If you join an online whisk(e)y collecting group and take time to peruse the posts, you might be left feeling like in order to enjoy great whiskey you need to have an incredibly high-paying job. Or a trust fund. You’ll see members posting 25-year-old bottles of Scotch whisky and hard-to-find bourbon whiskeys with regularity.
But don’t be dismayed. You can get a lot in the whiskey world before hitting the $100 mark.
So sure, save up for that $600 bottle of WhistlePig The Boss Hog VII Magellan’s Atlantic Rye. But also know that there’s plenty to savor at a much more affordable price point. To help underscore this fact, we asked twenty of our favorite bartenders to name their favorite whiskeys under a c-note.
Teeling Blackpitts Irish Whiskey
Una Green, USBG bartender in Los Angeles
Teeling just released its first-ever peated single malt this month called Blackpitts. At $86, it’s a dreamy, triple distilled, peated Irish single malt, aged in a combination of sauternes and ex-bourbon casks and bottled at 46%. It is like “Ireland meets Islay” — with a lightness to the way it dances on your palate, as the smoky notes linger in your senses.
Perfect for colder weather, campfire, and with a s’more.
Balcones True Blue Cask Strength Corn Whiskey
Christopher Wright, bartender at Don Camillo Tuscan Cuisine in Corinthe, Texas
If I had just under $100 to spend on a bottle of whiskey, I would rush towards Balcones True Blue Cask Strength. The profile this American corn whiskey creates when paired with angostura and orange oil has me infatuated.
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Bourbon
Brandon “Habi” Habenstein, bartender at The Kitchen & Bar at Bardstown Bourbon Co. in Bardstown, Kentucky
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is the best whiskey under $100 right now. The mouthfeel of an undiluted bourbon is untouchable by other bourbons that are proofed down. These bottles are typically upwards of 130 proof, aged 12 years and under $100.
Noah’s Mill Bourbon
Joan Percival, bartender at Proof Whiskey and Craft Cocktails in Omaha
Noah’s Mill. Priced around $65 and bottled at around 114 proof, it’s exceptionally well balanced — with the perfect amount of backbone to embellishment. The notes in the profile are discernable and don’t muddy together like they often do when too much water is added to proof down an expression, yet no one note overwhelms.
I hesitate to suggest this one too much for fear that it’ll go the way of the Wellers and become unobtainable, or the Booker’s’ and rocket up in price.
Laws Four Grain Straight Bourbon
Anastacio Garcia Liley, bartender at Axe and Oak Whiskey House in Colorado Springs, Colorado
Denver’s Laws Four Grain Straight Bourbon is so delicious. Laws’ bourbon has many complex notes. When drinking this spirit, the palate’s evolution is quite an exciting journey. The sharpness and alcohol are very prominent in the beginning and on the of your tongue there’s some heat, but it quickly evolves into that toasty sweet profile of the malt with tons of vanilla and Carmel notes.
Yellowstone Limited Edition 2020 Bourbon
Andy Printy, beverage director at Chao Baan in St. Louis
The best bottle available –or just my personal favorite — under $100 is the Yellowstone Limited Edition 2020. Unlike its flagship expression, this has been finished in Armagnac barrels for a bigger body and far more complex profile. The nose is stone fruit and dank lumber. The palate gives way to woody and tobacco notes with a touch of apple and spice, while the finish leaves you with lingering heat and baking spices.
FEW Straight Rye
Cristina Suarez, beverage manager at KUSH Hospitality Group in Miami
FEW Rye Whiskey is my whiskey of choice when I feel like splurging. I have a tendency to go for sweeter whiskeys because they are easy to drink neat or on ice and can also blend very well for cocktails, like a whiskey sour or Manhattan.
Willett Pot Still Reserve Bourbon
Jack Tillman, mixologist at Rand Tower Hotel in Minneapolis
Willett Pot Still Reserve Bourbon. While the quality isn’t the same as it was when it was a pure single barrel offering, Willett Pot Still Reserve is still an excellent choice for the price. Looking past the unique bottle design, which obviously looks great on a back-bar, the Pot Still Reserve manages to stay rather light for its proof, delivering some sweet honey notes with a backing of rye and cinnamon spices.
Fantastic on its own but isn’t too spendy to be cautious about making cocktails from it.
Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Jennifer Jackson-Keating, mixologist at Sneaky Tiki in Pensacola, Florida
Woodford Reserve. It has become an iconic brand and the “go-to” bourbon whiskey on every back bar due to its unique, well-balanced taste of wood, caramel, fruit, and floral notes as being just a few of its over 200 flavor components. It was founded by the best whiskey family in America, Brown Forman, and is a brother of the most recognizable whiskey in the world, Jack Daniels.
