I am often asked, “What’s your favorite whiskey?” Honestly, that is like asking me to name a favorite child, favorite beer, favorite song, or favorite movie. I have many favorites, and many of these depend on my mood, and the money in my wallet. However, I have recently had a request from my good friend, Kate at http://www.kateampersand.com/ for some recommendations for how to give the gift of whiskey. I have reviewed about 40 whiskeys on the site so far, and here are my favorite whiskeys out of those 40 at different price points. The prices used are the approximate prices for 750ml of the whiskey.
Best Whiskey under $20: Old Grand-Dad Bottled-in-Bond (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/08/17/old-grand-dad-bonded-review/). This is a very good, rye forward bourbon, with a lot of power. It doesn’t have the complexity of some other high rye bourbons, but it is hard to beat for $18 a bottle.
Runner-up under $20: Four Roses Yellow Label (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/03/14/four-roses-yellow-label-review/). In comparison to the power of Old Grand-Dad (bottled at 100 proof), the Yellow Label is a delicate rye-forward bourbon. There is a lot of light spice that tingles the tongue and the nostrils, but it doesn’t quite have the depth of Old Grand-Dad. Nevertheless, Four Roses Yellow Label is a great buy.
Best Whiskey under $25: Rittenhouse Rye Bottled-in-Bond (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/07/28/rittenhouse-rye-review/). Not only is this whiskey a great value, it is a great whiskey. There is a ton of complexity, ranging from spiciness to sweetness to a rich earthiness. If you want to impress somebody, buy them this whiskey for their birthday. Trust me, they will think you spent a good amount on it (especially if you put it in a fancy decanter since the bottle design is not especially flattering).
Runner-up Under $25: McClelland’s Speyside (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/07/30/comparison-review-scotch-styles-mcclellands-speyside-vs-mcclellands-lowland/). This is a fine single-malt Scotch for the price. It has all the delicacy of a Speyside, with the craft necessary to give it some soft chocolate and smoke flavors that give it character. (It should be mentioned that if you can find Wild Turkey 101, Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare 10 yr. Single Barrel, or Jim Beam Devil’s Cut for under $25, they are even better. However, I live in Boston where I am not quite so lucky.)
Best Whiskey under $30: Rittenhouse Rye Bottled-in-Bond. It still reigns supreme; it’s just that good.
Runner-up under $30: Buffalo Trace (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/03/31/buffalo-trace-review/). It is the bourbon that turned me on to bourbon a number of years ago, and it continues to impress. It is not overly sweet, leaving the vanilla to be blended perfectly. It is like eating a perfectly balanced cheesecake (sort of).
Best Whiskey under $35: Russell’s Reserve 10 yr (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/07/12/russells-reserve-10-year-bourbon-review/). Finally, Rittenhouse was dethroned. Every time I drink Russell’s Reserve, I am amazed at how wonderfully structured it is. It is like reading a great novel, where the plot unfolds precisely when it should.
Runner-up under $35: W.L. Weller 12 yr (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/08/28/w-l-weller-12-year-review/). This is exactly what a wheated bourbon can achieve. It is sweet, but complex, demonstrating the many phases of a sweetness. It reminds me of eating buttermilk pancakes smothered in cinnamon sugar and maple syrup (except not as filling).
Best Whiskey under $40: Four Roses Single Barrel (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/08/14/four-roses-single-barrel-review/). Although this is a single barrel whiskey (meaning there will be some difference between batches), I’ve never had a bad batch of this whiskey. It is plainly brilliant. It has the all the spicy rye character of Four Roses Small Batch, but it demonstrates a whole other layer of complexity with a sweet, dark palate.
Runner-up under $40: Russell’s Reserve 10 yr. It has rightly remained high on my list even at a higher price point.
Best Whiskey under $50: Bunnahabhain 12 yr (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/08/22/bunnahabhain-12-year-review/). This is really a brilliant Islay whisky. The sherry influence is strong, but the Islay peat hangs around to provide a perfect balance. Although this is not a traditional Islay whisky, it is my favorite value.
Runner-up under $50: Four Roses Single Barrel. Yes, it can compete with whiskeys that reach above its price point.
Best Whiskey under $60: Booker’s Small Batch Bourbon (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/06/21/comparison-review-bookers-vs-noahs-mill/). This is my favorite whiskey to date, and it should only be given to a true whiskey lover who you love very much. It is a full, robust whiskey, providing a complexity and intensity rarely seen elsewhere in the bourbon world under $60. (I have seen Booker’s for as cheap as $47. If you see it around that price, snatch up a bottle.)
Runner-up under $60: Bunnahabhain 12 yr. As many of you are aware, Scotch is expensive. However, I have yet to find a better value among Single Malt Scotch than Bunnahabhain.
I am stopping at $60, because most people that read this blog are seeking value bourbons. If you like some recommendations for higher price ranges, feel free to email me at email@example.com. I would also recommend that you read the reviews of these whiskeys before purchasing them, just to make sure it sounds like something that will truly be enjoyed by whoever is its lucky recipient. Let it ride!