The world of whiskey is filled with a complicated collection of styles, bottles, ages, and specialties, and each is priced differently. It can be challenging to navigate all of the brands and choices available, but a quick overview will help you get started.
Whiskey is an ever-changing market. While there are reliable bottles that you can enjoy for years into the future, others will be discontinued or replaced by something else. This is great for the adventurous whiskey drinker because you'll always find something new to try or a bottle that jumps off the shelf and grabs your attention.
Within the guide, you will find several popular whiskey brands listed by style (Irish, scotch, bourbon, Canadian, etc.) and the general price range you can expect to pay. It is by no means a complete listing of every whiskey available. Instead, it will give you a general idea of what to expect when shopping.
01 of 08
Whiskey Buying Tips
When choosing whiskey, remember that price will often—though not always—reflect quality. The less expensive to mid-range whiskeys are suitable for everyday drinking and probably your best choices for whiskey cocktails. The high-end whiskeys are typically reserved for sipping straight or with a splash of water. However, everyone has a different opinion on how to drink a particular whiskey, and it often depends on their budget and preferences.
- All price ranges are an average of what a bottle may sell for at a retailer.
- Whiskey prices change over time. For instance, a rare or limited edition bottling may increase as the supply dwindles. Several economic factors may cause whiskey prices to rise or fall across the entire industry as well.
- Some whiskeys may have similar offerings available at a different price. For instance, one brand may offer an 18-year-old whiskey and a "Limited Reserve" expression of the same age at a higher price.
- Single malts tend to be higher priced than blended whiskeys.
- Climate has a significant impact on the time needed to age a whiskey. You will notice that Scotch whiskeys spend three to five decades in the barrel, while American whiskeys max out at around 10 years. It depends on the distiller's desired whiskey adapted to regional conditions.
- "YO" is an abbreviation for "Year Old," which indicates how many years the whiskey was aged in a barrel. In the case of blended whiskeys, it may refer to an average of the individual whiskeys in the blend, the youngest whiskey used, or, in rare cases, the oldest whiskey in the mix.
- "NAS" is an abbreviation for "No Age Statement." While this is typically not on the label, you will find it on many reviews and retailers' websites. Some styles of whiskey are not required to indicate age, and some distillers choose not to disclose the information. Maker's Mark is a good example; as owner Bill Samuels once said, "It ages until it's done, which is about eight years."
- The laws for shipping alcohol vary greatly throughout the world. Depending on where you live, it may be possible to buy whiskey online, and that opens the options available to you. If that's not feasible, seek out a local whiskey shop or liquor store with a really good stock for the hard-to-find bottles.
02 of 08
Irish Whiskey Brands
One of the more interesting aspects about Irish whiskey is that most brands were produced at one of just three distilleries in Ireland—Bushmills, Cooley, and Midleton—for several years. Yet, each brand has distinct characteristics, and this is changing as more Irish distilleries open.
Around $30 and Under
It is not difficult to find affordable Irish whiskey, though they are generally not the cheapest whiskeys. Expect to pay a minimum of $20 a bottle. You'll also notice that this price point includes some of the best-known brands, including Bushmills, Jameson, and Tullamore Dew. Any of these are perfect for an Irish coffee or whiskey ginger.
- 2 Gingers
- Bushmills Original
- (The) Knot 100 Proof
- Powers Irish Whiskey Gold Label (formerly John Power and Son)
- Proper No. 12
- Tullamore Dew
$30 to $40 Range
For about $10 more, you can find upgrades from the biggest names in Irish whiskey. These are typically blends that include whiskeys just a little older than those found in the brands' flagship bottles.
There are also some lesser-known gems in this style worth picking up when you come across them. Look for names like Slieve Foy, The Irishman, and Tyrconnell for a premium Irish whiskey that will impress.
