We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
The Spruce Eats Top Picks
Glenmorangie Signet Single Malt Whisky is our best overall winner for its complex and expertly matured flavors that have made this bottle a beloved classic for good reason. We also recommend Jefferson’s Ocean Aged Rye for a crowd-pleaser gift that comes at a fair price.
For drinkers, a good bottle of whisk(e)y makes a great gift, perfect for any occasion. But with so many options across a wide range of styles and flavors, it can be a bit of a challenge to pair the right expression with the right person. If you’re struggling with choosing the perfect bottle, we have an answer to the riddle.
Whether you’re buying for a Scotch lover or one who prefers bourbon, rye, Irish, or Japanese, here are the best whiskeys (and whiskies) to give your friends and loved ones.Our Top PicksBest Single Malt:Glenmorangie Signet at DrizlyJump to ReviewBest Splurge:The Macallan 25 Year Old at DrizlyJump to ReviewBest Budget:High West Double Rye Whiskey at DrizlyJump to ReviewBest Rye:Jefferson’s Ocean Rye Whiskey at CaskersJump to ReviewBest Bourbon:Wild Turkey Master’s Keep 17 Bottled in Bond at DrizlyJump to ReviewBest Japanese:Yamazaki 18 Year Old Single Malt Japanese Whisky at DrizlyJump to ReviewBest Blend:Johnnie Walker Blue Label at DrizlyJump to ReviewBest Limited Edition:Old Forester Birthday Bourbon at DrizlyJump to ReviewBest for Cocktails:Legent Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey at DrizlyJump to ReviewBest for Peat Lovers:Laphroaig Cairdeas Port and Wine Casks Single Malt Scotch Whisky at DrizlyJump to Review
Best Single Malt: Glenmorangie Signet Single Malt Whisky
To put it quite simply, Signet is simply one of the best whiskies you’re apt to find at any price. While Glenmorangie uses some of its oldest stocks in the recipe, Signet’s anchor is a special chocolate malt barley spirit the brand distills especially for this expression and then ages in custom-made American white oak casks. The feel is unreal and the flavors complex: Layered notes of bitter chocolate, sherried fruits, and a punch of spice make it a scrumptious dram—one any lucky enough to receive a bottle will enjoy.
ABV: 46% | Age: NAS | Tasting Notes: Crisp, rich, woodsyGood to Know
It’s spelled “whiskey” when it’s made in America or Ireland and “whisky” when made anywhere else.
Best Splurge: The Macallan 25 Year Old Sherry Oak Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Beyond a splurge, The Macallan 25 is an indulgence full of a flavorful grace not easily found on this side of the river Spey. Sure, for the same price, you could pick up 30 bottles of The Macallan 12 Sherry Cask instead. But this single malt does more than twice as long sleeping in Jerez sherry casks. The result is sublime; subtle layers of fruit and spice unfold with every sip. If you’re feeling particularly generous, it’s a gift that won’t soon be forgotten.
ABV: 43% | Age: 25 years | Tasting Notes: Oak, cinnamon, dried fruit, toasty
Best Budget: High West Double Rye Whiskey
For the price, it’s hard to find a better rye than High West’s Double variety. The Park City, Utah-based maker produces a few expressions, but the entry-level Double Rye is a fun and flavorful addition to even a highly curated bar. Not only is it lovely neat or on the rocks, but it’s also vibrant in a rye-based cocktail like a Manhattan. The spice-forward rye contains notes of apple, honey, mint, and cinnamon, making it a splendid, budget-friendly gift.
ABV: 46% | Age: 2 and 16 years | Tasting Notes: Spicy, rich, oak, herbal
Best Rye: Jefferson’s Ocean Aged At Sea Double Barrel Rye Whiskey
Jefferson’s Ocean Aged Whiskey has been aged in char and toasted casks while journeying on ships that travel across the seas. The rocking and agitation of the waves onto the barrels yield a distinctive flavor that is sure to be unforgettable. Expect a unique and rich caramelization in this whiskey. It is a complex yet smooth palate of toasted marshmallow and toffee, with a delightful sea salt and cinnamon finish. This premium rye makes for a perfect pairing with oysters or your favorite seafood.
