Michter’s US-1 Unblended American Whiskey
With caramel, coffee, and brown butter notes to finish, this is a reasonably priced and readily available bottle of whiskey anyone can get behind. Thanks to aging in older barrels, this whiskey has a bit more sweetness than the Michter’s Bourbon. [get it delivered from drizly.com; $49, 750ml]
Yamazaki 18 Single Malt Whiskey
Japan has been producing great whiskey for decades. Tardie says that its popularity, however, didn’t become mainstream until the last few years. “In 2013 the Yamazaki Sherry Cask was awarded ‘World Whisky of the Year,’ and demand for anything Japanese went gangbusters,” says Tardie.“The Yamazaki 18 is a tremendous whiskey. Unfortunately, the lack of availability and the steep pricing will limit the number of people who actually get to try it.” Good luck.
Mellow Corn Whiskey
Called “the newest bartender obsession” and a “bourbon on steroids,” there’s a very good reason Mellow Corn has become such a popular whiskey among mixologists across the country: while it does taste a little like ginger candy and vanilla, Mellow Corn really opens up when combined with other ingredients. Sure, “it’s “funky stuff” on its own,” as Mike Shain, general manager at Danny Meyer’s New York City bar Porchlight tells us. But you’ll cut it some slack as soon as you see what it can do for your cocktails in Porchlight’s pre-bottled Whiskey & Cola. Or after your third shot. Whatever comes first. [get it delivered by drizly.com; $19, 750ml]
Balvenie Doublewood 12 Whiskey
Balvenie’s one of those distilleries that never gets enough attention for its interesting releases. Doublewood is one of its finished whiskies, where two different barrels have been in play. Tardie explains the whiskey spent over a decade in refill American oak casks, before being finished in first-fill European oak sherry casks. “Balvenie’s Doublewood was the early pioneer of introducing double maturation to the whiskey world,” says Tardie. A great sipping whiskey, the sherry wood adds an interesting layer of intrigue. [get it delivered by drizly.com; $64, 750ml]
Lot 40 Rye
Nicholas Pollacchi, acquirer of rare spirits and owner of The Whisky Dog, thinks this stellar sipper is worth any world of pain the morning after. He calls this single pot still rye “smoother than a baby’s hiney.” It’s made with 90 percent unmalted rye grain and 10 percent malted rye, which he says gives this whiskey its spectacular aroma and velvet-like mouth feel. “The perfect balance of floral and fruitiness is matched by the peppery earthiness. It’s one of the best ways you’ll ever spend $40.”
Glenrothes 2001 Vintage
Pollacchi says this distillery has always been close to his heart, and the 2001 vintage is “dangerously easy to drink.” It was originally bottled in 2013 (Speyside distillery Glenrothes releases whisky by vintage year, the year of distillation), and Pollacchi raves over its notes of toffee, dark cherries, and baking spices. “If you have never tried a Glenrothes, start here.”
Four Roses Single Barrel
Four Roses is famous for its unusual process of combining two different mashbills with five proprietary yeast strains to create 10 bourbons that are blended back together. The Single Barrel, however, is no blend. It uses only Four Roses’ 35 percent rye mash bill and a yeast known for its smooth, light vanilla and fruit character. The resulting Single Barrel is rich with notes of prune, maple, and toffee. [get it delivered by drizly.com; $44, 750ml]
Jim Beam Black
This famously smooth, creamy whiskey with soft caramel notes has set the bar high for Kentucky bourbons. Jim Beam Black benefits from a few extra years of aging in white oak barrels, which set it a solid notch above Jim Beam Original. Full-bodied with some hints of warm oak, this whiskey recently won the Bourbon Trophy at the 2016 International Wine and Spirits Competition.
Midleton Dair Ghaelach
Using a rare method that whiskey distilleries haven’t practiced since the 1800s, this blend of single pot still whiskeys is finished in brand new Irish oak barrels after its typical aging period in bourbon barrels. The result is an Irish whiskey through and through, with a spicy taste up front and a sweet apple finish.
