You are headed to a holiday party. You don't want to break the bank, but you want to show up with something suave-looking that is versatile enough to be mixed into a cocktail for those who like something sweet, thrown over ice or served neat for an aficionado.
Hochstadter's Vatted Rye Whiskey ($34.99). This nice, little vatted rye (sourced from a variety of distilleries across North America) makes an excellent, classic Old Fashioned. On the rocks, the whiskey's peppery notes smooth out just enough to let a sweet vanilla note pop. Served neat, it piques the tongue the way a good rye should. It's brand new, carries some folksy packaging, and taps into the rye-whiskey craze whiskey enthusiasts and bartenders have been talking about lately.
Bain's Cape Mountain Single Grain Whisky ($29.99). Whisky from South Africa? You bet! This is a silky — but dry — whisky reminiscent of a blended Scotch. It has only recently become available in America. I enjoyed this whisky neat, but I can also imagine this being thrown into a whiskey punch recipe. And this isn't from a distillery making hooch loved especially by one guy: I sat on a panel of 8 people that all touted their products as excellent.