Tasting whiskey is like a trip around the world: From Kentucky to Tokyo, Glasgow to Dublin, excellent whiskeys know no borders.
We gathered for you here the best of the very best whiskeys in five categories: scotch, rye, Irish, Japanese, and bourbon.
In addition, we present to you three runners-up in each category. We’re confident this is the only ranking you’ll need to find a whiskey you will be passionate about, too. So keep reading, and cheers!
These days, whenever we whiskey drinkers are ready to wet our whistles, we’re spoiled with choices. From bourbon to rye, Irish whiskey to Japanese whisky, we are truly living in a golden age for everyone’s favorite distilled beverage. But what if you’re in the mood for a nice scotch? Well, we have you covered there as well.
In an endless quest to find the best whiskeys around, RAVE Reviews presents to you a ranking of the 20 best whiskeys in the world, with some not-to-be-missed runners-up as well. Put them all in rotation, or find the one you like the best.
Next time you’re ready for a drink, don’t settle for anything less than perfection. Buy your next whiskey from our ranking of the world’s 20 best whiskeys.
Before going any further, let’s straighten something out.
Whiskey or whisky? What’s up with that extra “e” anyway?
You’ve probably already noticed: Whiskey is sometimes spelled “whisky” and sometimes it’s spelled “whiskey.”
There is a difference between whisky and whiskey, and that’s country of origin.
Here’s what you need to know: the Irish spell it whiskey and the Scottish and Japanese spell it whisky. American whiskeys are also spelled with an “e.”
So for the purposes of our article, we’ll stick with “whiskey” unless we’re expressly talking about a Scotch or Japanese whiskey…er, “whisky.”
Now that’s out of the way, let’s answer another common question about whiskey: Is it Scottish or Irish?
Where is whiskey originally from?
The answer is: It’s complicated.
Some say Irish monks brought distillation back to Ireland from Arabia, and over time the Irish shared their secrets with the Scottish.
References to the Scottish making whiskey go as far back as 1494. Some say the Vikings brought whiskey to Scotland. The Vikings allegedly learned how to make whiskey from the Syrians. Those Vikings sure did get around.
Anyway, maybe whiskey really came from the Vikings? What’s for sure is that the art of distillation came from the Middle East, and maybe that’s where whiskey really came from.
Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter where different kinds of whiskey came from — we love it all!
But it looks like we aren’t going to settle whether or not whiskey comes from Ireland or Scotland.
So let’s talk about a question we can answer: What’s the difference between scotch and whiskey?
Which is better, scotch or Irish whiskey?
Whether scotch is better than Irish whiskey is, of course, a matter of opinion. But there are several important differences in the production of scotch and Irish whiskey.
For starters, scotch is made from malted barley, while Irish whiskey is typically made from unmalted barley.
Next, whiskey is produced very differently in Ireland than it is in Scotland (speaking generally, of course). The first big difference in production is that scotch is usually produced with malted barley and other grains, and aged for a minimum of three years in a copper pot still.
Irish whiskey, on the other hand, is most often triple distilled, and made from a variety of grains besides barley. This helps give Irish whiskeys the lighter flavor and smoother finish for which they’re known.
But what about bourbon, rye, and Japanese whisky? We have you covered here as well.
What is Japanese whisky?
Japanese whisky is pretty similar to scotch, the biggest difference being how the Japanese produce blended whiskeys.
In Japan, the whiskey industry is vertically integrated, meaning all the whiskey in a blend comes from the same distillery. Whereas in the rest of the world, blends can contain single malt whiskeys from any number of different distilleries.
What does Japanese whisky taste like? While scotch is known for big and bold flavors, Japanese distillers strive for a more delicate taste.
How is rye whiskey made?
The next style of whiskey we want to tell you about is rye whiskey. How is it made? It’s a legal matter. In the U.S., the law states rye whiskeys must be made from a mash of at least 51% rye, distilled to no more than 160 U.S. proof (80% abv), and aged in charred new oak barrels.
So as opposed to bourbon’s sweet, full-bodied taste, rye whiskeys are spicy and dry.
And speaking of bourbon…
What is bourbon whiskey?
Bourbon whiskey is an American type of whiskey, made primarily from corn, and barrel-aged, often in charred oak barrels.
American law states bourbon must be at least 51% corn, rye, wheat, malted barley, or malted rye grain. In addition, bourbon must be stored in charred oak without any additives. The charred oak barrels giving bourbon a smoky flavor, with a sweetness originating from the high glucose content of corn.
Now that you’re up to speed on the different kinds of whiskey, we can’t wait to share our ranking of the world’s 20 best whiskeys with you. Try them all, and you’ll be raving too.
While we painstakingly researched and compiled this ranking of the world’s 20 best whiskeys, we first consulted food and drink industry professionals, keeping an eye on the following whiskey characteristics:
We broke down our ranking into the best bourbon, the best scotch, the best Irish whiskey, the best rye whiskey, and the best Japanese whisky, with some honorable mentions in each category.
In addition to the opinion of industry professionals, we examined and collated similar whiskey rankings from all across the internet, poring over thousands of customer reviews from all over the world.
Yes, we read the product description — but we didn’t stop there.
We also considered our personal whiskey preferences, because we would never recommend a whiskey to you that we wouldn’t drink ourselves.
In addition to the previously mentioned criteria, we took note of the following:
- Distillery of origin
So rest assured, buy a whiskey from our ranking and you can expect nothing but quality worthy of the RAVE Reviews stamp of approval.