Whisky, the dark liquor that will have your head in the toilet till three am wondering if it was your sixth drink or eighth that put you over the edge. There’s a ton of whiskey brands to choose from, and The right glass can have you on top of the bar singing folk songs of love and loss in front of a sad crowd in Belfast.
For this list, we’re saving you the embarrassment of staring awkwardly at the man in the paddy hat who ordered a glass of his favorite whiskey, only to find out that your shelf is completely void of the essentials.
For this list, we include whiskey bourbons, whiskey rye scotch whiskey blends, and other types of variations of whiskey blends considered most popular. Here’s a list of the top ten whiskey brands you should know.
1. Jameson (Dublin, Ireland 1780)
You walk into any bar, and you ask the bartender for a glass of whiskey (bartender’s choice.) More often than not, they’ll reach for the tall green bottle of half-empty Jameson on their shelf. It’s one of the quintessential whiskey brands that encompasses the Irish heritage of whiskey drinking. The taste of Jameson will satisfy the palette of the first-time whiskey drinker to the experienced whiskey drinker.
If you’re on your first trip to Dublin, we recommend honoring the spirit of John Jameson by visiting the famous Jameson distillery, located at Bow St, Smithfield, Dublin. A visit there doesn’t just include a tour; it’s an entire experience from comparative whiskey tasting to classes on whiskey cocktails and barrel blending. But for now, remember to always have a little bottle of Ireland on your shelf, so that when the time comes, your muscle memory will know exactly where to reach.
2. Jack Daniels (Lynchburg, Tennessee USA 1875)
If we are talking American whiskey brands, there’s no doubt Jack Daniels will be brought up. Jack Daniels is one of those whiskey brands that will have you looking and feeling like a rock star. It’s a true American classic. Try to walk into any establishment that serves alcohol, and you’ll see bottles of Jack Daniels on the shelf, and I’m not talking about the BBQ sauce…even though it goes great with some wings…and some ribs…and all of the different flavors of…wait, what just happened. Oh yes, a bottle of Jack.
Created by Jasper Newton Daniels with his process of “Charcoal mellowing” some may know the process by other names, Jack would create his famous “OLD NO.7” Tennessee whiskey and make history as the first registered distillery within the United States of America. Fun fact, legend (and the Jack Daniels website) has it that Jack eventually died from an injury he sustained when kicking his safe after not being able to open it.
We like to believe the safe was open the whole time, the handle just needed to be turned to the left, but what do we know. Anyways, ALWAYS have a bottle of Jack ready, unless you want bad luck for all of eternity. In fact, is your big toe starting to hurt? Better check your bar inventory.
3. Bulleit Bourbon (Louisville, Kentucky)
The ultimate comeback story. Augustus Bulleit carefully crafted a bourbon that rang throughout the corridors of time itself. A high rye bourbon, distinct smooth finish, and hint of spice, charred in oak barrels that provide a smoky backbone. So it was pretty damn good. All was well, that is, until Augustus mysteriously vanished on a transportation journey from Kentucky to New Orleans, never to be seen again. Kinda wild.
Even more wild was that his great-great-grandson Tom Bulleit Jr. revived the Bulleit Distilling Company over 150 years later in 1987. And thus, Bulleit continues to echo through the whiskey space continuum for all time. There, now you have a good story while you’re pouring your friends some whiskey. Stay tuned—more wild stories to come.
4. Wild Turkey (Lawrenceburg, Kentucky 1940)
The master distiller is, by definition, the overseer of all facets of the production of their spirit company. The Wild turkey company has the honor of having Jimmy Russell hold the title as the world’s longest tenured active master distiller. The master distillers master distiller. Not bad, Wild Turkey, not bad.
Wild Turkey was around long before 1940, but officially got its name when during their annual hunting trip, where executives and friends would shoot Wild Turkey, they would drink the distilleries bourbon. “Let me get some more of that wild turkey bourbon,” they would say. And thus, the name would go down as smooth as the whiskey itself. Give this one a shot and it just might make your list of favorite whiskey brands.
5. Basil Hayden’s (Kentucky USA 1992)
Although it’s considered a contemporary in the world of established whiskey brands, Basil Hayden has definitely made a lasting impression. Of the three bourbon whiskies that make up the Jim Beam company bourbons (now produced by Beam Suntory, but we’ll talk about that at a later time), Basil Hayden is the lightest-bodied bourbon whiskey sitting at a modest 80 proof, in contrast against higher proof whiskey brands Knob Creek, Baker’s and Bookers.
But make no mistake. If you’re looking to share a more gentle whiskey with a decent taste profile, then having Basil Hayden on your shelf is an essential to add a little class and sophistication to the occasion, and the price ain’t too bad neither! So raise your glass and light your cigar.
