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You know who knows best which bottles to buy? The people who pour and sell drinks—that’s who. We asked dozens of top bartending and spirits industry professionals to tell us which bottles they love and why.
Heads up: The numerical order below is not organized by importance or quality; it’s an alphabetical list, not a ranking. Prices are averages and can vary from state to state.
“It’s finished in oloroso sherry casks, which is very pronounced. This is a bang-for-your-buck bottle, as it clocks in substantially cheaper than many things that spend half the time in a cask.”—Nick Detrich, co-owner and bartender at New Orleans' Manolito
Aberlour 12 Year Double Cask Matured
“This double-matured version is one of my favorites. It has that oak finish that we expect from most scotches, but adding that sherry cask in the mix takes it to another level—neat or on the rocks (big ice ball/cube).”—Mcson Salicetti, CEO and co-founder of New York City's Salicetti Cubed Consulting
“It’s a powerful expression of an Islay single malt from one of the best whisky producers in the world.”—Michael J. Huebner, beverage director at Denver's Zeppelin Station
Ardbeg 10 Year
“In my opinion, there’s no Islay scotch on the market that presents more peaty character and smoky backbone all wrapped together with an approachable sweetness for the price. I would dare to put it up against any other Islay on the market no matter what the cost or age.”—Joshua-Peter Smith, bar director at San Francisco's Mourad
“Aged in bourbon and sherry barrels, this is a beautiful smoky, sweet scotch. When your money is at hand, bet on Ardbeg.”—Joseph Pereira, bartender at Las Vegas' Electra
The Balvenie 14 Year Caribbean Cask
“I love the addition of the flavor that the scotch takes on after being aged in the rum cask. It adds lovely fruit and toffee nuts to an already-amazing scotch.”—Christine Wiseman, bar manager at Los Angeles' Broken Shaker
The Balvenie 14 Year Peat Week 2003 Vintage
“It packs a lot of peaty punch for a Speyside. It’s exciting to see a distillery shift its entire style for one week per year.”—Adam Fortuna, assistant general manager and sommelier at Grand Rapids, Mich.'s Reserve Wine & Food
The Balvenie 12 Year DoubleWood Anniversary Edition
“The unique aging process gives this scotch an approachable taste of sweet fruit and honey.”—Shawn Chen, beverage director at New York City's RedFarm and principal bartender at New York City's Decoy
Bruichladdich The Classic Laddie
“It’s a fantastic gateway into Islay whisky—great neat or on the rocks, even affordable enough to mix with at home or behind the bar. It’s coastal on the nose and honey on the palette, with a soft bounce of smoke to finish. I keep this around always.”—Jordan Joseph, bar manager at Raleigh, N.C.'s Centro and Gallo Pelón
Bruichladdich Port Charlotte Islay Barley
“For a whisky with such a high peat level of 40 ppm, this scotch is still well-balanced. It has a wonderful rich flavor and great depth.”—Cari Hah, bar manager at Los Angeles' Big Bar
Craigellachie 13 Year
“It’s a fantastically clean, crisp Speyside with lighter fruity notes that make for an easy drink.”—Patrick Marran, bartender at New York City's On the Rocks
Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength
“This is an outstanding cask-strength bottling that shows a lot of finesse.”—Huebner
Glenfiddich 18 Year
“It’s the perfect bridge between sweetness and smoke.”—Chen
Glenmorangie The Lasanta
“This is one of my go-tos. Because of it being aged in Spanish sherry casks, it yields a smoother and sweeter scotch than most typical Highland scotches.”—Wiseman
Glenmorangie Nectar d'Or
“Finishing in French sauternes casks amplifies the spicy baking notes of this whisky but also gives it a bright burst of tropical fruit and a textured, honeyed finish—the perfect dessert scotch.”—Zac Overman, beverage director and co-owner of Seattle's L'Oursin
“It’s a brand-new release I had the delight to drink recently. Get this now before everyone knows how good it is.”—Marran
Glen Scotia Double Cask
“Glen Scotia one of the three distilleries left in the Campbeltown region. This double-cask process with first-fill bourbon barrels and Pedro Ximénez sherry casks gives you a rich and spicy scotch with a touch of salt and brine from Campbeltown.”—Jung Park, founder of Philadelphia's Cocktail Culture Co.
Highland Park 15 Year
“It has everything really—smoke and light peat—but it's still driven by citrus and a nice floral note.”—Brian Means, bartender at San Francisco's Pacific Cocktail Haven
Highland Park 12 Year
“It’s finished in sherry casks. What else do you need in a scotch?”—Wiseman
Highland Park Valkyrie
“For anyone who missed the now-discontinued Highland Park Dark Origins, this sherry-cask finish always hits the spot.”—Marran
Isle of Jura Seven Wood
“A single malt from seven different barrels—I'll let you look them up to impress your dinner guests)—which truly showcases the abilities of a whisky blender to turn a solid whisky into a fantastic one.”—Nathaniel David Smith
Johnnie Walker Double Black
“The key blend of Talisker is a little extra peat, which makes it perfect for my scotch highball.”—Hemant Pathak, bartender and bar manager at New York City's Junoon
Lagavulin 16 Year
“It’s a classic—really simple and remarkably balanced. It asserts itself as full-bodied and smoky with a light peatiness to it. This reminds me of my childhood surf-fishing for stripers on the Cape.”—Pereira
“For peat lovers out there, this peat beast will rock your socks off. It’s a campfire in your mouth.”—Park
Laphroaig 10 Year Cask Strength
“The only scenario where I've enjoyed being kicked in the face.”—Fortuna
The Macallan 12 Year Double Cask
“This double oak with American and European sherry oak delivers a little sherry, sweet and spice.”—Park
Oban Little Bay
“If you’re looking for a flavor roller coaster, this is the scotch for you.”—Chen
Springbank 10 Year
“This comes from my favorite distillery. You're really getting the best of everything in this one—lightly peated, matured in ex-bourbon and -sherry casks, smooth, creamy, farmy, fruity and a little smoky, with notes of caramel and wood. If you look hard enough, you can find this close to the $50 to $60 mark—a great value and fantastic representation of the distillery and its unique region.”—Joseph
Talisker Distillers Edition
“Few whiskeys can match this bottle on a price-to-quality ratio.”—Fortuna
Tamdhu 10 Year
“It’s the only distillery aging its juice exclusively in ex-sherry barrels.”—Fortuna
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