If you’re one of those lucky ones for whom tax season means a big check from the feds, there’s no better season for shopping for whiskey. A few special releases from the holidays are still around, liquor stores are empty after St. Patrick’s Day, and there’s a special sense of liberation that comes from shopping with money that feels “free,” even if it really isn’t.
This year, here are our top picks for upscale bottles worth the splurge. Want to spend that return all in one place? Go crazy and buy ‘em all.
Glenmorangie’s new Spìos release is aged entirely in a rye whiskey cask, adding layers of earth and spice to Glenmorangie’s famously fruity malt. Like rye whiskey, it has a spicy and herbal character, but that’s underpinned by a trademark malty richness.
Kentucky Owl Bourbon
This cult-favorite bourbon from the proprietor of the Beaumont Inn in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, is the revival of a brand his great-great-grandfather used to sell. Sourced from undisclosed distilleries, it’s a cask proof bourbon that undergoes a secondary finishing process in another set of new charred casks, giving it big color and flavor. Previously sold only in Kentucky, it’s now available outside the Bluegrass State.
Compass Box Phenomenology
Phenomenology represents the latest incarnation of Compass Box’s war against convention in the Scotch world. Previous releases like the three-year-old deluxe poked fun at labeling rules and gave Compass Box a chance to talk about their favorite topic, transparency. Phenomenology comes at the topic from another direction. There’s no information about what’s in this bottle, nor are there any official tasting notes. Instead, Compass Box wants you to taste it blind and trust your own senses. There’s no need to buy blindly, however; the stuff is good, with Whisky Advocate giving it 94 points in their latest issue.
GlenDronach 18-Year-Old Allardice
GlenDronach’s Brown-Forman facilitated march to North America includes their 18-Year-Old Allardice release, a potent sherry bomb with immense richness and depth. This is a gorgeously opulent whisky that tastes much more expensive than it really is. For Macallan lovers without a six-figure year-end bonus, this is the next best thing (perhaps even a better thing).
Margarett Waterbury is the author of Scotch: A Complete Introduction to Scotland's Whiskies and a full-time freelance writer and editor. Her work has appeared in Whisky Advocate, Food and Wine, Spirited Magazine, Artisan Spirit, Edible Seattle, Sip Northwest, Civil Eats, Travel Oregon, Artisan Spirit, and many other publications. She is...