6. Crown Royal (Canada 1939)
Oh, Canada! A whiskey fit for royalty. When King George the 6th and Queen Elizabeth became the first reigning monarchs to pay a visit to Canada, you can best believe the first order of business was, what booze shall we present. Well, the king and queen were probably expecting maple syrup and Tim Hortons, and what do they get instead, Whiskey!
After blending a plethora (yes, a plethora, step up your vocab) of different whiskey brands, they finally present the prized possession in a finely cut glass decanter wrapped in a purple bag with gold stitching. Jokes on them, I just bought a bottle for $20, wrapped the exact same way.
Crown Royal is a must-have when it comes to bang for your buck, a win for your wallet, and a taste for your tongue (couldn’t think of the last one). Be sure to have a bottle ready for your loyal subjects.
7. Jim Beam (Kentucky USA 1795)
Let’s go back 225 years, to the soil that only three years later, would officially be declared as the state of Kentucky. I want you to imagine the sound of horses galloping on a dirt road right now… do it! Good, so the year is 1795, Johannes “Jacob” Beam sells his first barrel of corn whiskey, which at that point he calls “Old Jake Beam Sour Mash.” I know, really rolls off the tongue.
Now imagine the sound of a steam-powered locomotive where his son David Beam, carries jugs and jugs of his dad’s bourbon whiskey, then renamed “Old Tub.” I can go all day, but you get the point. Jim Beam is one of those whiskey brands that’s ingrained in American history. At a time where about 2,000 distillers called Kentucky home, Jim Beam stood the test of time. Know it, buy it, love it.
Unbanounced to new bourbon fans, Jim Beam is a producer of multiple whiskey brands, including Knobs creek. More on them later.
8. Makers Mark (Loretto Kentucky, USA 1953)
Back to Kentucky, see a theme here yet. My dad used to say, if you’re going to do something, don’t half-ass it. That wasn’t how he said it, but it was something along those lines. He also told me, you only get one chance to leave the first impression, make sure it’s a long-lasting one.
Bill and Margie Samuels must have been the inventor of both sayings. Bill made a flavored bourbon that revolutionized an industry, and his wife (the first woman involved with a distillery to be inducted in the Kentucky bourbon hall of fame) put her mark, on Makers Mark.
The shape of the bottle, the label, and of course, the waxed dipped topper were each dipped by hand to create a signature that all those who consider themselves true whiskey lovers would be proud to indulge in. If your down for a history lesson, I recommend checking out the Makers Mark family story on their website. You won’t regret it. Share the story, share the whiskey.
9. Buchanan’s (Scotland 1884)
James Buchanan (not to be confused with the 15th president of the United States) was a Scotsman who blended whiskeys for the house of commons. He would later be given the royal warrant to serve Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales his own creation; An honor any entrepreneur may be so lucky to hold.
Though his scotch whiskey was granted to royalty, his bottle design was inspired by the Water Canteens shared amongst the British soldiers, a design which, to this day, keeps true. I may only speak from my personal anecdotal experience, but I find that Buchanans is one of those whiskey brands the Latin community loves. Either way, you always wanna have a bottle at the ready in case Sean Connery walks into your bar.
10. Knob Creek (Clermont, Kentucky 1992)
Let’s finish this list of whiskey brands strong with a whiskey equally as strong. Sitting at 100 proof, this bourbon checks all boxes when it comes to taste, price smell, and it checks those boxes exceptionally… whatever that means. Sorry, I’ve been drinking a lot of Knob Creek. Also, it’s 9 years, so that’s pretty neat.
With a striking dark, golden brown hue, it is said to have the aroma of toasted nuts, oak, grain (it’s actually said to have strong hints of peanut butter, but we’ll let you decide). Once you get that waxy, leather top off, you’ll hear that cork pop and have your senses tantalize. Take a whiff, take a sip, tell us what you think. Exactly what you need to keep you and your loved ones warm on those cold lonely nights.
It’s pretty typical to run into a limited edition or batch version knobs creek whiskey. Check this video out from It’s Bourbon Night, as they go over some of the nuances of Knobs Creek straight bourbon small batch and it’s new packaging.
We would be remiss if we did not include these popular whiskey brands: Fireball (Canada 1984), J&B (U.K 1749)(confusing merger history), the Glenlivet, Tincup (Colorado 1972) (topped with a small tin cup to honor the.)
How to Avoid Watered Down Whiskey
Limit your drink to just one ice cube so you don’t have a watered-down mess in your glass. Or don’t, we can’t tell you what to do. Or you can skip the hassle and buy some of these here whiskey stones to avoid dilution in your glass while you’re at it.
There are so many whiskey brands out there, we wish we could try them all. But now that you know what some of the essential whiskey brands are, it’s time for you to have a task, or upgrade your inventory.
So, did your favorite whiskey brands make our list? Let us know in the comments below. Click here to check out all of our blog posts. Thanks for reading, and stay hammered.