High-priced and so-called “luxury” whiskies seem to get more attention than other bottles, and why not? They’re usually well-aged—think 25-plus years old—and the reviews will tell you they’re delicious. They’re often put into gorgeous decanters made by crystal houses like Lalique and Baccarat, and packaged in elaborate wooden boxes handmade by artisans.
These whiskies are quite expensive—we’re talking from $150 all the way into the thousands of dollars—and yet, often you can’t even get them. The problem? They’re made in limited amounts, and many get snapped up by collectors even before they hit shelves.
You’re probably not going to stumble upon any bottles of George T. Stagg or Yamazaki 18 year old this week, but there are still plenty of remarkable luxury whiskies that can be found at most times in most towns. Here a few bottles to look for, once you’ve saved up your pocket change, that is.
Turn Out Your Pockets for These Expensive Whiskies That Are Easy To Find
Glenmorangie Signet—94 points, $220
The brand claims this release uses a unique malt as well as bespoke American oak “designer casks.” Whatever that means, this is a very viscous, oily whisky, though surprisingly delicate. Floral and citrusy on the nose, the palate has more mocha flavors, with notes of leather and tobacco. A hint of fruity esters makes this a single malt that rum fans will enjoy.
The Balvenie Tun 1509 Batch 5—92 points, $400
This is an intriguing marriage of both bourbon and sherry casks mingled for 3 months in the distillery’s bespoke marrying vessel. This single malt presents a spicy, almost gingery nose. The palate is sweeter with a heavy sherry influence, and noticeable dark fruits. The finish is long and tannic, with hints of raisins and licorice. (December 2020 update: Batch 5 may no longer be available, but more recent batches of Tun 1509 will measure up in quality.)
The Macallan 18 year old Sherry Oak (2017 Edition)—92 points, $294
It would be negligent to talk luxury whisky without mentioning Macallan, which offers this annual release. It has a leathery nose with notes of cherries, raisins, and other dark fruits. The full-bodied palate has strong flavors of citrus, dark chocolate, espresso, and just a little smoke. The finish is long and peppery. Macallan comes by its reputation honestly, and even if you can’t find the 2017 edition of Sherry Oak, any release will show the same top-notch flavor.
Kavalan Vinho Barrique—92 points, $160
Though Kavalan doesn’t get the attention of its Japanese brethren, if you have the money to spend, you can often find its top-level bottlings at retail. This cask-strength offering is tropical on the nose, with hints of kiwi and apricot. The palate leans more toward berries, chocolate, and espresso, with just a hint of citrus. It has a long, warming finish befitting the proof of 51.7% ABV.
Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Revival—92 points, $150
Unlike the limited editions from Buffalo Trace, Four Roses, and other Kentucky distilleries, Wild Turkey’s special-edition releases can often be found on shelves. Take advantage—they are worth the price. After Master’s Keep Decades earned the number-3 spot in the 2017 Top 20, the distillery released this bottle that combines bourbons aged 12-15 years that were finished in sherry casks. The result is a scotch-esque bourbon, with the aroma of a dessert bakery on the nose: coffee cake, blueberry muffins, and bread pudding. The body is likewise sweet and driven by dark fruits, though balanced by spicy notes and oak. (Update December 2020: This Master’s Keep edition may be long since sold out, but look for the 2020 release, 17 year old Bottled in Bond, for an equally incredible flavor-to-value ratio.)
Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare—91 points, $400
Though Ghost and Rare is a limited-edition series for Johnnie Walker Blue, the price tends to keep this blend—which includes whiskies from shuttered distilleries, including Brora, Pittyvaich, and Cambus—on shelves. Though only 46% ABV, it drinks a bit bolder, offering a luscious mouthfeel. The nose is sweet and citrusy, with more smoke than you might expect. The palate offers notes of caramel apple, dried fruits, and baking spices, leading into a long finish.