I’ve been on a roll over the last few months as I’ve been purchasing and trying out every non alcoholic whiskey and bourbon I can get my hands on.
Initially, I thought it would be a good addition to my mixing arsenal as I’m finding more people who don’t drink alcohol or who, like me, don’t like feeling the negative effects of alcohol after drinking.
I don’t know why I thought this, but I figured that the companies who had brought to market non alcoholic spirits would have had a lot of testing, focus groups, and trials in order to create the perfect replications that tasted close to the real thing.
That wasn’t the case.
Instead, I ended up being disappointed by the multiple products that either didn’t taste like whiskey, only had a few whiskey elements, or were just bad.
My Judging Criteria
When I first started out testing the various NA whiskeys, I had my expectations way too high. I was expecting them to actually taste like the real thing.
Those expectations were quickly dashed apart, and I had to re-evaluate what I was really looking for.
I got rid of the expectation that a NA whiskey would actually taste like a traditional whiskey, at least at this point in time. Hopefully, in the future that will change, but for now, you have to work with what you got.
In the end, I determined that what I wanted out of a NA whiskey was that it:
- Tasted good neat
- Either included typical whiskey notes or offered a unique flavor profile that I could use in mixing
- Delivered an intensity that would somewhat replicate the heat from a traditional whiskey
So with that criteria in mind, I’ve categorized the NA whiskeys I’ve tried into a few groups. Hopefully this list will help save you the pain and cost I went through in searching for good whiskey alternatives.
- Top Recommendations
- Unique Offerings
- Not Bad / Not Great
- Don’t Do It…
- Haven’t Tried Yet
My Top Recommendations
Currently, there are 2 different whiskey alternatives that I would recommend as solid non alcoholic options.
They’re not perfect, but they do meet my criteria to make it into the recommended list.
I hope that more alcohol free whiskey options will be produced that are able to be added to this list, but for now, this is what I’m working with.
Escape Mocktails Single Malt Scotch
Escape Mocktails is one of the newest non alcoholic liquor producers on the scene. Launching in 2021, Escape came to market with a full line up of non alcoholic spirits, liqueurs and premixed mocktails.
Escape describes their Single Malt Scotch as a smooth NA scotch with earthy flavors of bitters and oak, combined with notes of vanilla and smoke. It’s designed to be sipped neat, mixed with club soda, or incorporated into a scotch style cocktail.
Almost immediately on tasting Escape’s Scotch, I placed it into a top spot for best tasting non alcoholic whiskey that I’ve tried.
It doesn’t taste exactly like a scotch whiskey, but it is definitely one of the most intriguing of the NA whiskeys. It has a smooth flavor of malt, smoke, and woody oak. There’s a little vanilla flavor to it as well, though it’s very mellow.
One of the best things about Escape’s Scotch is the inclusion of a much more intense burn. While other NA whiskeys shy away from this kick, Escape heats it up and really delivers. This heat brings a much needed intensity, that most others lack.
It’s not the same type of heat that you would get from a traditional whiskey, however, it’s one of the best substitutes I’ve tried so far.
So while it’s not a perfect single malt scotch replica, it does fit the bill for a non alcoholic scotch. More than that though, I think it fills the general non alcoholic whiskey spot nicely when mixed into a cocktail.
Escape’s Scotch definitely made the best old fashioned out of all of the NA’s on this list.
I really enjoy Escape’s Single Malt Scotch. It works well neat or mixed in a cocktail. It’s spicy, complex, and an overall enjoyable NA whiskey. It’s also one of the few NA spirits I’ve purchased more than once.
If you’re looking for good NA scotch or a great NA whiskey for mocktails I definitely recommend checking out Escape’s Single Malt Scotch.
Escape Cinnamon Fire Whiskey
So I already talked about Escape Mocktails in the section above, so I’m not going to talk about the company. I’ll just skip straight ahead and talk about the tasting.
I really like Escape’s Cinnamon Fire Whiskey. If it weren’t such a niche flavor, it would be the first on this list.
Essentially, this is a recreation of fireball whiskey and the best replication that I’ve had to date.
Escape’s Cinnamon Fire Whiskey delivers loads of intense cinnamon flavor packed with a spicy kick that replaces the traditional whiskey heat nicely.
It is an intense NA spirit that delivers a fireball flavor wonderfully and packs a great punch.
If you’re into cinnamon, then I’d recommend checking out Escape’s Cinnamon Fire Whiskey.
The following NA spirits do not fall into the category of whiskey alternative. Either the manufacturer has stated this or I’m making it clear.
Despite this, they have a good flavor profile to be consumed neat, as well as having a uniqueness that makes them a cool addition for mixing.
So while these don’t fit the bill for whiskey flavor, they are still worth checking out due to their unique offerings.
Gnista Barreled Oak
Barreled Oak is the second non alcoholic spirit released by Swedish company Gnista in 2020. Funded and launched via Kickstarter, Gnista Barreled Oak is not meant as a non alcoholic replica of a whiskey, but rather a new and unique take on a smoky dark spirit.
