Lot No. 40/Sazerac/Bowmore/istock/Uproxx

When it comes to whisk(e)y, you have to start somewhere. Nobody just dives in with an uncut barrel-proof bourbon behemoth or single malt peat monster. Like with anything new, you have to start exactly where Drake began his career — at the bottom. And by bottom, we mean the beginning. (Not necessarily the bottom shelf.)

Today, instead of dropping a list of our favorite limited-edition single barrel ryes or hard-to-find Japanese whiskies, we’re going to highlight the best introductory bottles for every type of whiskey drinker. To be clear, we’re not going to stretch into every random genre and subsection of the whisk(e)y universe just yet. For now, we’re going to stick to bourbon, rye, single malt scotch, blended scotch, Canadian, Irish, Japanese, and peated whisky.

Check all eight entries out below and savor them as you develop your whiskey-drinking palate! Click on the prices to pick up a bottle for yourself.

Bourbon Whiskey -– Wild Turkey 101

Wild Turkey

ABV: 50.5%

Average Price: $21

The Whiskey:

When it comes to beginner bourbons, drinkers have a lot of choices. But, if you’re looking for the best value to quality ratio, it’s really difficult to beat Wild Turkey 101. This high rye, slightly spicy bourbon is matured in the deepest charred American oak casks the distillery has on hand. The result is a supremely mellow blend of 6 to 8-year-old bourbons.

Tasting Notes:

The first thing you’ll notice when you take a moment to nose this whiskey is the strong notes of charred oak, caramel, and toasted vanilla beans that all meld together with the help of a little spicy, peppery rye. Sipping reveals hints of fresh leather, buttery caramel, sticky toffee, cinnamon sugar, and just a hint of cracked black pepper at the very finish.

Bottom Line:

Even with the low price tag and high proof, this bourbon is just as useful as a sipper as it is as a mixer. Enjoy it in a rocks glass with a single ice cube or as the base for an old fashioned. It’s truly a versatile, high-value bottle.

American Rye Whiskey -– Sazerac

Sazerac

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $39.99

The Whiskey:

There’s a glut of bargain, beginner bottles of rye on the market. But in our opinion, the best introductory bottle is Sazerac. Made to pay homage to the history of New Orleans, this rye whiskey is known for its subtle spicy flavor that’s well-balanced with sweetness. It was created to be used as the base of a cocktail but serves as a tremendous value sipper as well.

Tasting Notes:

The nose is surprisingly complex for such a bargain-priced bottle. There are bold notes of candied orange peels, dried fruits, vanilla cream, and a nice hit of peppery spice. Take a sip and you’ll find flavors of citrus zest, cinnamon sugar, buttery caramel, and cracked black pepper. Unlike many ryes in this price range, the peppery flavor isn’t overwhelming here.

Bottom Line:

If you’re going to make a Sazerac, you could do much worse than using the rye whiskey the drink was named for as its base. But this is also a functional sipper and a great value pick.

Single Malt Scotch Whisky –- Glenmorangie The Original

Glenmorangie

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $35

The Whisky:

Like the bourbon marketplace, there are myriad beginner single malt whiskies that could easily be inserted here. But if you’re looking for the one bottle to introduce a new Scotch drinker to the style, there’s no better expression than Glenmorangie The Original. This mellow, smooth sipping single malt has been made the same way for more than 175 years. Matured for ten years in ex-bourbon casks, it’s known for its fruity, sweet, and approachable flavor.

Tasting Notes:

The aroma is all citrus, vanilla, and just a hint of woody sweetness. When it’s time to take a sip, your palate will swirl with more toasted vanilla that’s paired with buttery caramel, sticky toffee, candied orange peels, and just a hint of cinnamon spice. It all ends with a pleasing, warming note of dried fruits and caramelized sugar.

Bottom Line:

This introductory bottle is so good (and is such a great value) that you’ll continue purchasing it long after your palate grows accustomed to the various styles and region-driven flavors of Scotch whisky.

Blended Scotch Whisky –- Monkey Shoulder

Monkey Shoulder

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $32

The Whisky:

You might look at this selection and think it’s a cop-out. But it’s really not. If you’re new to blended whisky, there’s no better beginner bottle than Monkey Shoulder. Why? Because this bottle allows you to get a taste of three different Speyside distilleries. These single malts are blended to create a sublimely mellow, easy-to-drink whisky that’s a superb sipper in this price range.

Tasting Notes:

For a reasonably inexpensive blended whisky, a lot is going on with the nose. You get candied orange peel, vanilla beans, cinnamon, and crème Brulee aromas. Taking a sip reveals ripe berries, clover honey, more pronounced vanilla, dried fruits, and sweet malts. The finish is warming, long, and ends with a nice herbal, spicy, sweet last sip.

