Attention all self-respecting whiskey drinkers. We did our homework and found the best sweet, spicy, and smoky bottles your money can buy. This list has whatever strikes your fancy (Scotch, Japanese single malts, Kentucky bourbon) at whatever price point you're willing to entertain—from $20 classics to $150 splurges. For your next relaxing, post-dinner drink, here are the best-tasting whiskey (and whisky) bottles.
While we're on the subject, let's settle this age-old debate: whiskey vs whisky. The whiskey that hails from America and Ireland is spelled just like that—with an "e." When the booze hails from anywhere else in the world—say Japan, Canada, or Scotland—it's spelled without an "e," like whisky.
Named for Nathan "Nearest" Green, the former enslaved man who taught Jack Daniel (yes, that Jack Daniel) how to distill and master-blended by Green's great-great-granddaughter, Victoria Eady Butler, this whiskey was named “World’s Best” by Whisky Magazine two years in a row.
Can't decide between bourbon and scotch? You don't have to choose with this brand, made in collaboration with Matthew McConaughey. It's refined with Texas mesquite and oak charcoals for a complex combination of flavor.
This tastes nothing like the harsh, cheap whiskies of your youth. This twice-processed whiskey has an undeniably smooth finish—which is perfect for those who drink their whiskey neat.
Bulleit Bourbon has a higher-than-average rye content (about 28%), giving the liquor an exceptionally spicy bite. The rest of the flavor comes from the Kentucky limestone-filtered water that serves as the base and the charred American oak barrels the stuff's aged in. But don't just take our word for its greatness. The bourbon has won a number of awards throughout the years.
You're probably familiar with that red wax cap, right? For the uninitiated, Maker's Mark is an American icon. The Loretto, KY, distillery is a National Historic Landmark, and each of the bottles made there are still hand-dipped. Consider this a good starter bourbon: It's got a smooth, easy finish with a subtle sweetness, thanks to the soft red winter wheat from which it's distilled.
You're likely familiar with Jameson already but this bottle was matured for 18 years in hand-selected oak casks from Europe and America. The finished product has a hint of vanilla and toffee.
Feel like impressing your guests? This'll do it. Lagavulin ages each of its whiskies to perfection, and the 16-year-old bottle, which is intensely smoky and peaty, clocks in as a fan favorite. But the brand does serious whisky-making as well as it does light-hearted partnerships. You can get a 9-year-old Game of Thrones House Lannister bottle of Lagavulin (a single malt made on the shores of Islay) and a bottle dreamed up by Nick Offerman, who made his love of whisky known as Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation.
Many booze brands slap "small batch" on their bottles, but Michter's means it: A maximum of twenty full barrels are produced in each run. This particular bourbon is touted as mellow and earthy, with notes of rich caramel and stone fruits.
They say with age comes wisdom. So by that token, Powers—a nearly 230-year-old whiskey maker—should know how to make a killer bottle of booze. The style of the Gold Label is called single pot (meaning it's a mixed mash of malted and unmalted barley distilled in a pot still), and it's unique to Ireland. You'll get cinnamon and pepper on the nose; nutmeg, vanilla, and orchard fruits in the taste; and woodsy, honey flavors on the finish.
Woodford Reserve is the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby, so we can confirm your assumption: This stuff is good. Each bottle of the classic Kentucky bourbon carries more than 200 tasting notes from "bold grain and wood, to sweet aromatics, spice, and fruit and floral." The company is also committed to eco-friendly practices, like recycling, composting, and land restoration. (Pro tip: Reserve Bar offers bottles you can engrave for special occasions.)
Masataka Taketsuru—considered the father of Japanese Whisky—opened the doors to Nikka Whisky Company in 1934. He was a massive fan of Coffey stills, which many credit the unique flavor of this whisky to. On its own, you'll taste vanilla, caramel, wafers, and dried fruit. All that sweetness makes this a good bottle to reach for when you're crafting a cocktail.
A winner of whisky awards since 2010, Redbreast has a 96 point score and is rich, sweet, and a little bit spicy.
The Johnnie Walker portfolio has many an option for the whisky drinker, and each "label" has a color associated with it that serves as an indicator of its age and price. The Black Label is the second most affordable—a blend of more than 40 whiskies at least 12 years of age. The liquor is not too peaty and still a little sweet, so it's a good introduction to Scotch.
We know this stuff is expensive, but you simply can't create a list of the best whisky brands without including Yamazaki (one of Suntory's three distilleries). This bottle is heralded as the premium Japanese single malt. Up front, you're hit with fruity, spicy notes, while the finish is all ginger and cinnamon. (By the way, like American and Irish whiskey, Japanese whisky is typically aged in American or European oak barrels.)
If you're a "buy the bottle for the label" kind of person, Buffalo Trace is a good option (don't you think?). And if you're a "buy the bottle for the stuff inside" kind of person, you'll still be impressed. The namesake tipple has won a laundry list of awards. You'll taste a lot of caramel and vanilla and get some oak on the finish.
The mashbill—the recipe of grains used to produce a whiskey—of Koval's bourbon is unusually low in corn at 51% corn. The result is a somewhat sweeter bourbon, with notes of honeyed papaya and peppered apricot.
This historic brand, which hails from Kentucky, was a best-seller back in the '30s and '40s.(You can visit the historic distillery in Lawrenceburg, KY). Today, Four Roses continues to rack up awards for its bourbons, including this single barrel whiskey. It's got a full body and a delicate finish, making it just as enjoyable served on the rocks as it is mixed into a cocktail.