One of the oldest and essential liquors in the world is whiskey, a distilled liquor made from a fermented grain mash and often aged in wooden casks for varying amounts of time. While whiskey is a vital component in many cocktails, the liquor can be enjoyed alone — neat or poured over ice, with certain whiskeys made for either drinking preference. There are a variety of whiskeys, which depends on the grain mash and distillation methodology: Each process creates a distinct iteration.

Here are the best whiskeys to drink straight, including bourbons, ryes, scotches, and regional favorites like Irish whiskey, Japanese whisky, and Canadian whisky. From a smokey scotch whisky to a subtly sweet bourbon, there’s a lot to be enjoyed across an impressive breadth of flavor profiles. The following whiskey suggestions below to try are selected based on flavor notes, variety in type, retail price, and alcohol by volume (ABV). As always, please remember to drink responsibly.

Johnnie Walker Blue Label Blended Scotch Whisky

Named for 19th-century Scottish grocer and liquor salesman John Walker, Johnnie Walker is the most widely distributed scotch whisky brand in the world by a significant margin. The Johnnie Walker line designates different types of whiskies across its branding with color-coded labeling, with the Johnnie Walker Blue Label recognized as the line’s premium blend. Aged for a minimum of three years in oak casks, Johnnie Walker claims it handpicks its scotch whisky from one in 10,000 casks.

Blue Label maintains the smoky quality that scotch whiskies are known for without overpowering the other elements of its robust flavor profile. With delicate flavor notes of hazelnut and dark chocolate, Blue Label is one of Johnnie Walker’s best whiskies: It’s a superior sipping scotch. Johnnie Walker Blue Label has a 40% ABV and retails for $250 for a 750ml bottle or $500 for a liter-size bottle.

Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

The state of Kentucky has a long history with bourbon, an American whiskey made from a grain mixture with a majority composition of corn and aged in charred oak casks. While many bourbon brands claim their history and respective family traditions in the recipe and distillation process, Buffalo Trace is one of the world’s oldest bourbon distilleries in operation since 1805. In addition to serving as the main distillery for Maker’s Mark, Buffalo Trace distillery also produces its eponymous bourbon brand, with whiskeys aged for at least two years.

Consistently awarded the distinction as one of the best bourbons in the world, Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon offers the vanilla flavoring and sweetness that helps set bourbon apart from other whiskeys. Buffalo Trace has a silky taste, a deceptively varied flavor profile, and a delicate finish best appreciated when drunk solo. Buffalo Trace has an ABV of 45% and retails for $35 for a 750ml bottle, making it one of the best bourbons on shelves for a relatively affordable price.

Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. Straight Rye

Rye whiskey is fundamentally similar to bourbon, but the main difference is that at least 51% of rye’s grain mix comes from rye instead of corn. Like bourbon, straight rye whiskeys are predominantly made in Kentucky and aged in oak barrels for at least two years, including our pick: Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. Straight Rye. In contrast to many popular rye brands, E.H. Taylor omits corn entirely from the whiskey’s grain mix, keeping its base to rye and barley.

E.H. Taylor Straight Rye’s unique grain mix puts a heavier emphasis on spices in its flavor profile while providing a subtly sweet finish. Bottled-in-bond, E.H. Taylor’s distillation process has been in place since 1897. The whiskey ages for at least four years, following the tradition of its namesake, 19th-century whiskey purveyor Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. With an ABV of 50%, Colonel E.H. Taylor Straight Rye retails for $97 for a 750ml bottle and is perfect for a classic standalone rye drinking experience.

The Hakushu 12-Year Single Malt Whisky

Inspired by Scottish whisky, Japanese distillers began creating their localized variation of the liquor in the early 20th century: In 1923, the Suntory Distillery opened and is now the oldest to carry this tradition in Japan. Produced in the lush mountains outside of Kyoto, one of Suntory’s popular whisky brands is its Hakushu aged single malt whisky line. With whiskies available at the 12 and 18-year mark, the Hakushu 12-year bottle provides a much more subtle and smooth drinking experience than its more mature counterpart.

Recognizable by its short-nosed green bottle, Hakushu 12-year has a noticeably herbal flavor profile, befitting its arboreal origins, with detectable notes of basil, mint, and green tea. The 12-year has a subtle smokey quality on the finish, with the whisky offering a more crisp drinking experience with its fresh notes. Hakushu 12-Year Japanese Whisky has an ABV of 43% and retails for $190 for a 750ml bottle, providing one of the more unique whiskies to come out of Asia.

Laphroaig Quarter Cask Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Based out of the Scottish island of Islay, Laphroaig provides one of the most authentic Scotch whisky lines in the world, with a history of Scottish whisky distillation since 1815. The Laphroaig Quarter Cask changes up the company’s typical distilling tradition, utilizing American oak for a two-barrel aging process: The second barrel being a quarter-sized cask, true to the whisky’s name. The smaller cask allows the whisky to have more contact with the wood during its maturation process. The American oak provides a unique flavor, contrasting with the rest of Laphroaig’s line.

