Best Splurge: Lock Stock & Barrel 16 Year
Region: Pennsylvania via Alberta | Grain: 100% rye | ABV: 53.5% | Tasting Notes: Deep spice, cocoa, dried fruit
This 100 percent Canadian rye whisky is sourced and bottled by Cooper Spirits Company in the U.S. While it costs around $150 or more for a bottle, the whisky is well worth it. A deeply spicy background is tempered by notes of caramel, cocoa, and dried fruits after nearly 20 years of aging in American oak. Sip this on its own, or use it for a premium cocktail experience.
Best Bourbon: Knob Creek 12 Year Old Bourbon
With an average price of close to $70, this release doesnt qualify as an everyday sipper for most drinkers. Yet so enticing and characterful is its profile that you might struggle to reach for anything else in your bourbon collection after buying a bottle. At 12 years old and 50 percent ABV, it finds a powerful yet balanced sweet spot, overdelivering on age and quality compared with similarly priced bottles . Average price: $68.
Thomas H Handy Sazerac Rye
Rye novices need not apply. One of five bottles in Buffalo Traces mighty Antique Collection, Handy Saz is an uncut, unfiltered, max proof rye made from the same juice as the standard Sazerac bottling . Each years release is a little different, but you can generally expect a five-finger rye punch to the tastebuds. If you find a bottle at its $99 retail price, and you wont, you should buy it immediately bottles from the Antique Collection are typically sold for three- and four-times their SRPs, at minimum.
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Knappogue Castle 16 Year Old
If you are searching for the best whisky for a summertime drink, this Irish whiskey might be your best choice. It is initially aged for 14 years in bourbon barrels before transferring to Oloroso sherry oak casks to complete 16 years. It is triple distilled.
Vanilla and dark chocolate greets the nose. This Irish whiskey is slightly sweet on the palate with sherry maltiness and a touch of dried fruit. There is long and lingering sweetness at the finish.
We like that this Irish whiskey has a nice balance of sherry and bourbon. Its also reasonably priced. Its good to drink neat or over ice, but its also perfect for mixing with cocktails. If youre looking for the best Irish whiskey to tick all the boxes, the Knappogue Castle 16-Year-Old might be the best choice for you.
The Balvenie Doublewood 12 Year Old
Photo: Courtesy of The Balvenie
The inimitable David Stewart has been at The Balvenie going on 60 years. Hes the longest-tenured and most highly decorated malt master in the business and has had a hand in the development of some legendary whiskies, from the Tun 1401 series to the DCS Compendium, a collection of 25 handpicked casks curated by Stewart that include vintage single malts spanning his illustrious career. But of all the whiskies hes made, Stewart once told me, hes most proud of DoubleWood 12 Year Old, which changed the way the industry approached spirit maturation. Its aged in two types of barrels: American oak and European oak sherry. Today, virtually every whisky distillery in the world has similarly aged whiskies in their portfolio, but only one is the true original.
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$: Wild Turkey Russells Reserve 10 Year Old Bourbon
Spirit: BourbonProof: 90Approx. cost: $32
Jimmy Russell has been making whiskey at the 75-year-old Wild Turkey Distillery for a whopping 54 years, so he probably knows a thing or two about crafting a decent bourbon. Now, working side-by-side with his son Eddie, the two have released a slew of well-priced products in the last few years. Their Russells Reserve line provides some of my favorite offerings from the company. Russells Reserve Single Barrel is top-notch, but at a $55 price point, it faces too much competition to make this list. Luckily, theres a cheaper 10 Year Old bottling nearly as good. Made from small-batch barrels in the center cut of the rickhouse, and specially selected by the Russells, this spicy bourbon is perfect for a neat pour.
