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.
“While I love an iodine-rich peat bomb, I know that style of whisky is an acquired taste. Bowmore 12-year-old has it's fair share of peat and beach bonfire notes, but that's beautifully balanced with heaps of confectionary notes and concentrated waves of orchard and tropical fruits—unbelievable depth and balance for the price.”—Joaquín Simó, partner at New York City's Pouring Ribbons
“I admire what this distillery consistently puts out in high-quality spirits, although not a big name in terms of consumer appeal. Within the bar community, Compass Box is a gem. Great King Street Artist’s Blend is a beautiful blend of unique flavors of stewed pear and hints of vanilla aged in ex-bourbon barrels. It’s perfect for the holidays neat or laid over a large cube.”—Joseph Pereira, bartender at Las Vegas' Electra
“It’s a standard of what I believe all single malts should be measured against—complex, elegant and round, with a soft creamy finish.”—Pereira
“This is a very approachable scotch for the beginner scotch drinkers. It’s very smooth and versatile and can be enjoyed every day.”—Wiseman
“While Glenmorangie's flagship bottle may be readily available in all markets, it has always been a consistently solid product and great approachable scotch to boot, one I've used many times to convert the few scotch haters in my life.”—Jamie Boudreau, owner of and bartender at Seattle's Canon
“This bottle comes from one of my favorite distilleries in Scotland. Aged in sherry and bourbon barrels for just eight years, it's a great expression of what can be done with grain and no chill filtering.”—Nick Detrich, co-owner and bartender at New Orleans' Manolito
“It’s a super affordable single malt—light subtle smoke and great for sipping in a cocktail.”—Green
“This is an unpopular opinion among bartenders, but I don't care. At a blind spirits tasting, every bartender rated this as a super-high-level scotch, which is what hundreds of years of spirits blending accomplishes.”—Nathaniel David Smith, bartender at St. Paul, Minn.'s Hodges Bend and ambassador for Teeling Irish whiskey
“It’s an excellent blend of juice from Macallan and Highland Park that sees time in a first-fill sherry cask.”—Huebner
“It’s nutty, fruity and balanced and works well with citrus.”—Sterling
“If scotch is new to someone and that person wants to learn, I cannot think of a more delicious and approachable one than this brand. Stone fruit appeal with subtle notes of honey and tangerine. Also, it has layers of depth to it. Neat!”—Pereira
“It’s a blend scientifically engineered to taste like a malt, with a good story behind it—definitely my home decanter whisky.”—Marran