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The Most Well-Balanced Whiskeys On The Market, According To Bartenders

By now, you should have spent at least some of your time in quarantine ordering and restocking your liquor cabinet (or maybe just emptying it). But if you still have a few spots open, you should definitely fill them with whiskey. And not just any whiskey. You’re stuck at home so you’re going to want to enjoy what your drinking. You should be on the lookout for a well-balanced juice that pairs the optimal amount of heat with the perfect level of corn sweetness and plenty of velvety smoothness.

Since you can’t just take a leisurely stroll around your local liquor store looking at labels and chatting with clerks, you’re going to have to get your info from someone else. Lucky for you, we’ve already done the legwork for you. Or… we delegated the legwork by asking our favorite bartenders to select their favorite perfectly balanced bottles of whiskey.

Michter’s American Whiskey

Peter Ruppert, beverage director at Short Stories in New York City

My go-to has always been Michter’s American and it’s because it tastes like bourbon. There’s a lot of good whiskey out there but when I want to drink good, old fashioned, well-balanced American flavored juice that’s the most reliable blend.

Wyoming Whiskey

Jordan David Smith, spirits director and head bartender at HALL in New York City

I’m pretty partial to Wyoming Whiskey. I’m a sucker for bourbons that use wheat as the second most voluminous product in the mash, and the wheat here clocks in around 20%. And at around $40, it’s exceedingly affordable — especially considering that it’s got such an amazing balance of sweet and savory notes, richness and heat, structure and finish. Add in the fact that it’s bottled at 44% ABV as a nod to Wyoming’s status as the 44th State in the Union and the history nerd in me says: “get me to The Suffrage State (Wyoming was actually the first state to grant women the right to vote, in 1869. Bet you wouldn’t have guessed!).”

Buffalo Trace Bourbon

James Arensault, director of food & beverage at Harbor View Hotel on Martha’s Vineyard

It’s really hard to beat the perfection of Buffalo Trace bourbon. Much of the appeal is because it has smoky aspects as well as being known for its smoothness.

Jim Beam Bourbon

Everson Rawlings, mixologist at Scrub Island Resort Spa and Marina in the British Virgin Islands

My go-to bourbon is Jim Beam. As a mixologist, some like to call me a “cheftender” and Jim Beam pairs the perfect heat and flavor for my signature smoked mango bourbon sauce. It’s also perfectly balanced on its own. There’s a reason it’s one of the most popular bourbons.

Maker’s Mark Cask Strength Bourbon

Scott Daniel, bartender at The Ballantyne in Charlotte, North Carolina

Maker’s Mark in its Cask Strength expression. The higher, straight-from-the-barrel proof of between 108-113 gives the right amount of heat, while the inclusion of red winter wheat in the mash bill allows the lush vanilla and caramel flavors to stand out. We proudly offer two of our own Ballantyne Hotel Private Selection Maker’s Mark expressions, which we personally designed at the distillery in 2017 and 2019.

Old Forester 1920 Bourbon

Zac Johnson, general manager at JJ’s Wine, Spirits, and Cigars in Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Old Forester 1920 without a doubt. For something that is 115 proof, it carries rich, dark fruit, while not overwhelming you with bite. It’s a go-to everyday bottle for me because as long as I have a glass, I can drink it. What makes it my favorite in the Whiskey Row series is how much you can change it just by adding some water. At 115 proof, I get a lot of cherries and dark chocolate notes, at 100 proof I get more caramel and toffee, and at 90 proof, it’s all vanilla and brown sugar. It really morphs and creates an incredible drinking experience from beginning to end.

Belle Meade Sherry Cask Bourbon

Brandon Carter, chef at FARM in Bluffton, South Carolina

I’m a big fan of the Sherry Cask finished Belle Meade. Pound for pound it’s one of the best ones out there right now. In my opinion, it’s a perfect balance between heat and smooth, corn sweetness.

Hudson Baby Bourbon

Sebastien Derbomez, brand advocacy manager of William Grant & Sons

My go-to will be Hudson Baby Bourbon. It’s the first legal pot-still whiskey to be produced in New York since prohibition. Hudson pairs the perfect amount of heat with smoothness due to its aging process and its raw ingredient. It is made at the Tuthilltown Distillery from 100% New York corn and aged in tiny barrels which gives this whiskey a long finish, slightly hot.

WhistlePig Straight Rye

Jon Joseph, bartender at JL Bar Ranch, Resort & Spa in Sonora, Texas

One of the resort favorites is WhistlePig Straight Rye Whiskey. It has the perfect amount of spice and smoothness. When the whiskey hits your tongue, one gets the perfect amount of spicy right off the bat. Then you start to get cocoa and the classic leather flavors. When the finish starts to develop, the beautiful vanilla and citrus round out this great whiskey.

Old Grand-Dad Bonded Bourbon

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

Old Grand-Dad Bonded has always been a standby of mine. This go-to definitely relates back to post-shift drinks in Chicago, paired best with a cold beer. While it is not my cocktail bourbon of choice, it has the proof to pinch-hit in an old fashioned and hold its own.

Redemption High Rye Bourbon

Nicole Quist, beverage director at Bartaco in Aventura, Florida

I’ve been enjoying Redemption High Rye Bourbon. It’s full of sweet notes with just enough strong rye to spice it up. All on all, a perfectly balanced, hard to forget whiskey.