Finding a great booze value is always important, whether you're reaching for the final $20 bill in your wallet or you're saying screw it, and emptying the savings account to splurge on something special. In either instance, you can't afford to make a bad pick. That's why we've put together our can't miss whiskey selections for every booze budget. Happy shopping.
$20 – Old Grand-Dad Bonded
Old Grand-Dad Bonded is the king of the bottom shelf. When you're reaching for your last $20 and need to put it to good use, this is your golden ticket. A rich, high-rye bourbon, the bonded designation ensures it's well aged and that it clocks in at a solid 100 proof. Pour a glass, toss in a few ice cubes and you're set.
Willett is a cult favorite among American whiskey aficionados, and Family Estate Rye is the flagship of their self-distilled lineup. The three-year-old whiskey is a blend of two mash bills with different ratios of rye to corn, and it's bottled at a robust cask strength, making for a powerful sipper with a bold, spicy rye profile.
Glenfiddich 14-year-old, dubbed Bourbon Barrel Reserve, is a super smooth Scotch bottled at 43% ABV. It gets a bourbon-like boost after being finished in new, deep char oak casks, different from the typically used casks in which most Scotch is matured. That gives it a mix of rich, vanilla sweetness atop the typical Glenfiddich fruits.
The annual Buffalo Trace Antique Collection is highly prized not only for its sensational whiskeys but also for the fact that if you can find a bottle at retail, the pricing is phenomenal. The star of the 2016 release was the William Larue Weller. Bottled at a booming 67.7% ABV, the wheated bourbon offers a range of chocolate flavors and manages to not crush your palate despite its high proof.
Lock Stock & Barrel 16 is the older brother of the popular Lock Stock & Barrel 13. It's a sourced Canadian rye from Alberta Distillers, selected and released by Cooper Spirits. It's bottled at 107 proof and offers a spicy, medicinal rye profile with black pepper, licorice, and baking spices. Its suggested pricing is actually $150, so you'll save a few bucks if you target this for the $200 price range. Or if you're looking to impress with a gift, buy this for the boss or father in law or whomever, and spend the extra $50 on one of the above picks to reward yourself for a job well done.
$300 – Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2016
Yamazki's 2016 Sherry Cask release followed up on the award-winning 2013 edition which set the world ablaze. This release is equally as tantalizing as the previous edition. Bottled at 48% ABV, it's all big sherry with nuttiness and rancio, dark chocolate, and raisins. Disclaimer—any lingering bottles of this one are probably going for $3,000 as opposed to $300. But we're basing this on suggested retail pricing otherwise chaos would rule. Chaos. Keep the dream alive that you'll one day walk into some clueless liquor store and somehow find this still available and at face value.
The Kavalan Amontillado Sherry Cask is the stellar standout from a group of all-stars, their new sherry and port cask series. It's a single cask, cask strength release showcasing nuts, honey, sherry, caramel, and oak. The dry Amontillado sherry offers a much different effect on the Kavalan than the richer Oloroso sherry does in the Yamazaki above. We're having you go slightly over budget with this one, with suggested pricing of $599, because that extra hundred spot sets it apart.
$1,000 – Hibiki 30-Year-Old
Beautiful, breathtaking brilliance in a bottle. If Hibiki is the pinnacle of the Suntory profile, then Hibiki 30 is the Mount Everest, soaring above all others. You might have to fly to Japan to find yourself a bottle, and even then you may need to spend a bit more than its starting price of roughly $1,250 to bring it home with you. But rest assured, it will be worth it.
We've been breaking your budget with the last few picks, so on this one, we're going to save you some cash, because Port Ellen 37 Year Old is a mere $4,000. The remaining stock from the shuttered Port Ellen distillery on Islay is what whiskey dreams are made of, and Diageo doles it out just a bit at a time as a core member of its annual special releases portfolio. This is the 16th edition, from the 2016 Diageo Special Releases, and it's a sultry, smoky sensation like the others.
$20,000+ – Bowmore 1961 50-Year-Old
Have a spare $23,000 laying around? Go ahead and treat yourself to the Bowmore 1961 50-Year-Old. You won't regret it.