Life

Bartenders Reveal The One Whiskey Distillery They Love Best

There are so many whiskeys (and whiskies) on the market, most of us will never even come close to trying them all. From Scotch to rye to bourbon to Japanese to white whiskey to wheated whiskey to… we could open a new bottle every day for the foreseeable future and never repeat once.

But what if — instead of trying a new whiskey every day — you could only pick one distillery to pledge alegiance to? The parameters are wider than drinking just one single expression for life, but still pretty limiting. Todd Johnston, beverage director at Marsh House in Nashville, found a pretty clever workaround.

“I would go with Buffalo Trace,” he says. “It encompasses several different whiskey labels. Old school and well-respected whiskeys with a variety of delicious options.”

Read below to see what Johnston’s fellow bartenders choose as their picks.

Glenfiddich

Reniel Garcia, bar director of Havana 1957 in Miami

Glenfiddich is one of the few remaining single malt distilleries which does its own bottling. As a single malt, you can count on Glenfiddich having a basic quality that surpasses most of the blended whiskeys.

The Dalmore

Piero Procida, bartender at The London West Hollywood in Los Angeles

The Dalmore distillery in Scotland and only because of the incredible attention to detail the master blenders pay to their product. It is superb whiskey that is well cared for with so much attention paid to creating the most perfectly balanced whiskey. Every line they have come out with has just been superb. They have had since 1839 to perfect their whiskey and it shows in every bottle how well they have harnessed their craft.

The smoothness and texture as well as the very different characteristics you see across their line makes this brand stand out above all others.

Old Grand-Dad

Adrienne Miller, bartender at Satterfield’s in Birmingham, Alabama

Old Grand-Dad always and forever, their expressions are beautiful on the rocks or in a cocktail or just with soda or champs. It’s good with anything.

The Balvenie

Ryan Negley, whiskey fellow at Boulder Spirits in Boulder, Colorado

I’m a sucker for a variety of flavors within a singular lineup. And for me, The Balvenie captures that beautifully. Granted, they are one of the largest brands of single malt in the world, but for good reason. From the use of first fill American Oak as well as their esteemed older expressions, they make great whisky day in, day out.

Blanton’s

Erin Gowdy, bartender at Paul’s Landing at The Vinoy Renaissance in St. Petersburg, Florida

Blanton’s is easy to sip and it’s great on the rocks or neat. With its hints of caramel and vanilla with the perfect amount of sweet corn flavor, it’s the kind of bourbon I could drink for the rest of my life.

Bulleit

Frantjèsko Leonora, bartender at Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort in Curaçao

I don’t need a distillery, I can give you a single bottle!

Being a bourbon fan the brand I’ll have to go with is Bulleit Frontier Whiskey. It has a bold, spicy character with a distinctively smooth, clean finish. The Kentucky limestone-filtered water provides a foundation for the bourbon’s character, while charred American oak barrels lend a smoky backbone.

Delicious to sip on any time.

Suntory

Chris Amirault, bartender and virtual mixology teacher at CocuSocial in New York City

Hakushu 25 year from Suntory might be the best whisky I’ve ever had. It’s rare, Smokey, mineral, and I enjoyed it at their distillery. I’ll put my faith in their team.

Blanton’s / Suntory

Drew Reid, restaurant manager at W Aspen in Aspen, Colorado

Tough question but I’ll go with distilleries behind my favorite bottles. I would happily live with Blanton’s bourbon and nothing else. This bourbon is unmatched. Neat, just as is. Hibiki from Suntory is a very close second here. It’s perfect on its own but shines in a highball.

Bruichladdich

Jim Lunchick, master mixologist at Merriman’s in Hawaii

If I could only drink one distillery’s bottles it would be Bruichladdich. Those guys really throw a lot of variation into their various styles of single malt bottlings. It’s Islay Scotch, but you can climb a ladder from barely smokey to over-the-top peatiness, depending on which of their expressions you choose.

Angel’s Envy

Sabari Kanth, lead bartender at Conrad Fort Lauderdale in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

You can’t go wrong with Angel’s Envy bourbon. It’s a well-balanced bourbon with hints of vanilla, rich chocolate, and sweet dried fruits because of aging in port casks.

Black Button

Anthony Rouhana, bartender at The Cub Room in Rochester, New York

Black Button Distilling: A hometown favorite of mine, the folks at Black Button are not only passionate about the whiskey they make, but the whiskey they drink as well. Constantly seeking sources of inspiration, I’ve found myself contemplating the quality of different drams with the distilling team on a number of occasions. Truly students of the craft, it’s always a good time to sit in on one of their delicious study sessions.

I see great things for them in the future as they continue to strive for excellence.

Writer’s Pick:

Ardbeg

Ardbeg is well known for its peat-smoked, not-for-novices whiskies. But on top of the usual smoke monsters, they also have offerings like An Oa, which is smoky but also well-balanced, sweet, and spicy — due to aging in a gathering vat made up of whiskies aged in Pedro Ximenez sherry butts, new charred oak casks, ex-bourbon casks, and others.

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