Others: Evan Williams Single Barrel, James Pepper 1776, Jeffersons Straight Bourbon Whiskey Very Small Batch
Ardbeg Traigh Bhan Batch 2
This is the second annual bottling in a series that was launched in 2019 by the acclaimed Islay distillery. Islay, of course, is an island off Scotlands west coast, famous for its peaty whiskies, and Traigh Bhan is the isles best-known beach. Smells like the sea, with notes of leather, eucalyptus oil and pine. Flavor-wise, theres a lot going on with this whisky, starting with wood smoke , biscuit, anise, fennel and fudge. Eventually, savory and smoke collide in a sharp, intense and satisfyingly lengthy finish.
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Oban Distillers Edition Single Malt
The Oban Single Malt Scotch whisky originated from a small distillery in the Scottish Highlands. It was brought to the second maturation in Montilla Fino sherry casks, which gives the spirit luxurious and distinctive flavors.
Its fruity and pungent on the note. On the mouth, it tastes like soft malt and salt and transitions into caramel and delicate fruit notes. Theres just a hint of peat that creeps up on the mid-palate. It has a medium-length finish with hints of toffee and a little dark chocolate. It has a malt-biscuit effect at the end.
How Much Is A 50 Year Old Bottle Of Whiskey Worth
Only an infinitesimal number of special barrels have gone the distance of 50 years, and their rarity and longevity always command top dollar. Current offerings of 50 year old scotch, like Dalmore, can cost as much as $60,000 a bottle, making others, like Benromach, look like a veritable bargain at $14,500.
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What Is Irish Whiskey Made From
Barley is commonly used to produce a classic style of Irish whiskey. Many distilleries use unmalted barley, some incorporate a portion of malted barley or other cereal grains, and single malt Irish whiskey is made entirely of malted barley. Grain Irish whiskey has a lighter flavor and is distilled from other cereal grains, such as corn or wheat, using column stills. Its also often used when blending Irish whiskey after aging. Single grain Irish whiskey uses just one type of grain.
How To Taste Whisky
Ignore the shot glass approach youve seen on the big screen. When tasting whisky or drinking it neat, you should aim to keep it in your mouth for 12-20 seconds. Put it in the middle of your tongue, underneath, then back and in the middle. Hold it, then let it go down. Your first gulp primes your tastebuds, while the second is when the whisky shows you precisely what its going to say.
Getting it talking demands the right glassware. A heavy-bottomed tumbler is good, but best is this Perfect Measure Whisky Glass. Its stem keeps your hands away so the warmth isnt evaporating the whisky, and the tulip shape channels your drams aromas straight up your nostrils.
Half the tasting experience is in the nose, but whiskies have a lot of common flavours running through them, making this one easy to blag. Flavours that pop up a lot are vanilla, butterscotch, clove, cinnamon and orange.
The barrels the whisky has been stored in will have a big impact on the nose. If youre smelling a bit of smoke, chances are its been aged in an ex-bourbon barrel. If its richer, redder and smells fruity, you might have a whisky thats been finished by being stored in a sherry cask just before bottling.
Those scents are why youre best off serving your scotch at room temperature. Mature drops can be served straight. Younger ones respond to a drop of water to bring out more nuanced flavours.
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Best Single Barrel Whiskey: 1792 Single Barrel Bourbon
This single barrel release is produced at Buffalo Traces Barton 1792 Distillery in Bardstown, Ky. Sure to please those who enjoy their bourbon on the decadent side, it opens with nutty, caramelized banana aromas, then follows with toasted oak and a touch of rye spice. Each sweet, concentrated sip coats the palate in a warm, flavorful embrace. Average price: $53.
Henry Mckenna Single Barrel 10
Bourbon doesnt get much better than this Henry Mckenna Single Barrel. It won Best in Show Whiskey at the 2019 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, which is one of the highest honors for any brand. Plus, this bottle is only the second bourbon to get the award.
Henry Mckenna is part of the Kentucky-based Heaven Hill Distillery, which is known for other award-winning whiskeys such as Elijah Craig Bourbon, Larceny Bourbon and Pikesville Rye Whiskey. This specific bottle of Mckenna comes from a single barrel of bourbon thats been aged 10 years, but despite that prestigious number, the whiskey isnt too expensive at all.
