of which compliments the charcuterie board that will certainly accompany your Davidson Reserve Manhattan.

Slidin’ Into Sazeracs with Davidson Reserve

Slidin’ Into Sazeracs with Davidson Reserve
Photo Credit: Tastings.com
Let's be clear: despite placing first in the Manhattan category, Davidson Reserve's fourth place showing in our Sazerac evaluation is not a demotion. The Manhattan and Sazerac have wildly different flavor profiles which can bring out a dazzling array of flavors and aromas in an excellent whiskey such as this one. The leather and fruitcake notes that Davidson Reserve Tennessee Sour Mash commands played exceptionally well in our panelists' bronze-medal Sazerac pick.

Signal Hill Sazer-action

Signal Hill Sazer-action
Photo Credit: Tastings.com
Yes, we know that a 'true' Sazerac is made with rye whiskey, but this slight deviation from tradition is well worth it. In fact, if we're really splitting hairs, the first Sazerac was made with cognac, making variation and innovation integral parts of the drink's history (if you want to taste a Sazerac the way it was originally made, consider using Chalfonte Cognac, our 2016 pick for best cognac of the year). Our judges' silver medalist Signal Hill Canadian Whisky has a brown sugar aroma and dried apricot notes that perfectly complement the cocktail's requisite absinthe and Peychaud's bitters.

Keepin’ it Classic With Sazerac Rye

Keepin’ it Classic With Sazerac Rye
Photo Credit: Tastings.com
True to its name, Sazerac Straight Rye Whiskey is a perfect addition to its namesake cocktail. Its candy-coated aniseed aroma and peppery body were almost certainly created with absinthe in mind, and its bright ginger flavors were undoubtedly curated in consideration of the Peychaud's bitters. Our tasters agreed that the Sazerac Rye's 'snappy and satisfying' profile makes a fantastic Sazerac. Be sure to fortify yourself with one before taking to the streets next time you're in New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail.

Virginia Black Rules the Sazerac

Virginia Black Rules the Sazerac
Photo Credit: Tastings.com
Another multiple award winner, Virginia Black, proves that a versatile whiskey is a great whiskey. The créme anglaise aroma and Spanish peanut flavors temper the absinthe and bitters to create a delectable Sazerac that you will not want to stop sipping. With its wide range of applications, our first-place-pick rights in at only $39.99 a bottle, and we think you'll agree with our testers that it 'overdelivers for its category.' Bottoms up!