Whiskey is timeless. The popularity of the drink has risen and fallen over the centuries but, man oh man, has it reached a fever pitch. That means there’s a lot of a great whisk(e)y on the market right now. Naturally, there’s lots of cheap stuff in the mix — much of which will surprise you with its complexity and all of which is sure to get the job done. But there are also some very expensive bottles gracing shelves. Whiskeys that create an entire experience with every sip.
Below we’ve compiled a short list of ten bottles of whiskey — all priced over $50 — that are totally worth the outlay of cash. If you’re going to drop some coin on whiskey, don’t go just for labels. Find one of these bottles, they’re all worth hunting down.
Peerless Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey Barrel Proof
There’s an earthiness to Peerless that hinges on an almost high-desert aromatic spice. The peppery rye is so smooth and fascinating that you’ll stop worrying about the $100-plus price tag almost immediately.
The spice gives way to a smooth maple, burnt brown sugar, and a whisper of citrus. It’s complex, to say the least. More simply, it’s a delicious drink that’s perfect as a neat sip or a killer Sazerac.
Belle Meade Bourbon 9-year Sherry Finish
Belle Meade — from Nelson’s Green Brier — is a fantastic bourbon on its own. Lately, the master distillers have been experimenting with their whiskeys by aging them in an array of casks from sherry to port to Madeira.
The results have been stellar. One of our favorites is their 9-year-old Sherry Finish Bourbons. The subtle sweetness of the sherry infuses itself into the meaty bourbon. You’ll get a real sense of Spanish sunshine alongside the bold corn-fueled Tennessee distillate which has an almost grassy edge.
This is the perfect sipping whiskey for the end of the day.
Booker’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Booker’s just makes good whiskey. Their bourbon is arguably one of the best on the market at any price point. The spiciness to this one doesn’t fall into a peppery rye category. It’s more akin to a chili pepper sharpness, making it very unique.
That spiciness is underpinned by a classic mix of vanilla oak and subtle corn sweetness that’s ultra-refined. Near the end, you’ll get a slight whisper of cinnamon and maybe even some allspice to round this beautiful whiskey out. This one really is a bottle everyone should have on their shelf.
Jefferson’s Ocean Bourbon Cask Strength
Aging “at sea” feels very gimmicky. But there’s a method to the madness over at Jefferson’s. The constant movement means that the aging process is sped up as molecules move more rapidly around the barrel. Moreover, aging whiskey like this re-imagines what whiskey was like that spent months and years on boats traversing the globe over the last 500 years.
Gimmicks and historical hub-bub aside, this whiskey truly shines. Think of it as a one-off that’ll allow you to tell a story as you drink. The finer points of the vanilla smoothness, sweet corn edge, and almost floral afternotes make for an interesting and very unique glass.
Jameson 18-Year Irish Whiskey
A bottle of Jameson deserves a slot on everyone’s shelf. If you’re only going to choose one bottle, then, we say, go all in with an 18-year-old bottle of bliss.
Jameson tends to age in old sherry and bourbon casks and then blends that into a killer bottle of booze. Their 18yo has sanded off all of its rough edges and you’re left with a bouquet of florals, mild Christmas spice, slight nuttiness, and a twinge of citrus. That gives way to a mild sweetness (from the addition of corn and the sherry cask) to make this one a gorgeous sip.
Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Proof
One of the cheapest bottles on this list also happens to be a stone-cold classic for any aficionado’s shelf. Jack Daniel’s obviously knows what it’s doing — they’ve been making one of the world’s most recognizable brands for ages. Their Single Barrel Proof is the best of everything great about JD.
There’s a smoothness to this whiskey that’s hard to argue with. You can sip this one all day and night and never not want another. Any harsh corn edges have been whittled down to a fine, sweet softness. There’s a little spice under that sweetness with a nice minerality and fruity background. It’s interesting, easy, and worth the 70 bucks.
Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky
Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky is a Japanese masterpiece. The whisky has a mellow presence that hints at the Scottish Highlands by way of a snowy Japanese village near a freshwater spring.
The whisky shines brightly with a coconut and banana fruitiness that gives way to an almost honey sweetness. Then the oaky vanilla comes through and brings this whisky home. Find a bottle and you’re sure to fall in love with this one. We promise.
Redbreast 15-Year Irish Whiskey
Okay, now we’re getting into the heavy-hitters. Redbreast 15 is a marvel of the Irish whiskey world. The brand generally hits it out of the park with their bottles. Their 15yo not only hits it outta the park — it runs the bases, high-fives everyone in the stadium, and then hits another home run just for posterity.
The whiskey has a distinct spicy edge that never overwhelms. The sweet notes give way to floral flourishes and finish so smooth that it’s practically quicksilver. This is a whiskey that never disappoints and, truly, goes down too easy.
WhistlePig 12-Year Old World Rye Whiskey
WhistlePig has dominated the American whiskey conversation this decade. It’s not without good reason. The Vermont farm knows its way around a whiskey barrel.
Their Old World Rye has a heft to it that never overwhelms. The oaky vanilla supports an almost sour cherry essence. Next, you’ll get hit with a nice honey sweetness and mild and earthy allspice whisper. Nothing is overwrought here. It’s just goddamn impeccable whiskey at every point.
The Macallan Scotch 18 Year
Picking one Scotch for this list was hard. For one, Scotch gets crazy expensive once you hit the 25-year mark (think high thousands of dollars). It’s hard to justify spending that much cash on a bottle of anything — transcendence aside. So we decided to hit a Scotch that isn’t insanely expensive but still insanely delicious: The Macallan 18-year-old.
This whisky isn’t a peaty or overly smoky Scotch at all. This is a subtle mix of oak, sherry sweetness, worn leather, fresh tobacco, and hints of raw licorice. The body of this dram is akin to sipping velvet — that is, it’s super smooth and coats your mouth in wonderment. If you’re going to spend nearly three bills on a bottle of whisky, this is the play.