Life

Bartenders Name The Very Best Drams Of Whiskey They’ve Ever Tasted

If we’re lucky, we get a chance to sip on a glass of high-priced, long-matured whiskey a handful of times in our lives. Maybe it’s at a wedding, an anniversary dinner, or on a distillery tour. Regardless, we remember everything about the dram we enjoyed. Years later, we find ourselves daydreaming about the subtle hints of peat smoke or the toasted caramel sweetness that permeated each sip.

But even if you’ve only experienced truly luxurious whiskey expressions a few times in your life, it’s not an easy task to determine the single best glass of whiskey you ever tasted. As Wesley MacDonald, owner of Caña Bar and Kitchen in Curaçao, says:

“The best dram is always the one you have in your hand. There are so many great whiskeys in the world, naming a favorite is almost impossible.”

Note, MacDonald said almost impossible, so we’re still going to try. That’s why we asked some of our favorite bartenders to tell us the single best glass of whiskey they’ve ever tasted. They came through with some (very pricey) winners.

Bruichladdich Black Art 3

Ben Schiller, beverage director at RPM Restaurants in Chicago

Bruichladdich Black Art 3. I tasted it on my birthday, at the distillery, directly out of the barrel, and I was with the Master Distiller, Jim McEwan. Mr. McEwan is one of the most respected distillers in the world. Tasting whisky out of the barrel with him is an experience that can’t be bought, and it is one of the high points of my career.

The Macallan No. 6

Hayden Miller, head bartender at Bodega Taqueria y Tequila in Miami

The Macallan No. 6 is the dram from my wedding which gives it a lot of meaning but the whisky alone is more than enough. The richness of the sherry flavor and the subtle spices are highlighted by the voluptuous body, full mouthfeel, and long finish.

Glendronach Grandeur 27 batch 10

Darron Foy, head bartender at The Flatiron Room in New York City

Glendronach Grandeur 27 batch 10. Glendronach has a special place in my heart — they just don’t make bad whisky. A highlight from their annual releases is the Grandeur Series, showcasing some of the older stock of sherry matured beauties rolled out in one expression. Batch 10 is a mix of some of the finest oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherry casks resting in the warehouse since the mid-1960s. Bottled at 50.1% ABV by Master Blender Rachel Barrie, this smooth, rich, decadent and full-bodied whisky is a perfect expression to represent Glendronach. Plum, Walnut, apple and raspberry jam on the nose, lashings of rich sherry and wood on the palate, bound by wet leather, maraschino cherries, and truffle oil on the finish. Wondrous stuff.

Whistle Pig Boss Hog

Kyle Walter, bartender at Grayton Beer Brewpub in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida

Whistle Pig Boss Hog. One of the last top-shelf rye whiskeys, made by Whistle Pig before their master distiller passed away. It’s like tasting someone’s entire life in a bottle. Truly memorable.

Suntory Hibiki 21

Hector Acevedo, part owner of Spanglish Craft Cocktail Bar & Kitchen in Miami

For this answer, I’m going to look at Japanese whisky. It doesn’t get better than Suntory Hibiki 21. I loved every sip — full of dried fruit, strawberry jam, and baked apple.

Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye

Sam Gay, bartender at Ojai Valley Inn in Ojai, California

The best pour of whiskey I’ve ever tasted is the Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye. That brand has caught some heat for being an overpriced, collectors’ whiskey, but I would contend that the Family Reserve Rye carries the whole line.

The Macallan 1960

Jason Strich, bar director of Manresa Restaurant in Los Gatos, California

The best dram of whisky I’ve ever tasted was 1960 Macallan. Drinking it was like tasting another era. It’s a very special, well-made, perfectly smooth glass of Scotch.

Kilchoman Sauternes Cask Finish

Juyoung Kang, lead bartender at The Dorsey in the Venetian in Las Vegas

The best dram I ever tasted was Kilchoman Sauternes Cask Finish. It’s pretty hard to beat because it has everything I love in one bottle — flavors of soft peat, salt, floral sweetness, silky mouthfeel, and nutty finish.

EH Taylor Rye

Ellen Talbot, lead bartender at Fable Lounge in Nashville

The best glass of whiskey I’ve ever tasted was EH Taylor Rye. It brought out all of the things I love about rye whiskey. It was otherworldly. Spicy, sweet, and smooth.

Pappy Van Winkle 20

Matt Shields, bartender at The Bay Restaurant in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida

I had a crazy party experience one night. Without going into way too much detail, the homeowner had a bottle of Pappy 20 Year and literally would not stop filling my glass. By the time I cut him off, there was only three ounces left in the bottle. Some famous country band was playing in his living room.

I can’t remember the musicians, as you would imagine. But the Pappy 20 year, I’ll never forget.

Willett Family Estate Single Barrel 26

Blake Jones, bartender and director of beverage at The Kennedy in Pensacola, Florida

I recently tasted a 26-year-old Willett single barrel bourbon. The finish was beyond words. So, so good. It’s hard to find a bottle like that — making it a very special experience indeed.

Powers John’s Lane 12

Danielle Becker, bartender at the Aspen Meadows Resort in Aspen, Colorado

I got to take the Powers Whiskey history tour in Dublin, with their on-staff Powers Whiskey Historian. That alone makes it amazing. However, during the tour, we got to taste a few of the labels. The Powers John’s Lane stole my heart. Single pot still, minimum 12 years old, bourbon and sherry casks; just an incredible thing. The situation, the space, the taste… all combined made for the single best tasting I’ve ever had.

The Macallan Rare Cask

Jonah Dill-D’Ascoli. Jonah used to work at The Aviary in New York

One of my favorite “go-tos” is the Macallan Rare Cask series. I was lucky enough to taste some of the first releases in the US back in 2015, ever since then I’ve been hooked. The best part is the team at The Macallan keeps my palate on its toes with each new release. Unlike a lot of their other expressions that they work to keep consistent, they let the Rare Cask change — which keeps me anticipating the next releases.

Last year, they released a series that blew the top off. Everything from some beautiful raisins to gingerbread to orange peel to rich sherry notes with warm nutty elements was evident. The only downside here is the fact that it’s a limited release and people are starting to catch on to how awesome each new batch is.

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