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The best sipping whiskeys, ranked

We ranked the best sipping whiskeys

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It might seem like an oversimplification, but two kinds of whiskey exist. First are the whisk(e)ys that are cheaper, less mature, and better suited for mixing into your favorite cocktails than drinking on their own. The second kind of whiskey is so complex, nuanced, long-matured, and flavorful that it deserves to be sipped on the rocks or with a splash or two of water. The latter is what we’re most concerned with today.

But that’s not all. For those unaware, whiskey is an all-encompassing term for a variety of whisk(e)ys, including single malt Scotch whisky (only the US and Ireland use the ‘e’ in whiskey), bourbon whiskey, Irish whiskey, rye whiskey, Canadian whisky, Japanese whiskey, and others from all over the world. This means that you have a lot to choose from when it comes to sipping whiskeys.

The key is finding the style of whiskey that suits your palate. Bourbon whiskey is known for its sweet, mellow flavor. Single malt whisky, while a diverse category in terms of flavor, is guaranteed to be complex and flavorful. Rye whiskey is known for its peppery spice.

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What makes a sipping whiskey?

Perhaps you’ve picked the style of whiskey you’re going to sip neatly, or maybe you haven’t yet. Either way, when it comes to sipping whiskey, you should look for a few characteristics.

First, it should be mellow, smooth, potentially soft, and very easy to drink. There’s no room for harsh, over-the-top flavors when it comes to sipping whiskeys. Young whiskeys tend to be less well-rounded in flavor, so you’re probably looking at a more mature whiskey. You can’t go wrong in the 8-12-year-old range (but you don’t have to pick a whiskey this mature).

Whiskey glass
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Our five favorite sipping whiskeys, ranked

To help you on your sipping whiskey journey, we decided to pick five very different whiskeys below. There’s something for every palate, from bourbon to single malt scotch, rye whiskey, Irish whiskey, and even Japanese whisky.

Evan Williams Single Barrel
Evan Williams

5.) Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey

Evan Williams might be the most underrated bourbon brand today. Its Evan Williams Single Barrel is matured in new, charred American oak barrels between seven and eight years. The result is a single-barrel bourbon with notes of toffee, oaky wood, orchard fruits, honey, candied orange peels, and light spices. Enjoyed neat; it’s warming, sweet, and highly memorable.

Aberlour A’bunadh

4.) Aberlour A’bunadh Single Malt Scotch Whisky

This popular cask-strength single malt Scotch whisky was aged exclusively in former sherry casks. The result is a sweet, warming, complex whisky that deserves to be sipped neat with a splash or three of water to open up the aromas and flavors. These flavors include notes of candied nuts, sweet sherry, dried cherries, caramel, orange peels, and rich oak.

Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye
Russell’s Reserve

3.) Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye

When it comes to easy-drinking, slow-sipping rye whiskey, it’s difficult to beat the appeal of Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye. Made from hand-selected barrels, this popular whiskey from the renowned whiskey distilling Russell family (of Wild Turkey fame) is 104-proof, non-chill filtered, and aged with No. 4 alligator char barrels. This creates an iconic, sippable whiskey with notes of orange peel, ginger, pipe tobacco, peppery rye, and sweet vanilla beans.

Green Spot Irish Whiskey
Green Spot

2.) Green Spot Irish Whiskey

This no-age-statement Irish whiskey is a single pot still Irish whiskey made up of whiskeys that were matured between 7 and 10 years in a combination of new, ex-bourbon casks, refilled bourbon barrels, and sherry casks. The nose is a nice mix of caramel apples, oaky wood, and gentle spices. The palate is a mix of wintry spices, crisp apples, oak, dried fruits, and sweet caramel. The finish is sweet, warming, and lightly spicy.

Hakushu 12

1.) Hakushu 12-Year-Old Single Malt Japanese Whisky

Distilled at Suntory’s mountainous Hakushu distillery, this award-winning, popular whisky was matured for at least twelve years in oak barrels. The result is a sippable, smooth, complex whisky that begins with a nose of green apple, oak, and light spices before moving into a palate of mint, orchard fruits, vanilla, green tea, and gentle yet robust smoke.

Whiskey bottles
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Picking the right whiskey for you

When finding the best sipping whiskeys, it’s important to understand your palate. Before you buy a bottle, figure out if you enjoy a sweeter whiskey, a spicy whiskey, a smoky whiskey, or a combination. Then, go from there.

Also, remember that while you don’t have to spend the equivalent of a mortgage or rent payment to get a great, sippable bottle, you also shouldn’t buy something so cheap it more resembles rubbing alcohol than a nuanced whiskey.

Editors' Recommendations

Christopher Osburn
Christopher Osburn is a food and drinks writer located in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. He's been writing professional
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