Bartenders Tell Us Their Favorite Whiskies For Fall

Summer was fun. You probably made a lot of memories. Maybe you were lucky enough to take a road trip or two. Sadly, like all good things, it’s come to an end. But wait! All is not lost.

The end of summer means the beginning of fall and everything the autumnal season has to offer. That means hot cider, donuts, pumpkin spiced everything, and the return of darker spirits like cognac, dark rum, and whiskey (lots of whiskey!). But, in a marketplace full of ryes, bourbons, and other styles of whiskey, how do you decide which one to purchase? That’s where bartenders come in. We tasked a handful of our favorite bartenders to tell us their favorite whiskies for late summer/early fall imbibement, and they did not disappoint.

Nicholas Torres, bar director at Lazy Bear in San Francisco

“Lately I’ve really been enjoying unpeated scotch. My current go-to has been the ‘09 Bruichladdich Islay Barley. It’s got some age, but you taste the barley. It’s also really oily and has a long finish – yum.”

Ronnie Buders, bar manager/owner at Biig in San Francisco

“My favorite whiskey for fall would have to be Highwest Silver Western Oat. It’s an unaged oat whiskey, on the nose subtle vanilla and sweet oat; the taste is light, cocoa, coconut and smooth vanilla finish.”

Blake Pope of Kindred Restaurant in Charlotte

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“Four Roses Small batch, always my go to.”

Chris Kearns, bar director at Mr. Cannon in New York City

“My favorite whiskey for fall is definitely Old Grand Dad 114 which has a mash bill of corn, rye, and malted barley. It’s got a lot of cinnamon, rye spice, and molasses to it, which makes it perfect for the fall/winter. It’s a little on the hotter side being 114 proof and really keeps your warm during the colder months. I sip it neat with a few drops of room temperature water.”

Akos Orosz, bar manager at Westbound in Los Angeles

“My favorite whisky for fall would have to be a really peaty scotch. There is something romantic and magical about a glass of peated scotch single malt. It makes me feel like I’m inside one of those Dickens novels. My two favorites are Ardbeg 10 year old and Kilchoman single malt cask strength.”

Greg Scheaffer, beverage manager at The Rickey in New York City

“Rittenhouse Rye, this is a power house at 100 proof and it has an herbal intensity that makes for an amazing cocktail – think: classic Manhattan or a new classic update.”

Mikey Yoder, head bartender at Komodo in Miami

“I would have to say that I enjoy the Chivas Royal Salute. It’s very well-balanced and ultra-smooth on the palate – one solid ice cube, and your ready to relax.”

Caroline Blundell, manager at Plan Check in Santa Monica

“Belle Meade Bourbon. This bourbon has a great history behind it. It’s the 5th registered bourbon distillery on record, and—with a high-rye mash—it’s the perfect balance of sweet and spicy.”

Anthony Barcza, manager of Rx Boiler Room in Las Vegas

“High West Campfire – This whiskey is a blend of bourbon, rye and scotch. The peat smoke warms a body on a chilly Las Vegas winter night.”

Trevor Landry, beverage director of NL Group in Dallas

“Garrison Brothers for a “sipping” whiskey, and Redemption Rye for a cocktail. While Garrison Brothers opens up nicely with just a little bit of water, it is also chewy, grainy and a bit spicy – perfect for the arrival of cooler weather. Redemption Rye is a pliable whiskey that mixes well – the bitter rye note is there, but it’s not overly abusive to taste buds that are more familiar with bourbon – which is great for an Old Fashioned, a Manhattan and the like.”

Morgan Zuch, corporate beverage director at Datz in Tampa

“My favorite whiskey for fall is a high proof bourbon with full, lush flavors and spice. Two of my go-tos for barrel strength bourbons are Booker’s or Stagg Jr. Both of these are loaded with flavors perfect for fall — oak, vanilla and spice. The burn of these whiskies has a warming effect, also perfect for colder weather.”

Jeremy Lake, bar manager at Rosaliné in Los Angeles

“American whiskies (bourbon and rye). All of the spices, cocoa, vanilla pair very well with traditional fall and winter spices. Breaker bourbon (Ascendant Spirits Distillery) is a great 90 proof high-rye bourbon finished in ex-Madeira casks — perfect for the fall.”

Jon Howard, head bartender at Henley in Nashville

“My favorite Whiskey for fall is Woodford Double Oaked Bourbon. I love the really cool pecan notes the whiskey has which reminds me of my grandmother’s house growing up and a toasted quality that just makes me think of falling leaves and hayrides.”

Josh Holliday, beverage director of 50 Eggs Inc in Miami

“Michter’s American Whiskey in the fall, the butterscotch notes seem to fit just right when the leaves are changing.”

Sarah Mengoni, lead bartender at Double Take in Los Angeles

“My favorite whiskey for fall is Journeyman Distillery’s Last Feather Rye. Journeyman is a family-owned and operated, organic distillery in Michigan. This rye has an unusual mash bill, using wheat instead of corn to balance out the rye.”

Adam Lawson, bartender at Tower 12 in Hermosa Beach, California

“My go-to whiskey for fall is WhistlePig Rye. This whiskey has a nice bite with caramel tones that warm the body as it starts to get chilly.”