Bottom Line:

Sure, you can grab one of the more historic blended whiskies to introduce you to the style. But there’s honestly no better beginner bottle than Monkey Shoulder. It does a whole lot for 32 bucks.

Canadian Whisky -– Lot No. 40 Rye

Lot No. 40

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $39.99

The Whisky:

For many drinkers, Canada can seem like the wild west of whiskey. There seems to be a lot going on up in the great wild north and the use of the term “rye” historically for whisky that isn’t the same as our rye whiskey is confusing. But all you really need to know is that Lot No. 40 is a really great whisky. Discontinued in the early 2000s before returning to the market a few years ago, Lot No. 40 rye is produced in copper pot stills and is thought to be one of the best examples of Canadian whisky available today.

Tasting Notes:

Right away, you’re struck with the expected aromas of peppery rye spice. This is followed closely behind by vanilla beans, candied orange peels, and raisins. The cracked black pepper remains on the palate along with more toasted vanilla beans, butterscotch, cooking spices, and cinnamon sugar at the very end. All in all, a great introduction to the world of Canadian whisky.

Bottom Line:

Not only is this a great gateway into Canadian whisky, but it’s also a great first rye whiskey. It masters an impeccable balance between peppery spice and vanilla and caramel sweetness.

Irish Whiskey -– Green Spot

Green Spot

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $59.99

The Whiskey:

There are a ton of great choices when it comes to beginner Irish whiskey expressions. You can’t go wrong with Bushmills, Jameson, or Tullamore D.E.W., for example. But when it comes to quality to value ratio, we love Green Spot. This beloved expression gets its rich, highly sippable flavor from being aged in first and second fill ex-bourbon barrels as well as sherry butts.

Tasting Notes:

This is a truly multi-dimensional dram. The nose is filled with buttery toffee, vanilla beans, dried cherries, and carries a subtle herbal backbone. Taking a sip reveals hints of charred wood, caramelized sugar, vanilla, sweet sherry, and mint. It’s exceptionally creamy and ends with a pleasing wallop of butterscotch.

Bottom Line:

Not only is this our favorite introductory Irish whiskey, but this is also one of our favorite beginner sherried whiskeys (whiskeys aged in sherry barrels). It’s sweet, complex, and well-suited for sipping neat.

Japanese Whisky -– Nikka Whiskey From The Barrel

Nikka

ABV: 51.4%

Average Price: $90

The Whisky:

A lot of drinkers shy away from Japanese whiskies because they just don’t know where to start. We suggest the award-winning, very flavorful Nikka Whiskey From The Barrel. This blend of single malt and grain whiskies from Yoichi and Miyagikyo distilleries is aged in a combination of ex-bourbon, sherry butts, and hogsheads.

Tasting Notes:

Before taking a sip, breathe in the aromas of charred wood, wildflowers, dried cherries, honey, and vanilla beans. Taking a sip will transport you to a world of creamy caramel, vanilla beans, wood char, subtle spices, and sherry sweetness at the very end. This warming, fruity whiskey is tempered by a nice hit of spice and wood.

Bottom Line:

If you’re a Scotch whisky fan and you’ve never delved into the world of Japanese whisky, what are you waiting for? This is the whisky to start that journey.

Peat-Smoked Scotch Whisky –- Bowmore 15

Bowmore

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $99.99

The Whisky:

Scotch whisky is broken up into two parts: peated and unpeated. The island of Islay is filled with distilleries producing peated whisky with some being smokier than others. Bowmore is one of the most highly regarded distilleries on the island (and all of Scotland) and its 15-year release is a great way for non-peat drinkers to get started. Finished in sherry butts, this well-rounded whisky has a great peat-smoke-to-sherry-sweetness ratio.

Tasting Notes:

This is a complex whisky. The nose, while filled with earthy peat smoke, is also swirling with dried fruits, sweet cherries, buttercream, and subtle spices. The palate is full of hints of sticky toffee pudding, vanilla beans, charred oak, sweet sherry, and a nice wisp of pleasing, robust peat smoke. While the peat is prevalent throughout, it’s tempered by vanilla and sweet sherry notes.

Bottom Line:

We can’t think of a better introduction into the world of peat-smoked whisky than Bowmore 15. It’s reasonably priced for such an old bottle and it’s more well-rounded and sweeter than some of the smoke bombs on the market.


As a Drizly affiliate, Uproxx may receive a commission pursuant to certain items on this list.