You're ready to splurge on a good bottle of liquor, but you want to get your money's worth. The last thing you want is to pay a premium for a bottle that doesn't wow your tastebuds, so you're conducting research to try to get it right.
Maybe you want a really nice tequila to drink on the rocks or a truly fantastic gin to really make your favorite cocktail sing. Whatever the case, your standard low-to-mid-tier choices just won't cut it this time.
While your local liquor store likely has plenty of premium offerings, knowing which one to choose can be overwhelming. A high price tag alone isn't indicative of quality or that you'll actually like it.
To make this process easier, GOBankingRates spoke with a couple of liquor experts to get their take on the best bottles out there. Here are the five top-shelf choices they recommend adding to your collection.
"If you are going to splurge, this is the tequila for you," Andrew Olson, co-founder and head mixologist at Hook Hand Rum.
He said the allure begins with the bottle, which is handmade, vitrified porcelain and meant to be upcycled and kept after use -- something he said he would absolutely do. In most cases, he said he wouldn't even consider a tequila priced above $100, but this one is different.
"They age their Anejo in the best French white wine oak barrels you can source and then filter it through a charcoal process," he said. "This really changes the flavor profile. While most tequilas are aged in bourbon barrels, the white wine barrel gives this Anejo a softer feel and makes it much more smooth."
Whether you're drinking it straight, on the rocks or in a mixed drink, he said this tequila is in a different class.
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Whistle Pig Old World Rye
"When I first tasted this, it changed my whole perspective on Rye," Olson said. "Matured in a blend of port, sauternes and Madeira wine casks, the Old World Rye takes on a whole different profile than a traditional rye."
Despite being an 86-proof whiskey, he said it isn't as hot as it would normally be.
"It is very balanced, and you will pick up on some of the fruit and wine notes from the barrels," he said. "This one I usually have with a few rocks, or it makes a damn fine Old Fashioned, if that is your style. If you like Rye, this is one you have to try."
Tapatio Excelencia Extra Anejo Tequila
"This Extra Añejo is an excellent bottle of Tequila with a super smooth and complex flavor," said Timo Torner, founder of the blog Cocktail Society.
Unlike luxury offerings from larger brands, he said this one doesn't use any additives or other tricks to alter the flavor.
"It has a unique and complex nose with agave, orange peel, peach, and oak," he said. "On the palate, you can find the same notes paired with heavier wood tones on the way down. Aged for a long time this tequila has a nice dark color, still retains its agave notes and doesn't get too sweet."
D'usse Cognac XO
A brand partially owned by rapper and business mogul Jay-Z, Torner said this variety of Cognac really delivers. Aged in French oak barrels for a minimum of 10 years, the company recommends drinking it neat but also touts it as a delicious addition to many premium cocktails.
"It's a spectacular, well-rounded Cognac with an interesting character," he said. "The flavor profile is rather fruit oriented with more focus on the sweet notes. The aroma is incredibly sultry and aromatic, offering aromas of dark wood, cinnamon sticks, cloves, currants and a sharp coffee note that lingers for a while."
Ferdinand's Saar Goldcap Dry Gin
Price: $128 (average price)
"The Ferdinand Saar Goldcap Gin is an annual special edition of the manufacturer from Saarland, Germany," Torner said. "The bottles are limited to 1,000 bottles per release."
He said only the highest quality ingredients are used to make this true ultra-premium gin, including Goldkapsel selection grapes from the Geltz-Zilliken winery, located in Saarburg, Germany.
"It's rich in flavor and super fruity," he said. "Plum, cherries and wine are very prominent notes, but also the juniper is detectable."
A taste to savor, he said this gin has a wonderfully long finish, thanks to its fruity flavors.
"It's sweet with a slightly spicy finish," he said. "And although the gin is rather strong -- 49% ABV -- it's extremely mild."
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