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We Asked Bartenders To Name Whiskeys That Don’t Get Enough Respect

The whiskey market is a confusing place. It’s hard to get that elusive r-e-s-p-e-c-t. Sometimes critics like a brand more than the public does. Other times, the situation is reversed. Some brands end up selling like gangbusters but everyone claims to hate them. Others are ignored from the conversation altogether.

Today, we’re looking at chronically misjudged whiskeys. Maybe it’s because they’re cheap, ubiquitous, over-hyped, have an unusual flavor profile, favored by college kids, or they’re the brand our grandpas all drank. None of those factors necessarily means that a whiskey isn’t good. We all can think of a bottle that seems like it gets slighted all too often in the drinks convo.

We asked a few bartenders to name brands that they think deserve more respect. They were all too willing to shout out their unjustly-wronged favs.

Old Crow

Hayden Miller, head bartender at Bodega Taqueria y Tequila in Miami

Old Crow. It was the house shot at a bar I frequented after shifts at a cafe in Chicago. Something about the bare knuckle punch and the no frills nature of this bottom shelf whiskey will always hit the spot for me.

Early Times Kentucky Whiskey

Ellen Talbot, lead bartender at Fable Lounge in Nashville

The whiskey that I love that doesn’t really get the love it deserves is Early Times. It was my pick for late nights in college and I still love it today. It’s a simple, no frills whiskey that’s always there for you.

Jim Beam Bourbon

Matt Shields, bartender at The Bay Restaurant in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida

Anyone that knows me, knows that my go-to whiskey when I’m out and about is Jim Beam. While I appreciate so many other whiskey brands and distilleries, I know that I can practically find Jim anywhere I go. It’s a solid whiskey, and I think in a blind taste test it surprises a lot of other brands.

Old Grand-Dad Bourbon

Blake Jones, bartender and director of beverage at The Kennedy in Pensacola, Florida

My pick is Old Grand-Dad Bourbon. It’s one of the most iconic brands for a reason. Plus, you really can’t beat the price for Old Grand-Dad Bonded. It’s around $25 and perfect for cocktails.

Wild Turkey American Honey

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Danielle Becker, bartender at the Aspen Meadows Resort in Aspen, Colorado

Wild Turkey American Honey. It’s a sweet flavored whiskey and gets such ribbing. However, it makes such amazing cocktails (our Copper Kettle, for example). It’s not a great masterpiece in whiskey making, but the flavor it adds to a drink is awesome.

Chivas Regal Blended Scotch

Freddy Concepcion Ucan Tuz, bartender at JW Marriott in Cancun, Mexico

In particular, when I sell whisky, it is mostly subjective. Each guest has a preference. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you a whisky which everyone really hates. Me personally I like Chivas Regal, especially due to the orange notes, the spiciness, and smoke. But sometimes it seems like blended Scotches get a bad rap.

Ardbeg Scotch

Wesley MacDonald, owner of Caña Bar and Kitchen in Curaçao

Ardbeg. It’s a peat bomb and you love it or you hate it. Haters will say it is like drinking an ashtray. I happen to love it, but it is definitely not the whisky to get someone started on his or her whisky journey.

Woodford Reserve Rye

Kyle Walter, bartender at Grayton Beer Brewpub in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida

Woodford, specifically their rye whiskey. It gets a bad rap but for being a mid-shelf whiskey. But it holds up. It’s great in a Boulevardier. I suggest the original rye, or you could ramp up to their Double Oaked.

Kilchoman Scotch

Juyoung Kang, lead bartender at The Dorsey in Las Vegas

I don’t think there’s a whisky that everyone hates that I love. However, I love Scotch — mostly soft, peaty ones like Kilchoman and Auchentoshan. When it comes to Scotch, many people have trouble diving into it because of the stigmas surrounding it.

Writer’s Picks:

Seagram’s Seven Crown

Just because it comes in a plastic handle, that doesn’t immediately make a whiskey (or whisky) bad. If you’re going to make a proper 7 and 7, you’re going to need Seagram’s Seven Crown. This blended whiskey doesn’t particularly shine on its own but works well in the iconic cocktail.

Evan Williams Bourbon

There’s no hiding the fact that this whiskey is crazy cheap. You can probably pick up a bottle for under $15. But, if you’re mixing up Jack and colas or looking for a really reasonably priced sipper, Evan Williams is your bottle.

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