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.
“A single malt’s smoke comes from three different sources: peat, cherrywood and beechwood. With tasting notes of fruity, dry, sweet and smoke, this is a complex flavor dance on your tongue.”—Juyoung Kang, lead bartender at Las Vegas' Dorsey
“It’s probably one of the most well-paired finishes of casks. With notes of cinnamon, pepper and vanilla spice like a rye should, it also lends a rich orange, delicate sweet finish. Its complexity gives your palette a dance from beginning to end.”—Kang
“The addition of Dry Sack sherry gives it an added layer of richness that complements the cherry notes, and it works really well for a pickle back.”—Franky Marshall, beverage director at New York City's Le Boudoir
“It’s an interesting series of different Jack Daniel’s releases honoring its seven master distillers. At 86 proof, you get to see what Jack used to taste like, and you might just realize that it tastes better than you thought.”—Neal Bodenheimer, owner and bartender at New Orleans' Cane & Table and Cure
“This whiskey is well-rounded and full of fat barley flavor. It's like biting into a caramel green apple without the sweetness, but it actually has some silky texture to it and some warm white pepper notes on the back.”—Brian Means, bartender at San Francisco's Mina Group
“At only 50 percent corn and aged in barrels both old and new, this easy-drinking whiskey doesn’t qualify as a bourbon. But honestly, who cares what it’s called if it tastes good?”—Michael Lazar, whiskey concierge and lead bartender at San Francisco's Hard Water
“I was really excited when I heard this six-year-old, 110-proof rye whiskey was being released in late 2015. I was stunned it would be priced under $50. This is not your typical rye, as its mash bill contains quite a bit of corn to round out some of the peppery rye flavor. It’s a fantastic value and makes an excellent Old Fashioned.”—Paul McGee, owner and bartender at Chicago's Lost Lake
“It’s the best American whiskey you can buy for this price. It is a little light on the nose but makes it all up when taking a sip. This whiskey is great neat, on the rocks and in cocktails.”—Tomas van den Boomgaard, beverage manager at The Langham, Chicago
“Delicious and locally made (local to the Bay Area), it has rye spiciness and a little hint of young green steaminess but has a really soft cherry fruit finish.”—Aaron Paul, bar director at San Francisco's Alta
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