Whether you’re a Nikka neophyte or a sworn Scotch lover, Whiskey Neat should be your new South Florida go-to. The Fort Lauderdale cocktail lounge boasts over 230 pours, ranging from beloved classics to little-known finds, served straight up, on the rocks or shaken into a cocktail.
Given the enormous range of the collection, it’s no surprise that Sophie Synder, the brand’s beverage director, is a veritable encyclopedia of whiskeys from around the world. From her desert island whiskey to the one that’s taken up permanent residence in her at-home drinks cabinet, she’s sharing her favorite under-the-radar picks.
1. Castle & Key
Snyder’s job description basically requires her to keep her fingers on the pulse of newcomers on the whiskey scene (tough life), and Castle & Key is one recent arrival that’s got her particularly excited. Located within the renovated Old Taylor Distillery outside of Frankfort, Kentucky, this distillery “is absolutely stunning,” according to Snyder, “and the juice is just as good!”
“They released their first bourbon expression in 2023, and we were lucky enough to acquire it,” she says. “It has notes of sourdough cinnamon rolls, vanilla, honey, peach pepper. It’s complex and delicious and very affordable.”
While some regions around the world are nearly synonymous with great whiskey (we’re looking at you, Highlands), there are loads of unsung regions that deserve their time in the spotlight. And for Snyder, there’s no area more front-of-mind right now than Texas, where whiskey drinking has long been popular but production is fairly new.
“The first legal distillery in Texas was built in just 2006 by Garrison Brothers,” she says. Their bourbon, she says, capitalizes on a sweet mash bill and pure Hill Country rainwater for a delicious blend with quite a bit of intensity, thanks to the local climate.
“The temperatures are so high it can make the ‘everything is bigger in Texas’ saying come to life with bigger and bolder flavors,” she says.
The whiskey category abounds with luxe offerings, each more tantalizing than the next. But Snyder’s eye was recently caught by one offering from Woodford Masters Collection: the no. 18 Historic Barrel Entry. This whiskey, she says, “tastes like it was distilled through a smoke house cooking up brisket for Sunday supper. It’s been my favorite new addition to the cellar.” (For what it’s worth, it fetches $130 per 700-ml bottle.)
It seems like everyone’s got their favorite Scotch, from Ron Swanson’s Lagavulin (also the real-life fave of Nick Offerman) to Sterling Archer’s (fictional) Glengoolie Blue. But for Snyder, the answer is GlenDronach Port Wood.
“It’s NAS but has three levels of grapes at play, shining in ex-Pedro Ximenez, oloroso and port casks,” she says of the Highland Scotch. “It is wildly complex with a range of sweetness, earthiness and engages all the senses. It’s a must-try.”
5. Four Roses
Some whiskeys can be pretty prohibitive in price, with whiskeys like Macallan’s 30-year-old fetching over $5,000 and Pappy Van Winkle 23 costing well over $10,000 or more. But if you’re on the lookout for a whiskey you can pour even at the end of the month, Snyder loves Four Roses.
“Even their single barrel is under $50, and it makes a mean cocktail,” she says. “It’s always been a go-to sipper for me and for the price point it tastes even better.”
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6. Widow Jane
Some whiskeys are made for sipping, but others happily join vermouth or bitters in a lowball glass. For Snyder, these bottles come from Widow Jane, a Brooklyn-based distillery making, among other things, a 10-year-old bourbon and an applewood rye that’s “perfect for a Manhattan or Old Fashioned,” she says.
“It has so much flavor, nice spice, a little hint of BBQ and is perfect for mixing.”
Speaking of rye, this more assertive whiskey style is definitely back in vogue. Snyder’s current fave is Amador — and she’s far from the only one.
“We have a lot of whiskey society guys come in, and I’m constantly pouring them new things,” she says. “I have one in particular that comes by and drinks this every time.”
The double barreled port-finish rye boasts big baking spice notes and a creamy mouthfeel perfect for fall — or, indeed, any time of year.
“Drink it neat with a splash of water,” Snyder suggests. “It opens up so beautifully.”
Snyder’s top pick hails from the West Coast: California’s own Redwood Empire Pipe Dreams Bourbon. Made with 75 percent corn, 21 percent raw rye and 4 percent malt barley, the resulting whiskey is “rich, deep and complex with roasted pecan, vanilla, char and woody notes.”
“From the beautiful artwork on the bottles to environmental preservation, I have nothing bad to say about this whiskey and always recommend it,” she says.
When it comes to Japanese Nikka whisky, Snyder loves Nikka Coffey Grain, named for the Coffey still in which it is distilled.
“Fun fact: It is a Japanese whisky, but it’s just not a single malt Japanese whisky,” she says. “So as far as Japanese whiskies go, its corn mash bill makes this one a bit more mellow and sweet while still maintaining its complexity.”
Any whiskey fan has the bottle they’d hope they were shipwrecked with, but for Snyder, it’s a tough call.
“Do I have to choose just one?” she asks with a laugh. But she finally settles on WhistlePig’s Boss Hog, a series of experimental rye whiskeys as extraordinary as their price tags suggest.
“I most recently had the Lapulapu,” she says, referencing the iteration aged in Filipino rum casks with sweet rum, chocolate, fruit and spice notes. “And — wow, was it amazing. I always think back to it fondly.”
11. Sazerac Rye
While trying new whiskeys is always a fun adventure, if you open Snyder’s at-home drinks cupboard, you’ll nearly always encounter a bottle of Sazerac Rye.
This bottle, she says, is just as “perfect for a nightcap Manhattan or over ice.”
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