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.
“This double-matured version is one of my favorites. It has that oak finish that we expect from most scotches, but adding that sherry cask in the mix takes it to another level—neat or on the rocks (big ice ball/cube).”—Mcson Salicetti, CEO and co-founder of New York City's Salicetti Cubed Consulting
“In my opinion, there’s no Islay scotch on the market that presents more peaty character and smoky backbone all wrapped together with an approachable sweetness for the price. I would dare to put it up against any other Islay on the market no matter what the cost or age.”—Joshua-Peter Smith, bar director at San Francisco's Mourad
“It’s a fantastic gateway into Islay whisky—great neat or on the rocks, even affordable enough to mix with at home or behind the bar. It’s coastal on the nose and honey on the palette, with a soft bounce of smoke to finish. I keep this around always.”—Jordan Joseph, bar manager at Raleigh, N.C.'s Centro and Gallo Pelón
“A bottle originally only available for travel retail, this scotch holds bright, beautiful berry notes and an air of briny sea salt air and lives up to its namesake, meaning ‘morning sky’ in Gaelic.”—Nathaniel David Smith, bartender at St. Paul, Minn.'s Hodges Bend and ambassador for Teeling Irish whiskey
“This is an outstanding cask-strength bottling that shows a lot of finesse.”—Huebner
“It’s the perfect bridge between sweetness and smoke.”—Chen
“This is a solid scotch without scaring people away who think scotch only means smoke.”—Nathaniel David Smith
“This is one of my go-tos. Because of it being aged in Spanish sherry casks, it yields a smoother and sweeter scotch than most typical Highland scotches.”—Wiseman
“It’s a brand-new release I had the delight to drink recently. Get this now before everyone knows how good it is.”—Marran
“Glen Scotia one of the three distilleries left in the Campbeltown region. This double-cask process with first-fill bourbon barrels and Pedro Ximénez sherry casks gives you a rich and spicy scotch with a touch of salt and brine from Campbeltown.”—Jung Park, founder of Philadelphia's Cocktail Culture Co.
“It’s finished in sherry casks. What else do you need in a scotch?”—Wiseman
“For anyone who missed the now-discontinued Highland Park Dark Origins, this sherry-cask finish always hits the spot.”—Marran
“A single malt from seven different barrels—I'll let you look them up to impress your dinner guests)—which truly showcases the abilities of a whisky blender to turn a solid whisky into a fantastic one.”—Nathaniel David Smith
“It’s a classic—really simple and remarkably balanced. It asserts itself as full-bodied and smoky with a light peatiness to it. This reminds me of my childhood surf-fishing for stripers on the Cape.”—Pereira
“For peat lovers out there, this peat beast will rock your socks off. It’s a campfire in your mouth.”—Park
“The only scenario where I've enjoyed being kicked in the face.”—Fortuna
“This double oak with American and European sherry oak delivers a little sherry, sweet and spice.”—Park
“If you’re looking for a flavor roller coaster, this is the scotch for you.”—Chen
“It’s one of my all-time favorites—just an incredible bottle. It is extremely smooth but has a lot to unpack on the palate.”—Huebner
“This comes from my favorite distillery. You're really getting the best of everything in this one—lightly peated, matured in ex-bourbon and -sherry casks, smooth, creamy, farmy, fruity and a little smoky, with notes of caramel and wood. If you look hard enough, you can find this close to the $50 to $60 mark—a great value and fantastic representation of the distillery and its unique region.”—Joseph
“Few whiskeys can match this bottle on a price-to-quality ratio.”—Fortuna
“It’s the only distillery aging its juice exclusively in ex-sherry barrels.”—Fortuna