Best Non Alcoholic Whiskeys: Why I’m Disappointed In These “Whiskeys”

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A few years ago, it seemed like the only people not ordering drinks were pregnant or in recovery. Nowadays, not only have the stigmas of alcoholic addiction (thankfully) changed dramatically, the pool of people who aren’t drinking, or who take frequent breaks from drinking for personal wellness goals is rapidly expanding.

And as this market continues to grow, we have seen a rise of non-alcoholic spirits, including the whiskey alternative from several non-alcoholic distilleries. Right now, there aren’t a ton of whiskey-specific non-alcoholic spirit substitutes, but there are still options.

I’m here to discuss several of the non-alcoholic whiskies that I’ve gotten to try, and the reviews on some others that I haven’t yet had the opportunity to try. So whether you’re sober or sober-curious, buckle in for some tasting notes and reviews!

Bottom Line Up Front

The best non-alcoholic whiskey you can get right now, in my humble opinion, is the Ritual Whiskey Alternative because it offers more interesting and round tastes than any other I’ve tried. It’s also the cheapest!

What is a Non-Alcoholic Whiskey?

A non-alcoholic whiskey is a distilled product made in the spirit of whiskey. It aims to hit the flavor profile of different whiskies and just as whiskies vary in price and taste, so do non-alcoholic whiskies.

And despite the possibility for these to be bad for you, these products are made to not be sugary bombs that are downright bad for you. In fact, many are made to be quite the opposite. In the same vein of cutting out alcohol entirely or just occasionally, many of these non-alcoholic spirits aim to be healthy, low in calories, and all-natural.

See also: How to Find the Best Rye Whiskey

The Best on the Market That I’ve Tasted

In no particular order, let’s talk about the non-alcoholic whiskey alternatives which I have had the opportunity to try.

Drink Monday

Drink Monday
Photo by Thea Engst

Drink Monday is a California-based distillery that makes non-alcoholic spirits from all-natural ingredients. At this time they only have two nonalcoholic spirit options: a whiskey and a gin.

Drink Monday’s spirits are not only made from all-natural ingredients, but they also have zero sugar and zero calories, and while most spirits are vegan, all liquor is in fact gluten-free, as is the Drink Monday Whiskey. (Yes, while all liquor is gluten-free, not all of it is vegan.

Products like Saint George’s Bruto Americano utilize beetles to dye their product red. Campari was famous for doing this at one point, but has made the switch to being vegan.)

I ordered my bottle of Drink Monday’s whiskey online for $45 (for a 750-milliliter bottle) with shipping included. Upon opening this beautiful bottle, I was hit with a huge amount of scent.

I don’t qualify this as a good thing, it’s kind of like an overly-scented candle, whiskey should be subtle. The smells were dark chocolate and citrus. I will say as a follow-up, over time, this overwhelming smell mellows out.

So I didn’t have to do much of a smell test to get the aromas of this not-so-subtle product. This bitter dark chocolate was nice, just too much, and not unlike a whiskey except for the potency of it. When I take my first sips I am hit with tart lemon juice, no sweetness, and lemon zest.

The follow-up is more bitter dark chocolate with more milky chocolate to balance it, and then I am hit with the extreme spice of cayenne pepper and possibly Szechuan buttons. It is so potent it chokes me and I have to cough. The reason why I say Szechuan is because the sensation is nearly numbing.

I believe this dose of spice is to replace the hints of rye in a whiskey but goodness gracious: it is simply too much. In the end, I am left with a watery palate and more lemon juice. (And cayenne in the back of my throat.)

While this tasting experience doesn’t sound great, I do want to say that I don’t think the Drink Monday product is bad. I do not, however, think that this company has any business advertising this product as a non-alcoholic whiskey or any kind of whiskey alternative.

If they had labeled it as an interesting, chocolate, citrus nonalcoholic spirit to mix with, my expectations would have been adjusted and I wouldn’t be so disappointed as I was when I first tasted this.

I do believe this is a great option to mix with, and plan to make mocktails with it to try it out. The thing that bothers me is the marketing choice, I find it makes me slightly distrustful of the company as a whole.

Pros and Cons of the Drink Monday Non-Alcoholic Whiskey

Pros

  • Made with all-natural ingredients.
  • Zero sugar and zero calories make this an entirely guilt-free and healthy option.
  • The chocolate aroma and chocolate on the palate are very nice.

Cons

  • This is the most expensive non-alcoholic whiskey I’ve tried. I would not say it is worth the price.
  • There’s no body to this ‘spirit’, the texture is very watery.
  • There is way too much spice added for the finish.
  • I don’t like the extreme lemon flavors you get upfront and at the finish.
  • This is nothing like a whiskey and has no business being marketed as a whiskey alternative.

Free Spirits

Free Spirits
Photo by Thea Engst

Free Spirits makes several non-alcoholic spirits including bourbon, tequila, and gin. Located in Marin County, California Free Spirits aims to make non-alcoholic options that are not meant to be served neat so much as mixed in cocktails as a non-alcoholic substitute.

