Each year, Whisky Advocate Buying Guide reviewers collectively sample hundreds of whiskies. These include rare and extremely limited releases, as well as new and emerging labels that will find their way to shelves across the nation. To determine the Top 20, folks at the establishment begin by looking only at whiskies that rated “outstanding” (90 points or higher on Whisky Advocate’s 100-point scale). However, the Top 20 is not simply a collection of highest-rated whiskies, because many of those are so limited they would be impossible for most readers to locate or purchase. Therefore, in addition to quality (based on score), the selection also prioritizes value (based on price) and availability.

An important step in gauging the true merit of these whiskies is blind tasting review by a panel of international reviewers. The review panel tasted the eligible whiskies in a series of blind tasting flights to arrive at the final list. The panel did not know the identity of the whiskies being tasted—not their producer, country of origin, age, nor price. The average rating from the blind tasting panel supersedes the original Buying Guide rating. The individual reviewer rating will remain noted in the Buying Guide for the record. The final decision for placement considers average score, price, and availability.

In short, the Top 20 is a selection of whiskies worthy of your attention. The list includes great values that might otherwise be overlooked, whiskies that are best in class for their style, and highly accomplished bottles you should be looking for. Most importantly, each of these whiskies generates excitement and marks a highlight across a year of tasting.

This article was written by Brad Japhe and first appeared in a Blloomberg.com article.

A proper sherried malt is a beautiful thing to behold. Burgundy liquid brimming with the richness of over-ripened stone fruit, it balances aromatic intensity against structural nuance. While a seasoned whisky enthusiast might count one as the ultimate dram, savvy investors see it as an ideal asset. The Macallan 25—a bottle exhibiting all of the aforementioned attributes—retailed for $900 in 2013. Today, you won’t find it for under $2,000.

Rare whisky has outperformed every other luxury asset, including fine wine, soaring some 564% in the last decade, according to the Knight Frank 2020 Wealth Report. Rising demand from Asian investors has led to marquee auctions—and even cyberattacks—regarding bottles that were expected to top $2 million.

The Scotch whisky market isn’t the only one susceptible to the surge. For the better part of the 21st century, the price of virtually all aged spirit has soared. As a result, even some wealth funds and indices comprising exclusively distilled liquid commodities promise average returns of 12% to 15% per annum.

Ultimately, all the juice is meant to be enjoyed. Whether you’re just getting into the whiskey game or are a veteran collector, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to decide whether the latest limited release at your local bottle shop is worth sipping now or saving for later.

The obvious answer is to do both. Sneaker heads refer to the behavior as buying “one to stock and one to rock.” For the booze hounds out there, I humbly offer: “Store it or pour it.”

The exceptional liquids below constitute some of the highest quality liquids to hit the market over the past several years. They encompass a wide range of regions—from unexpected bourbons to decades-old Scotch to new world Indian malt—a broad spectrum of spirits to create a collection with a story worth showing and with a value expected to keep growing. Prices listed are retail, although they can vary widely, especially for the more limited releases.

Let’s take a look at whether or not it’s best to keep a cork in ’em—for now.


Amrut Distilleries Fusion Single Malt Whisky

This elegant bottling helped put Indian single malt on the map when it debuted in 2009. Today, it remains the gold standard of the style. The name derives from its production specs: a joining of Indian malt with peated malt from Scotland, forming a robust and smoky liquid that lingers on the palate well beyond each sip. It’s a great conversation piece on the back bar—and an even better value for the price. Verdict: Pour It


Town Branch 11 Year Old Kentucky Cask Strength Single Malt Whiskey - De Wine Spot | DWS - Drams/Whiskey, Wines, Sake

Although this distillery has been based in Lexington, Ky., since 2008, its giraffe-like copper pot stills came straight out of Scotland. The liquid held herein was among the first to hit the barrel—freshly decanted Oloroso Sherry casks—where it slumbered for 11 years. What emerged is characterized by decadent notes of dates and dark chocolate. With only 3,000 bottles in circulation, it’s likely to see a surge in value in the years ahead. Verdict: Store It


Waterford Distillery Rathclogh Single Farm Origin Irish Single Malt Whisky Edition 1.1 - De Wine Spot | Curated Whiskey, Small-Batch Wines and Sakes

Whisky giant Mark Reynier—the man who helped revitalize Bruichladdich scotch—has set sight on the Emerald Isle. His efforts have resulted in a super terroir-driven single malt that showcases the superiority of the barley at its core, with all grain grown and harvested from a singular farm. It arrives on U.S. shores with this offering: a 100-proof butterscotch bomb. It’s a joy to drink, sure. But the first edition in any intended series typically appreciates best, particularly when said series takes off, as Waterford is poised to do in the months ahead. Verdict: Store It


