10 Top Shelf Whiskeys Worthy of a Celebration
Building a well-stocked home bar is a great way to be prepared for any party or gathering. And while the basics — vodka, gin, rum and whiskey — are essential, if you really want to impress your guests, enjoy a great glass to sip neat or make your favorite cocktails at home, you should consider expanding your collection to include some top-shelf whiskeys. These premium liquors can make all the difference in the taste and presentation of your drinks.
No matter what your taste, there’s a premium whiskey out there that’s sure to please. With a little effort, you can easily find the perfect bottle (or bottles) to take your home bar from ordinary to extraordinary.
10 Top Shelf Whiskey Bottles to Buy For Your Home Bar
The Macallan Double Cask 15 Year Single Malt Scotch Whisky
For centuries, Scotland has been renowned for its whiskies. The smooth, mellow spirit has long been a favorite of connoisseurs worldwide, and the country’s distilleries have worked hard to maintain their reputation for quality.
Recently, however, the scotch whisky industry has been facing some challenges. A shortage of sherry casks has led to a shortage of scotch that is typically matured in them. As a result, many distilleries are now using ex-bourbon casks instead.
The Macallan 15 Year is a perfect example of this transition. The whisky is aged in both sherry and ex-bourbon casks and bottled at 86 proof.
Macallan 15’s price varies widely in the U.S., starting at about $85 and sometimes costing more than $150.
Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 15-Year Old Bourbon Whiskey
Next up is Pappy Van Winkle’s 15-Year-Old Bourbon Whiskey. This one is for you if you’re looking to spend an arm and a leg on the world’s most coveted bourbon. Pappy Van Winkle is likely the rarest, most desired bourbon brand on the planet. This bourbon is made using a family recipe and aged for 15 years in American white oak barrels, resulting in a smooth and well-rounded flavor.
Buffalo Trace describes the tasting notes as “An elegant and sweet aroma with caramel corn and vanilla. Features big flavor of leather, oak and complex fruitiness. Finishes smooth with notes of spice and oak tannins.”
Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year retails for $120, but good luck finding it at retail value. Pappy Van Winkle whiskeys go for thousands of dollars on secondary markets. ReserveBar has Pappy 15 in stock for $2,500. Of course, if you’re willing to spend the premium price, having a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle on your home bar is a hell of a crown jewel. It’s certainly something to show off — but only to people you’re positive won’t try to heist it off your hands.
Sazerac 18 Year Old Rye Whiskey
If you’re looking for a great rye whiskey, look no further than the Sazerac 18-Year Old Rye Whiskey. This rye is distilled in New Orleans and aged for 18 years in the barrel, resulting in a complex flavor profile with notes of spice and vanilla.
According to Sazerac, its rye whiskey dates back to the 1800s, around the time when saloons, veiled as Coffee Houses, began lining the streets of New Orleans. At the Sazerac Coffee House on Royal Street, local patrons were served toddies made with Sazerac Rye Whiskey and Peychaud’s Bitters.
The name “Sazerac” doesn’t quite have the same cachet as “Pappy,” but make no mistake — this 18-year-old rye whiskey is in the same vein as Pappy Van Winkle in terms of its rarity and astronomical value on secondary markets. The average price for this whiskey is $2,329, according to Wine-Searcher.
Yamazaki 12-Year Single Malt Whisky
The Yamazaki 12 Years Old is a Japanese whisky that was first released in 1984. It is made at the Yamazaki distillery in Japan’s Kyoto Prefecture. The whisky is aged for 12 years in oak casks, during which time it develops a deep amber color.
It has a complex aroma with vanilla, mint, and molasses notes. The flavor is said to be sweet with brown sugar and spice notes, followed by oak, toffee, dark fruit, and anise. The finish is long and smooth with serious depth.
The Yamazaki name carries serious weight. Certain Yamazaki whiskeys sell for upwards of half a million dollars. Yamazaki 12 is much, much cheaper than those upper-echelon whiskies but maintains top-shelf status, usually retailing for between $150 and $250.
Highland Park 18 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Highland Park 18 Year Old is a highly- acclaimed whisky that has received praise from experts all over the world. It is frequently lauded for its exceptional quality and was even named “Best Spirit in the World” by F. Paul Pacult of the Spirit Journal.
Tasting notes from the distillery say it’s full and honeyed, with a peaty finish that lingers on the palate. This whisky is best enjoyed neat or on the rocks, as the ice can dull its delicate flavors. Highland Park 18 Year Old is a complex whisky that rewards slow sipping and savoring.
Highland Park 18 Year Old retails for about $150. Find it at a Total Wine near you or order it from ReserveBar.
Blanton’s Single Barrel
Blanton’s Single Barrel is said to have deep, satisfying nose of nutmeg and spices. Powerful dry vanilla notes are in harmony with hints of honey amid strong caramel and corn. A medium finish is composed of returning corn and nutmeg flavors.
Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible calls Blanton’s “Liquid Gold,” and the bourbon has won numerous other awards.
Blanton’s isn’t Pappy Van Winkle, but the name certainly garners a high level of desire. Blanton’s single barrel retails for $65, but if you find it at that price, you’re probably getting scammed (and if you aren’t, you should buy it immediately).
ReserveBar has Blanton’s Single Barrel for $299.
Eagle Rare 17-Year-Old Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey
Eagle Rare 17-Year-Old Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey is a highly rated bourbon with a fragrant, wine-like aroma and a delicate, dry flavor.
Tasting notes include hints of almond, cigar boxes, and cinnamon while the leather, vanilla, and tobacco notes give it a classic flavor. The long finish lingers with hints of leather and toffee.
This is another of the whiskeys on this list whose retail price is relatively modest ($99) but sells for much more than that on secondary markets. Per Wine-Searcher, this whiskey’s average price is $2,529.
Ardbeg Uigeadail Single Malt Scotch Whisky
One of the easier-to-track-down options on this list, Ardbeg Uigeadail is a single malt scotch whisky that gets its name from the loch from which all Ardbeg water flows. It is a marriage of Ardbeg from bourbon barrels and sherry butts, giving it a sweet and smoky finish. Ardbeg Uigeadail has won numerous awards, including World Whisky of the Year in 2009 and Best Whisky in the World in 2011.
Find Ardbeg Uigeadail from ReserveBar for $95.
Johnnie Walker Blue Label Blended Scotch Whisky
Johnnie Walker is one of the more recognizable scotch brands in the U.S. This scotch is made using a blend of over 40 different malt and grain whiskies. It’s then aged for an undefined period of time in ex-sherry casks. The result is a smooth, well-rounded scotch with fruit, honey, and spice notes.
Jay West, our spirits critic, said it best: “It is the perfect CEO / business class whiskey. It’s also the perfect gift. You don’t have to think about it- approachable and easy, but the price tag stings.”
Find Johnnie Walker Blue Label from ReserveBar for $284 or at a Total Wine near you for a good bit cheaper (probably $205-$230, depending on your location).
If you’re looking to avoid the top shelf, check out our other collections featuring the top 10 bourbons under $75, top six rye whiskeys under $100 and top five Irish whiskeys under $75.
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