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As we approach the new year once again there are all kinds of whiskey “best of” – “best value” – “best NAS” – “best craft” lists – and this listing of descriptors, likewise, could go on and on. Well, Jeremy and I thought we’d join in – what’s one more “best of” list anyway.  If you hate such things – sorry, just turn your attention elsewhere, but if you have an interest in things whiskey related and want to hear a couple guy’s opinions (and I stress opinion here) please read on.

This writing marks just under two years since Jeremy and I began a duo-style review effort about World Whiskies for ModernThirst. That does not mean we have tasted only non-American or World Whiskies – far from it.  I compiled an ongoing list of all the whiskies that I have personally tasted throughout 2018 via our whiskey club meetings, ModernThirst reviews, distillery visits, advent calendar, various whiskey events, etc. and I finished the year with 350 different whiskies tasted.  When including Jeremy in that tally, between the two of us, we easily exceeded 400 and I would venture are close to 500 whiskies overall. To break that 350 down even further for the whiskies I tasted this year, it included: 138 different bottles of scotch; 127 bourbons, ryes, or American whiskies; 31 Japanese whiskies; 29 American Single Malts; 17 Irish; and 8 that I would label as World Whiskies (Indian and Taiwanese) for the purposes of this review.

For this listing of Top Whiskies tasted in 2018, Jeremy and I did not coordinate on our lists. The lists were compiled separately, and I then combined them for this recap. I highlighted the word ‘tasted’ above, because this is not a best of list of 2018 released whiskies.  These are our favorites in the category breakouts tasted in the year of 2018. Last year I limited each group to a top 3 – Jeremy stuck to that for his list this year – but for me, in a couple categories (where many different offerings were tasted), and overall, I went higher with up to 6 whiskies which still equals a small percentage of whiskies tasted in those categories.  In some of the areas below only one of us may have submitted a list (or as in my case I combined American – excluding American Single Malts into one category).

There are several category breakouts for our lists:  American Single Malts, Bourbon, Rye, Scotch, Irish, Japanese, World Whiskies, and then our Overall Top Whiskies lists for the year.

Again, as I noted last year in our first effort on a “best of” list – these are just our opinions – everyone’s tastes are different.  We had fun compiling our lists from all the whiskies we tasted – and it was also fascinating to see those areas where we agreed in our rankings.  Thirty-three different whiskies made the cut to be included (and four whiskies made both or our lists).  I personally sat down with my top whiskies in each group and overall to re-taste them comparatively to come up with my rankings. Those whiskies that have been previously reviewed by Jeremy and I, or others, on ModernThirst are linked (just click on the name and you can go to the full review).

TOP WHISKIES TASTED IN 2018 by Two Guys that Really Like Whiskies

American Single Malts


  1. Stranahan’s Cask Thief – The Cab Calloway
  2. Balcones French Oak Texas Single Malt
  3. Spirit Hound Straight Malt Whisky – Cask Strength Barrel #66

Bourbon / Rye / American Whiskies

 Wes – Combined List

  1. Blanton’s Straight from the Barrel – 130.9 proof
  2. Old Forester 1897 and Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2016 (yes, I tasted 1920)
  3. Distillery 291 Bad Guy Batch #3 or Batch #4
  4. Joseph Magnus Straight Bourbon finished in Oloroso, PX, and Cognac casks
  5. Distillery 291 Colorado Barrel Proof (any barrel)
  6. J. Rieger Monogram 2018 Oloroso Bota

Jeremy – Bourbon

  1. Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year Old (2015 release)
  2. Barrell Bourbon Batch 014
  3. Joseph Magnus Straight Bourbon finished in Oloroso, PX, and Cognac casks

Jeremy – Rye

  1. Kentucky Owl 11 Year Old – Batch 1
  2. Distillery 291 Colorado Barrel Proof (any barrel)
  3. High West Double Rye



  1. Bunnahabhain 14 Year Old 2003 Pedro Ximenez Finish Limited Release
  2. Compass Box Hedonism The Muse
  3. SMWS 30.97 Dancing on a volcano (9 Year Old)
  4. Kilchoman Impex Cask Evolution Sherry Hogshead 01/2016
  5. Ardbeg Grooves Committee Release
  6. The Balvenie 14 Year Old Peat Week (2003 Vintage)


  1. GlenDronach Allardice 18 Year Old
  2. Highland Park 18 Year Old
  3. Ardbeg Grooves Committee Release



  1. Bushmills 21 Year Old (2014 and 2016 edition)
  2. Green Spot Chateau Montelena Zinfandel 
  3. Redbreast Lustau


  1. Tullamore D.E.W 18 Year Old
  2. Redbreast 12 Year Old Cask Strength
  3. Bushmills 21 Year Old



  1. Hibiki 17 Year Old
  2. Yamazaki 18 Year Old
  3. Nikka Pure Malt Black
  4. Nikka From The Barrel

 World Whiskies (includes Indian and Taiwanese for this year)


  1. Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask S0812170028 from Abbey Whisky + a Binny’s selection

Overall Top Whiskies Tasted in 2018


  1. Bunnahabhain 14 Year Old 2003 Pedro Ximenez Finish Limited Release
  2. Blanton’s Straight from the Barrel – 130.9 proof
  3. Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask S0812170028 from Abbey Whisky + a Binny’s selection
  4. Stranahan’s Cask Thief – The Cab Calloway
  5. Hibiki 17 Year Old


  1. Kentucky Owl 11 Year Old – Batch 1
  2. GlenDronach Allardice 18 Year Old
  3. Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year Old (2015 release)


As we come to the close of 2018 and look forward to 2019 – may your glasses always be full of your favorite dram.  Let us know your thoughts on the listings – did some of your favorites make our lists? Finally, I hope you are able to taste one of those whiskies on your must try list in 2019. Thank you for reading, and hopefully following us, on ModernThirst. May you have a wonderful new year.  Cheers.


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About Author

Senior Staff Writer, Wes, was born and raised in Darlington, South Carolina and attended college at the United States Air Force Academy. After flying helicopters for the Air Force and teaching at the Air Force Academy, he retired in beautiful Colorado Springs, Colorado, after twenty years of military service. He now works in public school education, is married with three children, and leads the monthly Proper Pour Whisk(e)y Club. You can follow him on Twitter @WesModernThirst and e-mail him at Wes@ModernThirst.com.


    • Wes@modernthirst on

      Jeannette – thanks for the comment and glad you enjoyed reviewing the list. Was a fun year of tasting a variety of whiskies. Hope you can find some good ones to add to your shelves.

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