We Asked 10 Bartenders: What’s the Most Overrated Whiskey?

There are thousands of whiskeys out in the world. Not all of them appeal to every whiskey drinker, regardless of how popular they are or how ubiquitous they may be on back bars, and this is fine, of course. Whiskey is subjective. But this inevitability means that everyone who enjoys brown spirits on the regular eventually finds something carrying hype that they just don’t understand. In some cases, it can be an entire whiskey type, a subcategory within a style, or even something irksome apart from the juice itself. This doesn’t make the whiskey bad. It just means that it’s not for them.

Such subjectivity can spark an interesting conversation. To get the chatter going, we asked 10 bartenders their thoughts on the most overrated whiskeys out there. Don’t feel bad if they mention a brand or a category that you enjoy; it happens. Just shrug your shoulders, and keep on liking what they don’t.

The most overrated whiskey, according to bartenders:

  • Scotch
  • Basil Hayden’s
  • 80-proof bourbons
  • Blanton’s
  • Any whiskey over 18 years old
  • Jameson
  • Any whiskey over $75
  • Allocated whiskey
  • Pappy Van Winkle

“I don’t believe that there is any single whiskey that is overrated. Everyone has their preferences and different palates. I do, however, hold a personal belief that Scotch whisky as a whole is overrated. It’s often very expensive and used as a status symbol when you start getting to the higher age statements. Also, any whiskey with peat is just not good to me. I’ve had great Scotch before, but I’ve also had way better bourbons and ryes. I also favor the way the Japanese are producing that style of whisky. Nothing against Scotch, but it just isn’t my thing.” —Diego Deleon, beverage manager, Kaori, Miami

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Basil Hayden's is one of the most overrated whiskeys, according to bartenders.

“In my opinion, the most overrated whiskey is Basil Hayden’s. Granted, there’s a reason why it’s so popular, but I think it lacks complexity and it’s pretty one-note. There are so many more exciting bourbons out there that I’m still surprised people seek this one out.” —Fionna Gemzon, bar manager, None of the Above, St. Louis

“I don’t typically like to throw any brands under the bus, because you know, treat others as you’d like to be treated. However, what I will say is most bourbons that are 80 proof are pretty weak. With bourbon cocktails, you always tend to need more proof. For sipping or drinking neat at 80 proof, in my opinion, you lose a lot of what I am looking for in the experience. Bourbon is our American spirit, and like us, it should be a little more in-your-face.” —Tripper Duval, owner and “janitor,” Lost Whale, Milwaukee

Blanton's is one of the most overrated whiskeys, according to bartenders.

Blanton’s. If a product is recommended to you by your golf buddy who can name 10 bourbons but can’t tell you what it’s made out of, you know it’s overrated and therefore overpriced. Instead of buying Blanton’s, find a good whiskey bar and ask what they’re drinking right now. For every $280 of secondary-market Blanton’s, you can get four $70 bottles that will blow you away. Your local bartender who drinks good whiskey but is always on a budget knows what they are.” —Tanner Agar, owner/creative director, Apothecary/Rye, Dallas

“What I personally think is overrated in whiskey, in general, is an age past 18 years or so. When it’s bourbon, that age is even less. There is definitely a sweet spot that differs from whiskey to whiskey, and everyone’s palate is different. Personally, I find that the price and availability of 20-plus-year whiskey doesn’t align with the quality, value, and taste. After a certain point, it can start to have flavors that are too bitter or tannic, and it also oxidizes. On top of that, the angel’s share causes the price to spike. This isn’t a blanket statement; I have had 25-year-old whiskey that is fantastic, and I will gladly pay the price if the taste is worth it. But in general, paying exorbitant amounts of money for extremely old whiskey just isn’t.” —Annemarie Sagoi, general manager and beverage director, The Moon Room, Los Angeles

Jameson is one of the most overrated whiskeys, according to bartenders.

Jameson. It’s one of the oldest whiskeys and it carries a lot of clout, but It’s literally for people who don’t know whiskey. This is my problem with Jameson: You think you are buying ‘quality’ but whether my customers have one shot or five, instant hangover. It’s like a beginner’s whiskey with training wheels that slaps you in the face every time you drink it — and not in a good way.” —Ben Walker, bar manager and bartender, Fierce Whiskers Distillery, Austin

“I can’t pinpoint one in particular because there may be too many to name, but any whiskey over $75 is more about the hype and marketing than it is about the juice in the bottle, in my opinion. We have the whiskey taters to thank for this, but here we are. Now, there are some special bottlings of closed distilleries, special releases, and juice stored in literal works of art that are exceptions, but generally speaking, I don’t see the value in expensive grain distillate.” —Javier Flores, bar manager, Nickel City, Austin

“Overrated whiskeys are a dime a dozen nowadays. The secondary market has inflated the prices of average whiskey so much, it makes it impossible to know what is actually worth it or not. Ten years ago, Blanton’s was a decent-quality, affordable bourbon. The hype train took it and made it today’s poster child of manufactured scarcity and overhype. While Blanton’s is just one of many, it represents how inaccessible whiskey has become for many consumers. Besides, why spend $130 on an average whiskey when you could spend it on world-class rum instead?” —Christian Flaviar, beverage director, The Ordinary, Charleston, S.C.

“As a whole, we should all talk about how allocated whiskeys, in most cases, are overrated. Their limited availability creates a sense of exclusivity, driving up demand and prices. Whiskey enthusiasts are willing to pay a premium for these bottles, regardless of their actual quality and taste. It seems like distilleries and enthusiasts promote these whiskeys as superior, creating a perception that they are must-have items. This hype may not always align with the actual taste or value of the whiskey.” —Jamie White, co-owner, Tiger Bar and Pearl Diver, Nashville

Pappy Van Winkle is one of the most overrated whiskeys, according to bartenders.

“Most overrated whiskey? I will have to confidently say Pappy, Pappy, Pappy. Don’t get me wrong — Pappy Van Winkle is a delicious whiskey, without a doubt. The problem is that it became a hugely allocated bourbon that has every market-gouging customers’ eyes out for a bottle or just a taste. There are a few other equally delicious whiskeys out there that are more easily sourced and at a much more reasonable price. It is a notch in anyone’s belt to have a bottle of Pappy’s at home or behind their back bar, but is it worth the price tag?” —Julian Flores Torres, bar lead, Maizano/Entre Nos, Costa Mesa, Calif.