A Guide to Popular Brands of Whiskey

Explore the Vast World of Whiskey, One Bottle at a Time

The world of whiskey is filled with a complicated collection of styles, bottles, ages, and specialties and each is priced differently. It can be difficult to navigate all of the brands and choices available, but this guide will help you get started.

In it, you will find a listing of popular whiskey brands listed by style (Irish, scotch, bourbon, Canadian, etc.) and the general price range you can expect to find them at. It is by no means a complete guide to every whiskey available. Instead, it will give you a general idea of what to expect when shopping.

  • 01 of 08

    Whiskey Buying Tips

    Lone Barrel of Littlemill Scotch Whisky
    The Littlemill distillery produced some fine scotch. Though the buildings were destroyed by fire, barrels and bottles remain at a steep price. Photo: Loch Lomond Group

    When choosing whiskey, remember that price will often—though not always—reflect quality. The less expensive to mid-range whiskeys are good 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 will have a different opinion on how to drink a particular whiskey, based on their own 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 go up in price as the supply dwindles.
    • Some bottlings may have similar offerings available at a different price. For instance, one brand may offer an 18-year-old whiskey as well as a "Limited Reserve" bottling at a higher price.
    • Single malts tend to be higher priced than blended whiskeys, especially under the same brand.
    • Climate has a big 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 within their 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 blend.
    • "NAS" is an abbreviation for "No Age Statement." While this is typically not on the label, you will find it in many pricing guides and on 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."

    Whiskey is an ever-changing market. While there are reliable offerings that you can enjoy for years into the future, others will leave the market or be 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. It's intriguing and you'll surely never get bored with all these options.

  • 02 of 08

    Irish Whiskey Brands

    Barrels at the Old James Irish Whiskey Distillery
    Jameson is one of the best known brands of Irish whiskey and they offer a variety of bottlings. Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

    Irish whiskey is generally thought of as one of the smoother styles of whiskey available. No matter the price range, you will find that these whiskeys are good either straight, on the rocks, as a shot, or in a cocktail.

    One of the more interesting aspects about Irish whiskey is that all of these brands are generally produced at one of just three distilleries in Ireland: Bushmills, Cooley, and Midleton. Yet, each brand has its own distinct characteristics.

    Around $30 and Under

    It is not difficult to find an affordable Irish whiskey, though they are generally not the cheapest whiskeys in the bar. Expect to pay a minimum of $20 a bottle, which makes them perfect for an Irish coffee or whiskey ginger.

    You'll also notice that this price point includes some of the best-known brands, including Bushmills, Jameson, and Tullamore Dew.

    $30 to $40 Range

    For about $10 more, you can find upgrades within many of the biggest names in Irish whiskey. These are typically blends that include whiskeys which are just a little older than those found in the brands' flagship bottlings.

    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 is sure to impress.

    $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, you might be able to find a similar offering from that brand to try instead.

    Luxury Over $100

    While Irish whiskey is relatively affordable, some very special bottles can reach the price point of true luxury. These are perfect for special events, to give as gifts, or to reserve as a bottle to pour on the rarest occasions.

    • 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

    Scotch whisky bottles on the bar.
    Scotch is divided into single malt and blended whiskies and, while often thought of as luxury whisky, there are some bargains to be found. DreamPictures/Photolibrary/Getty Images

    If you thought that whiskey in general, was complicated, Scotch whisky is a crazy web of offerings that can be rather confusing at times. You'll find single malts and blended whiskeys, regional differences, and many limited editions to contend with.

    Scotch is generally known as having a smoky, peaty flavor profile that's not found in other styles. Yet, not every scotch is super smoky and some have only a trace. It's best to not discount this entire category if you don't like a smokier whisky.

    Despite this style's reputation as a sophisticated spirit, there are many budget-friendly options 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 an adventure all on its own. This is where you get to taste the regional differences in scotch that make this style so interesting. 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!

    Around $30 and Under

    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.

    $40 to $50 Range

    The majority of the introductory single malts will 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.

    $60 to $100 Range

    When you jump up to the next price range, you will begin to find some of the best scotches available. They're fascinating and among the world's top whiskies, so it's definitely worth savoring every sip.

