Whiskey (or whisky, without the ‘e’, if you’re in Scotland) is one of the world’s most popular spirits. Dark, complex and delicious, there’s a reason it’s a go-to drink for men across the globe.
But it’s easy to get stuck in your ways, only ever drinking your favourite drop and never trying anything new. There’s a whole world of whisk(e)y out there aside from the usual brand suspects pumped unrelentingly out of the distilleries of Scotland and the American South.
Of course, there are still plenty of whisk(e)y brands coming out of the old-school powerhouses as well… So we’re undertaking the daunting task of guiding you on a whisk(e)y world tour. Here are 57 whisk(e)y brands that you should be aware of when you see them sitting on the shelf of any bar.
You’ll probably know some, you probably won’t know a lot, but whisk(e)y is as much about the journey as it is the destination anyway. Slàinte.
Whiskey Brands FAQ
Scotland is the biggest producer of whisky in the world. Other countries like the United States, Ireland and Japan, also have long traditions of whisky-making. For many years, Jack Daniel’s has continued to take the spot as the world’s biggest-selling whiskey brand. The American brand sells around 13 million cases annually. A number of the world’s most expensive whiskies come from The Macallan, a whisky producer in the Speyside region of the Scottish Highlands. A six-liter crystal decanter of its Lalique “M” single-malt scotch sold for $631,850 in 2015. The spelling whiskey (with the 'e') is common in Ireland and the United States, while whisky (without the 'e') is used in all other whisky-producing countries, including Australia and Japan.
Which country is the biggest whisky producer in the world?
What is the number one best-selling whiskey brand in the world?
What is the most expensive whisky in the world?
How do I spell whiskey?
Scotland is the biggest producer of whisky in the world. Other countries like the United States, Ireland and Japan, also have long traditions of whisky-making.
For many years, Jack Daniel’s has continued to take the spot as the world’s biggest-selling whiskey brand. The American brand sells around 13 million cases annually.
A number of the world’s most expensive whiskies come from The Macallan, a whisky producer in the Speyside region of the Scottish Highlands. A six-liter crystal decanter of its Lalique “M” single-malt scotch sold for $631,850 in 2015.
The spelling whiskey (with the 'e') is common in Ireland and the United States, while whisky (without the 'e') is used in all other whisky-producing countries, including Australia and Japan.
Now sit back and enjoy the best whiskey brands in the world.
An almost 200-year-old distillery nestled in the foothills of the Cairngorms in the Scottish Highlands, Fettercairn has a long and illustrious history as the whisky of choice for prime ministers, pioneers and poets alike.
Fettercairn’s range starts with their 12 Year Old and goes all the way up to their 50 Year Old, but we’re fans of their 16 Year Old releases, which all feature unique maturation journeys designed to enhance the tropical distillery character derived from Fettercairn’s unique copper cooling ring distillation process.
The best-selling and most famous brand of Scotch whisky in the world, Johnnie Walker is an absolute icon. Its many whiskys range from the entry-level Red Label to the tip-top Blue Label. Johnnie Double Black, Green, Black, Gold and Platinum labels (in that order) all provide happy mediums to suit your budget.
They also do a range of John Walker & Sons whiskeys, which are about as premium as they come.
Chivas Regal is another top-selling Scotch brand. Their range starts from the cheapest 12-Year-Old, through the mid-range 18-Year-Old, to the most expensive 25-Year-Old, Ultis and “The Icon” whiskys.
4.5L cradles of Chivas 12 are also available for about $350 a pop, if you prefer to take a more Costco-inspired approach to your Scotch.
Famous, yet more experimental with a wider range of ages available, all of which are single malt. For the uneducated, that means that only one type of malted grain can be used in the whisky’s production, which in the case of Scotch is always barley.
Glenfiddich also sells a 50-year-old whiskey which goes for $55k a bottle. Ooft.
Based on the Isle of Skye, making them one of the most remote distilleries in Scotland, Talisker make famously smoky, intense single malt whiskeys that are regarded as some of the classic examples of Scotch, ranging between 10 and 35 years old. These are some of the best whiskeys in the world.
The ‘entry-level’ bottle of this Islay single malt is aged for 16 years, but Lagavulin also offers a Distiller’s Edition, finished in sherry casks, alongside occasional rare and exclusive drops.
Consistently the recipient of gold awards, this is a Scotch you simply have to try. Smoky, peaty and delicious, there’s a reason people love Lagavulin.
