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Top 13 Whiskey Brands for Beginners

Start your whiskey adventure with these brands

There is a whole wide world of whiskey waiting to be discovered by you out there. Finding the best whiskey for beginners is a matter of your personal taste preferences paired with the right bottle.

Yes, it is true that the flavor profile of whiskeys can be complex. But, you will quickly come to terms with what you like and do not like, especially with the right bottles. 

If you’re a novice whiskey drinker or a complete beginner, we are here to help you.

Below is a list of top-quality whiskeys to try. From bourbon to single malt scotch whisky, we have the full spectrum covered.

Once you try these spirits, you will soon become a whiskey connoisseur and start recommending the best bottles to your friends and family. 

Buffalo Trace

This first whiskey is brewed in Kentucky and contains hints of vanilla, oak, and caramel.

A bottle of Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon whiskey
A bottle of Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

This is a delicious one to try if you have never drunk whiskey before.

This is very mellow and inviting, giving you more than enough reason to try a few fingers of it, either neat or with some cubes of ice – introducing Buffalo Trace.

Four Roses Bourbon

This drink is not only very smooth, but it also goes very easy on the wallet, with a bottle costing you no more than around $20.

Four Roses Bourbon is great to have with a mixer, so if you want to bring out the diet Coke or Pepsi, you’d hardly even notice you were drinking whiskey.

For those of you who are a little intimidated by the strong taste of whiskey, Four Roses Bourbon is light enough to let you enjoy the traits of the spirit but not enough to burn your throat. 

Jack Daniels Black 

For the true taste of mellowing charcoal, Jack Daniels Black Label stands out from the rest.

Jack Daniels Whiskey Bottle

Iconic and beloved by loyal whiskey fans around the world, Jack Daniels Black is available just about anywhere.

Jack Daniels Black boasts robust vanilla and licorice flavors blended with a delightful oaky taste.

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Topped off with a subtle sweetness, Jack Daniel Black pairs famously with Coca-Cola to create the famous “Jack and Coke” – an easy 2 ingredient cocktail, and an ideal choice for any whiskey beginner. 

Tullamore Dew

This next whisky is another very fruity one, using ex-bourbon and ex-sherry butts to create a much softer and more exotic taste.

Tullamore Dew blended Irish Whiskey

Tullamore Dew, an Irish whiskey, is a lot lighter than a lot of other brands that you can get.

This is one that a lot of people describe as an entry-level whiskey, as it is not too overpowering.

Suntory Toki

This next whisky is one from Japan, so you might be looking to fork out a little more than usual for a bottle of this.

Suntory Toki Whisky

However, considering the delicious and smokey taste of Suntory Toki whisky, we reckon it would be worth a special treat for yourself. 

This has a very sweet and honeyed taste and texture, the perfect profile for any newbie whisky drinker. 

Bulleit Bourbon

Time to bite the bullet and experience the quality that Bulleit Bourbon has to offer.

Bulleit Bourbon Whiskey

This brand of Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey is made at the Bulleit Distillery in Lebanon, Kentucky as well as the Bulleit Distillery in Shelbyville, Kentucky.

Characterized by its high rye content (higher than most bourbons at around 28%), Bulleit Bourbon is left to age for six years before being bottled at 45% abv (90 proof).

Its equal overlays of caramel, vanilla, and orange zest match perfectly with the notes of cherry, smoke, and oak.

The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14-year-old

This Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14-year-old whiskey has been described as successfully straddling the difference between scotch and bourbon.

The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14-year-old

This is a very light scotch whisky that has been designed for sipping, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble chugging this one down.

You also don’t need a mixer to enjoy this one meaning this is a great first step into the world of neat whiskeys.

Johnny Walker Red Scotch Whisky

The pioneer blend by Johnny Walker, this whisky is popular with new drinkers as well as the most experienced.

Johnny Walker Red Scotch Whisky

As a beginner, you do not want something that will blow your head off. Thankfully, Johnny Walker Red offers hints of vanilla sponge and caraway that goes down a treat. 

Soft and gentle, this scotch whisky’s palate sports sour apple, white pepper, vanilla cream, and a sweet grain that combine into a perfect combination of caramel and toffee sweetness.

1792 Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon

1792 Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon contains notes of baking spice, vanilla, and oak, making it a great starter whiskey for those that might be slightly too squeamish for the punch of the oak.

This is a great sipping whiskey, with a well-rounded flavor that gives you everything that you need for a warm and relaxed feeling.

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Crown Royal

Here is the most famous of all Canadian whiskies – Crown Royal.

