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.
“As value buys in bourbon get harder and harder to achieve due to price increases and scarcity, it's nice to know that Sazerac Co. gives you a lot of bang for your buck (which is a good reason why it can be so hard to find its whiskeys). Eagle Rare 10 Year is still widely available and an amazing deal for 10-year-old single-barrel bourbon. At 90-proof, it has some gentle heat. Pair that heat with baking spice and orange peel notes, and you have a pretty compelling whiskey for the price.”—Neal Bodenheimer, owner and partner at Cane & Table and Cure in New Orleans
“For years, this bourbon was the best bargain in the industry, a high-quality single barrel that often went for under $20 a bottle. While the price has gone up a bit since then, the quality is every bit as good and still remains a steal, as many people haven’t quite figured out exactly how good it is yet.”—Erick Castro, owner of Polite Provisions in San Francisco and bartender at Boilermaker and Raised by Wolves in New York City
“I recommend this bottle often because it's a great whiskey than can be found in most stores and usually only runs around $30. It’s delicious, accessible and smooth.”—Gray
“Everything goes in waves—the public’s populist taste, bartenders’ favorites and everyone’s personal favorites. All of these have met again in The Whisky Exchange’s Whiskey of the Year for 2019, Michter’s Sour Mash. On a personal level, I have hated and loved sour mash bills over the years, but none of those were ever this tasty.”—Nathaniel Smith, creative director of bar and drinks at Travail Kitchen and Amusements in Minneapolis
“It’s pretty much exactly what I want from a bourbon that's sub-$50 retail, especially as value bourbons that punch above their weight get harder and harder to find. Rich, round and tasty, this 90-proof bourbon is a great example of good blending.”—Bodenheimer
“Russell's Reserve has everything you would want in a bourbon—lovely honey vanilla without being cloying or sweet.”—Hah
“Super-fine and balanced, this bourbon hits your palate at every correct point and finishes long.”—Hah
“I have to give props to my new hometown. This Washington State bourbon is made from great local grains and has a honeyed butterscotch finish. I like a whiskey where you can taste the quality of the grain.”—Abigail Gullo, bar manager and assistant general manager at Ben Paris at The State Hotel in Seattle
“Call me old-fashioned, but I love Wild Turkey. Heavily charred barrels and a high-rye mash bill (hmm, a theme with me, I guess) combined with an above-average proof give this expression a nose of baking spice followed by soft honey. Coffee and smoke play their role, and the finish has chocolate and oak. Bring on the Boulevardiers.”—Teague