Laphroaig has a reputation for offering smokey scotch whisky. Those qualities remain in the Quarter Cask. However, the subtle sweetness from the American wood used in its maturation process tempers the smokiness. This distinction makes Laphroaig Quarter Cask much more palatable than its counterparts and provides a smoother and more nuanced drinking experience that gives its flavor notes room to breathe. Laphroaig Quarter Cask Single Malt Scotch Whisky has an ABV of 48%. A 750 ml bottle retails for $76 and stands among Laphroaig’s most accessible scotches.

High West Campfire Whiskey

While Utah may not be the first state that comes to mind for alcohol production, the Beehive State is the home of High West Distillery, which keeps Utah’s little-known whiskey history alive. Among the whiskeys offered by High West is its Campfire Whiskey, which boasts a blend of quality bourbon, rye, and scotch whisky into a full-bodied liquor. This composite approach to blending distinctly different types of whiskey provides a unique and robust drinking experience in a single serving.

The Campfire blends bourbon and rye, giving the liquor a sweet flavor with hints of toffee and vanilla. The addition of scotch whisky gives Campfire a smokey finish, with the peats in the scotch coming out throughout the whiskey’s rich tail. High West Campfire Whiskey has an ABV of 46% and retails for $71 for a 750ml bottle — a solid and diverse whiskey blend for any night out.

Bulleit Bourbon 10-Year

With its commitment to quality and affordable price, Bulleit Frontier Whiskey has become one of the most rapidly growing whiskey brands in the United States, with a robust line of bourbons and ryes. Among Bulleit’s best whiskeys is the Bulleit Bourbon 10-Year, aged in charred white oak barrels and offering a mellower flavor profile than its counterparts across the rest of Bulleit’s whiskey line. With a 68% corn grain mix, the bourbon maintains a sweet quality throughout the drinking experience without overshadowing its layered flavor notes.

Deceptively smooth, the Bulleit Bourbon 10-Year has notes of vanilla and dried fruit, as its prolonged maturation creates a rich finish. The 10-Year stands a clear cut above Bulleit’s already impressive line, with heightened complexity sure to please even the most exacting whiskey enthusiasts. Bulleit Bourbon 10-Year has an ABV of 45.6% and retails for $50 for a 750ml bottle, making it one of the best buys for the sheer value readily available.

The Yamazaki 12-Year Single Malt Japanese Whisky

The flagship Japanese whisky brand from Suntory Distillery in Kyoto is Yamazaki, which specializes in a line of aged single malt whiskies. Yamazaki whisky has a grain mix composed of barley and pure mineral waters naturally found in the forests outside of Kyoto. Across the Yamazaki line, the 12-year single malt provides a rich, silky premium whisky without breaking the bank, in contrast to the significantly more expensive variants with longer maturation rates.

This whisky should be savored at a deliberate pace to appreciate its complexity. Yamazaki has a tart and fruity flavor profile with notes of cranberry and citrus. The spicy nuances surface at its finish, with detectable hints of cinnamon and ginger at its tail. Yamazaki 12-Year Single Malt Whisky retails for $193 for a 750ml bottle, with the liquor possessing a 43% ABV, giving curious drinkers a taste of Japan’s finest in locally distilled spirits.

Balvenie DoubleWood 12-Year Single Malt Scotch Whisky

The Balvenie Distillery in Scotland has been in operation since 1893, following its founding by William Grant, specializing in single malt scotch whisky. Balvenie features a line of scotch aged in two distinctly different types of wood barrels over the course of its maturation process. After a maturation period in a traditional oak barrel, Balvenie’s DoubleWood scotch is then transferred to a European sherry cask to finish the aging process.

The DoubleWood sports a sweetly nutty flavor befitting the trace amounts of sherry it absorbs from its second cask, offering a smoother alternative to many of its scotch whisky contemporaries. The 12-year scotch whisky provides a surprisingly delicate flavor profile, with hints of vanilla accentuating the sherry, to make for a memorable scotch. The Balvenie DoubleWood 12-Year has an ABV of 43% and retails for $75 for a 750ml bottle, expanding the palate of what a conventional single malt scotch can be.

Westland Peated American Single Malt Whiskey

A peated whiskey involves roasting the grain used for the distillation over burning peat, infusing the malt with a smokey and earthy quality. This tradition is alive and well with Westland Distillery in Seattle, with its distillation process using water from the Cedar River and local peated malt from the Evergreen State. The Westland Peated American Single Malt Whiskey combines this tradition with modern sensibilities, blending peated malt with local pale malt after it matures.

The addition of the pale malt prevents the smokiness in its peated counterpart from completely overshadowing the nuances in the whiskey’s flavor profile. A more balanced peated whiskey, Westland’s use of pale malt in the mix gives the liquor a distinctly grainy taste and mouthfeel that many of its counterparts lack. Westland Peated American Single Malt Whiskey has an ABV of 46% and retails for $80 for a 750ml bottle, offering an American twist on a classic liquor.

