Life

We Asked Bartenders For The One Rare Spirit They Think Is Worth The Money

For bourbon fans on a budget, there’s nothing better than a bottle of Wild Turkey or Jim Beam. The same goes for rum fans with a bottle of Bacardi or Captain Morgan. But what if you have some cash to spend and you’re thinking of purchasing a rare bottle to celebrate a major life event or start a collection.

Where should you start? Which bottles should you buy?

“Overall, I think you get the most bang for your buck with rum,” says Jordan Fattal, bartender at Accomplice Bar in Los Angeles. “They come in a variety of flavors and expressions, can be super complex, and offer the best value for your money.”

Of course, if rum isn’t your preferred spirit, you’d be better off snatching up rare bottles of tequila, bourbon, or even schnapps. To help you decide, we asked some of our favorite bartenders to tell us the one rare bottle of liquor they’d like to add to their collections.

Bruichladdich Black Art 7.1

Kalani Ben, bartender at The Spare Room in Los Angeles

This one is a little tough to answer because we all assign value to things differently, but for me it has got to be anything from the Bruichladdich Black Art collection, specifically 7.1.

Ardbeg Drum

Nick Jackson, head bartender at The Rum House in New York City

I have dabbled in collecting single malt scotches and there are some amazing value buys out there — just look for any of the limited offerings from the big names. I’m partial to any of the Ardbeg releases. They recently had one aged in rum barrels that was great (Ardbeg Drum).

Also, rare rums are usually a really good value as there is less interest in collecting rum. Any Caroni rum is so good and should be purchased if found.

Hampden 23-Year-Old Single Barrel Jamaican Rum

Gary Wallach, director of food & beverage at Arlo SoHo in New York City

If you can find single barrel Jamaican rums like Hampden 23-Year-Old. I find the value there is super high. I don’t personally collect rare spirits, but I enjoy seeing an old label that I took from the family liquor cabinet.

Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye

Zachary Pease, owner and beverage director at My Friend Duke in New York City

Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye. It’s the one whiskey I look for on every list and if friends see it around for a good price, I’ll usually get a text letting me know who has it!

WL Weller 12-Year-Old Bourbon

Justin Campbell, Beverage Director for The h.wood Group in Los Angeles

The best rare spirit for the buck for me is Weller 12 Year. This guy is the Pappy Van Winkle that didn’t make the cut. People have caught on now and it’s getting increasingly harder to find. If you see it, try it.

Tequila Epifania Anejo Katrina

Roman Cervantes, bartender at La Pulperia in New York City

What is the best rare spirit bottle actually worth the money?

That’s easy for me — I’m a big fan of well-made tequilas. That’s why I’m picking Tequila Epifania Anejo Katrina. Definitely worth the money. The bottle is as beautiful as the liquid inside.

Clase Azul Tequila

Mark Tubridy, mixologist at 21 Club in New York City

I remember the first time I ever tried Clase Azul tequila. I was on my honeymoon with my wife in Mexico and the bartender at our hotel produced the ornately decorated bottle from behind the bar and gave us a taste to celebrate our marriage. My wife and I instantly fell in love with that beautifully aged agave spirit and picked up a bottle to bring home because we had never seen it in the States.

Four years later, I see those hand-painted bottles behind many high-end bars in the US, and even though Clase Azul carries a hefty price tag, I still believe the quality justifies the price.

Rochelt Apricot Schnapps

Miles Macquarrie, co-owner & beverage director at Kimball House in Atlanta

The best rare spirit worth the price is Rochelt Apricot Schnapps. It’s a crystal clear apricot Eau de Vie from Austria. This is a mind-blowing product, but very expensive at $250+ for a half-bottle.

Colonel E.H. Taylor Barrel Proof Bourbon

Trevor Alderson, bartender at Blue Smoke in New York City

Colonel E.H. Taylor Barrel Proof Bourbon ($400+). I’ve been a believer in E.H. Taylor since trying the Small Batch bottle a few years ago (an amazing choice for the much more modest price). It is smooth, a little sweet, very complex, and blossoms with just a drop or two of water.

Hacienda De Chihuahua Sotol Extra Anejo

Keith Zintakmon, bartender at JRDN in San Diego

In my opinion, there are some great artisanal mezcal and sotol spirits out there like Hacienda De Chihuahua Sotol Extra Anejo. The time, effort and love going into these products truly shine through in every glass.

Vintage Amari

Lauren Mathews, lead bartender at Urbana in Washington, DC

I’ve been really into vintage Amari. Nuances in flavor range from different weather affecting the taste of the herbs to tweaks made in the recipe over time. These differences are beautiful to discover. I’d shell out some money for the right bottle.

Elmer T. Lee Bourbon

Amy Wong, lead bartender at King Tide Fish & Shell in Portland, Oregon

Elmer T. Lee. Now, this can be either outrageously expensive, because it is no longer in production, or approximately $30 a bottle retail and $10 a glass in a restaurant. It is essentially a young mashbill of Blanton’s bourbon. Master Distiller Elmer T. Lee was a big part of Buffalo Trace and Blanton’s history.

Yamazaki 18 Year Old Japanese Whisky

Liam Deegan, partner at Barrel Proof in New Orleans

If you can buy it and the real MSRP: Yamazaki 18. There’s a reason it was named the best whisky in the world. If you can’t get your hands on a bottle, most releases of George T Stagg and Elijah Craig 18 do the trick.

Rock Hill Farms Bourbon

Cheston Overman, lead bartender at Bookstore Bar & Café in Seattle

I really enjoy bourbons, so the rare spirit that I think is worth the splurge and price point would be Rock Hill Farms bourbon. It’s delicious as it is rare.

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