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Upgrade Your Liquor Cabinet With These 11 Whiskeys

There was a time, many years ago, when I drank only Johnnie Walker Black. (And if I was particularly flush, I’d go for Blue.) They were the only Scotches that I was sure would be stocked in every bar—whether I was in New York, Hong Kong, Las Vegas, Paris, or even smack in the middle of nowheresville.

But watering holes have made great strides since then. And already–distinguished bars have upped their games more than tenfold. Then the bourbon boom happened. Then an influx of previously unavailable whiskies made it Stateside, which was heaven on earth for someone like me.

So thanks to all that, my palate has expanded since those early days in New York.

It also helps that I only have one “resolution” at the beginning of every year: Drink better and buy the best that your bank account can afford you. It worked for me. And it’ll work for you. Because (and trust me when I say this) life is way too short to be drinking subpar beverages.

Here, some releases from the past several months that are worth investing in.


Now this is a special Auchentoshan expression—the first in a limited-release series that enlists the help of exceptional bartenders from around the world to create a whisky that will work well in cocktails. The No. 1 edition of Bartender’s Malt contains expressions from casks filled between 1975 to 2011 with various wood maturations and finishes. (Think: Pedro Ximénez (butts), Oloroso (horseheads), U.S. virgin oak (barrels), European virgin oak (horseheads), Port (barriques), rum (barrels)—with a small amount ​finished in Laphroaig quarter casks and toasted German oak casks.


I’ve yet to meet an Irish whiskey I didn’t like. And this Jameson expression is crisp and hoppy—but not overpoweringly so. It still very much carries the Jameson DNA: smooth and easy to drink, whether neat or on the rocks.

JURA 10 ($52)

When imbibers think of peated whisky, they often think of Islay Scotches. (Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Ardbeg, Bowmore, et al.) But Jura, a remote island northeast of Islay, also produces fine peated whiskies. Not all of the distillery’s expressions (like Superstition and Prophecy) are available in America. You would have to bring them back from your travels, as I do. But Jura 10 is. And it’s matured in ex-bourbon barrels and finished in Oloroso Sherry casks, which is certainly a worthwhile introduction for those who have never tried Jura before: the expression is bold without being off-putting to drinkers who have yet to try peated whiskies.

Sexton is probably one of the more versatile Irish whiskeys in the market: It holds up well in a cocktail and it's fantastic on its own—whether neat or on the rocks. Plus, at an approachable $30, it’s very well priced. The whiskey is made from 100 percent Irish malted barley and triple distilled before being aged in Oloroso Sherry butts. There’s truly nothing more you can ask for, especially when you’re looking to entertain other Irish whiskey aficionados without breaking the bank.


To celebrate master distiller Eddie Russell’s 35th year, Wild Turkey released this second expression in a limited-release series. And it is fantastic: bold and balanced, with just a tinge of smokiness and spice that provides a depth of flavor. At 104 proof, it benefits from just a splash of water to open it up—but drinking it just the way it is, straight out of the bottle is a pleasurably potent experience as well.

This limited edition expression is one of Macallan’s finest. And that’s saying a lot, considering that the distillery releases remarkable expressions several times a year (case in point: 2017’s Exceptional Single Cask Range and The Macallan Sherry Oak 40 Year Old.) Classic Cut, which is matured in oak casks seasoned with Oloroso Sherry from Jerez, coats the mouth with rich flavors reminiscent of caramel and nutmeg. And its long finish just keeps on giving. The best part? At $89 (SRP), it’s quite the steal.

In general, Irish whiskeys are great because of two things. First, they’re typically inexpensive and that means you can share your bottles as lavishly and as generously as you see fit. Second, they’re always good. (As I have mentioned above, I’ve never met an Irish whiskey that warrants refusal.) But Green Spot Chateau Montelana (the second release in the Wine Geese series) is a cut above. It’s the first single pot still Irish whiskey to be finished in French oak zinfandel cask—after being matured in ex-bourbon barrels and Sherry casks. Need I say more?

Balvenie Peat Week generated a lot of press in 2017—and for good reason. It was damn good. And when I say good, I mean this is a bottle you definitely want in your collection, if you can still find it. The non-chill filtered whisky, which was bottled at 48.3%, delivers an unmistakable Speyside flavor—just with hints of lingering peat. On the palate, you’ll still get that velvety texture and of course, a fine finish where the sweet notes tend to emerge.

I’m a big fan of all Woodford Reserve expressions. (And I mean all.) They can’t seem to do anything wrong—and this particular bottle is topnotch. The only caveat is that even when it was first released, it was already difficult to find. The 90.4 proof whiskey has a higher malt concentration (specifically, 30 percent cherrywood-smoked malt) than most bourbons, delivering a flavor and finish that amplifies toasted nuts qualities with a sweet note.

The first time I tried Kilbeggan I had just come in from the middle of a New Orleans summer downpour—sans umbrella. And let me tell you, it was exactly what I needed right then and there: Nothing too strong, but enough to take the edge off walking into a bar soaking wet. Distilled at 86 proof, it is milder than most spirits—in a positive sense. It’s somewhat delicate, having been finished in ex-bourbon and several varieties of fortified wines. It also has something creamy about it, a roundness that would work well with a rich chocolate or caramel dessert.

LAPHROAIG 27 ($485)
What can I say? Can you ever go wrong with any Laphroaig expression? I think not. But Laphroaig 27 is truly something else—as its $485 price tag would imply. But of course, it’s well worth your dollars. The expression is made of mature Laphroaig aged in refill hogshead, which is then transferred into first-fill ex-bourbon barrels and refill quarter cask. The result? Satisfying peaty drams that are softened by smooth and rich notes.

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