If you’re diving into whiskey for the first time, it can be hard to know where to start. Whiskey is an extremely versatile spirit that can be found all over the world and is used in a variety of cocktails. Whiskey is mainly categorized by the type of grain it is derived from, as well as the time and type of vessel it is aged in. The aging process can give whiskey unique flavors and notes that make a large impact on your tasting experience. The best whiskey should have balanced but complex flavors that can be mixed well in cocktails but still smooth enough to drink alone.
Hopefully, you are among those whom alcohol can bring out the best in. A recent study found a sixth of participants (17%) admit that they feel like “the best version of themselves” when drinking alcohol. Plus, 49 percent admit to utilizing that classic liquid courage by taking a shot before stressful events like funerals and job interviews. Although it can take the edge off, you may not always want to show up buzzed when meeting with your boss.
Though we encourage you to drink safely and know your own limits, sometimes having a drink or two every so often can be beneficial. Researchers in Germany found that older patients who drink alcohol regularly have a better quality of life before and after surgery. People over 60 who enjoy drinking experience improved mobility, self-care, and fewer problems undertaking daily activities compared to those who don’t drink or only have an occasional beverage. One explanation may be that higher alcohol consumption may lead to elevated mood, enhanced sociability and reduced stress.
If you want to try some of the best whiskey, StudyFinds has researched the most recommended brands across a variety of price ranges to help you start. Our list is made up of the most common finds across 10 expert sources. Already have a favorite whiskey? Let us know your pick in the comments below!
The List: Best Whiskey, According to Experts
Uncle Nearest is a nickname for Nathan Green, one of the founding fathers of Tennessee whiskey. It is said he was an enslaved man who taught Jack Daniel how to make whiskey. “This whiskey is quite versatile — it makes a fantastic whiskey sour but is also wonderful on the rocks, where the whiskey’s luxurious apricot-and-caramel notes really shine through,” says Food Network.
Tennessee whiskey is made from corn and aged in new charred oak, then filtered through a maple charcoal filter to smooth it out. A bottle will cost you about $57 retail. The Spruce Eats mentions, “A blend of whiskeys between 8 and 14 years, sumptuous caramel, dried fruit, and a hint of cinnamon make 1856 a must-have for your bar.”
Rolling Stone explains this whiskey’s claim to fame: “A Black-owned brand, Uncle Nearest 1856 launched in 2017 to honor Green’s importance in American spirits. The whiskey is fragrant, floral, fruity, and incredibly smooth (thanks to at least eight years of aging) — despite the fact that it’s 100 proof. It’s been well-received by the whiskey community with top marks across the board, and we have to agree.”
Johnnie Walker Blue Label is one of the most well-known higher end scotches. It is smooth with notes of peat, ginger, dark chocolate, and orange. “As one of their more expensive bottles, the flagship Blue Label is a blend of only the rarest of Scotches, though the brand doesn’t provide an exact age for the whiskies in the bottle,” mentions Delish.
A bottle of this velvety whiskey will run you about $200, so be prepared to only crack it open for special occasions or celebrations. But the flavor is well worth the price. According to Luxe Digital, “The Blue Label is the brand’s most prestigious blended whisky, coming in with a higher price point that’s more than worthy of the flavors to follow. With a rounded nose and the brand’s signature spiciness, expect sweetness and an explosion of flavor from the first sip. Blue Label is known for being a velvety whisky, so enjoy flavors like hazelnut, toasted oak, sandalwood, and tobacco while drinking it neat.”
Henry McKenna is the only extra-aged, bottled-in-bond, single barrel bourbon currently available today. Bourbon is corn-based and aged in new charred oak barrels. Liquor reports “Bourbon aficionados have to become familiar with a whole bevy of inscrutable terms—’age statement,’ ‘bottled-in-bond,’ ‘single barrel’—but even the casual imbiber who doesn’t know all the definitions would have to conclude it’s impressive if a whole bunch of them show up on the same bottle.”
With notes of caramel, butter, cinnamon, and vanilla, and an award for Best in Show at the 2019 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, this bottle is a steal. You can find it as cheap as $25 on some sites. “This specific bottle of Mckenna comes from a single barrel of bourbon that’s been aged 10 years, but despite that prestigious number, the whiskey isn’t too expensive at all,” adds RollingStone.
Most blended whiskey is made from grain-neutral spirits, but Barrell uses only whiskey. They focus more on reliability and quality in distilling methods than novelty. Tasting Table mentions “the brand’s releases quite naturally vary based on the source whiskeys involved, the result tends towards sweetness, such the notable Batch 32, with tasting notes that read like a walking tour of a dessert buffet.”
Gold Label Dovetail is 131.54 proof and made up of whiskeys aged in port, rum, and Cabernet Sauvignon barrels. “The finished product is powerful and so generous, coating the palate with warm honey and suggestions of molasses, steeped golden raisins and brown sugar. Lingering notes of dried and fresh figs as well as chocolate ganache, black-cherry compote, and pear butter linger for a full minute,” writes Food and Wine.
Maxim also loves this brand’s Vantage bottle. “Mizunara casks, made of extremely rare Japanese Mizunara wood, impart deep woody, spicy notes that play nicely off French and toasted American Oak casks. It’s an approach that seems to state that fortune favors the bold.”
This unique whiskey is triple distilled in copper pot stills and aged in American Bourbon barrels and Spanish Oloroso Sherry butts. It is then finished for a minimum of 4 months hand selected, air-dried American Oak from the Taylor family farm in Kentucky. Inside Hook finds “the combo certainly enhances the wood and vanilla notes, while the hints of dark fruit, nutmeg and cinnamon still wonderfully linger.”
The notes of sweet vanilla and wood spice infused into the liquor are reminiscent of the South’s charm. According to Maxim, “What do you get when you take an Irish whiskey and age it in Kentucky bourbon barrels? Well, a groundbreaking whiskey, for starters, and the first release in a series of American Oak-aged whiskies from Redbreast.”
Another honorable mention brought to light by both Rolling Stone and The Spruce Eats is their Redbreast 12-year for those “looking to try your first serious Irish whiskey or in need of branching out,” says Rolling Stone.
You might also be interested in:
- Best Rye Whiskey
- Best Bourbon
- Best Scotch
- Best Gins
- Best Vodka
- Best Tequilas
- Best Craft Beers
- Best Light Beers
- Best Cocktail Recipes
- Food Network
- The Spruce Eats
- Luxe Digital
- Tasting Table
- Food and Wine
- Inside Hook
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This post may contain affiliate links.