When it comes to our beloved brown spirit, going big doesn’t have to mean dropping half your tax return on 750 milliliters of the good stuff. Because for every dusty bottle of black market Pappy van Winkle, there’s a whole hoard of ambitious anklebiters ready to flex atop your home bar for a fraction of the price.
“Good whiskey doesn’t have to be expensive,” concurs John McCarthy, the man behind the swanky sticks at San Francisco’s Gibson and the co-author of Be Your Own Bartender: A Surefire Guide to Finding (and Making) Your Perfect Cocktail. “Just because a bottle is labeled as 18 years, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better than something labeled 15 years -- often, I actually prefer a younger whiskey. Spending more time in wood doesn’t always make whiskey better, but it does make it more expensive.”
We enlisted McCarthy’s expert help to compile these 18 readily available picks, each studded with international awards, so you can safely leave those shady Craigslist Pappys for the suckers.