BONUS: Use code RS20 to get $20 off your order at Drizly.com.
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Runner Up Best Budget: Spooky
Courtesy of Amazon
While the Hella is a great pick for those who like an orange wedge muddled into their drink, this one is for drinkers who like to muddle a handful of cherries into their Old Fashioned. Its easy drinking and not too spiceda great pick for casual Old Fashioned sipping or a summertime Old Fashioned filled with plenty of ice and topped with a veritable fruit salad of a garnish.
If youre stocking a bar for a party, pick up a 750-ml bottle of this cherry-forward mix. Try it with brandy for a retro Wisconsin-style Old Fashioned and dont forget to garnish with a couple of maraschino cherries.
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Glenfarclas 17 Year Old
Glenfarclas can be challenging to pronounce, especially after a dram or two, but dont let that deter you from going for it. This classic Speyside whisky is worth twisting the tongue over. The rich amber-colored 17 is full-flavored and balanced, develops slowly, and brims with sweet malty notes and the intensely jammy flavor of a black mission figand with a touch of peat smoke and a hint of oak to boot. It combines the smoothness of the distillerys younger whiskies with the depth of the older expressions.
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Why Trust The Spruce Eats
Colleen Graham is a beverage writer with over a decade of experience writing about cocktails and bartending. The author of two books, she has visited numerous whiskey distilleries and learned a great deal about the industry from the talented individuals who produce it.
Kate Dingwall, who updated this roundup, is a sommelier and spirits writer. She has been writing about the bar and spirits world for more than five years and has her BarSmarts and WSET certification.
Best Rye: Pikesville Straight Rye
Region: Kentucky | ABV: 55% | Tasting Notes: Cinnamon, Vanilla, Oak
Two styles of rye whiskey dominate the whiskey market these days: rye made from a 95% to 100% rye mash bill and the Kentucky-style mash bill that usually contains just above 50% rye, the minimum legally required to be classified as rye whiskey. Pikesville, which falls into the latter category, was originally made in Maryland and is now distilled in Kentucky by Heaven Hill. Try this in a classic cocktail like the Manhattan, where those characteristic spicy rye notes will harmonize beautifully with the rich sweetness of the vermouth.
Pikesville is my favorite rye because it provides a great symphony of flavors from the rye spice, baking spices, the high proof and maturation from the six years in the barrel. The strong taste of cherries, vanilla and baking spices gives it a really fun take on a cherry Coke. Paul Gonzalez, head bartender for the Allegory Bar at D.C.s Eaton Hotel
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The 21 Best Scotch Whiskies You Can Buy In 2022
Everything you need to know about Scotlands favorite brown spirit, including important terminology and a cheat sheet to the best bottles across all price points.
Peated or unpeated? Sherry-cask aged, ex-bourbon cask aged or some combination of the two? The tweaks and variations that go into each bottle of Scotch are intimidating, especially for bourbon and rye drinkers who may not be accustomed to the price of a whiskey thats been aged for 18 years or more.
We recommend thinking of each bottle of Scotch as falling somewhere along two spectrums: from light to rich delicate to smoky. From there, its easy to move along those two spectrums to find bottles you like. Novices should start by exploring the regions of Scotland.
For starters, there are five Scotch regions: Speyside, Highlands, Islay, Lowlands and Campbeltown. While every distillery is unique, there are unofficial regional styles that can help cut out some of the noise when browsing a liquor store.
- Best Easy-Going Scotch: Glenkinchie 12 Years Old
Glenfiddich 21 Year Gran Reserva
We think all whisky newbies should all try a top-shelf bottle, if possible, to get the full picture of what whisky can be. This Glenfiddich 21 Year Gran Reserva is a good way to do just that. Its maturity has shaved down the bite, letting you fully appreciate the whiskys elegant subtleties. The single malt is finished in Caribbean rum casks, imbuing unique hints of banana, spicy toffee, and other fruits.
