Down-the-Middle Whiskey That’s Just Plain Good
The most exciting new whiskeys just might be the bargains. Here’s how to build a middle shelf that matters.
We all want a top shelf that wows. But without a strong middle shelf of $40-and-under bottles that you can pour without a second thought, you just have a trophy case instead of something you actually live with. Those solid, everyday go-tos make the special stuff just that, special, and not the bottle you deplete after a few weeks of after-work drams. This doesn’t mean buying obvious big brands. Recently, in an effort to get price-conscious younger drinkers away from their White Claw, distillers of middle-shelf whiskeys have brought about a renaissance worthy of more adoration. While there have been values punching above their price point for years, like Rittenhouse and Buffalo Trace, these new bottles of revived old styles or innovations offer some genuine delight and just might keep those top-shelf bottles dusty a little longer. Plus, a little more whiskey and a little less spiked seltzer is probably a good thing.
Dewar’s Japanese Smooth
Take a honeylike Scotch like Dewar’s and age it in Japanese mizunara casks and you get what the label advertises: smooth. Try it as a highball or a just-complex-enough sipper.
Once the original flagship whiskey from Beam, this unfiltered, big-flavored yet highly drinkable goodness is now available across the country for the price of a fancy cocktail.
Maker’s Mark 101
Wheated bourbons like Maker’s are known for their gentleness, but when you bump the proof up to 101, it becomes a more robust player with bigger vanilla and spice.
Ezra Brooks 99
A prototypical bourbon with vanilla, caramel, brown sugar, and a hint of peanuts. It’s not unlike a candy bar, in a good way.
Compass Box Glasgow Blend
Snobs may scoff at blends, but this one will convince them otherwise. About 62 percent is single malt, sure, but it’s the artful sherry and smoky playfulness that make it a standout.