Contrary to what people might have you believe, whiskey is not an intimidating or exclusive spirit that only seasoned drinkers should enjoy. While it may possess a reputation for being intricate, pricey, or requiring specific consumption methods, this belief should not deter beginners. The flavor profiles and artistry of some whiskeys can indeed be complex, but it is nothing you can't grasp, especially if you start with the right bottle.
In this article, we have curated a list of 15 smooth whiskeys that are perfect for beginners. From rich American bourbons to classic Irish blends, the list covers various options to cater to different preferences.
1. Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, $39.99
Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon is undoubtedly one of the most sought-after whiskeys. It is produced by the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky, and is known for its exceptional craftsmanship, quality, and distinct flavor profile.
One of the reasons why this bourbon is an excellent choice for both beginners and enthusiasts is its versatility. It strikes the perfect balance between complexity and smoothness, making it approachable for newcomers while still offering a delightful drinking experience for seasoned whiskey enthusiasts.
2. The Macallan 12 Year Double Cask, $74.99
The Macallan 12 Year Double Cask whiskey offers a balanced flavor profile with caramel, sweet vanilla, and subtle oak notes. It is aged in both European and American oak casks giving it a harmonious combination of flavors that aren't overwhelming for drinkers. This whiskey's smooth and mellow features make it an excellent starting point for those new to whiskey, allowing them to appreciate its artistry and complexity without feeling intimidated.
3. Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon, $34.99
Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon is the best starting-off point for someone just beginning their whiskey journey. It is widely available, reasonably priced, very smooth, goes down easy, and has an incredible flavor profile to shine through any cocktail drink. For those who dislike the strong taste of whiskey, Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon is light enough to help you enjoy the traits of whiskey without burning your throat. This bourbon definitely checks all the boxes for a high-value drink.
4. Suntory Toki, $39.99
If you live in Japan or hope to travel there soon, opt for Suntory Toki. It is a blended Japanese whiskey from three Suntory distilleries: Hakushu, Chita, and Yamazaki. It features a harmonious blend of grain and malt, resulting in a delicate and light flavor profile with notes of vanilla, citrus, and honey. Its gentle nature and absence of overbearing oakiness or intense smokiness make it highly approachable for those new to whiskey.
5. Balvenie 14 Caribbean Cask, $89.99
The Balvenie 14 Caribbean Cask successfully bridges the gap between scotch and bourbon. This whiskey is particularly great for those who have already tried rum and enjoyed it. It is designed for sipping, so you don't have to worry about chugging it down. You also don't require a mixer to enjoy it, making it an excellent introduction to the world of neat whiskeys.
6. Jameson Irish Whiskey, $26.99
Similar to Scotch whiskey, Irish whiskey has a long and rich history of distilling as it was one of the first nations to commercially sell liquor to the general public. A good Irish whiskey to start with is the Jameson Irish Whiskey. Jameson is the most sought-after Irish whiskey in the world. This iconic whiskey is triple distilled, resulting in a remarkably smooth and approachable taste.
7. George Dickel Bottled in Bond 13 Year 2022 Release, $59.99
Okay, so this particular whiskey might not be the best choice for beginners because it has a relatively high ABV compared to other whiskeys. However, if you can get past the alcohol content, you're in for a treat. This 13-year-old whiskey is considered a great entry-level whiskey, not because of its ABV content but because of its caramel, vanilla, and oak flavors. It offers authenticity and can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or as a cocktail.
8. Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey, $49.99
If there is one whiskey that beginners will love, it's Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey. It is widely known for its smoothness and amazing flavor profile of oak, vanilla, and caramel notes. Jack Daniel's also undergoes a unique charcoal mellowing process, which gives it a distinctive smoothness that helps it go down easily without overwhelming your taste buds.
9. Slane Irish Whiskey, $19.99
If your budget is really stretched, this whiskey is perfect for you. Slane Irish Whiskey provides a delightful and affordable introduction to the rich flavors and traditions of Irish Whiskey, making it ideal for whiskey enthusiasts on a budget. You can sip it neat, on the rocks, or mix it into your favorite cocktails.