ABV: 48% | Age: NAS | Tasting Notes: Toasted marshmallow, toffee, sea saltWhat Our Experts Say
“A good whiskey is simply one that you enjoy drinking whether neat, on the rocks, or in a cocktail,” says Caroline Paulus, a whiskey historian at Justins’ House of Bourbon. “I personally look for sweeter crème brûlée notes in bourbons and baking spice notes in ryes, but favorites will always vary from palate to palate.”Here Are the Best Whiskey Stones to Make Your Drinks Perfectly Cool
Best Bourbon: Wild Turkey Master’s Keep 17 Bottled in Bond
Whiskies “bottled in bond” have to meet a few requirements. They must be 100 proof, poured from barrels filled in the same season by one distiller, then aged a minimum of four years in a supervised warehouse. This year’s Master’s Keep release from Wild Turkey is aged well beyond that and kept in the barrels for a staggering 17 years. All that time in the wood has yielded a jaw-dropper any bourbon lover will adore. A righteous cherry note pairs with vanilla, toffee, and oak to titillate the palate, while a spiced cocoa finish might charm you into another glass.
ABV: 50% | Age: 17 years | Tasting Notes: Silky, vanilla, spicy, oakWe Tested the Best Whiskey Glasses for Your Home BarContinue to 5 of 15 below.
Best Japanese: Yamazaki 18 Year Old Single Malt Japanese Whisky
Few gifts are more exciting to open for Japanese whisky lovers than a bottle of Yamazaki 18 year old. It’s a challenge to find and intensely expensive, but the sight of its iconic black and gold label instantly warms the heart. Aged in ex-bourbon, ex-sherry, and Japanese Mizunara oak, it’s full of dark fruit notes and big pops of nuts and spice.
ABV: 43% | Age: 18 years | Tasting Notes: Zesty, coffee, woodsy, chocolate, fruit
Best Blend: Johnnie Walker Blue Label
For fans of blended whiskies, we’d recommend Johnnie Walker’s flagship Blue Label. The folks at the Striding Man take a secret selection of grain and malt whiskies from the Diageo portfolio from across Scotland, including Cardhu and Clynelish, to create a phenomenal bottle that many retailers will engrave. Vanilla and honey rise to meet cacao and sherried fruits that lead into a signature smoky-sweet finish. It’s a crowd-pleaser that any whisky drinker would be proud to display on the shelf.
ABV: 40% | Age: NAS | Tasting Notes: Smoky, rich, spicy, hazelnut, dried fruit, pepper
Best Limited Edition: Old Forester Birthday Bourbon
Every year on September 2, in honor of founder George Garvin Brown’s birthday, Old Forester drops another of the most anticipated releases of the year. Old Forester Birthday retails for a shade over a C-note, but if you can find one for under 10 times that, you’ve done well. Always mouthwatering and never disappointing, a bottle is sure to please any bourbon lover. This year’s release is a 10 year, clocks in at 98 proof, and is made up of scant 95 barrels. In the mouth, traditional caramel notes swirl around tropical fruit notes with a hint of macadamia and a snap of licorice on the finish.
ABV: 48.5% | Age: 12 years | Tasting Notes: Floral, butter toffee, oak, warm rye spiceThe 7 Best Whiskey Decanters in 2022
Best for Cocktails: Legent Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Legent Bourbon makes a great gift for anyone who loves to experiment with whiskey cocktails. The expression is a collaboration between two whiskey juggernauts Fred Noe, seventh-generation Master Distiller of Jim Beam, and Shinji Fukuyo, fifth-ever Chief Blender of Suntory. The fruit of their union blends bourbons finished in sherry and wine casks with a smattering of Kentucky straight bourbon. Notes of caramel, vanilla, and oak play off subtle hints of dried fruit and spice. So the recipient can try it in a mint julep, an Old-Fashioned, or a new-fangled concoction of his or her own imagination.