With the Gran Reserva, youre also getting acquainted with one of the worlds quintessential whisky brands. Glenfiddich has been around since 1887 and is currently the worlds best-selling single-malt whisky. The storied brand is a staple in any whisky connoisseurs bar, and certainly worth trying if youre just getting into the spirit.
If youre a longtime whisky drinker, then you probably know that a 21-year bottle of Glenfiddich is a damn good whisky, through and through. Pick it up as a nice gift for any fellow whisky lovers, or tuck it away for special occasions .
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$: Suntory Hakushu Single Malt Whisky Distillers Reserve
Spirit: Japanese whiskeyProof: 86Approx. cost: $57.50
Japanese whiskey is becoming so coveted its making bourbon look like cupcake-flavored vodka. The one issue is that Japanese whiskey almost always has wicked pricy MSRPs, with most of the better stuff in the three-figures realm. The silver lining is that the stuff can often be found since few can afford it. Luckily theres Hakusho, a great toe-dipper for those wanting a reasonably affordable whiskey with Japanese characters on the label. The single malts flavor profile is light and delicate, smoky yet oddly refreshing.
Others: High West Rendezvous Rye, Laphroaig Cask Strength
Best Overall: Redbreast 15 Year Irish Whiskey
Courtesy of Drizly
ABV: 46% | Age: 15 years | Volume: 750 ml
Redbreast is a favorite among Irish whiskey connoisseurs and known for producing whiskey that anyone can enjoy. The 15-Year-Old Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey is a perfect example of this style of whiskey. Produced from a combination of malted and unmalted barley, it is distilled three times in copper pot stills, then aged for a minimum of 15 years.
Often described as beautiful, this Irish whiskey offers an array of flavors, from malt to caramel, with a little fruitiness thrown in for good measure. The finish is long, and the entire experience is as smooth as you could imagine. Its bottled at 46 percent ABV and does have a price tag to match its prestige, but the first sip proves that its worth the money.
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Best Peated Scotch: Bowmore 15 Years Old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky
The quintessential crowd-pleaser, Bowmore 15 effuses enough smokiness to entice peat lovers while also serving a profile thats approachable for those new to the style. A prominent characteristic though it is, smoke is but one feather in this single malts cap. Expect vibrant aromas of red berries and violets, followed by the rich, powerful character of dried fruits and honeyed nuts on the palate. Average price: $90.
Breckenridge Blend Of Straight Bourbon
Unlike most bourbons on this list, this one doesnt come from Kentucky. Actually, Breckenridge is a mix of high-altitude Colorado whiskey and blends from Tennessee, Indiana, and Kentucky.
This results in a specific flavor profile, dominated by nutty and toasty aromas. At mid-palate, you also get sesame and banana notes which work well with the nutty flavors. This is a truly unique bourbon and deserves a spot on any list of the top bourbons to buy.
Update: There is a special release from Breckenridge that you should know about. The “Dark Arts Malt Mash” is a limited edition. This isn’t bourbon, but it’s from a great bourbon producer and is a unique single-malt American-made whiskey. You can check it out here.
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Best For Old Fashioneds: High West Bourye
“To be or not to be” is certainly the Bards most famous query. But “bourbon or rye” is the bartenders most common interrogative on taking an old fashioned order.
But why choose? The Utah label High Wests Bourye takes a pair of straight bourbons plus a rye and blends them into sheer magic. Bottled at 92 proof, its a wonderfully complex whiskey with notes of gingerbread, nuts, caramel, cinnamon, clove, mint, and tea. That rich melange integrates well with traditional Angostura aromatics but could inspire a bolder selection of bitters in your next old fashioned.
ABV: 92 Proof | Age: 10 years | Volume: 750 milliliters