Glenmorangie makes only single malt whiskies deep in the Scottish Highlands and represent one of the best value-for-money whisky brands on the planet. They use the tallest stills in Scotland, which they claim gives their whisky a lighter, purer, more floral, fruity flavour.
One of Scotland’s six Lowland distilleries and one of the ‘four pillars’ of Johnnie Walker, Glenkinchie is a highly underrated whisky brand.
Most Lowland distilleries triple-distil their best whiskey, giving it a lighter taste. Lowland Scotches are sweeter, brighter, and much more flowery on the palate as a rule, with Glenkinchie being the most popular of the lot.
Founded in 1840 by two brothers, the Glen Grant distillery was one of the pioneers of Scotch single malt which has resulted in worldwide popularity today. Its whiskies have won several awards and with a range of aged bottles available including some Limited Editions, there is something for everyone.
Famous for the rounded bottle, Dimple makes 12 and 15 Year Old blends generally regarded as fantastic value for money. Well rounded, light and tasty, without anything harsh, and probably the cheapest 15 Year Old scotch you’re gonna find. Good for a beginner!
Shipping starts at $9.90 for metropolitan cities in Australia
Hailing from the Scottish valley of the same name, this brand has been producing whisky since the 1800s. Recognised as a premium brand now, Glenlivet batches range from 12-year to 50-years of ageing, but no matter which you get, you’ll be rewarded with a delicious drop.
A premium whisky blend made of single malts from Kininvie, Balvenie and Glenfiddich, Monkey Shoulder is generally preferred for use in cocktails and with mixers, but it’s very smooth, very sweet and drinkable in its own right. Only 27 casks are used to make each batch though, which makes each bottle a little bit boutique.
The everyday Ballantine’s Scotch is a blend of over 50 single malts and is a popular entry-level drop. Spend the extra $10-$20 and get the 12-Year-Old over the standard Ballantine’s though.
Similar price to Grant’s and Ballantine’s, with a few mid-range options thrown in there to keep the aficionados happy. The entry-level White Label enjoys solid reviews and won Gold at the San Francisco Spirit Awards though, making it a preferred alternative to other cheap brands in terms of taste for many.
Named after a legendary Scottish Warrior, a newer brand that pretty much sets the benchmark for quality in entry-level whisky. Solid value, if a little basic, and goes down smooth either neat or with a mixer.
Royally appointed to the Prince of Wales, one of Islay’s oldest and most prestigious scotch makers. Coming from Islay, Laphroaig whiskies share the same smoky, peaty, seaweed-y characteristics as their neighbours and generally have a rich, full flavour. Not for the faint-hearted: they’re smoky as hell.
Proper No. Twelve
Conor McGregor’s brand of whiskey is decidedly Irish. Smooth and easy-drinking with hints of vanilla and honey, this is a whiskey that will be hard to put down. Enjoy neat or in cocktails.
Exceptionally smooth is the only way to describe this triple-distilled Lowland Scotch by Auchentoshan. Their Three Wood offering is lovingly matured in bourbon, Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez casks that brings a distinct mellow and fruity flavour to the palate. For those who have tried Scotch whisky and feel that it’s not for them, give this a try before you call it a day.
Simply put, Jack Daniel’s is the best-selling brand of whiskey in the world. Contrary to popular belief, it’s actually a Tennessee whiskey, not a bourbon (although they are rather similar styles – whiskey is complicated).
The classic Old No. 7 with its square bottle and black label is a reliable drop, but their premium offerings are highly underrated, such as Jack Daniel’s Bonded.
This bourbon whiskey has a slightly more hipster vibe, but it’s made by the same company that owns Jim Beam and Suntory Whisky in Japan. Maker’s Mark has been made for over 50 years, yet it’s only recently achieved popularity in Australia recently for its distinctly improved, small-batch flavour. Despite what you might think due to the scale of their production, every bottle is still hand-dipped in the famous red wax that covers its top.
One of the oldest bourbon brands, yet not well known in Australia due to the distillery ceasing operations for large parts of the 20th century. Since its comeback, has seen rave reviews for its taste and value. Woodford Reserve is an elevated drop great for winning over bourbon whiskey skeptics.
Owned by Diageo, the same company that also owns Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker, Bailey’s and Guinness, Bulleit is a tasty bourbon brand you ought to know. It’s surprising that it’s not bigger, but sits in a similar vein in terms of price and quality.
