By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Aug 24, 2023 at 9:04 AM

It’s official, summer is here and there’s a bumper crop of great whiskey for you to enjoy on the patio, at the campsite, at the beach or anywhere you darn well please.

Here are some – mostly American bourbon – whiskeys, with a few other gems in the mix so there will be something for nearly every palate.


Old Elk Wheated Bourbon ($62.99)

This easy drinking bourbon – contract distilled in Indiana with a custom mashbill – goes heavy on the wheat (45 percent, along with 51 percent corn and 4 percent malt) for a non-traditional bourbon with super rounded edges.

Aged at least five years, this 92 proof sipper is rich in chocolate and coffee and oak, but also a dash of smoky vanilla and a hint of nuttiness.

Wiseman Bourbon ($55)

This 90.8 proof Kentucky Owl collab with Bardstown Bourbon Company is the first fruit of the Kentucky Owl hiring of Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Famer John Rhea, who spent the previous four decades at Four Roses.

A blend of four Kentucky straight bourbons, its full of character from baking spices and brown sugar, bananas and nuts, oak and a touch of citrus fruit. Great body on this one, too.

Clyde May’s Straight Bourbon ($48.99)

Although inspired by the eponymous Alabama moonshiner, this 92 proof straight bourbon – aged four to five years – is distilled at MGP in Indiana. And it is, in fact, bourbon, not Alabama-style whiskey, which is finished with apples.

Now that you know that you might convince yourself there’s some apple on the nose to accompany the cinnamon and brown sugar on the palate, creating a mental apple pie. Some allspice pops up and runs through the finish which brings some pepper and light smoke.

Tommyrotter Napa Valley Heritance Cask Straight Bourbon Whiskey ($50.99)

There’a a lot going on here in this 95 proof sipper, which is a blend of three MGP straight bourbons, including a high-corn, a a high-wheat and a high-rye. After blending, the whiskey rests three months in Taub Family Selections Heritance Cabernet Sauvignon French oak barrels from Napa Valley.

The balance of the grains is quite nice with corn sweetness – almost honeyed – balanced by the high-rye pepper and the whole thing rounded out with the wheat. Fortunately, the Cabernet barrel finish is a subtle addition bringing depth rather than an overpowering wine character.

Middle West Spirits Straight Wheated Bourbon Whiskey and Straight Wheat Whiskey ($48 each)

When I spent a few days in Columbus working on this story, the folks at Middle West were kind enough to have me in for a tour and tasting despite the distillery being closed to the public during the pandemic. But even if they weren’t top-notch folks, I’d recommend checking out their unique wheated bourbon, with its non-GMO yellow corn, Ohio soft red winter wheat, two-row barley and dark pumpernickel rye, and the straight wheat whiskey, which is distilled from 100 percent Ohio soft red winter wheat.

The 95 proof bourbon is a nice balance of brown sugar and vanilla sweetness and dried fruit with some floral notes. The 92 proof wheat whiskey offers a somewhat similar experience with those floral notes and vanilla, but with more of a fresh apple and pear palate.

Jack Daniel’s 12 Years Old Tennessee Whiskey ($80, but good luck) & two more...

Jack is on a roll lately, releasing a number of interesting whiskeys, including double-barreled ones and extra-aged ones like a couple batches of 10-year and this 12-year, which clocks in a 107 proof. With a mash bill of 80 percent corn, 12 percent rye and eight percent malted barley, it’s got a deep, dark leather color and a super oaky nose, and a molasses-y richness.

There’s dried fruit and cherries, baking spices like nutmeg and cinnamon and clove and a twinge of oak tannin on the fade. This is a fabulous expression, but one you will likely have to pay dearly for.

Jack also has a new Distillery Series release – No. 11 – that's available only on-site in Lynchburg and at some retailers in Tennessee ($42, 375ml). This one is finished in añejo tequila barrels that had previously aged Jack Daniel's whiskey. At 90 proof, there's a nice citrus hit on the nose and a unique flavor profile with light pepper and brown sugar and just the merest suggestion of tequila on the tail end.


More widely available, but perhaps not a lot easier to obtain is this year's limited edition Twice Barreled Special Release: Heritage Barrel Rye, with a mash bill of 70 percent rye, 18 percent corn and 12 percent malted barley.

It is, of course, charcoal filtered and aged in new American white oak for at least five years before spending more than two more years in heavy-toast Heritage Barrels. Bottled at 100 proof ($75, 700ml), this one, despite nosing pretty hot, is all brown sugar and molasses with a soft finish on the palate. It's rich and warm and different than any other Jack you've tasted.

Clonakilty Distillery Single Batch Double-Oak (53.95)

Ireland’s Clonakilty Distillery, which is honorably focused on sustainability and eco-friendly practices, also makes great whiskey, including a range of collabs with American craft brewers. This, however, is their flagship whiskey, a gorgeously silky triple-distilled blend of single malt and single grain whiskey that then spends at least three years in ex-bourbon casks before finishing in virgin American oak and re-charred European Oak Casks (so, really, triple oak?).

The results are a straw colored gem of a whiskey with notes of almonds and honey and banana and graham crackers. Enjoy it with dessert, like vanilla ice cream, for the perfect meal closer.

Blackened 72 Seasons Batch (55)


If you're a legendary rock band with a whiskey label, what better reason for a special whiskey release than a new record release? That's the occasion for which Metallica has once again "remastered" its whiskey .

A blend of bourbon and ryes created with Master Distiller and blender Rob Dietrich is finished in brandy casks that are rocked to the sound of Metallica's new album, "72 Seasons," to help extract more flavor from the barrels. The result is heavy in oak and cola notes, with a bit of honey and dark caramel.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.