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.
“The last bottle I gave as a gift was to my dad, and it was a bottle of Kavalan Classic Single Malt. So nice and fun to talk about. Tastes like scotch, but it's from Taiwan. My dad was pretty surprised, and all his buddies he poured it for thought it was cool.”—St. John Frizell, owner/bartender at New York City’s Fort Defiance
“A really intense malt—so much sherry! Raspberry cream, vanilla, toasted oak, black mission figs and even some hints of espresso in it.”—Brian Means, bartender at San Francisco’s Mina Group
“This single-malt whisky offers small hints on the nose of guava and peach and a hint of peppery oak alongside vanilla and fruit. Add three drops of really cold water and enjoy!”—Salicetti
“If you find this, buy it! It’s one of the best expressions ever made for a whisky that’s overproof and just smooth. A bit of water gives it a creamy mouthfeel.”—Juyoung Kang, lead bartender at Las Vegas’ The Dorsey
“Talk about tasting Japanese springtime in a glass, this whisky has cherry blossom notes with coconut, leather and a tiny bit of smoke. It’s like a tropical bonfire in the rain.”—Kang
“It’s finished in virgin Irish oak, giving it a truly unique flavor from the motherland. You’re not going to find anything like this.”—Kang
“This single malt from the northern Nikka distillery has a bit of salinity and mellow peat on the nose. A smooth minty sweetness and mild pepper finish makes this a whisky to appeal to the masses. Add a couple drops of water, and see how much it opens up and can exemplify these flavors even more.”—Alicia Walton, owner/bartender at San Francisco’s The Sea Star