All About Honey Whiskey: The Best Honey Whiskey Brands & Honey Whiskey Drinks to Try

Honey whiskey is often cherished for its sweetness and warmth; it’s a unique spirit that can be enjoyed both by itself and in honey whiskey drinks and cocktails. Today, we’ll chat about what honey whiskey is, how it’s crafted, and highlight some of the best honey whiskey brands available. We’ll also guide you on discovering locally crafted honey whiskey and suggest tantalizing honey whiskey drinks to elevate your tasting experience. Let’s get started, shall we?

What Is Honey Whiskey?

First and foremost, let’s chat about what honey whiskey is. Honey whiskey is a flavored whiskey infused with the natural sweetness of honey. The addition of honey to the base whiskey spirit allows for a multitude of options, flavors, intensities, and nuances that can be imparted by any part of the distillation process. We’ll dig deeper into this later on.

What Is the History Behind Honey Whiskey?

The history of honey whiskey is a journey that involves the traditions of both whiskey and honey production. While the exact origins of honey whiskey are somewhat elusive, it is believed to have its roots in the ancient art of mead-making. 

Mead, a fermented honey beverage, dates back thousands of years and was enjoyed by cultures across the globe. Over time, the idea of infusing honey’s natural sweetness into whiskey took hold, creating a harmonious fusion of flavors. This marriage of spirits likely emerged organically in regions where whiskey production and beekeeping thrived, with each locale adding its unique twist to the concoction. 

As distillation techniques evolved and whiskey gained prominence, so did its cousin, honey whiskey. Over time, honey whiskey became a beloved variation celebrated for its sweetness and robust character. Today, honey whiskey stands as a testament to the rich heritage of distilled spirits and honey.

Is Honey Whiskey Aged?

Yes, honey whiskey is aged, and the choice of barrels plays a crucial role in its development. Common barrels used for aging include oak, which lends a rich vanilla and caramel note, and sometimes even sherry casks, adding fruity undertones to the whiskey. As we’ll see in the next section, aging is a critical part of how honey whiskey is made.

How Is Honey Whiskey Made?

Making honey whiskey is a lot like making regular whiskey, as you might expect. However, there is one key difference that sets honey whiskey apart: infusion. Let’s take a look at the step-by-step process that takes grains and honey to the final product that we know and love:

Step 1-3: Mashing, Fermenting, & Distilling

The journey of honey whiskey begins with the art of distillation. Distillers start by selecting grains, commonly corn, rye, or barley, which form the base of the whiskey. These grains are meticulously mashed and fermented, transforming starches into alcohol. 

Distillation then follows, where the alcohol is heated, vaporized, and condensed back into liquid form. This process, often repeated to ensure purity and desired alcohol content, results in a potent and clear distillate ready to undergo a flavorful transformation.

Step 4: Infusion With Honey

After distillation, the honey whiskey starts to take shape through the infusion of natural honey. This stage is a carefully calibrated dance of flavors, where the distillate and honey harmonize. 

The amount of honey added can vary, influencing the sweetness of the final product. This step is pivotal in creating honey whiskey’s distinctive character, as the honey’s sugars blend seamlessly with the distilled spirit, imparting a luscious, golden sweetness.

Step 5: Aging

The aging of honey whiskey is a step where time becomes a vital ingredient. The whiskey-honey blend is transferred to wooden barrels, most commonly oak, though sometimes sherry casks are used for added complexity. These barrels are the alchemical crucibles where the spirit evolves. 

Over the years, the whiskey absorbs flavors from the wood, gaining rich notes of vanilla, caramel, and oak. The aging process allows the spirit to mellow and develop complexity, turning it into a more refined and nuanced liquid.

Step 6-8: Filtering, Bottling & Shipping

Once the whiskey has aged to perfection, it undergoes the final stages of preparation. It is carefully filtered to remove any remaining impurities, ensuring clarity and purity. Often, the honey whiskey is then diluted to reach the desired proof, striking a balance between potency and drinkability. 

Finally, it is bottled with meticulous attention to detail, ready to grace glasses around the world. Each bottle encapsulates the culmination of craftsmanship, from the initial distillation to the infusion of honey and the transformative journey within wooden barrels.

What Are Some of the Things That Impact the Flavor of Honey Whiskey?