    • Ardberg 10 YO
    • Bowmore 16 YO
    • Bruichladdich 15 YO
    • Glendronach 12 YO
    • (The) Glenlivet 18 YO
    • Glen Scotia Victoriana
    • Haig Club
    • Highland Park 18 YO
    • Isle of Jura Prophecy
    • Oban 14 YO and Little Bay
    • Old Pulteney 17 YO
    • Scapa 16 YO

    Luxury Over $100

    The average drinker may get a taste of one of these luxurious bottles on the rarest occasions. The $100 mark is only the base here and many of these can sell for much more than that. And, 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. Sometimes, however, it's worth the splurge!

    Blended Scotch Whisky

    Blended Scotch whiskeys are a great introduction to this style of whisky. 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 their cocktails. Not only because they can be more affordable, but they tend to be more versatile as well. 

    Around $20

    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 every day scotches for most drinkers and, though they may not be the smoothest or most refined, these whiskeys are enjoyable.

    $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 unto itself and master blenders are well respected in the industry.

    You will also notice that the blended scotch brands include some of the biggest names, such as Chivas Regal and Johnnie Walker. What's really nice for the consumer is that these brands offer something for every budget. This range is good middle ground: whiskeys you can mix up or enjoy on their own.

    $50 to $100 Range

    In general, scotch is one of the most expensive whiskeys on the market. It's not uncommon for good high-range blends to cost over $50, which is relatively affordable compared to the single malts. These bottles make good gifts and many drinkers choose to reserve them for special occasions.

    Luxury Over $100

    Of course, you can spend as much as you like on any scotch and the blends are no exception. When you see these bottles, expect a price tag that's high, some easily 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 30 YO
    • Johnnie Walker Blue Label
    • Kings Crest 25 YO
    • The Antiquary 21 YO
  • 04 of 08

    Bourbon Whiskey Brands

    Maker's Mark Bourbon Whiskey Distillery
    Inside the front steps of the distillery house at Maker's Mark Bourbon Whisky Distilery. Photo Credit: © Shannon Graham

    Bourbon is one of the most popular styles of whiskey and there is a great range of brands available. There are budget-friendly brands for everyday mixing and reliable brands that are great in any cocktail. You'll also find high-end bottlings that are best reserved for sipping straight. There really is a bourbon out there for everyone!

    Though the majority of these brands are distilled in Kentucky, it is only a requirement by law that bourbon be produced in the United States. There are some craft distilleries throughout the country who are producing wonderful bourbons as well.

    Around $20

    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 a bar and used for shots or as the base for the most popular whiskey mixed drinks. They may not be the smoothest on the market, but they're good and you can't beat the price!

    $30 to $40 Range

    It is in this price range where you'll find the majority of the best-known bourbons on the market. If you're looking for a smooth whiskey that you can sip or mix, these are excellent candidates and definitely worth throwing down a little more cash. With one of these bottles, you can be confident that all your favorite bourbon cocktails will taste great as well.

    $50 to $60 Range

    When you get over $50 in the bourbon market, you're looking at top-shelf bottles. They're impressive, most are impeccably smooth, and you'll definitely want to treat yourself to a sip of these from time to time.

    $70 and Up

    While you can find bourbon over $100, most will stay below that mark. Many of these bottles are aged for an exceptionally long time compared to other bourbons and some are experimental or limited edition releases from famous distilleries. For the most part, they're worth every penny.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Tennessee Whiskey Brands

    Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey Mural on Beale Street
    Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey Mural on Beale Street. Richard Cummins / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images

    Tennessee whiskey is far more limited than any other style because of the distinct "Lincoln County Process" of charcoal filtering. There are only a few distilleries in the state of Tennessee that produce this whiskey—George Dickel and Jack Daniel's are the biggest—and each produces a variety of bottlings.

    Under $30

    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 the other labels the distilleries offer. After all, the best way to find your personal favorite is to taste them for yourself.

    Over $30

    When you're looking for a special bottle from Tennessee, these are the labels to look for. They hold everything you love about each brand's flagship whiskey, but they're a little older or a little more refined.

