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The ‘Must Try’ Whiskey Expressions From Ten Fan Favorite Brands

Figuring out which brand makes the best-tasting whiskey in the world is a silly task. It’s fun, don’t get us wrong. But also silly. Different life experiences will lead to different palates, tastes, and desires. Different expressions from brands can vary widely in flavor. Different years or rickhouse conditions can change the game immensely.

There’s no point in arguing anyone’s favorite whiskey, is what we’re saying. We all like what we like.

That being said, there are certain whiskey brands that have broad appeal and are almost universally beloved. Does that make them the “best” whiskeys? We’re not so sure. Sometimes being a tasty whiskey is good enough for the mainstream; whereas a professional taster might want to see certain elements truly stand out. Still, it’s never a bad idea to know what a huge swath of whiskey lovers drink, so we thought we’d check the pulse over at Ranker.

The site’s ranking of the “best tasting whiskey” has nearly 50,000 votes. While that’s not a consensus, it is a fair amount of folks chiming in — enough votes to make interesting conversation, at the very least. We lay the top ten brands out below and pair those rankings with tasting notes for our favorite expression from each brand.

10. The Glenlivet

Expression To Try: The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve
ABV: 40%
Average Price: $40

The Whisky:

It’s hard to argue with a decent bottle of The Glenlivet. This is an accessible whisky all around. Their Caribbean Reserve expression is a classic single malt that has been finished in Caribbean rum casks, giving the whisky a layer of depth that elevates the sip.

Tasting Notes:

You’re greeted by a sense of an apple orchard full of ripe fruit. Notes of banana and crisp apples play on the palate as simmering brown sugar and butter meet rich toffee notes next to a sense of oak. In the end, it’s the sweet and breezy pineapple and banana that carry you towards a mellow, slightly sweet, and long-lingering finish.

9. Johnnie Walker Black Label

Expression To Try: Johnnie Walker Double Black Label
ABV: 40%
Average Price: $45

The Whisky:

Johnnie Walker Black is made to be sipped. Their Double Black take notes of Island and West Coast whiskies and dials them up for maximum sippage. The expression is finished in deeply charred oak barrels to add an extra layer of smoke and depth.

Tasting Notes:

Smoke is what you get with this dram. Hints of orange, apples, and honey mingle with dark spices and a clear sense of peaty smoke throughout. The sip finishes long with that sense of smoke carrying through, alongside the wood and spice.

8. Buffalo Trace

Expression To Try: Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection
ABV: 45%
Average Price: $120

The Whiskey:

Picking only one expression from Buffalo Trace is tough. They make a lot of whiskeys. Some of the most interesting expressions come under the “Experimental” line. Currently, Buffalo Trace has over 22,000 barrels of experimental whiskey aging in their rickhouses. We’re calling out their “Double-Barreled” expression, distilled in 1997, as being a worthwhile bottle to track down (though don’t sleep on any of their Experimental bottles, really).

Tasting Notes:

The rye-centric mash bill really shines through upfront with equal measures of oak and spice. A sense of apples, wildflowers, orange zest, and caramel mix with hints of vanilla and dark, bold spiciness. The end is long, warm, and spicy as the toasted wood and slight bitter char shines through.

7. The Macallan

Expression To Try: The Macallan Rare Cask
ABV: 43%
Average Price: $300

The Whisky:

The Macallan has a deep roaster of great whisky to choose from. On the higher end of the spectrum, their Rare Cask is a hell of a bottle to have around. The juice is aged in hand-selected American and European barrels that have been seasoned with sherry. Some of the barrels are second fill but most are seasoned and the first whisky that touches them is this one. It’s a dynamic aging program that brings some serious whisky goodness.

Tasting Notes:

Vanilla and oak dance with a sense of dried fruits and bright orange. Christmas spices cut through the sip as fresh and almost juicy ginger peeks with a sense of bitter dark chocolate with a hint of salt. The citrus, spice, and wood combine for a long, warm, and enduring finish.

