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Bartenders Pick The Best Whiskeys To Sip Straight While Quarantined

Over the past month, we’ve given you a lot of suggestions about which whiskeys to drink while you’re stuck at home. Bourbons, scotches, Irish whiskeys… times are tough and we want to help you manage. Don’t overdo it, of course. While booze can be relaxing, it rarely solves problems (except the classic problem “I wonder if I can talk louder than I was two drinks ago!”).

But a few drams savored after work? Go for it.

To help you pick which expression to focus on, we asked some of our favorite bartenders to tell us their go-to whiskeys to drink straight. Because at this point in the quarantine, who has the patience, supplies, or desire to make mixed cocktails?

Lagavulin 16 Year

Simon Vazquez, bartender at Quality Italian in Denver

I would have to go with Lagavulin 16 Year. Lagavulin 16 is bold, yet smooth. Complex, yet approachable. A veritable velvet hammer. Lightly smoked malt and a long while spent in-barrel grants an Islay scotch that is approachable, but not overwhelming.

Applejack Finished Ragtime Rye

Marissa Mazzotta, beverage director at The Shanty in Brooklyn, New York

Applejack Finished Ragtime Rye from NYDC is great to drink on its own. I love to sip this expression and all of my favorite whiskey drinks start to shift to using this as the base. The Applejack Finished Ragtime also works great in a Hot Toddy, Old Fashioned, Manhattan and even a New York Sour. It’s a very versatile expression, with a slight hint of apple in the finish that perfectly complements the big rye flavor.

Oban 14 Year

Mary Cooksey, bar manager at Oak Bar in Nashville

I would have to recommend Oban 14 year scotch whisky as the best whisky to drink straight, due to its distinct yet balanced tasting notes and incredible smoothness. It’s a highland, however, it does not compromise on peat, scratching the surface of how vast the offerings in the Highlands are. This whisky has a little bit of everything that I love. Salinity, smoke, toffee, vanilla, citrus, rich fruits, oak, malt…it literally has it all. It’s availability and its price point, being under $100, is another plus as well.

Seriously, you have to keep a bottle of this in your selection and enjoy it frequently.

Hakushu 12 Year

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Courtney Everett, bartender at O-Ku Sushi in Atlanta

Hakushu 12 year. It has a great balance of spice, malt, bite, with slight smoke and char. This is one of my favorites to recommend to Scotch lovers that want to try a Japanese whisky, but unfortunately it’s hard to get a hold of on your own.

Starward Whisky

Cody Goldstein, founder of Muddling Memories in New York City

Ever hear of a whiskey done in a Solera style? If you answered no, that’s because it has rarely been done. However, Starward Australian Whisky has found a way to not only do it right but do it really well. Solera is a painstakingly time-consuming way of blending various ages and blends to create a one of a kind style of liquid that is often hard to replicate.

This whisky is amazing to drink straight because it has these tasty caramel and fig notes. Aside from that, if you close your eyes when you take a sip you find some creme brûléed banana flavors in there as well.

Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish Rye

Josh Saphier, bartender at Eighteen36 in Houston

I love the Michter’s Rye Toasted Barrel Finish. This rye is especially spicy and barrel proof (varying about 54% ABV). The toasted finish process which is charring the barrel a little extra adds a unique flavor. I get more butter popcorn and it has a distinguishing viscosity.

The Balvenie Double Wood 12 Year

Josh Streetman, bartender at Motor Supply Co. in Columbia, South Carolina

Here I think Scotch. Scotch goes in a ton of flavor directions from smoky to peaty to light and almost citrus. As a middle of the road crowd pleaser or an introductory pour, I recommend The Balvenie. It’s a Highland Scotch that hits all the areas of flavor on the palate and always finishes smooth. Try the Double Wood 12 year as a starter but when you’re hooked on it move on to the 21-year port finish. Best in the game. If you like peat and smoke and an acrimonious but in a good way feel, then Laphroaig is the way to go. Cairdeas or Triple Wood right out of an ice-cold cooler is my jam.

Yamazaki 12 Year

Natalie Migliarini, the mixologist behind Beautiful Booze on Instagram

Yamazaki 12-Year-Old Whisky. I love the fruity notes of the whisky as well as the rich notes of coconut and butter. After spending 3 months traveling Japan I not only have fond memories of sipping on Japanese whisky but was also lucky enough to visit distilleries to see how it is made.

Blanton’s Bourbon

Miki Nikolic, beverage director at The Double Dealer in New Orleans

Blanton’s whiskey. I like it because it’s smooth and carries notes of vanilla, honey, and nutmeg. It’s not only a whiskey we serve at the Double Dealer, but it’s one I prefer to drink at home.

Glenfiddich Gran Cru

Bryan Long, assistant director of food & beverages at Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa in Palm Beach, Florida

The best whisky to drink straight is Glenfiddich Gran Cru 23 Year which is a single malt whisky aged in French and American oak, then finished in French Cuvee barrels. It’s incredibly smooth and the best part is the recommendation to drink a glass of champagne prior to sipping the single malt.

Tullamore D.E.W.

Nate Simmons, bartender at Garden & Grain in Pensacola, Florida

Tullamore D.E.W. Irish Whiskey. Blend of three aged whiskeys that bring smoothness and complexity that is perfect for drinking straight and with a nice light brew on the side.

Glenlivet 18 Year

Zsolt Ducsai, food and beverage director at Serafina Beach Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico

I would highly suggest Glenlivet 18. Among the many famous Scotch whisky distillers in the world, Glenlivet is one the largest, oldest, and most loved. The 18-year-old brand has won more awards than any other. In the beginning of my career, I had a chance to visit the Scotch field and I fell in love with it. The secret is in the cask. First and second-fill American oak and ex-sherry oak. The result of this sliver of perfection is complex, yet elegant, and balanced. With a nice gold-apricot color, the taste evokes ripe citrus, winter spices.

Bowmore 15 Year Darkest

Jake Larowe, bar manager at Birds and Bees in Los Angeles

Bowmore 15 Year Darkest. This is a fantastic Islay Scotch whisky. it’s complex and peaty without being overly smokey, so you don’t lose the flavor of the barrel and the malt.

Michter’s American Whiskey

Piero Procida, bartender at The London West Hollywood in Los Angeles

Michter’s American Whiskey. It’s affordable and it’s easy to drink by itself. I was very impressed when I first tried this whiskey and have not really found anything quite like it. Unlike many bourbons that have a hard, smoky charred spice flavor that is hard to drink without ice, water or soda, Michter’s has a subtle sweetness to it with hints of oak and mint to it that is smooth and easily drinkable by itself and tastes really amazing.

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