It's time to expand your palate to the great whiskeys of the world.
There are many whiskeys on the market. You can find whiskey from every corner in America, and even around the globe, each with its own unique character and identity. We have the right whiskey for you, whether you are looking to pair it with a cocktail or something more smoky and assertive.
Here are some of the best whiskeys you can get your hands on now.
Scotland’s Bruichladdich distillery is constantly trying new things. Experiments in the concept of terroir in whisky, aging its annual Octomore series in different barrel types, and often making some of the most heavily peated whisky you can find are just some examples. “Their philosophy on whiskey is simple but effective: they care about what they do, and it comes through in their product,” says Brendan Bartley, beverage director of Bathtub Gin and The 18th Room. Wiznitzer concurs, noting that “this distillery (in my opinion) turns out some of the most innovative consumer bottlings in all of Islay.” The Islay Barley 2011 release is a true experiment in terroir. It’s an unpeated whisky distilled from a mash bill of barley grown on six Islay farms in 2010, highlighting the flavors of stone fruit, green apple, and citrus zest that the climate and soil bring to the grain.
Region: Islay, Scotland | ABV: 50% | Tasting Notes: Honey, Citrus, Vanilla
Four Roses Kentucky Bourbon is an affordable and versatile Kentucky bourbon. It can be mixed with other spirits or enjoyed on its own. Mike Vacheresse, the owner of Travel Bar in Brooklyn, N.Y. (which features more than 450 different whiskeys), is a fan of the Single Barrel expression. “Four Roses Single Barrel is the benchmark for me for all other bourbons in terms of proof, flavor, and cost,” he says. “Its high rye mash bill gives [it] a pleasant spicy note, and it has a big mouthfeel and an incredibly smooth finish.”
Master Distiller Brent Elliott uses two mash bills and five yeast strains to create a total of 10 different recipes to make this flagship bourbon, while each Single Barrel release uses just one recipe to highlight a unique building block of the whiskey.
Region: Kentucky | ABV: 50% | Tasting Notes: Plum, Cherry, Vanilla
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 is in the second category, was originally produced in Maryland. Heaven Hill now distills it in Kentucky. This is a great addition to a classic cocktail such as the Manhattan. The vermouth's rich sweetness and spicy rye notes will complement each other beautifully.
What Our Experts Say
“Pikesville is my favorite rye because it provides a great symphony of flavors from the rye spice, baking spices, the high proof (110), 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
Region: Kentucky | ABV: 55% | Tasting Notes: Cinnamon, Vanilla, Oak
Barrel-proof means that the whiskey has not been cut with water to reduce the alcohol content, often down to 40% ABV, before bottling (legally it can be up to 1% lower, though). This is as close to drinking straight from the barrel as most people can get, with an ABV often exceeding 60%. Higher proof whiskey offers a pure, unadulterated whiskey experience, with a wide range of flavors—and of course, you can proof it down yourself with some water, if you like. Stagg Jr. is the younger brother to George T. Stagg bourbon, also made by Buffalo Trace, but it’s easier to obtain and usually just as good. “Stagg Jr. is so unfairly under the radar,” says Vacheresse. “Whiskey drinkers are blown away when they are introduced to a few different batches side by side.”
Region: Kentucky | ABV: Varies per batch | Tasting Notes: Brown sugar, Cocoa, Baking spices
This scotch has something of a cult following, and with good reason: it's a high-proof, sherry cask single malt that is consistently delicious. “This is a rare example of a single expression being recognized and sought after by consumers, while the rest of the brand lineup is mostly [underrecognized],” says Vacheresse. Add a bit of water or drink it neat—however you prefer, Aberlour A’Bunadh does not disappoint. Take your time with this as you sip to unveil layer after layer of flavor.
Region: Speyside, Scotland | ABV: Varies by batch | Tasting Notes: Sherry, Spice, Vanilla