This one just hit the shelves, but Pollacchi is already smitten. “With aromas of french vanilla, caramel crunch, and charred oak,” he says, “you know you are in for a treat with this dram.” Booker’s Rye was created from the last barrels Booker Noe (the late and great master distiller at Jim Beam) ever laid down to mature.
This is the standard bearer of the Lagavulin portfolio, and arguably of the whole of peated and Islay whisky world. Thomas has made it his go-to because of the bottle’s balance: “The peat delivered on a bed of sweetness is the perfect introduction to one of the world’s greatest whisky-producing islands.” [get it delivered by drizly.com; $79, 750ml]
Redemption Rye presents a strong case for Indiana-made whiskey. Thomas thinks this is the sort of bottle that can change opinions. The young brand has classic American rye flavors — dark fruit and spice — and pushes its rye content to 95 percent (the law only requires 51). [get it delivered by drizly.com; $30, 750ml]
“This distillery is very selective over its releases, and this 19-year-old is one of its oldest expressions,” says Pollacchi. Bottled at 46% ABV, this Speyside distillery gives us a whisky well-worth adding to your portfolio. “Bright citrus notes and tropical fruit on the nose are matched by charred oak on the palate,” Pollacchi says, “giving this dram an unusually complex finish that is rarely seen from this region.”
When Ben Rojo, bartender at Angel’s Share, first got into Scotch whisky, he was drawn immediately to the peat monsters of Islay — stuff his wife claims turns his breath to “bandaids and cigarette butts.” He says his tastes have mellowed a little since then, “but Bowmore 15 is still my security blanket.” It’s got all the hallmark smoke and salinity that he fell in love with, and its tempered with the fruit and caramel of the finishing sherry casks.
Willett 2-Year Rye
Thomas calls Willett’s 2-year-old rye expression “arguably the best young cask-strength rye on the market.” He explains, “it delivers such depth and complexity at such a young age, you can’t wait to watch it grow up.” If you ever get the rare chance to sample something older, expressions as old as 25 years exist. But be prepared to shell out hundreds at that point — or just buy more of the stellar 2-year.
Macallan 15 Fine Oak
Tardie says Macallan is “without question one of the most recognizable brands in the list — and for good reason. “The Macallan produces some of the finest whiskies available,” he explains. “Guinness Book of World Records even confirms The Macallan to be the most expensive whiskey sold at auction.” Fortunately, the 15-year Fine Oak is much more obtainable. “This is the perfect whiskey to have at a dinner party,” says Tardie, “Impressive, recognizable, and oh-so-good.” [get it delivered by drizly.com; $135, 750ml]
Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest Rye
Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest Rye blend quickly grabbed everyone’s attention after writer Jim Murray gave it 97.5 points out of 100 in his annual Whisky Bible. And for less than $50, you can taste for yourself why Canadian whisky is back on top of the world. [get it delivered by drizly.com; $47, 750ml]
Knappogue Castle 16
Ireland may be dominated by one or two major brands, but Knappogue Castle is a secret that’s becoming harder to keep each year. “It’s great to finally see Irish whiskey besides Jameson getting the attention it deserves,” says Thomas. “This Irish single malt, aged in both ex-bourbon and ex-sherry barrels, gives the more well-known sherried Macallan 18 a run for its money.” That’s all you need to know.
Watershed Distillery Bourbon
No rust belt residue can be found on this ridiculously smooth 94-proof small-batch Watershed Bourbon from Ohio. It’s incredibly drinkable (watch out) with hints of butterscotch and bold notes reminding you that it spent three years in a char #4 (the heaviest char) American Oak barrel. This spelted bourbon (it’s made with a mash bill of corn, rye, wheat, malted barley, and spelt) proves that craft bourbon need not hail from Kentucky.