ABV: 47% | Age: NAS | Tasting Notes: Warm, oaky, bright, smooth, caramel, raisinThe 8 Best Drinking Glasses in 2022
Best for Peat Lovers: Laphroaig Cairdeas Port and Wine Casks Single Malt Scotch Whisky
What do you give your friends? Whisky. What do you give your best friends? Really good whisky. “Cairdeas” means friendship in Gaelic, and each year, distillery manager and fifth-generation Islay native John Campbell creates an expression for friends of the brand. This year’s version features whisky finished in ruby port barriques, spirit double-matured in ex-bourbon barrels, plus a smattering completed in ex-red wine casks. The denouement is heavenly. Laphroaig’s medicinal peat smoke is enriched with notes of marshmallow, berries, plum, and toffee with a hint of salt—a peat lover’s dream.
ABV: 52% | Age: NAS | Tasting Notes: Honey, smoky, pink peppercorn, chocolate
Best Under the Radar: Port Askaig 8 Year Old Scotch Whisky
Port Askaig gets its name from a small village on Islay, the Scottish island from which the brand sources all of its whiskies. The brand only launched in 2009 and has slowly made its way to US shores and stores. You can now find a few expressions domestically, including the stellar 8 Year. The whisky is sourced mainly from Caol Ila with a smidge of Laphroaig, all aged in refill American oak. The result is a beautiful introduction to the label. Peaty and rich, the smoke leads to a fruity sweetness and pleasant brine. Whisky fans love to find new bottles, and exposing your peat fan to this one will earn ample endearment.
ABV: 48.5% | Age: 8 years | Tasting Notes: Caramel, zesty, floral, smoky, peaty, licoriceHere Are the Best Bar Tools, According to a Mixologist
Best Sherried Whisky: Glenfarclas 25 Year Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Family-owned-and-operated Glenfarclas is a label you won’t see on the shelf at many bars. The brand doesn’t quite get the respect this side of the Atlantic it deserves. The Speyside maker kicks out amazing jams, and its 25 year old is a steal at twice the price. Aged in Oloroso sherry casks chosen from a single Spanish bodega, this vintage is a brilliant sherried whisky, with flavors of fruit cake, spice, marshmallow, and oak.
ABV: 43% | Age: 25 years | Tasting Notes: Robust, nutty, smoky, dark chocolate, dryThe Best Outdoor Bar Carts for Happy Hour on the PatioContinue to 9 of 15 below.https://8e8584f97e25d7681206bba012e679c4.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
Best Irish: Knappogue Castle 16 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey
If you’re buying a bottle for a drinker who prefers whiskey from the Emerald Isle, may we recommend Knappogue Castle 16 year old? It’s an Irish single malt gentle-aged, first for 14 years in ex-bourbon casks and then another two in Oloroso sherry wood. It’s a phenomenal and supple whiskey with swirling sherry notes on top of tree fruit, vanilla, chocolate, and baking spice.
ABV: 40% | Age:16 years | Tasting Notes: Nutty, sherry maltiness, sweet
Best High Proof: Booker’s Bourbon
Four times a year, Booker’s releases a shockingly strong and wonderfully flavored bourbon. It’s one of our absolute go-tos, as it likely is for any bourbon lover you might know. The current drop, called “Boston Batch,” is named for Boston, Kentucky, where Booker Noe, the expression’s namesake, got his first start as a distiller. It’s a 6-year-old bourbon that clocks in at a hefty 126.5 proof. Chock-full of big vanilla flavor and caramel, balanced against nutty notes, char, and spice, the “Boston Batch” is quintessentially Booker’s and a present that will be cherished.
ABV: 63% | Age: 6.5 years | Tasting Notes: Robust, vanilla, caramel, nutty, oaky
Best for Collectors: Little Book Chapter 4: “Lessons Honored”
Courtesy of LuekensView On Drizly
Freddie Noe’s fourth installment in the much-heralded annual limited-release Little Book series, “Lessons Honored,” is a tribute to his father, Jim Beam master distiller Fred Noe, and the wisdom he has passed down. This year’s version is a blend of a four-year-old Kentucky straight brown rice bourbon, an eight-year-old Kentucky straight rye, and a seven-year-old Kentucky straight bourbon. The brown rice bourbon is a curveball in the recipe, but it works. The whiskey is loaded with vanilla and stacked with cherries and charred wood capped off with a spicy rye finish. It’s a bottle some recipients might want to sit on a bit, but we’d rather fill our glass and the one our friend is holding.