10. Bushmills 12 Year Old Single Malt Whiskey, $64.99
Bushmills 12 Year Old Single Malt is a superb option for beginners hoping to delve into the world of single malt whiskey. It offers a smooth and refined taste that's sure to elevate your palate. Additionally, for a whiskey aged 12 years, it stands out as an excellent value and isn't too bad on the wallet.
11. Eagle Rare 10 Year Bourbon, $89.99
Iconic and beloved by whiskey enthusiasts around the world, Eagle Rare 10 Year Bourbon is sure to satisfy anyone. This award-winning bourbon is aged for a minimum of 10 years and is made from a blend of the finest rye, barley malt, and corn. It has a smooth velvety finish and leaves behind delicious undertones of warm vanilla on the tongue. Anyone who takes the time to enjoy this bourbon will be enthralled by its extraordinary intricacy.
12. Johnnie Walker Black Label, $34.99
As a beginner, you don't want to drink something that will blow your head off. Fortunately, Johnnie Walker Black Label offers delectable flavors of green apple, vanilla, and fresh orchard fruit. This whiskey truly embodies the craftsmanship and legacy of the Johnnie Walker brand.
13. Nikka From The Barrel, $99.99
Nikka From The Barrel is a renowned Japanese whiskey that's characterized by its rich flavor profile. It has a high alcohol content and intense notes of fruit, oak, and spice resulting in an unforgettable drinking experience.
14. Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve, $34.99
Don't be misled into believing that the fun of Scotch only lies in single malts, especially if you are not used to them yet. Scotch whiskeys such as Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve can be more approachable for first-timers. Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve is a Scotch whiskey that's been aged in barrels previously used for Caribbean rum. Its unique aging process combines the spirit with tropical flavors resulting in a smooth and delectable flavor profile.
15. Maker's Mark 101, $39.99
Maker's Mark 101 is known for its higher proof (50.5% ABV) compared to other Maker's Mark expressions. This alcohol content results in a bolder and more robust flavor profile. Maker's Mark 101 whiskey is an excellent choice for beginners looking to explore a more strong and flavorful bourbon without sacrificing the brand's craftsmanship and quality.
By delving into the world of whiskey, you can begin to appreciate and understand the nuances of whiskey and the artistry involved in crafting these delightful spirits. It is also advisable to explore beyond this list and venture into different production methods, regions, and flavor profiles to expand your knowledge and refine your palate. As you do so, keep in mind that whiskey appreciation is a personal journey, and each person will have their own discoveries or preferences along the way.
What Makes Whiskeys Smooth?
Whiskey's soft texture, sweet flavor, the grains used, and the blending procedure all contribute to its smoothness. Additionally, maturing and filtration are factors that make whiskeys smooth. For example, whiskey that is aged in oak barrels gets softer over time.
Which Type of Whiskey Is the Smoothest?
Blended whiskey is considered the smoothest whiskey because it's crafted by blending malt and grain whiskey. The result is a smoother, more approachable spirit that most drinkers are familiar with.
How Do People Start Liking Whiskey?
There are a few different things beginners can try to help them grow fond of whiskey. One way is to start by trusting your nose. The flavors reveal themselves first through the nose. Take a deep breath as you approach your glass, and then try to identify the aromas you smell. The next step is to taste your drink. Take only a tiny sip first and try to determine if the taste matches the aromas. Once you have swallowed, pay attention to the lingering flavors and how long they last.
Another approach is to mix whiskey with other beverages, such as ginger ale or cola. Some people also add drops of water to their whiskey, which helps to open up the flavors. However, it is advisable to experiment to see what suits you.
What Is the Best Type of Whiskey for Beginners?
There is no wrong or right answer to this query. While some may prefer scotch whiskey, others may prefer bourbon. Beginners should experiment with various whiskeys before settling on one they enjoy.