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.
Have more shopping to do? Find more bottles in our Holiday Gift Guide.
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.
“It’s located at the highest altitude in the mountains of the British Isles. Although it’s very pale in color, don’t let that fool as young. It has slight fruity aromas, with nutty and toffee flavors, and a lingering dry finish of tobacco, pepper and smoke. Ben Nevis Distillery has an interesting background story, with its distillery closing, being sold and reopened. It’s now controlled by Nikka Whisky Distilling Company, Ltd., the other Japanese whisky powerhouse.”—Juyoung Kang, lead bartender at Las Vegas' Dorsey
“It uses hand-picked first-fill sherry casks from the top 1 percent of barrels currently aging at the distillery. The result is a richer, darker, more chocolatey version of Macallan with a thicker profile and a complex palate of raisins, sultana, orange peel and ginger. The flavor profoundness is exquisite.”—Mcson Salicetti, head bartender at New York City's Crimson & Rye
“One of the best balanced, heavily sherried whiskies available. I heard a rumor it may be discontinued, but if you find a bottle, buy it! It doesn’t disappoint.”—Kang
“It's a perfect blend—so much dried fruit, like red apple and Bartlett pear. It is quite intense for a blend with all the cinnamon and chai-type spices but rounds out with toasted almonds and hazelnuts on the finish. John Glaser keeps putting out phenomenal whiskies.”—Brian Means, bartender at San Francisco's Mina Group
“With this age statement, it’s significantly smooth with notes of shortbread and stone fruit to appease any palate.”—Izaguirre
“I don’t usually go for this late in aging, but damn, this is good. It goes great with a dessert and cigars. It’s definitely the highlight whisky for entertainment with refinement.”—Kang
“John Glaser is a rebellious master distiller. This is a marriage of hybrid casks of elegant wood. This scotch has notes of cinnamon, black pepper, leather, red apple and clove.”—Izaguirre
“This is the 'money is no object' choice. Matured in sherry oak casks for a minimum of 25 years, it's a masterpiece.”—Verdi
“This hard-to-find (but possible) bottle is worth keeping your eyes out for. It’s one of the few single malts that shows older bottlings can display restraint and balance. It’s easily the finest product I've tasted from the Macallan distillery.”—Peder Schweigert, general manager at Minneapolis' Marvel Bar
“This Campbeltown scotch starts with subtle baking spices on the nose, followed by toasted macadamia nuts and almonds coming out from the first-fill bourbon barrel. The finish pulls out dried fig and rich plum flavors from the Barolo hogsheads it’s finished in. It’s one of my favorites from Campbeltown.”—Alicia Walton, owner and bartender at San Francisco's Sea Star
“It has a unique cask strength and strong sherry flavor. I had the opportunity to try it at the distillery when it was only available there.”—Willy
“It has dark fruits and gentle smoke. Buy this for someone you love.”—Verdi
“The combination of cask types includes both first- and second-fill American oak, which adds a delicious tropical fruitiness to it, and then the ex-sherry oak, which provides some woody spicy notes.”—Salicetti
“This is a recreation of the bottle Sir Ernest Shackleton left in Antarctica sometime between 1907 and 1909. It's a pretty cool effort. Only 50,000 bottles were made, and it comes with awesome history, a map and photos.”—Chris Hannah, head bartender at New Orleans' French 75
“I love sherry-cask-aged scotch, and this one really delivers. So much tropical fruit—mango and pineapple—but there's a lot of creamy marzipan and some gentle peat on the back end.”—Means
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