Gnista states they were inspired by Swedish nature when producing Barreled Oak. Utilizing artisan craft techniques, they designed this non alcoholic drink with dry smokey notes, botanicals, and underlying flavors of chocolate rye and warm spices.
Having tasted Barreled Oak neat, with ice, and in cocktails, I can say that this NA delivers on what it set out to do.
The flavor profile is very unique and offers a lot of different flavors that work well together. It is complex, with slight sweet and bitter herbal notes that come through with a smokey oak base.
Though it doesn’t replicate the heat or intensity of a traditional dark spirit, it makes a good alternative for those looking for something different.
It’s a flavorful, complex drink that stands well on its own, or as a stand-in for a cocktail. Though it’s important to remember that it’s not designed as a direct whiskey replacement as it has a very unique flavor.
If you’re looking for a different type of non alcoholic spirit, that drinks well and has a good flavor to it, I definitely recommend checking out Gnista Barreled Oak.
Shop Online For Gnista Barreled Oak
Sexy AF Friski Whiski
Friski Whiski was released by Sexy AF Spirits in 2021 as a cinnamon style NA whiskey alternative.
Sexy AF states that Friski Whiski is a botanical spirit infused with flavors like Korintje cinnamon, all spice, and kola nut. Based on their website and other material, their intended use case for Friski Whiski was to be used in making mocktails versus just drinking it straight.
After tasting Friski Whiski and using it in some cocktails it truly belongs in this “unique offering” section as it doesn’t taste like whiskey at all.
Of the flavors that are stated in the tasting notes, I honestly didn’t pick up on them. It tastes very heavily of honey and herbs. Very similar to how a honey Ricohla tastes.
Personally, I really like the taste of Friski Whiski, but as a standalone herbal honey spirit. When it comes to being a whiskey alternative, Friski Whiski doesn’t even come close.
Not Bad / Not Great
The following are products that are just, “okay.”
Depending on what you’re looking for, they may be worth purchasing and checking out, but for me, I doubt I will ever purchase these again.
They tasted okay, but were either watered down, lacked intensity, or just didn’t have the notes that you’d want out of a non alcoholic whiskey.
Also, in this category are some of the whiskey alternatives that the manufacturer has stated that their NA spirit should be mixed in a cocktail and not meant to be consumed neat.
I don’t buy this logic.
When you substitute ingredients, you always want to find a substitute that adequately replaces the ingredient you are missing. Whether you’re baking, cooking, or mixing it doesn’t change.
So, if an NA whiskey isn’t going to hold up to being consumed neat, then I don’t know how it’s magically going to gain everything that it was missing, once mixed into a cocktail.
It just doesn’t work that way and the mocktails I tested with the following NA’s proved my point.
Shop Online For Sexy AF Friski Whiski
Ritual Zero Proof Whiskey Alternative
Ritual Zero Proof’s Whiskey Alternative is a non-alcoholic spirit meant as a substitute for whiskey in cocktails. It was released in 2019 and won a silver metal from the Beverage Testing Institute.
The Ritual line was launched, not in an effort to replace alcohol, but rather to provide people with alcohol free liquors that would still allow participation in the rituals that correspond with drinking. Since drinking alcohol is such an integrated part of social gatherings, many none drinkers can feel left out. Ritual Zero Proof’s aim was to allow everyone to participate in these special moments.
The back label of the Whiskey Alternative bottle boasts flavors of vanilla, American oak, caramel, and heat without the negative effects of alcohol. Also, that this botanical blend is best when used as a 1 to 1 whiskey substitute in cocktails.
After tasting Ritual’s whiskey alternative neat, on the rocks, and in cocktails, I found that the flavor was decent but that it didn’t replicate the flavor of whiskey well. It has a very strong smoke flavor, faint hints of caramel, and earthy notes of oak. Additionally, it lacks a good replication of the alcohol punch and was quite mild in comparison to a traditional whiskey.
Overall, Ritual Zero Proof’s whiskey isn’t bad, but it doesn’t add enough to the mix that I would purchase it again.
Shop Online For RITUAL ZERO PROOF Whiskey Alternative
Lyre’s American Malt
Lyre’s American Malt is a non-alcoholic whiskey alternative that was released to market in 2020. After its initial release it won an award in the 2020 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
Lyre’s states that their American Malt was created as a dedication to true bourbon meticulously crafting the finest blend of oak, spices, and smoke essence into this NA bourbon.
After testing out this non alcoholic American Malt I found that while it has a complex and inviting nose, the taste and flavors are more reminiscent of a rooibos tea, sweetened with honey, with a slight spicy kick in the finish.
When added into a cocktail you almost completely lose this NA. The slight spiciness that’s there when drinking it neat, is virtually undetectable. The flavor of the Lyre’s adds a lot of sweetness to the cocktail, so if you don’t adjust your sugar levels you’ll end up with an unbalanced sweet drink.