A blend of two American whiskeys – high rye bourbon, distilled and aged in Indiana and Colorado single malt whiskey – TINCUP is inspired by, and owes its flavour to, the iconic Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Its name honours Colorado’s mining pioneers and the tin cups from which they drank their whiskey – a time-honoured tradition you can take part in yourself with the bottle’s handy tin cup closure.
TINCUP’s high rye content makes it more assertive and flavourful than ordinary bourbon whiskeys, but with the smoothness of a good single malt. It’s a versatile drop that’s great in cocktails as well as neat.
Shipping starts at $9.90 for metropolitan cities in Australia
Famously single barrel-produced, Blanton’s is getting into the premium area of bourbon, with the whiskey regularly medalling in spirit competitions the world over. A noted choice of Frank Underwood, and you can’t argue with that. Blanton’s is made in a reserved area of the larger Buffalo Trace distillery, which in itself has some notable drops worth trying.
Also owned by Diageo, George Dickel offers small-batch Tennessee whiskeys which were originally intended to compete with Scotch in terms of smoothness and flavour. As such, they use the traditional Scottish spelling of whisky on their labels. Confusing, we know. George Dickel is a standout American whiskey.
35 Maple Street
A newer, more modern spirit maker with ties to one of California’s most successful wine-producing families. 35 Maple Street makes a range of premium small-batch spirits, from whiskey to rum. Bib & Tucker Bourbon is their most famous offering, but it’ll set you back more than most.
Another famous whiskey brand, Wild Turkey is seen as a little classier than Jim Beam, yet still a choice of old-fashioned, rustic types in the American South. Their whiskeys are pretty straightforward in taste, and they’ve been trying particularly hard to shake off the white-trash, macho reputation of the brand in recent years.
A multi-award winner for a reason, Eagle Rare is an outstanding bourbon that’s been aged in oak for over 10 years. It is masterfully crafted by using product from only 1 single barrel and no blending from others. The rareness of this prized bourbon is most evident in its beguiling and complex nose. It’s also the only bourbon to ever win the double gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition five times.
Located on County Antrim’s rugged coastline – just near the famous Giant’s Causeway – Bushmills is an Irish institution and one of the finest whiskey makers on the planet. It’s also the oldest whiskey distillery in the world, and one of only a handful of distilleries in the world where all of the distillation, maturation, bottling and shipping happens all under one roof, which is emblematic of Bushmills’ pursuit of perfection.
Bushmills’ Red Bush and Black Bush blends are old favourites but for our money, Bushmills 10 Year Old Single Malt is the best-value single malt whiskey on the market.
Easily the best selling and best known Irish whiskey. Standard Jameson is aged for 12 years, but the more premium 18 Year Old and reserve labels are regarded as some of the best Irish whiskey widely available. Some Irish pubs in Australia go through 20 bottles of the stuff per day – it’s very popular as a mixer. Jameson and dry is a quintessentially refreshing drink.
A blend of all 3 types of Irish whiskey (single malt, single pot still and grain whiskey), Tullamore Dew is Ireland’s fastest-growing whiskey brand, doubling their sales since 2005, and the first brand to introduce whiskey finished in cider casks.
Traditionally aged in old bourbon barrels, which The Dubliner claim gives their Irish whiskey a much warmer, sweeter taste.They also offer an Irish whiskey liquor which is the Paddy answer to Southern Comfort.
One of Ireland’s most celebrated distilleries, yet pretty unknown Down Under. Glendalough 13-Year-Old Single Grain won Best Irish Whiskey at the 2015 San Francisco World Spirit Awards. Glendalough also make poitin, a sort of Irish moonshine which was outlawed in the mid 1600’s.
Still pot Irish whiskey that supposedly offers a very similar drinking experience to a fine bourbon. To achieve that, they’ve followed the traditional Irish method of combining a spiced pot still whiskey with a single malt. They also offer a cask strength variety, cranking the ABV from 40% to 52%. We love the name!
Make a huge range of very premium, single malt, single grain and small batch Irish whiskeys ranging up to 30 years old. Made in the first new distillery in Dublin to open up in over 125 years, Teeling’s been taking off like a rocket. Teeling also make a 52.5% poitin, which is clearly made for the bravest among us.
Rare and expensive. Founded in 1984, they’ve created a whiskey blending annual selections of the best whiskeys from the old Midleton Distillery, which to this day contains the largest pot still in the world. Hence why it’s called “Very Rare” by Midleton themselves.