Writer’s Tears Copper Pot
Truer labels have never been written (or gracefully slapped onto a finer-looking bottle): “I traded my tomorrow to remain in yesterday… whiskey tears are fading now, each one cries another day.” Waxing poetic on imbiber’s dreams of yesteryear aside, this stellar blended whiskey contains pot still and malt whiskey. Sure, it’s aged impeccably and laced with ginger-y, honey-studded notes, but what makes it a real standout in our collection is that it comes to its maturation in flame-charred bourbon barrels. The result? A beautiful amber hue and an unforgettable taste.
Old Forester Birthday 2015
Since September 2, 2002, Old Forester has been celebrating its founder’s birthday by releasing a limited, small-batch 12-year whiskey annually. The aromas are sweet Old Forester (vanilla, cinnamon, chocolate, and juicy orange), but they’re balanced by a woody richness and robust finish.
Knob Creek 2001
When seventh-generation distiller Fred Noe discovered a cache of whiskey his father, Booker, barreled before his death, the younger Noe decided he would use it to create Knob Creek 2001 Limited Edition as a tribute. Noe’s eulogy in bourbon was left to age five years more than original Knob Creek, and that extra time in the barrel was well spent. The whiskey is well-balanced and eminently sippable — a near perfect remembrance of a man’s life’s work in whiskey.
This bourbon is better traveled than you will likely ever be. During its six months at sea, the whiskey crossed the equator four times and made port in 30 cities on five continents. Of course, it never got off the boat. Trey Zoeller locked scores of barrels up in a container, put them on a ship without passports, and just slapped on a few return to sender labels. Sure, it’s a marketing gimmick — a clever one at that — but the result is a really excellent bourbon. We’ll chalk it up to a half year of agitation from the swaying ocean, but this whiskey has beautiful notes of vanilla, wood, and char — and we think we can detect just a hint of salt and brine from its long voyage.
The mash used to create Glenmorangie Signet is made with a portion of heavily roasted chocolate barley — just like what’s used in stouts and porters. As you might expect the whiskey has notes of coffee and cocoa, but also sweetness of apricot and raisins. In short, the perfect nightcap.
The Macallan Rare Cask
Matured entirely in Spanish sherry casks selected by master distiller Bob Dalgarno, The Macallan Rare Cask is a serious no-age-statement whiskey. There’s so much to love here. The citrus and cocoa on the nose, the beautiful red color, the fruity, nutty flavors, and the warm, smokey finish. [get it delivered by drizly.com; $320, 750ml]
Lock Stock & Barrel 16 Straight Rye
Cooper Spirits launched its first Lock Stock and Barrel expression in 2012, as a stunning 13-year-old straight rye that quickly disappeared from shelves for its rich, velvety character. The company smartly decided to hold a few of its charred oak casks for further aging, giving us the exquisite 16 Year. While the 13-year is back, the 16 is rare indeed. The flavor is familiar, yet bold in a way unlike any other rye we’ve tried.
This bottle is further proof not all world-class whiskeys require an age statement. A fine addition to the Laphroig line, Lore displays a nearly perfect balance of spiced fruit and honey pizzicato contrasted by smoke, peat, and sea salt. The crescendo lingers on the tongue long after the dram is done and leaves your mouth demanding an encore.
Nick Blue, executive chef at Brasserie by Niche
Seth Brammer, beverage director at Filament
Brendan Dorr, beverage director at B&O Brasserie
St. John Frizell, owner of Fort Defiance
Anna Hezel, Men’s Journal and Lucky Peach contributor
Bridget Maloney, general manager of The Sexton
Jack McGarry, owner of The Dead Rabbit
Paul McGee, beverage director at Chicago Athletic Association
Julia Momose, head bartender at Green River
Phil Olson, bar manager at Longman & Eagle
Nicholas Pollacchi, acquirer of rare spirits and owner of The Whisky Dog
Ben Rojo, bartender at Angel’s Share
Jaya Saxena, author of The Book of Lost Recipes
Mike Shain, general manager at Porchlight
Eric Simpkins, beverage directo and partner at The Lawrence
Tommy Tardie, owner of The Flatiron Room
Bill Thomas, owner and whiskey curator at Jack Rose Dining Saloon
G. Clay Whittaker, Men’s Journal whiskey contributor