While Lyres American Malt itself doesn’t taste bad, it does not taste like whiskey or replicate any of the flavor elements well. Even in terms of an alcohol free spirit, it lacks a punch and uniqueness that would give it a permanent place in my inventory.
Because of these factors I don’t consider it good replacement for those looking for a non alcoholic whiskey.
Shop Online For Lyre's American Malt
Free Spirits The Spirit of Bourbon
Created by The Free Spirits Company, the Spirit Of Bourbon was launch in 2020 along with 2 other non alcoholic drinks. This bourbon alternative is non alcoholic, less than .5% ABV, and comes in a nice looking bottle.
Free Spirits states that the Spirit of Bourbon is a blend of complex flavors including oak, toasted almonds, caramel, and brown sugar. They’ve incorporated energizing vitamins and ingredients to add in a sort of mood enhancement to the drink.
During my tasting of The Spirit of Bourbon I didn’t find it to be overly impressive, but it also wasn’t bad. It was light, didn’t have a lot of flavor, and tasted watered down. It has a little burn to it after swallowing, but lacks intensity.
Overall, this is not a terrible non alcoholic bourbon, but it’s not the best either. It falls short of being a good replacement for the real thing. It’s light flavor profile, while not terrible, left a lot to be desired. The flavors are just a bit too simple and watered down.
It’s not one that I’m planning on purchasing again.
Shop Online For Free Spirits The Spirit of Bourbon
Don’t Do It…
Look, all I can share is my own personal experience.
There may be beverages on this list that you like or heard someone else give a raving review for.
I’m not here to tell you that you’re wrong or that those people don’t know what they’re talking about. I’ve realized that many people perceive tastes very differently.
So if it’s in this list, it may not be bad for everyone, but it’s bad for me and because of that, all I can say is, “Don’t do it…”
Spiritless Kentucky 74
From the heart of bourbon country, Spiritless released Kentucky 74 in early 2020.
Spiritless uses a unique distillation process where they first create a high proof bourbon and then separate out the alcohol through reverse distillation. The remaining liquid is then blended to create a well balanced non alcoholic bourbon.
Spiritless’ tasting notes for Kentucky 74 include hints of oak, vanilla, and caramel. They also specify on the bottle “for bourbon cocktails,” meaning it’s designed to be added to a mixed drink and not just consumed neat.
From what I’ve seen online Kentucky 74 appears to be one of the most divisive non alcoholic spirits on the market. I have not seen middle ground reviews. People either love it and say it tastes just like a bourbon, or they absolutely hate it.
Unfortunately for me, Kentucky 74 did not mesh with my taste buds. I can say that I truly think this is one of the most terrible drinks I’ve ever consumed.
The taste itself of Kentucky 74 has such a thick medicinal flavor that it tastes like I’m drinking medicine. I didn’t pick up on any of the tasting notes that Spiritless specified.
When mixed in a non alcoholic cocktail that had lemon juice in it, the acidity from the lemon in combination with Kentucky 74 left a horrible, bitter taste in the back of my throat that can only be described as the after taste of vomit.
Whether neat, on the rocks, or in one of Spiritless’ recommended mocktail recipes I saw no redeeming qualities to this NA bourbon.
However, I can’t say that without contest. During my tasting of Kentucky 74 I asked my wife to try it and tell me her thoughts. She is not much of an alcohol drinker, just FYI, but she didn’t mind the flavor of it. She even said that it tasted similar to bourbon, but without the kick that would normally make her wince.
I’m not sure of what causes the polar response to Kentucky 74, but based on my own personal experience of it, I can’t recommend it.
However, if you want to try out a little controversy, pick up a bottle and try it out.
Shop Online For The Spiritless Kentucky 74
Haven’t Tried Yet
The following list are NA whiskey’s that I’ve identified during my research.
I would like to try each of these. As the budget for this project allows, I’ll purchase them and write reviews.
For some of them though, I’ve only been able to find them online in UK stores, and they don’t appear to be available here in the US, which is a bummer.
- Monday Zero Alcohol Whiskey: Review coming soon with placement on this list.
- Celtic Soul – Not Alcoholic Whiskey: On purchase list
- Seir Hill Mashville: On purchase list
- WHISSIN Non-Alcoholic Whisky: On purchase list
- Beckett’s Cinnamon Whiskey: On purchase list
- Glen Dochus Whisky: Looking for a USA source
- Sobour Rye Style: Looking for a USA source
- Sobour Bourbonesque: Looking for a USA source
- Dochus Smokey Isle Whisky: Looking for a USA source
- Dochus Highland Bothy Whisky: Looking for a USA source
- CROSSIP Dandy Smoke: Looking for a USA source
Based on what I’ve tasted so far, it seems like replicating the taste and intensity of whiskey is pretty hard to do.
As listed, there are a couple that do this pretty well, some others that offer something a bit more unique, and the majority that are mediocre or just bad.
Ideally, I’ll find a non alcoholic version that tastes like the real thing, but for now, I’m mixing and experimenting with what I’ve got.
Hopefully this list will be helpful and save you the time, effort, and money that it took to try out these whiskey alternatives.