- Black Bush
- Clontarf Single Malt
- Connemara Peated Single Malt
- Glendalough Double Barrel
- (The) Irishman Single Malt
- Kavanagh Single Malt and Single Grain
- Knappogue Castle Single Malt 12 YO
- Slieve Foy Single Malt 8 YO
- (The) Tyrconnell Single Malt
$50 and Up
Premium Irish whiskeys are available, though you may have to put some work into hunting these down. You'll notice a lot of single malts, single grains, and well-aged whiskeys in this list. If you can't find a particular label, the brand may have a similar expression to try instead.
- Bushmills Single Malt 10 YO
- Connemara Cask Strength Peated Single Malt
- Glendalough Single Malt 13 YO
- Greenore Single Grain 8 YO
- Green Spot Pot Still
- (The) Irishman Single Malt 12 YO
- Knappogue Castle Single Malt 12 YO
- Powers John's Lane
- Redbreast 12 YO
- Teeling Single Grain and Single Malt
- Tullamore Dew 12 YO Special Reserve
Luxury Over $100
While Irish whiskey is relatively affordable, some exceptional bottles can reach the price point of true luxury. These are perfect for special occasions and gifts.
- Bushmills 1608 and 21 YO
- Greenore Single Grain 18 YO
- Jameson 18 YO, Gold Reserve, and Rarest Vintage Reserve
- Kilbeggan 18 YO
- Midleton Very Rare
03 of 08
Scotch Whisky Brands
If you thought that whiskey was complicated, scotch has a web of offerings that can be confusing at times. In your explorations, you'll encounter single malts and blended whiskeys, regional differences, and many limited editions.
Scotch is generally known for a smoky, peaty flavor profile not found in other styles, though some have only a trace. Even if you don't like a smokier whiskey, don't discount this category.
Despite this style's reputation as a sophisticated spirit, many budget-friendly options are available. There is also no reason why you should not mix scotch into cocktails. Some of the best drinks you can make—the Rob Roy and rusty nail, for instance—rely on it.
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Exploring single malt Scotch whisky is its own adventure. This is where you get to taste the regional differences in scotch that make this style so engaging. You can sample the elegance of the Highlands or Speyside, the boldness of the Islay offerings, and the saltiness from The Islands. It's a journey that can take you to fascinating places without the need to leave home.
You will not find many single malts for under $30, though there are a few. These are excellent choices for mixed drinks, and it's not a bad idea to keep one in your bar's stock.
- Auchentoshan American Oak (Lowlands)
- Glenfiddich 12 YO (Speyside)
- Speyburn 10 YO (Speyside)
$40 to $50 Range
The majority of the introductory single malts fall into this price range. Enjoy these on their own or as scotch on the rocks, allowing the ice to open up the whisky's subtle aromas and flavors.
- Ardberg 10 YO (Islay)
- Bowmore Legend (Islay)
- Deanston 12 YO (Highlands)
- Glen Garioch 12 YO (Highlands)
- (The) Glenlivet 12 YO (Speyside)
- Glen Scotia Double Cask (Campbeltown)
- Highland Park 12 YO (Orkney)
- Laphroaig 10 YO (Islay)
- (The) Macallan Fine Oak 12 YO (Highlands)
$60 to $100 Range
When you jump up to the next price range, you begin to find some of the best scotches available. They're fascinating and among the world's top whiskies, so it's worth savoring every sip.
- Bowmore 16 YO (Islay)
- Bruichladdich The Laddie 10 (Islay)
- Glendronach 12 YO (Highlands)
- (The) Glenlivet 18 YO (Speyside)
- Glen Scotia Victoriana (Campbeltown)
- Isle of Jura Prophecy (Islands)
- Oban 14 YO and Little Bay (Highlands)
- Old Pulteney 15 YO (Highlands)
- Scapa Skiren (Orkney)
Luxury Over $100
The average drinker may taste one of these luxurious bottles on the rarest occasion. The $100 mark is only the base here, and many of these sell for thousands, particularly if they're of a certain vintage sought by collectors. Even if you can't afford these, explore the distillery's other offerings for some fine whiskeys.
