There’s more choice than ever on the whisky shelves these days, but figuring out which to purchase doesn’t have to be a headache. Whisky Advocate’s tips will help you get the best bang for your buck.
Try Before You Buy
The best way to figure out what you like? Taste it! Go to a bar and pick out a whisky you haven’t tried. Many liquor stores offer free samples from time to time, and others might pour a sip from an open bottle if you express interest in trying it. Get acquainted with your local bars and retailers and become a regular. They’ll start to remember your preferences and can make suggestions for new brands you might like.
Find A Guide
When you don’t get the chance to taste and judge the whisky for yourself before shelling out for a bottle, crowdsource opinions. Ask friends with trusted palates what they think and read reviews like those found in our Buying Guide. You may not agree with every reviewer, but once you find someone with similar tastes to yours, use those notes to guide your purchases.
Be a Confident Contrarian
Now that you know your preference, you’ll be free from the trap of buying something because everyone else is drinking it. Once you know your personal taste, pursue and refine it. It may not be fashionable, but you’ll definitely enjoy your dram—and that’s what it’s all about.
As you explore different whiskies, shop around. Most liquor stores share promotions on social media, and many have loyalty programs that offer discounts or a chance to buy limited-edition bottles. Pop into liquor stores when traveling, too—you may find different whiskies, and lower prices, elsewhere.
Don’t forget that many whiskies come in different size bottles, and the bigger the package, the lower the price per ounce. If you’re on the hunt for rare whiskies, auctions may be the best option. Just be aware of commissions and delivery costs added to the hammer price.
Ultimately, what makes a whisky “worth it” is up to you—a personal equation of taste, price, and access.
Every whisky lover starts out buying a single bottle, but many of us end up amassing a collection of bottles, many partially consumed. Take heed of these tips so the last drop will be as enjoyable as the first. For even more advice, check out our how-to article on storing whisky—and don’t forget to inventory those bottles as you go along.
Keep It Dark and Cool
Limit your whisky’s exposure to sunlight and fluctuations in temperature and humidity, which can damage the label and cork and, if the bottle is open, affect the integrity of the spirit. The best place to store whisky is in a dark, room-temperature cabinet or closet.
Unlike wine, whisky doesn’t age in the bottle (although oxidation can occur over time). While wine bottles are stored on their sides to keep corks from drying out, whisky should always be kept upright so that the high-proof liquid doesn’t take on unwanted flavors from the cork. To keep the cork from drying out completely and crumbling, turn your whisky bottle on its head every four to six months and let the cork moisten for about ten seconds.
Mind The Gap
After you’ve drunk part of the bottle, you may want to save the rest, but too much “headspace” (empty air) in the bottle can lead to oxidation and off-flavors in the whisky over time. There are products like the Private Preserve that allow you to fill the empty space in the bottle with inert gas, which prevents oxidation. You could purchase smaller bottles (or clean and save old bottles) and decant the whisky into them. Some people even wrap the bottle closure tightly with Parafilm to keep out moisture and other types of cling wrap to keep out air.
Our recommendation? Call up a few friends and kick the bottle completely. There’s always more whisky to be enjoyed!