In fact, their entire conception came from the realization that alcohol didn’t need to be the star player of every drink. And according to their website, they don’t even necessarily mean for their spirits to replace alcohol entirely, they simply want to offer a fresh option.

On their website, they say: “With Free Spirits, drinkers have complete control to  ‘dial-up’ or ‘dial-down’ their favorite cocktail from replacing 1:1 to ‘half and half’ or beyond, without sacrificing taste. Free Spirits are made for those who refuse to compromise between a great cocktail and a great time.”

And as far as health checkmarks, Free Spirits infuses both vitamin B3 and vitamin B6 in their non-alcoholic spirits. They also add amino acids for extra benefits! Calorically, the Free Spirits Spirit of Bourbon is only five calories per one and a half fluid ounces, or three tablespoons.

Comparatively, the average bourbon pour of one and a half ounces is ninety-seven calories. So yeah, it’s a huge difference. (The label has nutrition facts on the back, something unheard of in hard alcohol but very common with non-alcoholic spirits I’m finding.)

It is gluten-free (all spirits, alcoholic or not are though people, gluten burns off in distillation!) and also vegan.

Care-wise, Free Spirits instructs you to treat this as you would your regular alcohol. So this does not need to be refrigerated after opening but it is best used within six months.

This is not something you need to worry about in hard booze and while I don’t call it a dealbreaker by any means, it is worth mentioning that these products won’t be as tasty after half a year.

The Free Spirits’ Spirit of Bourbon is obviously aimed specifically at recreating the tasting notes of a Kentucky-style bourbon. Ringing in at $37, you can have this at your doorstep for just shy of $50 unless you choose to subscribe and save, saving 10% right away.

You should also know that when you place your order from this website, they immediately ask if you’d like another bottle at a discount of about $6, added to your order. (Obviously, I said yes, how could I not try a non-alcoholic tequila? I’m only human!)

Okay, but what does it taste like? Well, the nose on this is very oaky, which I love. I feel like achieving that must have been really difficult.

There are also hints of toffee but I really get a nice, smooth, light milk chocolate, which I also found later on the palate. A hint of orange zest on the nose is also really nice, though I wouldn’t attribute it to many bourbon noses I’ve had.

To taste, you are first greeted with a disappointing watery texture, which will be my overall criticism of all of these products. None of them have achieved the body of true whiskey. Next, I have more oak and that lovely milk chocolate I talked about on the nose.

There’s a little texture here, nearly chalky, and I find that interesting and exciting. Orange and toffee ushers in a zesty, spicy finish.

Unfortunately, I am not a big fan of this. I get some cayenne and a hint of lemon juice and then I am once again left with a watery finish and spice in my throat and on my tongue. This isn’t overwhelming, it doesn’t make me cough, and I’m sure it’s meant to replace the spice of rye in a bourbon.

However, only high-rye bourbons have more of a spice, and I’d love to taste a non-alcoholic whiskey that doesn’t have to rely on spice at the end to keep it interesting.

Pros and Cons of the Free Spirits’ Spirit of Bourbon

Pros

  • I really like the nose of this, and I think between the three it’s actually my favorite nose. Free Spirits managed to create oak and milk chocolatey goodness and it’s very enticing.
  • The price is good enough at $37 before shipping and handling. If you’re interested in any of their other products, I’d recommend clicking ‘order’ before you fill your cart, so you can save money!
  • The palate is pretty nice with a hint of chocolate and orange zest.

Cons

  • There isn’t any body to this spirit and the texture is very watery.
  • I hate the finish of this, not only is the spice weird but the texture I’m left with is more water.
  • Shipping makes this one of the more expensive options on the list, as it made the price nearly $50 total.
  • Once again, I wouldn’t call this a whiskey alternative.

Ritual Zero Proof

Ritual Zero Proof
Photo by Thea Engst

Ritual Zero Proof is another non-alcoholic producing distillery that is making waves right now. Their portfolio is even bigger than Free Spirits’ as they offer whiskey, tequila, gin, and rum alternatives. Their headquarters are in Chicago, but because they are shipping non-alcoholic products, their reach is nationwide.

And just like Free Spirits, Ritual isn’t trying to 100% replace alcohol. They say on their website, “The goal wasn’t to replace liquor — bite your tongue! — but to add a new tool to our cocktail kit. Another way to mark a moment.”

Ritual’s Zero Proof Whiskey Alternative is only $29.99, so significantly less than both the Drink Monday and the Free Spirits options. When placing your first order, you can opt to sign up for email alerts in order to receive a 10% off coupon. Also, shipping is free to the entire country.

On to the tasting! The nose of this is ashy and citrusy. It’s very light, and I’m into that. The palate is all fruit, which is super cool, and its finish is very smokey, probably from the mesquite smoke the label boasts is included.

The palate is dark cherries, vanilla, and smoke. There are hints of spice at the end, but not enough to ruin the rest of the experience. In the end, I’m left wanting more.

