You know who knows best which bottles to buy? The people who pour and sell drinks—that’s who. We asked dozens of top bartending and spirits industry professionals to tell us which bottles they love and why. Heads up: The numerical order below is not organized by importance or quality; it’s a list, not a ranking. Prices are averages and can vary state to state.
“This is the first time Laphroaig has used Madeira casks, and it turned out beautiful. Slightly sweeter notes of burnt orange, fig and a buttery richness that’s warming and delicious.”—Ryan Maybee, co-owner of Manifesto and The Rieger and co-founder of J. Rieger & Co.
“It’s finished in Sauternes casks, and you get crazy, custardy tropical fruit notes zinging around the rich old malt backbone.”—Zac Overman, mixologist at Rob Roy and head bartender at Sitka&Spruce Bar
“I can’t stand insanely peated Islay malts. I like smooth, softer Highlands. This bottle used to be (but has since been joined) the only unpeated Islay malt, which is an interesting little tidbit but doesn’t explain why it’s delicious. Honestly, it’s just very easy to drink—soft and honeyed with a touch of toffee and salt.”—David Moo, owner of Quarter Bar
“This caps right at the 100 dollar mark and is from my favorite Islay distillery, aged for 16 years and finished in sherry casks. It’s a great buy.”—Zach Lynch, bar manager at The Ice Plantand brand ambassador at St. Augustine Distillery Co.
“A ton of whisky for the money. Non-chill-filtered, cask strength, aged exclusively in oloroso sherry casks—need I say more?”—Neal Bodenheimer, mixologist at and co-owner of Cureand owner of Cane & Table and Café Henri
“It’s a great scotch that has been aged 12 years in ex-bourbon casks, and then they age it three more years in different sherry casks. This provides a great scotch with a nice balance of smoke with some taste of ginger and anise.”—James Bolt, beverage director and host bartender at The Gin Joint
“My favorite everyday drinking scotch after an exhaustive and through tasting in a Glasgow pub. Not overly peated; clean and full of malt and grain. A tasty dram.”—Abigail Gullo, head bartender at Compère Lapin