  • 06 of 08

    Rye Whiskey Brands

    Whiskey Barrels Aging
    Just like all whiskies, rye whiskey requires a little time in the barrel, though there are no regulations about aging. Toby Maudsley/The Image Bank/Getty Images

    Rye whiskey is a classic style of whiskey that fell out of favor for a number of years, but it is back in full force. In recent years, the list of rye whiskey brands went from just a few to a growing list of fantastic whiskeys that are fun to explore. One of the best things about this explosion is that you can taste many of the classic whiskey cocktails the way they were originally made.

    You will notice that rye whiskeys have a spicier bite than others. The rye grain is responsible for this as no other grain can contribute that flavor in the same way. These whiskeys also tend to be rather bold, so there's no need to worry about them getting lost in your drinks!

    Under $30

    It may take some time to find a rye whiskey that you really enjoy, but it's a journey whiskey drinkers are usually more than happy to take on. You'll also notice that many ryes are produced by brands that typically specialize in bourbon. If you have found a preference for a brand's bourbon, it's definitely worth your time to give their rye a try.

    • Crater Lake
    • Old Overholt
    • Jim Beam Rye
    • Rittenhouse Rye
    • Wild Turkey Rye

    Over $30

    The majority of really good rye will cost over $30. These are some of the best whiskeys on the market and many are still affordable enough to be mixed into drinks.

  • 07 of 08

    Canadian Whisky Brands

    Whisky Barrel House
    Canadian whiskies are most often a blend of various aged whiskies, including those distilled from rye, corn, and wheat. inhauscreative / Getty Images

    Typically thought of as smooth and cheap, blended Canadian whiskeys are a quiet, often overlooked bunch of spirits. While a number of the bottlings available do fall into these two stereotypes, there are some very nice Canadian whiskeys on the market.

    Most brands of this style of whiskey have a vast range that includes their affordable and reliable label, which is perfect for almost any cocktail. That same brand will then release special, high-end editions on a regular or rotating basis. These are the whiskeys that you really want to look for because they are often spectacular.

    $20 and Under

    Even at the lower price range, Canadian whisky can be surprisingly smooth. A lot of this is due to the blending expertise that goes into making them. If you're seeking a good, cheap whiskey for nearly any type of drink, explore these offerings. It's hard to find a bottle in any other style that's as affordable and versatile as these.

    $30 to $40 Range

    When you have $30 or more to spend, you will find some very impressive Canadian whiskeys. Since these are blended, each will have a unique character and it's not unheard of for 20 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 see it.

    $50 and Up

    Canadian whisky may be affordable overall, but that does not mean you cannot find spendy bottles, sometimes over $100. When you're in the mood for something really smooth, seek out these labels and enjoy a fine sipping experience.

  • 08 of 08

    More Whiskey Brands

    Replica of a circa 1864 army whiskey barrel. Whiskey was used to treat wounds and disease.
    Replica of a circa 1864 army whiskey barrel. Whiskey was used to treat wounds and disease. Phil Cardamone / E+ / Getty Images

    North America, Scotland, and Ireland may be the best known and highly regarded locations for whiskey production, but it can be made anywhere in the world. There are also a growing number of American craft distilleries that produce whiskeys that rivals anything found within the defined styles.

    Around $20

    Whether it's an unaged white dog (moonshine) or an unknown brand from countries not renowned for their whiskeys, these are interesting finds. They may not be the best, and you'll likely want to mix them, but they're good, affordable options.

    • House Spirits White Dog (United States)
    • Derevenski Samogon Single Rye Pot Still (Lithuania)
    • Three Ships Select (South Africa)

    $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.

    • Armorik Classic (France)
    • Bain's Cape Mountain Whiskey (South Africa)
    • Bastille 1789 Blended (France)
    • Dry Fly Wheat Whiskey (United States)
    • P&M Blended and Single Malt (France)
    • Suntory Toki (Japan)

    Over $50

    As more distillers tap into the international whiskey market, it's interesting to see which well-known style they follow, if any. For instance, the Japanese whiskeys have a distinguishable scotch influence. Many of these top-shelf offerings are also single malts and certainly worth trying when you spot them.