Heaven Hill Distillery 7 Year Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon
Sire Negri, lead mixologist at Havana Beach Bar & Grill in Rosemary Beach, Florida
We recommend Heaven Hill Distillery 7 Year Bottled-in-Bond. This straight bourbon is finished with beautiful notes of oak, burnt orange, and dark cherry. It’s smooth complexity lends well to classic cocktails or consumed neat and is very underrated in the trendy bourbon market.
Glenmorangie 12 Lasanta Single Malt Whisky
Stephen Lasaten, food and beverage manager at The Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands
Glenmorangie 12 Lasanta. Depending on where you live it’s a rare find and a treat. Everyone is always raving about The Macallan, but Glenmorangie is the most underrated single malt that hardly anyone talks about. The dried fruit on the palate along with the sweeter notes of brown sugar make a smooth and enjoyable Scotch for a special occasion.
St. George Baller Single Malt Whiskey
Jim Wrigley, beverage manager at Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa in the Cayman Islands
St. George Baller Single Malt. This unique special edition is usually well under the $100 mark and brings a fantastically interesting bang-for-buck with ex-bourbon, French oak 3-year-old Californian malt finished in ex-homemade umeshu (Japanese plum liqueur) casks.
Interesting, flavorful, mixable, and sippable.
Angel’s Envy Bourbon
Michele Gargiulo, front of house manager and sommelier at Hampton’s Restaurant in Sumter, South Carolina
Angel’s Envy. This bourbon is finished in Port Wine barrels. The extra time in oak that has been saturated with ruby port adds a layer of complexity. Because port is a wine, and vermouth is a wine, I think that Angel’s Envy Manhattans are beyond comparison in the world of whiskey.
Its price range is reasonable, and I think it tastes better than anything else in the same range, and better than some above it.
WhistlePig 10-Year-Old Rye
Andres Rairan, lead bartender at The Social Club in Miami
Hands down, WhistlePig 10-year straight rye. This Whiskey is beautiful in so many ways because of its amazingly smooth, sweet, and toasty notes on the nose as well as the creaminess and long-lasting flavor that stays on the palate.
Obviously, this rye is best neat or with just one rock, but if you dare to try it in a cocktail with the correct mixers, it can make for one of the best cocktails you could ever have.
Redbreast 12 Irish Whiskey
Jane Danger, national mixologist for Pernod-Ricard USA
I recommend Redbreast 12 Year Old and Chivas 12 Year Old. Redbreast 12 boasts the flavor complexity and distinctive qualities of pot still whiskey. Matured in a combination of bourbon and sherry casks, the distinctive Redbreast sherry style is a joy with a great price point.
Weller Antique 107 Bourbon
Todd Johnston, beverage director and sommelier at Marsh House in Nashville
I am personally not much of a whiskey drinker, but Weller Antique 107 is a great example of a higher-end whiskey that is under $100. It has become pretty popular and a bit harder to get because the word got out that it is made with the same mash bill as Pappy Van Winkle. I like it because it is a wheated bourbon and offers a softer sweeter characteristic.
Colonel E. H. Taylor Small Batch Bourbon
Nathaniel Meyers, mixologist at Sear + Sea in Orlando
My favorite higher-end whiskey is Colonel E. H. Taylor. It’s one of the best bourbons that I have ever had the chance of trying. The flavor profile matches perfectly with an old fashioned or any other way of enjoying bourbon. Usually, you can find the bottle for just under one hundred dollars, and to me, that is a deal for the supreme quality of the bourbon.
Mars IWAI Japanese Whisky
Ilan Chartor, head bartender at MILA in Miami
I’m really liking Mars IWAI Japanese Whisky right now. I usually drink specific spirits (neat of course) for an extended period of time until I’m bored of them. Right now, I am drinking calvados and Mars IWAI. It’s a Japanese whisky whose mash bill is inspired by bourbon. It’s definitely one of my first recommendations for inquiring guests at the bar. On top of that, it’s well under $100 making it even more appealing.
Redbreast Lustau Edition Irish Whiskey
Mark Phelan, director of beverage operations for 16” on Center in Chicago
Redbreast Lustau Edition. Slightly younger than Redbreast 12 year, but, as is said, age is just a number. Finished for a full year in Lustau’s best Oloroso sherry casks, non-chill filtered, with no added coloring, this whiskey is a symphony of flavor.
The best part? You can actually find it on the shelves.