The flavor profile of honey whiskey is a result of a complex interplay of various factors that impact its taste. Here are some of the key elements that contribute to the unique flavor of honey whiskey:

  1. Honey Varieties: Like we saw in our honey spirits blog, the type of honey used can significantly influence the flavor. Different honeys, such as clover, wildflower, or orange blossom, have distinct taste profiles, ranging from floral and fruity to robust and earthy. The choice of honey variety can impart specific nuances to the whiskey. You can read more about this here: How Does the Type of Honey Impact Honey Spirits?
  2. Whiskey Base: The base whiskey used, whether it’s made from corn, rye, barley, or a blend of grains, forms the foundation of the flavor. Each grain brings its own character to the spirit, from the sweetness of corn to the spiciness of rye, shaping the whiskey’s overall taste.
  3. Honey Infusion: The process of infusing honey into the whiskey is a critical step. The quantity of honey added and the method of infusion impact the sweetness and depth of flavor. The timing of honey incorporation during production also plays a role in determining the final taste.
  4. Aging Barrels: The type of barrels used for aging, commonly oak but occasionally other woods like sherry casks, contributes to the flavor profile. Oak barrels, in particular, impart notes of vanilla, caramel, and spices, enhancing the whiskey’s complexity.
  5. Aging Duration: The length of time the whiskey spends aging in barrels is crucial. Longer aging allows for more interaction with the wood, resulting in a mellower, smoother, and more developed flavor profile.
  6. Climate and Location: The environment in which whiskey ages can impact flavor. Distilleries located in different regions experience varying temperature fluctuations, which affect how the whiskey interacts with the barrel, influencing taste.
  7. Distillation Techniques: Distillation processes, including the number of distillation runs and the size and shape of stills, can influence the spirit’s purity and character, subsequently affecting its flavor.
  8. Water Source: The quality and mineral content of the water used in the production process can subtly alter the whiskey’s taste, as water is often added to adjust proof and dilute the spirit.
  9. Blending: For blended honey whiskeys, the art of mixing different whiskey batches, each with its own characteristics, allows for the creation of a balanced and harmonious flavor profile.
  10. Craftsmanship: The expertise and craftsmanship of the distiller play a vital role in shaping the final flavor. The distiller’s skill in monitoring and adjusting various factors during production can result in a distinct and exceptional honey whiskey.

What Are the Best Honey Whiskey Brands?

Keep in mind that “best” is absolutely subjective. When it comes to ranking honey whiskey brands, most statistics are based on popularity. However, popularity doesn’t always mean quality. Now, let’s explore some of the standout honey whiskey brands known for their consistency and popularity:

Jack Daniels Honey Whiskey

Jack Daniels honey whiskey combines their signature whiskey with natural honey flavors, resulting in a smooth and sweet profile with a touch of oak.

“A blend of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey and a unique honey liqueur of our own making, for a taste that’s one-of-a-kind and unmistakably Jack. With hints of honey and a finish that’s naturally smooth, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey offers a taste of the unexpected.” – Jack Daniels

Price Point: $19.99 – $25.99

ABV: 35%

Wild Turkey Honey Whiskey

Wild Turkey honey whiskey boasts a robust character with a balanced sweetness, making it a favorite for those seeking a bolder flavor.

“A sweeter side of Kentucky Bourbon, the exceptionally smooth American Honey combines deep-rooted tradition with a decidedly modern twist. Described as a “sweet kick,” the first recipe dates back to the 1970s and originated at the Wild Turkey distillery. Crafted by Jimmy Russell, who always believed in American straight whiskey’s ability to play well with a variety of deep, sweet, bold flavors that mirrored its own.” – Wild Turkey

Price Point: $24.99

ABV: 35.5%

Jim Beam Honey Whiskey

Jim Beam honey whiskey offers a mellow sweetness, harmonizing perfectly with the classic bourbon notes of caramel and vanilla.

“Sweet but not too sweet, Jim Beam Honey has the perfect touch of golden honey to allow its warming sweetness to shine without losing the mellow smoothness of our original bourbon. So whether you’re craving a cocktail with a sweeter side or an easy sipper, this is the bee’s knees.” – Jim Beam

Price Point: $17.99 – $19.99

ABV: 35%

Evan Williams Honey Whiskey

Evan Williams honey whiskey is a well-balanced honey-infused bourbon, with a comforting blend of sweetness and spice.

“Evan Williams Honey combines the smoothness of our Straight Kentucky Bourbon with the sweetness of real, natural honey…

Nose: Strong with citrus, whiskey, and hints of honey

Taste: Sweet honey and allspice with vanilla and a hint of smoke notes

Finish: Bourbon is evident with long, slightly spicy finish” – Evan Williams

Price Point: $19.99

ABV: 32.5%

What’s the Difference Between Big Brand Honey Whiskey and Local Honey Whiskey?

The distinction between big brand honey whiskey and locally crafted honey whiskey lies in both the source and the character of the spirit. Big brand honey whiskeys, such as those from well-established distilleries like Jack Daniels or Jim Beam, often maintain a consistent flavor profile known to a wide audience. These products undergo meticulous quality control, ensuring a reliable taste with every bottle. 

On the other hand, local honey whiskeys, produced by smaller, artisanal distilleries, offer a unique and sometimes experimental take on the spirit. They often reflect regional influences, sourcing ingredients locally and infusing the whiskey with a distinct regional terroir. 