Be careful when ordering these at a bar, too. That tempting bottle far up on the top shelf can easily cost $50 or more for a two-finger pour.
- (The) Balvenie Madeira Cask 17 YO (Speyside)
- Glenfarclas 25 YO (Speyside)
- Glenfiddich 50 YO (Speyside)
- (The) Glenrothes 18 YO (Speyside)
- (The) Macallan 25 YO and Estate Reserve (Highlands)
- Mortlach 16 YO (Speyside)
- Springbank 15 YO (Campbeltown)
Blended Scotch Whisky
Blended Scotch whisky is a great introduction to this style. They tend to have a well-rounded character and less smoke and regional characteristics than the single malts, making them more approachable.
These are also the whiskeys many drinkers prefer for cocktails. Not only because they can be more affordable, but they also tend to be more versatile.
If you pay attention at the bar, you will likely find one of these bottles in the well where the most used and lowest priced liquors are kept. They're good everyday scotches for most drinkers and, though they may not be the smoothest or most refined, these whiskeys are enjoyable.
- Ballantine's Finest
- Cutty Sark
- Dewars White Label
- (The) Famous Grouse The Black Grouse
- Johnnie Walker Red Label
- Loch Lomond Signature
$30 to $40 Range
Many blended scotch producers specialize in the blending side of the whisky-making process and leave the distilling to others. Producing consistent whiskeys from multiple whiskeys is an art, and master blenders are well respected in the industry.
Blended scotch brands include some of the biggest names, such as Chivas Regal and Johnnie Walker. What's nice for the consumer is that these brands offer something for every budget. This range is an excellent middle ground: whiskeys you can mix up or enjoy on their own.
- Chivas Regal 12 YO
- Compass Box Orangerie and The Peat Monster
- Highland Harvest Organic
- Johnnie Walker Black Label and Double Black
$50 to $100 Range
In general, scotch is one of the most expensive whiskeys. It's not uncommon for good high-range blends to cost over $50, which is relatively affordable compared to single malts. These bottles make good gifts, and many drinkers choose to reserve them for special occasions.
- (The) Antiquary 21 YO
- Buchanan's 18 YO
- Chivas Regal 18 YO
- Compass Box Hedonism
- Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve and Aged 18 Years (previously Platinum Label)
- Tomintoul Oloroso Cask 12 YO
- Wild Scotsman Black Label
Luxury Over $100
You can spend as much as you like on scotch, and the blends are no exception. When you see these bottles, expect a high price tag, some quickly reaching a few hundred dollars or more. They're just as beautiful as any single malt and worth tasting at least once if you get the chance.
- Ballantine's 30 YO
- Chivas Regal 25 YO
- Duncan Taylor Black Bull 21 YO
- Johnnie Walker Blue Label
- King's Crest 25 YO
04 of 08
Bourbon Whiskey Brands
Bourbon is one of the most popular styles of whiskey, and there is a bourbon out there for everyone. From budget-friendly brands for everyday mixing to reliable premium labels worthy of any whiskey cocktail, you'll also find high-end bottlings best reserved for sipping.
Though Kentucky is home to most bourbon, the law simply requires that bourbon be produced in the United States. There are several craft distilleries throughout the country making fantastic bourbons, and they're worth checking out as well.
It's not hard to find an affordable bourbon that suits your taste. Many of these are tried and true favorites that are regularly stocked in bars where they're used for shots and basic mixed drinks. They may not be the smoothest on the market, but they're good, and you can't beat the price.
- Ancient Age
- Benchmark Old No 8
- Four Roses Yellow Label
- Jim Beam White Label, Black Label, and Devil's Cut
- Old Forester 100 Proof Signature
$30 to $60 Range
The majority of the best-known bourbons are in this price range. If you're looking for a smooth premium whiskey that you can sip or mix, they're excellent candidates and worth throwing down a little more cash. You can be confident that all your favorite bourbon cocktails will taste great with one of these top-shelf bottles.
