Let’s just state from the outset that these recommendations are based solely on what I like. I am neither a whiskey somme nor a snob. The descriptions that follow will be lucky to contain any truly inspired tasting notes because until marriage my tasting palate was between Taco Bell and Freschetta Pizza. These are also the bottles I am able to have reliably in my own collection. Since they will be brief, read them in the voice of Ron Swanson in your head. It will make them sound more assured.
Old Forester 1920 – It’s good.
Michter’s (Bourbon not the American Whiskey and not the Sour Mash. Though the latter gives the bourbon a run for it’s money)- Friendly but quirky lots of vanilla it holds it own with a cigar I run a distinct risk of drinking it too often.
Hulling Station Straight Bourbon – It has a spice but finishes kind of flat. I am not giving this a shout out because it is mixed here in Memphis, but because I frequently drink at Hammer and Ale a table away from Alex Castle the head distiller at Old Dominick where this is from. She is very cool, and kind of scares me.
Wild Turkey 101 – Don’t judge me. It’s affordable and good.
Wild Turkey Rare Breed – A strong contender for second place in my heart after the OF 1920, plus one proof point higher!
Colonel E. H. Taylor Small Batch – Calm down Buffalo Trace people, and yes I know about Weller, all of them but they are over priced now. The Colonel is aggressive and orangey. You shouldn’t mix it into a mint julep because it is so good neat, but also, you should mix it in a mint julep.
Old Ezra 7 Year – This one appears and disappears on shelves, there are usually hundreds stacked in their boxes on the end of an isle or none to be had for love nor money. If you find two send me one. It has a dry hazelnut and toffee flavor and stands out from the richer sweater bourbons.
Angels Envy Rye – It tastes like Christmas in a glass. Sugary sweet with warm baking spices.
Willett Rye 4 Year – Aggressive and heavy spice, strong alcohol on the nose.
Sazerac Rye – I merely put this one here because I am told it is allocated everywhere else and I want to gloat how available it is here. Also a good “in-between the Willett and the Angels Envy
Scotch (Single Malt unless stated otherwise)
Ardbeg – I have never met an Ardbeg I didn’t like. If there is a cult of Ardbeg I will join it. I love the smoke of Ardbeg, I love the look of Ardbeg in a Glencarin, I love the warm feel of Ardgeg as I drink Ardbeg. Buy Ardbeg. It is an Islay. Start with the ten year. Then the Uigeadail. If you can find Committee Release then you are blessed and highly favored of God.
Laphroiag Cask Strength – I can’t drink enough of this one. I love everything about it. I love the high spice, that mellows into the cheese like base, and the aggressive alcohol content.
The Glenmorangie 14 year – A highland single malt sweet and pleasant.
Bowmore 12 year – Again sweet, but in a surprising way since it is an Islay.
Speyburn 10 year – “Well damn if that isn’t delicious” A Speyside, peaty, salty and incredible for such a low price.
The Glenfarclas 10 year – I’m not sure why I can’t get this one to stay in my head as a go to. But I am so pleased and surprised every time I rediscover it.
Jane Walker 2.0 – Blended. This is one of the best scotches to pair with a cigar.
Lagavulin 16 year – Please as if this wouldn’t be on here. It doesn’t just live up to the hype. It punches the hype in the face and then requires you to concede it’s superiority on it’s own terms.
Caol Isla 12 year – These guys are coming for Lagavulin. Everything about this says, “We intend to be or replace Lagavulin.” The bottle is nearly the same, the labeling, and the whisky… it’s a contender. There is room to grow, and it is not a replica, very much it’s own thing, but in the vein.
Dalmore Cigar Malt Reserve (blend) – Pricy, but punches above its weight. Starts with Sherry, that mellows into rum, then that standard highland taste. It works well with a cigar, but smoking kills all of the nuance and leaves the rum as the dominant note. Drink first, light up, then drink some rum.
Paddy’s – Smells like apple juice, tastes like whiskey, goes down surprisingly smooth.
Red Breast 12 year – Solid. Just solid. Everything that is expected in an Irish whiskey is there.
Subsection, odd Irish
Connemara Peated Irish Whiskey – All Irish whiskeys used to be peated like Scotch. Connemara brings that back. It has everything I love about Scotch with the buttery shortbread notes of an Irish.
Tullamordew Carribian Rum Cask – This is a dangerous whiskey, it is sweet and easy to drink.
Jameson Cold Brew – I can not emphasize the following enough: NOT TOO SWEET!!! I have had coffee whiskeys, and a rum. All were stomach turning sweet, like syrup. This is more like black coffee with a whiskey sweetness. Goes great with a Tabak or a Java from Drew Estate.
McCarthy’s Whiskey – Distilled in Hood River OR it is peated like an Islay Scotch. But it manages to be different at the same time.
Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva – This is the perfect rum for a cigar. Aged 12 years, very sweet but if it is paired with a Maduro it holds it’s own.
Old Dominick Formula No. 10 Gin – Gonna be honest here. My wife and I have tried a lot of gins. And depending on where you live this one can be hard (very hard) to get but it is hands down my personal favorite gin.
E&J Brandy XO – Again great with a cigar. Has a spice on the finish but rich vanilla notes throughout that make it endlessly drinkable and almost dangerous, esp. for the price.