Crown Royal Canadian Whisky

First produced in 1939 to celebrate King George VI’s visit to Canada, you can choose from 50 different elegant and smooth whiskies from this brand. With so many variations to choose from, you are truly spoiled. 

Aged in white oak barrels, Crown Royal whisky is then chosen when it reach the peak maturity. The result is a delicately smooth and creamy spirit with pleasant hints of oak.

The sweet taste of vanilla is a highlight of Crown Royal helping it go down smoother than many other whiskies on the market. 

Jameson Irish Whiskey

If you like your whiskey with a vanilla twang, then we would definitely suggest that you try this world-famous one.

Jameson Irish Whiskey

Jameson Whiskey has been described by whiskey experts as a ‘gateway whiskey’, with a light and sweet texture, you’ll be able to easily down a few of these.

This whiskey is also a great complement to light American beers meaning you can enjoy the odd one in between a few cheeky beers on the weekend. Go on, you deserve a treat.

Maker’s Mark Bourbon

Since opening its distillery in 1953, Maker’s Mark Bourbon whiskey is still made in its original, most traditional way.

Maker’s Mark Whisky

Whether you’re in the mood for a full-flavored, smooth bourbon to sip neat or need something a little more spicy to add to a whiskey cocktail, Maker’s Mark bourbon whiskeys have you covered. 

Rich and fruity, there are plenty of alluring notes of mixed peels, sliced honey, a hint of malmsey hazelnut, and a tinge of fruit pleasantly acting as a backbone to the toasty oak flavors on show.

Combined with a rich and full palate, Maker’s Mark Bourbon provides notes of spice and rye, some nut oil, barley malt, butterscotch, and vanilla.

Hibiki Japanese Harmony

Aptly named Harmony, this Hibiki Japanese blended whisky is made from malt whiskies from the Hakushu and Yamazaki distilleries in Japan.

Drawn from 5 separate types of casks that include Sherry casks, Mizunara oak casks, and American white oak casks, Hibiki Japanese Harmony has a distinctly light finish. 

With wafts of orange, honey, and light oak, this blended whisky will impress any whisky expert. It has a nose of green apples, red berries, and various layers of rich honey.

Its palette simply blossoms with hints of melted butter and caramelized dates.

Now you have seen our list of whiskeys that are perfect for any beginner, it might be worth discussing the various kinds of whiskey, their taste, and how they’re made.

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Scotch Whisky

This whiskey is distilled in Scotland, which is a legal qualification for this stuff to be given the name Scotch. It comes in 5 different subgenres: malt, single malt whisky, blended malt, blended malt grain, and blended scotch whiskey.

This whiskey is made from malted barley or grain and has a much more punchy and sour flavor than other types of whiskey. This is brewed in the barrel for a minimum of 3 years.

Irish Whiskey

Irish whiskeys are made from yeast-fermented grain mash or a mash of malted cereal, aged for at least 3 years.

It has a very smooth finish and is often enjoyed neat.

Bourbon Whiskey

This next whiskey, Bourbon, has a slightly softer finish and might definitely be a starting point for most whiskey novices. This is made from corn and does not contain many additives.

Tennessee Whiskey

This is very much like bourbon whiskey, except that it is only brewed in the grand old state of Tennessee.

The main difference between this and bourbon is the filtering system. Tennessee whiskey uses charcoal, which is what accounts for its distinctive smokey taste.

Rye Whiskey

Rye whiskey is very fruity and spicy, with a rye content that can go no lower than 51%. It is mainly manufactured and distilled in North America and it has to age in a barrel for at least 2 years.

Japanese Whisky

Japanese whisky uses double peated barley and malt, aged in a wooden cask.

This whisky is drier and smokier than a lot of other whiskies that you can find on the market.

In Summary 

So, there you have it. That’s a list of some of the best whiskeys to start with, whether you’re sipping whiskey or mixing it into a cocktail.

You will probably have to try various kinds before you finally decide which one is your preferred type. So, all that’s left to say is, enjoy your whiskey-drinking experience! 

Interested in learning a bit more about the world of wine? Take a look at our guide on wine for beginners!

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  1. Wow, Brian! That was a good read. I wanted to recommend a few brands to my friend, who has just started dipping his toes in the world of liquor. I might suggest a few of these. I have already suggested Johnny Walker Red. I think he’ll enjoy Jameson Irish Whiskey and Tullamore Dew as well.

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian attended West Virginia University, then started his career in the IT industry before following his passion for marketing and hospitality. He has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and bar industry.

As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.

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