- Angel's Envy
- Baker's 7 Year
- Basil Hayden
- Buffalo Trace
- Cedar Ridge
- Corner Creek Reserve
- Dry Fly Bourbon 101
- Eagle Rare 10 YO
- Four Rose's Single Barrel
- Jefferson's Reserve
- King's County Bourbon
- Knob Creek
- Maker's Mark
- Wild Turkey 101
- Woodford Reserve
Bourbon's dominance in the whiskey scene has created several expressions priced alongside the most expensive scotches. Many of these are aged for an exceptionally long time compared to other bourbons, and some are experimental or limited-edition releases from famous distilleries. Sought out by serious whiskey collectors, the prices can reach hundreds and thousands of dollars, depending on the vintage and rarity.
Continue to 5 of 8 below.
- Angel's Envy Cask Strength
- Blanton's Single Barrel
- Booker's Small Batch
- Michter's 10 Year Single Barrel
- Old Forester Birthday Bourbon
- Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 15 Year
- Woodford Reserve Master's Collection
05 of 08
Tennessee Whiskey Brands
Tennessee whiskey is far more limited than any other style because of regulations, including the charcoal filtering known as the "Lincoln County Process." There are only a few distilleries in the state of Tennessee that follow the guidelines—George Dickel and Jack Daniel's are the biggest—and each has a variety of bottlings.
While Jack Daniel's is a better-known name, George Dickel has many devoted fans that prefer it. If you enjoy the charcoal taste of one, give the other a try or explore other labels the distilleries offer.
- George Dickel No. 8
- George Dickel No. 12
- Jack Daniels Old No. 7 Black Label
- Nelson's Greenbrier
When you're looking for a special bottle from Tennessee, these are the labels to seek out. They hold everything you love about each brand's flagship whiskey but are a bit older or more refined.
- Clayton James
- Gentleman Jack
- George Dickel 15 YO
- George Dickel Barrel Select
- Jack Daniels Single Barrel Select
- Prichard's Double Tennesee Whiskey (no filtering)
- Uncle Nearest
06 of 08
Rye Whiskey Brands
Rye whiskey is a classic style of American whiskey that fell out of the limelight for several years. Only a handful of distilleries produced it until the rye revival in the late 2000s when a growing list of fantastic rye whiskeys emerged on the market. Much of this was due to a renewed interest in tasting classic whiskey cocktails the way they were originally made with rye whiskey.
Rye whiskeys have a spicier bite than others, which is a result of the rye, as no other grain can contribute spice in the same way. These whiskeys also tend to be rather bold, so there's no need to worry about them getting lost in drinks.
It may take some time to find a rye whiskey that you really enjoy, but it's a challenge whiskey drinkers are usually more than happy to take on. Several ryes are produced by brands that typically specialize in bourbon. If you found a preference for a brand's bourbon, it's worth your time to give their rye a try.
- Crater Lake
- Old Overholt
- Jim Beam Rye
- Rittenhouse Rye
- Sazerac Rye
- Wild Turkey Rye
The majority of really good rye will cost over $30 a bottle. These are some of the best whiskeys on the market, and many are still affordable enough for cocktails.
- Abraham Bowman Rye
- Anchor Old Potrero 18th Century Style
- Bulleit Rye
- High West Double Rye
- Knob Creek Rye
- Michter's US*1 Kentucky Straight Rye
- Milam & Green Straight Rye Port Cask
- Pikesville Rye
- Roaming Man Tennessee Straight Rye
- Sagamore Spirit Rye
- Templeton Rye
- WhistlePig Rye
- Woodford Reserve Rye
- Yellow Rose Rye
07 of 08
Canadian Whisky Brands
Typically thought of as smooth and cheap, blended Canadian whiskeys are a quiet, often overlooked bunch of spirits. While many follow these stereotypes, some very nice Canadian whiskeys are on the market.