Exploring local honey whiskeys can be a fun experience, as each bottle may hold a surprise, showcasing the craftsmanship and creativity of the distiller. Whether you prefer the familiarity of big brand honey whiskeys or the allure of local varieties, both have their own charm.

How Do I Find Locally Crafted Honey Whiskey to Try?

If you’re eager to explore locally crafted honey whiskey, finding distilleries near you can be an exciting journey. One convenient way to discover these hidden gems is through “Distillery Nearby.” Our by-state directory allows you to filter results by state, making it effortless to find a new distillery to experience. Uncover unique flavors and support local artisans on your honey whiskey adventure.

How Do I Drink Honey Whiskey on Its Own?

By following these tips, you can fully appreciate the craftsmanship and complexity of an expensive honey whiskey, making each sip an enjoyable experience.

Sip and Savor

To truly appreciate the nuances of an expensive honey whiskey, take your time. Pour a small amount into a tulip-shaped whiskey glass or a Glencairn glass. 

Why Does Glassware Matter?

Gently swirl it to release the aromas, then take small sips. Let the whiskey coat your palate, and pay attention to the evolving flavors. High-quality honey whiskeys often reveal layers of sweetness, oak, and subtle hints of honey. Savor each sip to fully appreciate its complexity.

Explore Different Temperatures

Experiment with serving temperatures to find the ideal one for your honey whiskey. While many prefer it neat or with a single ice cube to slightly chill and dilute it, some premium honey whiskeys benefit from being served at room temperature. 

Temperature variations can bring out different flavor notes, so try it at different stages to discover the temperature that suits your palate best.

Water and Whiskey Pairing

If you have an expensive bottle of honey whiskey with a high proof, consider adding a small amount of water. This practice, known as “proofing down,” can open up the spirit, releasing even more aromas and flavors. 

Start with just a few drops of water and gradually adjust to your preference. Remember, a few drops can make a significant difference, so go easy to avoid over-dilution.

5 Delicious Honey Whiskey Drinks (Cocktails) to Try:

One intriguing aspect of honey whiskey is its versatility in cocktails. Mixing these drinks with both popular and local honey whiskeys can lead to delightful discoveries. See if you can pick out which honey whiskey is which in a blind tasting of your favorite honey whiskey cocktails – locally-crafted spirits often have a complexity that lends itself well to cocktails. Here are five honey whiskey drinks to enjoy:

Honey Whiskey Sour

The Honey Whiskey Sour is a classic blend of honey whiskey, fresh lemon juice, and simple syrup, offering a harmonious balance of sweetness and citrus tang.

  • 2 oz honey whiskey
  • 3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup

Directions: Shake with ice and strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Honey Mint Julep

The Honey Mint Julep is a refreshing concoction of honey whiskey, muddled fresh mint leaves, and simple syrup, delivering a delightful fusion of minty freshness and sweet warmth.

  • 2 oz honey whiskey
  • 1 sugar cube
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Directions: Muddle sugar and bitters, add whiskey and ice, stir. Garnish with an orange twist.

Honey Whiskey Old Fashioned

The Honey Whiskey Old Fashioned is an elegant mix of honey whiskey, a sugar cube, and Angostura bitters, presenting a timeless and sophisticated sipper with rich caramel notes.

  • 2 oz honey whiskey
  • 6-8 fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup

Directions: Muddle mint and syrup, add whiskey and ice, stir. Garnish with a mint sprig.

Honey Whiskey Ginger

The Honey Whiskey Ginger is a zesty fusion of honey whiskey and ginger beer, garnished with a lime wedge, creating a spirited drink with a sweet kick and a hint of citrus.

  • 2 oz honey whiskey
  • 4 oz ginger beer
  • Lime wedge for garnish

Directions: Build in a glass with ice, stir gently.

Honey Whiskey Hot Toddy

The Honey Whiskey Hot Toddy is a comforting blend of honey whiskey, honey, fresh lemon juice, and hot water, providing soothing warmth and a touch of sweetness on chilly evenings.

  • 2 oz honey whiskey
  • 1/2 oz honey
  • 1/4 oz fresh lemon juice
  • Hot water

Directions: Stir whiskey, honey, and lemon juice in a heatproof glass.

Distillery Nearby: Your One-Stop-Shop for Local Spirits – Like Honey Whiskey!

If you’re looking for a delicious new spirit to try, and you’re partial to supporting local businesses, Distillery Nearby is the perfect solution. On our by-state distillery directory, you can very easily and quickly filter results for your state. You can see what city they’re located in, what spirits they produce, and quickly jump to their websites to find stores that sell their spirits. It’s the best all-in-one craft spirits location!

Check out our distillery directory today to find a new honey whiskey to try →

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