6. Crown Royal

Expression To Try: Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye Blended Canadian Whisky
ABV: 45%
Average Price: $30

The Whisky:

This much-lauded whisky is the crown jewel of the Crown Royal family (sorry). The 90 percent rye mash bill, subtle aging, and expert blending make for a refined yet very drinkable dram of rye whisky.

Tasting Notes:

The rye grains come through next to a feeling of wood and the sharpness of Christmas spices. The oak carries through, accompanied by the peppery spice, rich vanilla pods, tart red berries, and an undercurrent of butter-forward butterscotch. That butteriness turns slightly creamy as the spices and wood carry on through the short-yet-powerful finish.

5. Knob Creek

Expression To Try: Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve Bourbon Whiskey
ABV: 60%
Average Price: $50

The Whiskey:

Everything about this expression is amped up. The barrels are hand-selected for their character and bottled with no fuss whatsoever. That directness leads to a powerful sip with a high ABV that’ll leave you tipsy but wanting more of this unique pour of nine-year-old whiskey.

Tasting Notes:

Every bottle is going to have a little variance. Expect classic notes of bourbon vanilla next to oak with a sense of roasted nuts. That vanilla carries through as caramel brings a sweet edge with the wood shining throughout. A mild wisp of smoke arrives late with a little old library funk on the long and velvety end.

4. Jack Daniel’s

Expression To Try: Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select Tennessee Whiskey
ABV: 47%
Average Price: $50

The Whiskey:

This single barrel Tennessee whiskey is a winner all around. The expression is pulled from deep in Jack Daniel’s rickhouses’ and judged by the depth of flavor and signature nature of Jack Daniel’s overall.

Tasting Notes:

Again, there will be slight variations at play withing these bottles. Still, expect toasted wood, banana, and dark spices upfront. The sip flows with the fruit and spices to a point of feeling like bananas stewed in butter and spice with clear notes of vanilla and caramel. The finish is clearly fruity, spicy, and woody and lasts like a good “Kentucky hug.”

3. Maker’s Mark

Expression To Try: Maker’s Mark Private Select Bourbon Whisky
ABV: 55.55%
Average Price: $70

The Whisky:

This is a whisky that’s kind of made to order. Maker’s Mark brings in bartenders and retailers to choose from ten different finishing oak staves to create a unique expression by combining different finishings. That means there are 1,001 possible stave combinations. This makes Private Select a fascinating dram to chase down.

Tasting Notes:

This really just depends on what bottle you’ve tracked down. Expect classic notes of bourbon vanilla, caramel, and oak as a foundation. Then, the taste can really go in a thousand directions.

2. Jameson

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Expression To Try: Jameson 18 Years Irish Whiskey
ABV: 40%
Average Price: $150

The Whiskey:

This is a special bottle of Irish whiskey. The juice is aged for up to 18 years in both former sherry and bourbon casks. Then, the master blenders hand-select the best of the best for an additional three years of finishing in fresh first-fill bourbon barrels.

Tasting Notes:

Oak is prominent alongside spice, toffee, and bright florals. Toffee carries on and augments oily leather, wisps of smoke, vanilla, almonds, and thick milk chocolate. The end marries the spice, wood, and toffee into a subtle but long finish.

1. Woodford Reserve

Expression To Try: Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
ABV: 45.2%
Average Price: $55

The Whiskey:

This expression spends years mellowing in lightly toasted but deeply charred new oak. Once it hits the sweet spot, it’s transferred to new barrels that have been heavily toasted but lightly charred for a nine-month finishing session.

Tasting Notes:

That toasted oak comes through next to marzipan, dark tart berries, and a whiff of honeycomb. Caramel, apple orchards, sharp Christmas spices, and oily vanilla pods dance in the sip. The finish is long, nutty, spicy, and bolstered by an almost velvet oakiness.

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