Worthwhile Bottles Usually Available for Everyday

Published by root on Saturday, July 4, 2020

Note 1: This list is only occasionally update, it should still be reasonable start for someone that’s trying to get into whiskey.
Note 2: Few of the bottles, mostly bourbons, have drifted into less-than-easily-available-land since I’ve wrote this list and prices have increased across the board.
Note 3: Exceptions exist to every rule, these are generalizations

Criteria:

Not unicorns
Under $100

Scotch Consideration in order of importance:

Distillery >> Age >> Style/Barrel >> Proof
Single Malt = contents made at the same distillery. Blended = multiple distilleries.
Each distillery has its own profile, but each region can be reasonably similar in style
Initially, go for original distillery bottlings until established like/dislike palate
Cask type is very important, ex-bourbon spice & light fruits and sherry sweetness & dark fruits, being most common
Generally, higher age is better
No age statement bottles and blends are a gamble unless known good
Always go for highest affordable age from same distillery (ie. Glenlivet 12 is just okay but 18 is great)
Single casks could be great… could be a mismatch
Proof above 110 (55% abv) plays miniscule role on enjoyment.
Beware of 40% abv bottles, they tend to be sub-par

Scotch Blended:

Johnny Walker Green
Compass Box Blended whiskeys get an honorable mention
Otherwise, it’s hard to recommend cheap blended scotch

Scotch Unpeated:

Clynelish 14
Glendronach 12+
Glenfarclas 12+
Balvenie (any)
Oban (any)
Glenmorangie (any)
Aberlour (any)
Bruichladdich (any)
Glenlivet 18
AnCnoc 12+
Aberfeldy 15+
Old Pulteney 12+

Scotch Peated:

Lagavulin 16
Ardbeg Uigeadail
Laphroaig Quarter Cask/Cairdeas
Highland Park 12 Viking Honor
Port Charlotte

Bourbon Consideration in order of importance:

Distillery/Brand >> Proof == Single Barrel/Store Pick >> Age
Note: It’s mostly memorization what is good or not
Proof is directly proportional to flavor in bourbons…
Avoid anything below 44% abv/88 proof
Age-to-flavor guideline: Primary notes ~3 years. Secondary notes ~6 years. Lots of wood notes: ~10+ years.
Main Points to look for:
Single Barrel/Cask, store picks, 90 proof or higher.

Bourbon (some are rarer than others):

Buffalo Trace
Eagle Rare
Four Roses Single Barrel (100 Proof) (Consider splurging on Four Roses Small Batch Select)
Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style (1910 is also good)
Elijah Craig Small Batch
Henry McKenna 10
Knob Creek 120 or 15 years old
Wild Turkey Rare Breed
Russell’s Reserve 10

Rye:

Pikesville Rye
Willett Family Rye 4yr
Whistle Pig (store pick preferably)
Masterson’s Rye
Russell’s Reserve Rye gets an honorable mention

Always Stock on MY SHELF:

— Bourbon
Russell’s Reserve 10 SP or Wild Turkey Rare Breed
MGP Bourbon High Proof (SAOS or Smoke Wagon Uncut or Nashville Barrel High Proof)
Fighting Cock Bourbon or Henry McKenna 10
Booker’s (any) or Knob Creek SP
Eagle Rare SP or John J Bowman SiB
New Riff Single Cask
— Scotch
Sherry Cask Unpeated Scotch (Highland or Speyside)
Ex-Bourbon Cask Unpeated Scotch (Highland or Speyside)
Wine Cask (Red wine, Sauternes, Madeira, etc) Finish Unpeated Scotch (Any)
Sherry Cask Peated Scotch (Any)
Lightly Peated Blended or Campbelltown (light peat single malt) Scotch
— Rye
Old Potrero Malted Rye High Proof (Single Cask)
Willet Family Rye or WhistlePig Rye