If you ever chat with a novice whiskey drinker about which bottles they seek out, the word “smooth” is sure to come up. Same goes for bourbon. Though it’s the lowest hanging fruit on the “what makes a whiskey expression great” tree and the very use of the word in reviews is scorned by aficionados, the appeal of smoothness in across all whiskey categories is undeniable.
It’s not just about having a sippable flavor profile, either. It’s the whole experience — from the velvety mouthfeel to the gentle, mellow finish.
We asked some of our favorite bartenders to call out their favorite easy-to-find whiskeys based on smoothness. They came up with 10 absolute gems — but inevitably left a few out, too. Hit us up in the comments and tell us your favorites on the basis on smoothness, we’re always looking for new drams to test.
Peter Ruppert, beverage director at Short Stories in New York City
A smooth whiskey that’s found everywhere is Tullamore D.E.W.. Tully was the bottle on my father’s desk and happens to be one of the most popular whiskeys in the world. Easy to find, hard to beat.
Piero Procida, bartender at The London West Hollywood in Los Angeles
Glenlivet 12 Year. I have seen this in almost every bar and restaurant no matter how high end or low end. Why? Because it’s a great Scotch that everyone can enjoy, and the price is reasonable. It’s very easy to drink it by itself and the most popular single malt scotch at the London Hotel.
Jameson Irish Whiskey
James Arensault, director of food and beverage at Harbor View Hotel on Martha’s Vineyard
Jameson Irish Whiskey. It’s easy to drink and the most popular whiskey on the planet in addition to Jack Daniel’s but not as harsh as Jack can be.
Johnnie Walker Black Label
Everson Rawlings, mixologist at Scrub Island Resort Spa and Marina in the British Virgin Islands
Johnnie Walker Black Label is the smoothest whiskey that you can find all over the British Virgin Islands. All the outlets, bars and clubs carry it.
Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel
Zac Johnson, general manager at JJ’s Wine, Spirits, and Cigars in Sioux Falls, South Dakota
I think Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel bottles that are coming out right now are some of the best mainstream whiskeys to ever be made. I typically gravitate toward the barrel strength version, but even the 94 proof versions are great to have around. Drink them neat, drink them on the rocks, enjoy however you would like, but what you’ll find is a great blend of mellow barrel char, honey/sugar sweetness, and a touch of cinnamon spice on the back end.
The Balvenie 12 Year Double Wood
Sebastien Derbomez, brand advocacy manager of William Grant & Sons
Have you ever tried Balvenie 12 Year Old Double Wood? When I describe whisky and have to reference a brand for its smoothest, Balvenie 12 Year Old Double Wood is my point of reference — simply unbelievable for a young single malt. Don’t even get me started on the 21-Year-Old Port Wood.
Ben Milam Straight Rye Whiskey
Jon Joseph, bartender at JL Bar Ranch, Resort & Spa in Sonora, Texas
One of the favorites around these parts is Ben Milam Straight Rye Whiskey. We feel that this Texas Whiskey can hold up to all the big boys around the world. Come give it a sample with us and see if you agree.
The Macallan No. 6
Hayden Miller, Head Bartender at Bodega Taqueria y Tequila in Miami, Florida
The Macallan consistently delivers a smooth product. Even if some of the releases are not in my go-to category, it is readily available and consistently sippable. Though on the very top of my “treat yourself” list, Macallan No. 6 is a very special dram to me.
Wild Turkey Long Branch
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This whiskey is more than just a gimmicky drink endorsed by Matthew McConaughey. It’s a little different than the usual sweet bourbons we’re used to. That’s because it’s filtered through Texas mesquite as well as oak charcoal. The result is a smoky and smooth whiskey that I can’t get enough of.
Balcones Baby Blue
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Bluesy, Boozie, Sunday Morning with Blue Dog Man and Balcones Baby Blue. The flavor profile of this young corn whisky makes it an absolutely delicious pour and this is especially true for me with one of my favorite books from an exceptionally inspiring artist, poet and philosopher George Rodrigue. Anybody else love this whisky and Blue Dog as much as I do?
If you’ve never ventured to the Texas section at your local liquor store for your whiskeys, you’re really missing out. One of the best, smoothest whiskeys from the “Lone Star State” is Baby Blue from Balcones. Made with heirloom blue corn, this juice is sweet and rich with hints of caramel, vanilla, with a subtle, vegetal tequila feeling at the very end.