I would recommend this whiskey alternative to someone who enjoys Scotch and/or mezcal. It’s fruity and interesting, with ash and smoke. Unlike the Drink Monday or Free Spirits, the Ritual Zero Proof Whiskey Alternative can become cloudy and needs to be shaken up before being consumed when it acts this way.

This isn’t a big deal, it’s what happens sometimes when you use natural ingredients. Like the Drink Monday and Free Spirits whiskey alternatives, the Ritual recommends consumption within six months but does not require refrigeration.

Pros and Cons of the Ritual Zero Proof Whiskey Alternative

Pros

  • This is a great price at only $29.99, it’s the cheapest I have found and doesn’t compromise on ingredients.
  • Only five calories per one and a half ounces!
  • Made with natural ingredients.
  • This has a nice, surprising flavor profile.

Cons

  • The smokiness from the mesquite might not be for everyone.
  • This still lacks the body you want from a whiskey.
  • This does not replace a whiskey flavorwise.

Well-Reviewed Non-Alcoholic Whiskies that I Haven’t Tried

There are more than just these three options available on the market today. While I haven’t tried the following, I’ve seen a lot of positive reviews on them so I’d like to put them on your radar too.

Lyre’s American Malt

Lyre's American Malt

Lyre’s American Malt boasts to be vanilla with toasted nuts, two descriptors true to a nice, smooth bourbon. It rings in at $35.99 so it’s about an average cost judging by what I’ve seen so far. Lyre’s also recommends mixing their American Malt and even offers their own non-alcholic aperitif, vermouth, absinthe, and triple sec (to name a few) options!

Spiritless Kentucky 74

Spiritless Kentucky 74

Spiritless Kentucky 74 seems to be on the top of everyone’s list, so I’m very interested in trying this. It won Best Nonalcoholic Spirit in the LA Spirits Awards and says it has caramel, oaky, and vanilla flavors. Like the Lyre’s, this is $35.99 before shipping.

Unlike the American options, the Swedish company Gnista Spirits does not advertise their Barreled Oak as being a whiskey alternative, but it does end up on a lot of lists for ‘best of non-alcoholic whiskies’ due to its flavor profile.

This is all chocolate, oak, and smokiness and sounds downright delightful. This will cost you twenty-one euros or only $23.34 before shipping from Sweden.

FAQs About the Best Non-Alcoholic Whiskies

Question: Why are you so hard on these products?

Answer: I’m hard on them because people need to know the truth. I don’t like when products advertise themselves one way and are actually another.

Question: Why are you so obsessed with the texture of these?

Answer: I don’t think a lot of people understand how much the body of a drink matters. Having that full body of a whiskey adds to the flavor as much as the thinness of water quenches your thirst on a hot day.

I’m not saying that I know how to solve this problem for non-alcoholic distillers, I’m just saying it’s disappointing when something is advertised as a whiskey and doesn’t hold up.

Answer: Absolutely. I love this trend and I hope it continues to grow. This is really just the beginning of an exciting time for non-alcoholic spirits!

Answer: My best guess is that it’s to replace the rye flavors of a whiskey, which often offer spice.

Question: Would you try more non-alcoholic spirits down the line?

Answer: Absolutely. I love this trend and I hope it continues to grow. This is really just the beginning of an exciting time for non-alcoholic spirits!

Final Thoughts

While my search for the perfect non-alcoholic whiskey continues, I’d just like to reiterate that while none of these products astound me, none of them are bad.

All are made with natural ingredients and care for overall health, wellness, and mixing drinks. I think that’s amazing, and I’m really excited to see what these companies and more, bring to the table in the future.

My final thoughts are that my argument remains to stop calling these products non-alcoholic whiskies. None of them fill the gap of whiskey in flavor or texture, but none of them are poor products.

If the marketing team wasn’t so bent on making a non-alcoholic whiskey, the products would just be marketed as flavorful, non-alcoholic spirits like that of Seedlip.

I’d also like to add that all of these products have rave reviews all over the internet, and I find it disappointing that people are either being paid to write favorable reviews or feel bad for being honest.

I did not find any review of these whiskies discussing texture and pros and cons, which is why I feel articles like this one are important. You work hard for your money, and you deserve to have full information before you spend it.

Cheers to the future of non-alcoholic whiskey!

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Thea Engst

Thea Engst loves Whiskey and enjoys sharing her passion with others. She is a co-author of Nectar of the Gods. Why are you giving advice on Whiskey Watch? I'm giving advice on Whiskey Watch because whiskey is one of my favorite things in the world. I love tasting and comparing whiskies and offering advice to others. What is your favorite Whiskey? My favorite whiskey is Buffalo Trace bourbon. It's affordable and delicious neat or mixed in a cocktail! Where does your passion for Whiskey come from? My passion for whiskey comes from eleven years in hospitality, learning about all the different spirits and falling in love with whiskey’s history and tasting notes. If you could give people a word of advice regarding Whiskey, what would it be? My best advice about whiskey is to start at a bar, tasting whiskies neat. You will learn what you like without investing in a whole bottle. Once you know, go get yourself a bottle!