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ESQUIRE: The 2021 Spirit Awards

Updated: Jun 22, 2022

These 25 bottles were chosen based on flavor, and flavor alone.

As 2021 staggers to a close, it’s time to reflect on all of the delicious booze we’ve (responsibly) consumed over the past 12 months. And man, we savored our whiskey, rum, tequila, vodka, and gin this year, as our hopes soared and crashed on this wild ride of politics, pandemic, and economic uncertainty. The one thing we could count on was distilleries continuing to make top-notch spirits, so I took on the admittedly very enjoyable job of choosing Esquire's best bottles of 2021 by sipping, quaffing, and sampling such spirits from every category. The following list represents a range of craft and macro distillery releases. Some are cheap and widely available, others are pricey and frustratingly elusive. But my main qualification was that these spirits tasted really, really good, regardless of how much hype (or lack thereof) was behind them, because a fascinating backstory or new label design has no flavor. So happy hunting. And pace yourself.

Heaven's Door Master Blenders' Edition

There are way too many celebrity spirits brands at the moment, particularly in the tequila world. Some celeb backers are more obvious than others—Kendall Jenner, The Rock, and Nick Jonas kind of make sense—but Bob Dylan? Apparently he’s a big whiskey guy, so his Heaven’s Door brand launched several years ago with a few different sourced whiskeys distilled in Indiana and Tennessee. Last summer the Master Blenders’ Edition was unveiled, a rare high point in an overcrowded field of actor- and musician-endorsed brands. It’s a collaboration between Heaven’s Door master blender Ryan Perry and his counterpart for Redbreast Irish whiskey, Billy Leighton. Together, they took 10-year-old bourbon and finished it in Redbreast casks for an additional 15 months, resulting in a whiskey with classic vanilla and toffee notes augmented by hints of fig, spice, and candied cherry. I’d drink this over Darius Rucker’s Backstage Southern Whiskey any day.


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