Exceptionally complex, with hints of sandalwood and caramelized sugar in alternating turns, this age-statement single malt out of Denver is also exceptionally elusive. An initial release consisted of just 500 bottles, available in New York, California, and Colorado. More should soon be coming, as this is intended to become a permanent brand extension. So if you do manage to track it down (sadly we did not get our allocation), it’s worth more to savor than save. Verdict: Pour It



Macallan 18 Years Double Cask Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Macallan’s Double Cask range features liquids that have been matured in both American and European oak, each previously seasoned with sherry. The lineup consists of a 12-year, a 15-year (also named to Whisky Advocate Top 20 whiskies of 2020), and this elder statesman, which is the most sophisticated of the bunch. This 86-proof liquid drinks exceptionally easily, unfurling a smidge of sultana and ginger spice from its auburn body. It’s also readily available as part of the brand’s core expressions. Verdict: Pour It


Old Forester 150th Anniversary Batch Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey - De Wine Spot | Curated Whiskey, Small-Batch Wines and Sakes

To celebrate its sesquicentennial birthday, this beloved Kentucky distillery unveiled three separate batches of limited-edition barrel-proof bourbon—each with its own nuances and exceptional in its own right. Although they won’t be bottled again, there’s no age statement here, which tends to temper investment potential. And since it’s such a joy to drink, it will do you far many more favors in the glass now than it will at some future affair. Verdict: Pour It


This Highland distillery has been overlooked by American drinkers for far too long. A recent rebranding looks to change that. Having formerly sold a series of vintage releases, it’s now pursuing the age-statement route, deploying sleek, stylish bottles to highlight the elegant, rounded liquid within. The most mature of the lineup is a medium-bodied malt aged for a quarter-century in ex-bourbon casks before finishing for several months in Spanish oak. Many of its scotch counterparts—of comparable age and quality—currently fetch more than double the cost cited here. Verdict: Store It



Michter's 25 Year Old Single Barrel Bourbon - De Wine Spot | Curated Whiskey, Small-Batch Wines and Sakes

When it comes to collectibility, few American producers can claim the credentials of Michter’s. The Kentucky whiskey maker’s special editions routinely climb five times above retail price within a year or so of initial release. This one is a prime example: a velvety melange of burnt sugar and winter spice. It’s been three years since a barrel was last deemed spectacular enough to sell, so pounce if you find one of 348 new bottles anywhere near the $1,000 retail price; they’re already seven times that on the secondary market. Verdict: Store It


Bourbon does not age the way scotch does. Because it rests in virgin cooperage and endures wide climactic shifts between seasons, the whiskey of Kentucky tends to be over-oaked by the time its Scottish cousin is just getting warmed up (around the 10-to-12-year mark). O.F.C. exists as a stunning exception to this rule. Buffalo Trace’s little-known second luxury label makes Pappy Van Winkle seem like Bud Light. And although this bottle was laid down during Bill Clinton’s first term as U.S. president, it remains entirely unimpeachable: tobacco, leather, and candied cherry on the palate, with a slight tinge of smoke tapering the finish. With such a high starting price, there’s not much room to roar as an appreciating asset, so if you’re willing to lay down thousands of dollars (yes, plural) chances are you can afford to enjoy it, too. Verdict: Pick


Here’s something you won’t readily find: an impeccably stewarded Scotch malt holding a half-century’s worth of maturity. Bottled at a cask strength of 51.3% ABV, its noses evokes the fresh floral bloom of Scotland in spring. On the tongue hums marzipan, with the slightest intimation of toasted coconut along the edge. (That’s the least it should do, considering the price.) But here’s the thing: This liquid is almost criminally undervalued (if you can score this at retail). While it comes by way of an independent bottler who hunts down rare casks, the Speyside distillery from which it was sourced just released its own 50-year-old counterpart … for $35,000! This one is essentially the exact same liquid for less than 1/6th the cost. Plus, the Last Drop mercifully accompanies all of its ultra-luxe releases with a 50 ml miniature. So you can pour and store. Everyone loves a happy ending. Verdict: Store It


Posted by Ilya Dorfman on 

Wow. What a year. It’s safe to say that 2020 was the year like no other. However, this is not a post about all of the challenges the year brought. Rather, as we are finally saying goodbye to 2020, below are the top 10 whiskeys, wines, and sakes that were bought by you, our loyal customers, over the course of the year to make it more bearable.