Most brands of Canadian whisky have a range that includes an affordable and reliable expression perfect for cocktails and special, high-end editions. The top-shelf options may be regulars are rotate in and out and are the whiskeys to pursue because they are often spectacular.
Around $20 or Less
Even at the lower price range, Canadian whisky can be surprisingly smooth due to the blending expertise behind the spirit. Explore these labels if you're seeking a good, cheap whiskey for nearly any type of drink. It's hard to find a bottle in any other style that's as affordable and versatile.
- Black Velvet
- Canadian Club Original 1858 and Reserve 9 YO
- Canadian Mist
- Collingwood Select
- Crown Royal Deluxe
- Forty Creek Barrel Select
- Seagrams VO
- Windsor Canadian
$30 to $50 Range
You will find some very impressive Canadian whiskeys when you have a little more to spend. Since these are blended, each has a unique character, and it's not unheard of for 20 or more different whiskeys to go into the finished product. The artistry of blending in Canada rivals that of Scotland, and this is the range where you really begin to notice it.
- 8 Seconds
- Canadian Club Small Batch
- Crown Royal Black and Reserve
- Forty Creek Three Grain
- J.P. Wisers Deluxe 18 YO
Overall, Canadian whisky may be affordable, but that does not mean you cannot find spendy bottles, sometimes well over $100 for rare collector's bottles. When you're in the mood for something ultra-smooth, any of these ensure a fine sipping experience.
- Canadian Club 30 YO
- Crown Royal Extra Rare (XR)
- Glen Breton Rare 10 YO and 14 YO Single Malt
- J.P. Wiser's Red Letter
08 of 08
More Whiskey Brands
North America, Scotland, and Ireland may be the best-known and highly regarded locations for whiskey production, but this spirit can be made anywhere in the world. There are also many American craft distilleries that produce whiskeys that rival anything found within the defined styles.
These are interesting finds, whether it's an unaged white dog (moonshine) or an unknown brand from countries not renowned for whiskey. They may not be the best, and you'll likely want to mix them, but they're good affordable options.
- Derevenski Samogon Single Rye Pot Still (Lithuania)
- Ole Smoky Moonshine (United States)
- Sugarlands Shine (United States)
- Tim Smith's Climax Moonshine (United States)
$30 to $40 Range
Exploring the craft whiskey market is worth your time. Whether it's made in the U.S., France, or South Africa, picking up a bottle that's unknown to you that falls in this price range is rarely disappointing. Sure, you may turn back to an old favorite, but you'll never know if you like one of these just as much unless you try it.
- 45th Parallel Wisconsin Wheat Whiskey (United States)
- Armorik Classic (France)
- Bain's Cape Mountain Whiskey (South Africa)
- Bastille 1789 Blended (France)
- Dogfish Head Straight Whiskey (United States)
- Dry Fly Wheat Whiskey (United States)
- House Spirits White Dog (United States)
- P&M Blended and Single Malt (France)
- Still 630 White Whiskey (United States)
- Suntory Toki (Japan)
- Three Ships (South Africa)
As more distillers tap into the international whiskey market, it's interesting to see if they follow a well-known style or create something entirely unique. Japanese whiskeys, for instance, have a distinguishable scotch influence. Many of these top-shelf offerings are also single malts and certainly worth trying when you spot them.
- Adnams Southwold Single Malt (United Kingdom)
- Amrut Single Malt (India)
- English Whisky Co. Classic Single Malt (United Kingdom)
- Kavalan Classic and King Car Single Malt (Taiwan)
- New Zealand Whisky Collection (New Zealand)
- Nikka Yoichi Single Malt and Coffey (Japan)
- Pacific Coast Spirits American Single Malt (United States)
- Sullivans Cove Single Malt (Australia)
- Suntory Hibiki and Yamazaki (Japan)