New To Buying Whiskey? Follow This Expert-Approved Shopping Advice

What are you supposed to look for when buying whiskey? If you're just getting into exploring the world of spirits, answering this question can feel a bit intimidating. There are many different buzzwords involved with the production of whiskey (or any other distilled liquor), and if you don't have experience, they may come off as confusing jargon rather than helpful descriptors. There's no need to be in the dark any longer, though. Tasting Table asked expert Chris Blatner, Executive Bourbon Steward, Founder of Urban Bourbonist, and Executive Director of Bourbon Charity, for his favorite tips on picking whiskey as a novice.

According to Blatner, there are two important factors to pay attention to when buying whiskey from any store. The first is the age statement, which is the information on the bottle's label that tells you for how long the whiskey has been aged since it was put into a barrel. "Look for whiskeys that are a minimum of 4 years old," says Blatner. The second factor to notice is any information around how the whiskey has been finished. Finishing a whiskey involves aging it for a second time in a barrel that once held another type of alcohol, such as port wine or tequila. This process can impart unique characteristics to the spirit that some drinkers may enjoy. The whiskey expert adds that "knowing the preferences of who you are buying for is always helpful when selecting a bottle."

Find a bottle in your budget

In addition to his advice on familiarizing yourself with the language of labels, Blatner reassures us that there is no need to break the bank to find a great bottle of whiskey. Whether your price ceiling is $25 or $500, you can feel confident that discovering the right whiskey for you is more a matter of preference than of spend. Pay attention when tasting your whiskey — what you like and what you dislike — and make a note of what information on the label may be contributing to those traits. Above all, Blatner says, "I think the best thing to do is to have a budget in mind when shopping and then look at bottles that are within that range."

If you still need help finding a starting point in the search for your new favorite whiskey, you can refer to our list of the top 25 American whiskey brands, which recommends solid everyday bottles that you are likely to find at your local grocery or liquor store. Once you've snagged a brand that you're a fan of, you can easily enjoy it straight or on the rocks, or use it in one of the many whiskey cocktail recipes out there. Purists will enjoy a classic Manhattan cocktail, while those in search of something a little sweeter should try this peach whiskey smash.