ABV: 61.4% | Age: NAS | Tasting Notes: Oaky, fruit, heavy, cinnamon, brown sugar, black pepper
What to Look for in a Whiskey to Gift
Taste is paramount when it comes to a good whiskey. A variety of ingredients and factors can impart different flavors on a whiskey, from which grain is used to what kind of barrel it’s aged in to different ingredients included. There are a number of different flavor profiles when it comes to whiskey, and common categories include smoky, woody, floral, fruity, peaty, cereal, winey, and feinty.
Aroma and Color
Scent and taste are closely linked. A good whiskey has a complex aroma that can tease out the tasting notes within. Smelling your drink before tasting it can enhance the experience and really bring out the flavors.
In addition to aesthetics, the color of a whiskey can tell you about the drink. Typically, the darker the whiskey is the longer it has aged. The color itself actually comes from the aging barrels, not the spirit. As such, the different wood used can impart different colors. American oak, for example, imparts a reddish hue to whiskey.
The type of barrel used to age the whiskey doesn’t just affect the color—it affects taste, too. American oak gives whiskey a sweeter taste with notes of vanilla. European oak is used to give whiskey a spicier flavor with oaky notes.
Many whiskeys are also aged in previously used barrels for more nuanced flavors. For example, whiskey aged in former sherry barrels imparts a fruity and nutty flavor. Former rum barrels can be used to give whiskey a tropical and spicy taste.
While whiskey does get better with age, it’s not in the same way that wine matures. The longer whiskey sits in an aging barrel, the smoother and more flavorful it gets. Once bottled, however, whiskey is done aging. Most distilleries age their whiskey for a minimum of three years, though some are aged as long as 25 years. Blended whiskeys are a combination of different ages. If you see the term “NAS” when browsing whiskey, it means “no age statement.”
Can I ship whiskey as a gift?
Many sites allow you to ship whiskey around the country–some even internationally. That said, each state (and country) has its own laws and regulations about shipping alcohol. Unfortunately, some areas may be restricted when you’re sending a gift, but these should be clearly outlined on the site when you’re purchasing a whiskey bottle.
What is the difference between whiskey and bourbon?
Whiskey is a spirit made of grains. It’s actually an umbrella term that includes a variety of spirits. Bourbon is a type of whiskey that is made and aged a certain way. There are a few major factors involved in making a bourbon, according to the American Bourbon Association: It must be made of at least 51 percent corn, aged in new charred oak barrels, distilled at no higher than 160 proof, at least 80 proof at bottling, and made in America.
Is Scotch a whisky?
Yes, Scotch is a type of whisky. (Since Scotch is made entirely in Scotland, there is no “e” in the word whisky.) Spelling and location aren’t the only notable differences, however. Scotch is primarily made of malted barley, is aged at least three years, has a minimum 40 percent ABV and 80 proof, and must be entirely distilled and bottled in Scotland.
What is whiskey made from?
Whiskey is a distilled spirit made of cereal grains. These can include corn, barley malt, rye, and wheat. Each type of grain affects the flavor and aroma of the drink.
Corn: Corn makes for a lighter whiskey, sweet with notes of honey, butter, and caramel. Bourbon is a corn-based whiskey.
Barley Malt: Smokey and earthy, barley whiskeys have more bite. There are notes of spice and leather. Barley malt is used to make Scotch.
Rye: This grain imparts a spicy flavor to whiskey. It’s rich with hints of nuttiness and dried fruits. As the name suggests, rye is used to make rye whiskey.
Wheat: Wheat is used to create a smooth, subtly sweet drink. Honey, vanilla, berries, spice, and toffee are found within its flavor profile.