Worthwhile Bottles Usually Available for Everyday

Published by root on Saturday, July 4, 2020

Note 1: This list isn’t actively maintained, though it should be reasonable for someone that’s trying to start in whiskey .
Note 2: Few of the bottles, mostly bourbons, have drifted into less-than-easily available land over the last two years since I’ve wrote this list and prices have increased across the board.

Criteria:

Not unicorns
Under $100

Scotch Consideration in order of importance:

Distillery >> Age >> Style/Barrel >> Proof
Each distillery has its own ’style’ that’s different from others
Initially, go for original distillery bottlings until you establish a like/dislike palate
Cask type is super important (Bourbon/Sherry being most common)
Generally, higher age is better
No age statement bottles are a gamble unless known good
Always go for highest affordable age of same distillery (ie. Glenlivet 12 is just okay but 18 is great)
Finishing casks could be great… could be a mismatch for starting.
Proof above 100 (50% abv) plays miniscule role on enjoyment.
When starting out, aim at 43%/46% abv bottles…

Scotch Blended:

Compass Box Blended whiskeys get an honorable mention
Otherwise, I would not recommend cheaper blended scotch

Scotch Unpeated:

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 guideline: Primary notes ~3 years old. Secondary notes ~6 years old. Lots of charred wood notes likely past ~12 years old.
Main Points to look for:
Anything Single Barrel/Cask
Anything Cask Strength, or at least 100 proof
Anything Store Pick which will be typically Single Cask

Bourbon (some are rarer than others):

Buffalo Trace
Eagle Rare
Four Roses Single Barrel (100 Proof)
Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style (OF 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 Bourbon Store Pick
Wild Turkey Rare Breed
MGP Bourbon Store Pick
Fighting Cock Bourbon
Booker’s (any) Or Knob Creek 15 Store Pick
Eagle Rare Store Pick or John J Bowman Single Cask
— Scotch
Sherried Speyside Scotch
Ex-Bourbon Scotch
Dessert or Wine Cask Finish Scotch
Sherry Bomb Scotch