Guess where this one’s made? Reaching the upper crust of Irish whiskey, their base-level blended whiskey will set you back $75 and is limited to 5,000 bottles per batch. Their single malt whiskey is aged in bourbon and sherry casks, offering one of the most classic Irish whiskey experiences available.
Made in one of the world’s oldest distilleries, and potentially a better shout than Jameson for the price. Very much an entry-level option for someone looking to get into Irish whiskey, Kilbeggan offers the smooth, distinctive flavour that you’d expect and has previously won gold at San Francisco too.
The best-selling Japanese whisky in the world, Suntory Kakubin is an absolute staple. Sweet, smooth, and full-bodied, it’s made of blends from Suntory’s more premium distilleries. It’s the quintessential ingredient in a whisky highball, but it’s also great on its own.
Yamazaki is the oldest and most prestigious whisky distillery in Japan: they’re ‘blue chip’ whiskies. Yamakazi whiskeys offer a rich colour and a softer, sweeter flavour than most Japanese whiskies. They’re not cheap, but they’re very good.
Another single malt made by Suntory in the Hakushu distillery, but much lighter in colour and livelier in flavour. Drier, stronger tasting, and also available as a blend, a 12 Year Old single malt and an 18 Year Old single malt.
Suntory’s premium range of blends, offered as 3 distinct whiskeys: the entry-level harmony blend, along with more expensive 12 and 17-Year-Old whiskies. All are made of selected single malt and grain whiskeys from both Suntory distilleries. Made famous by Bill Murray in Lost in Translation: “For relaxing times, make it Suntory time.”
The product of Japan’s other major distiller, located in the Japanese mountains at a location providing similar water and grain as you’d find in Scotland. Nikka makes smokier, peatier whiskeys than Suntory. Nikka Whisky From The Barrel is a classic.
Ichiro’s Malt & Grain Blended Whisky
King of the Japanese indie whisky makers is Ichiro Akuto and his Chichibu Distillery. The man’s vision was to offer a quality Japanese whisky experience that was affordable for everyone. The result is Ichiro’s Malt & Grain Blended Whisky, which is non-chill filtered and with no colouring added.
Cheap, dependable, very popular and more often drunk with mixers than anything else, Canadian Club is exceptionally popular in Australia and is probably the world’s best-known Canadian whisky. Made since 1858, the upper tiers of Canadian Club’s range were the choice of both James Bond and Queen Victoria.
Crown Royal is the other famous Canadian whisky, well-known for its unique bottle and purple bag. Crown Royal has an exceptionally diverse range: Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye was named world whisky of the year in Jim Murray’s 2016 Whisky Bible.
Bet you didn’t know Fireball was Canadian! Blended and flavoured with cinnamon, generally drunk by people who have little to no regard for their vocal cords, Fireball isn’t a whisky you’d sip neat: it’s something you’d shoot or mix into a cocktail. Still, Fireball is a fun and tasty drop. Our advice? Mix it with fresh cloudy apple juice. It tastes like an apple pie.
100% straight rye whiskey, initially made and aged in Canada before being aged for another 7 years in Vermont, USA. 50% ABV, very strong, very dry, but regarded as delicious too. Made by the former master distiller from Maker’s Mark.
Sullivan’s Cove makes some of Australia’s best and oldest whiskys, and have won the title of World’s Best Whisky at the San Fran Spirit awards too. Near impossible to buy these days, very expensive, but always in hot demand both locally and world-wide.
Made in Victoria from locally sourced barley to create an immensely popular new-world whisky, Starward is a very popular Australian whisky brand. They also offer a wine cask variety, aged in local wine barrels.
Another very popular Tasmanian distillery, making single malt and heavily peated Scotch-style whisky. They also offer wine-inspired varieties, finished in local pinot noir and port barrels for a deeper, richer flavour.
Cask-strength single malt that goes into the bottle at about 60% ABV. Very rich, very flavourful and very complex, with a range of tasting notes identified throughout their entire range.
Australia’s most famous whisky brand. The flagship product of Lark Distillery is matured for 5-8 years in small barrels which have a much larger surface area-to-volume of liquid. This allows a faster rate of evaporative losses and a considerably shorter maturation period than that required with the larger barrels commonly used in Scotland. Its distinctive profile is created with Tasmanian (Franklin) barley malted at the Cascade Brewery.
Distilled deep in Australia’s Barossa Valley, Smith’s makes a range of younger whiskies that range from 8 to 14 years old. A solid entry point to new-world whisky.