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 an alphabetical list, not a ranking. Prices are averages and can vary from state to state.
“With the recent interest interest in American whiskey, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find good expressions that are also affordable. Knob Creek is readily available and a great bang for your buck, meaning that you don't have to covet the bottle you have, knowing that your local liquor store probably has some on the shelf right now. If you like this and you come into a touch more cash, get the cask strength if you can find it, for a more intense rye.”—Jamie Boudreau, owner of and bartender at Seattle's Canon
“Rectified whiskeys get a bum rap, but this beauty from K.C.'s masterful bar impresario Ryan Maybee proves that this category shouldn’t be dismissed so readily. A tiny dose of oloroso sherry adds a gloriously oxidized note to a bouquet already redolent with holiday fruit pies.”—Joaquín Simó, partner at New York City's Pouring Ribbons
“Does your gift recipient like cocktails? Then why not give them every bartender's favorite rye? It’s affordable, proofy and beyond delicious.”—Smith
“I love this whiskey unabashedly, being from the same town as the distillery, and I get a bottle every time I'm in New England.”—Marran
“It’s such a strong and spicy bourbon. Weird (to the average drinker) and tasty, this is becoming one of my favorites because the taste lives up to the story for sure.”—Marran
“Hopefully, this is still under $50 in your market, because it’s simply one of the smoothest and yet delightfully aggressive rye whiskeys ever made.”—Smith
“Woodford Reserve Kentucky straight malt is a consummate introduction to the growing and exciting category of American Malt Whiskey.”—Hoard
“American whiskey made from 100 percent rye mash is not common, and it’s even less common to find one this good. This is very young, very appealing and unfamiliar enough that it’s sure to impress people who want to try new things.”—Dauermann