Looking to be a baller and spend big this year? We asked top bartending and spirits industry professionals to tell us which high-end bottles they love and why.
Heads up: The numerical order below is organized alphabetically, not by importance or quality; it’s a list, not a ranking. Prices are averages and can vary state to state.
“Camut is my favorite Pays d'Auge [Normandy] producer. It produces a bright and elegant style of apple brandy. The 18-year-old is a good balance of fruit and wood, but I also really love its six-year-old calvados. It’s worth hunting for these amazing spirits.”—Erik Adkins, bar manager of Hard Water in San Francisco
“This single-malt Scotch whisky from Islay is made up of different vintages from the 1990s and is finished in Japanese Mizunara oak—the first time that Mizunara casks have been exported from Japan. The Mizunara lends a very unique aroma and flavor profile of cedar wood, mango and honey notes. There’s a special tingling sensation on the palate from the spice and smoke that I just cannot get over. Absolutely amazing!”—Logan E. Rushing, head bartender and whiskey curator for The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colo.
“For the person who wants the peatiest of peaty whiskys, this Octomore is intense and bottled at cask-strength, at 63 percent ABV.”—Bill Thomas, owner or Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Washington, D.C.
“One of my all-time favorite whiskies and the first six-cask-finished single malt.”—Mike Raymond, co-founder at Reserve 101 in Houston
“Well, if you are asking for a high-end selection, it doesn't get much better than this. It costs a pretty penny, but if you can stomach the price tag, the liquor will ease the pain.”—Sean Potter, head of “eat and drink” at Stoke in Charlotte, N.C.
“Grand Marnier, of any tier, is an essential in any home bar. Not only can you enjoy this cordial on its own, but you can use it in a Margarita, add it into a Cosmopolitan and stir it into a Manhattan.—Shanna L. Sweeney, sales and marketing coordinator at Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort & Spa in Colorado
“The entire Kavalan line of whiskeys from Taiwan have generated considerable amount of buzz over the past couple of years. And for good reason: They're truly amazing. This bottling is the zenith of a heavily awarded, surprisingly young distillery from the other side of planet Earth.”—Beau Williams, owner and bartender at Julep in Kansas City, Mo.
“There are basically no bottlings that can more accurately describe themselves as ‘unicorn whiskey’ with as much confidence as this masterful Irish malt, which spent more than three-and-a-half decades maturing in sherry casks. It somehow emerged from its slumber redolent with an estery funk befitting a pot-stilled Jamaican rum without losing its sexy cereal soul or its unspeakably beautiful varnish of oak.”—Joaquín Simó, partner and bartender at Pouring Ribbons in New York City
“Chances are you are familiar with the name Midleton, and it will make him happy to see this old brand that used to be the only high-quality Irish whiskey around has connected with the next generation. It’s a typical perfect transgenerational sipping whiskey, sure to help conversations go deep into the family's history.”—Flavien Desoblin, owner of Brandy Library and Copper & Oak
“There is no finer team of distillers than the Kulsveen father-and-son duo. Anything I've ever had in their family estate collection is second to none.”—Nick Elliott, general manager at Whiskey Kitchen in Nashville
Think you know the booze?
Let’s start with some basics.