Redbreast 12-Year Irish Single Pot Still Whiskey

One of the most traditional Irish whiskeys is single-pot still distillation whiskey, which distills malted and unmalted barley together in a pot still. Redbreast has been one of the longest-running single-pot still Irish whiskey brands on the market. From its initial Dublin distillery in the 19th century, it led Ireland’s whiskey boom. The Redbreast 12-Year maintains this historical tradition with a modern twist as it matures its whiskey in a two-stage aging process in bourbon and sherry casks.

Redbreast’s double cask maturation process leads to a subtly sweet and smooth drinking experience with a full-body flavor profile. The sherry cask gives the drink robust notes of spice and fruit, with a rich finish and silky mouthfeel befitting its single pot still distillation origins. Redbreast 12-Year Irish Single Pot Still Whiskey has an ABV of 40% and retails for $72 for a 750ml bottle, combining old-world traditions with modern sensibilities.

Jameson Black Barrel Triple Distilled Irish Whiskey

Jameson is one of the most prominent Irish whiskey brands worldwide, selling millions of cases around the globe annually and offering a healthy variety of whiskeys. The smoothest drinking experience offered by Jameson without venturing into the distiller’s premium or flavored whiskey lines is Jameson Black Barrel. As the name suggests, Black Barrel is aged in double-charred wood barrels and made from, as with the rest of the Jameson line, local barley in Ireland and water from the Dungourney River.

Black Barrel has a baseline vanilla flavor that carries from the whiskey’s nose through its finish, with only a faint harshness to the aftertaste, compared to many whiskeys. Black Barrel can give cocktails an extra kick above the standard Jameson Irish Whiskey but stands perfectly solo as a solid straight-drinking liquor. With a 40% ABV, Jameson Black Barrel retails for $43 for a 750 ml bottle or $51 for a liter-size bottle.

Virginia Distillery Co. VHW Port Cask Finished Whisky

After moving to Virginia in the 1970s, Irish immigrant Doctor George G. Moore brought his passion for scotch-style whiskies and founded the Virginia Distillery Company in 2011. The company distills Midwestern barley in large copper stills from Scotland, synthesizing the American heartland and classic European whisky traditions. The distillery’s Port Cask Virginia Highland Whisky is the best marriage of these two styles, blending aged scotch whisky with Virginia single malt whiskey and aging for an additional 12 months in port casks.

This blended whisky has dark chocolate and toffee notes in its flavor profile, while the peat base of the scotch whisky comes through for a smokey quality in the finish. The Port Cask Virginia Highland is the whisky that most visibly presents the Virginia Distillery Company’s propensity to combine techniques and spirits into smooth and effective blends. The Virginia Distillery Company Port Cask Virginia Highland Whisky has an ABV of 46% and retails for $54 for a 750ml bottle.

West Cork 8-Year Single Malt Irish Whiskey

One of the newer Irish whiskey distilleries to rise on the global market is West Cork Distillers, founded in 2003 and steadily growing to become one of the largest wholly Irish-owned distilleries in operation. While branching out to produce gin and vodka, the company’s single-malt Irish whiskey remains the crown jewel in the line. West Cork Distillers has grown significantly and offers its flagship whiskey in over 70 countries worldwide. The West Cork 8-Year Single Malt is matured in bourbon casks, giving the whiskey a sweeter flavor profile and smooth finish.

The West Cork Single Malt has surprisingly fruity hints, with citrus and green apple notes, with vanilla and butterscotch notes detectable in its finish. A silky and warm drinking experience, the single malt encapsulates what makes Irish whiskey so popular worldwide, with subtly modern flourishes added to the mix. The West Cork 8-Year Single Malt has an ABV of 40% and retails for $40 for a 450ml bottle, making it one of the more affordable quality whiskeys on this list.

Lot No. 40 Whisky

Outside of Crown Royal, plenty of Canadian whiskies maintain the traditional distillation techniques that come with producing alcohol in such a relatively chill climate. The Northern Border Collection has been distilling whisky since 1858, utilizing hearty rye grain capable of surviving and thriving in Canada’s frigid temperatures and cold soil. The standout liquor in the Northern Border Collection’s line is Lot No. 40 Whisky: This drink is a locally sourced small batch whisky distilled by the company’s tried-and-true methodology.

Unlike many Canadian whiskies, which often rely on blends, Lot No. 40 is pure rye that unabashedly embraces boldness and body. Lot No. 40 eschews modern frills in its production and presentation. Earthy and warm, Lot No. 40 is the perfect standalone whisky to enjoy on those cold winter nights, softening its bite with a subtle vanilla finish. Lot No. 40 Whisky has an ABV of 43% and retails for $40 for a 750ml bottle, offering international drinkers the opportunity to sample traditionally made Canadian whisky.