Known as a very versatile spirit, working great for slow sipping as well as for shots, whiskey is probably among the first three most popular drinks worldwide.
Of course, alcohol is tightly connected to culture, so it isn’t equally popular in all parts of the world, but even where people don’t drink it, they certainly know of it.
Originally made for medicinal purposes, i.e., disinfection, people realized that they could make all kinds of whiskey for all kinds of purposes, not only medicinal. Fast forward centuries later, here we are drinking whiskey for all purposes but medicinal.
Whiskey is best known as a drink that is intended to be enjoyed slowly and thoroughly as it has evolved to become a very exploratory drink triggering hour-long discussions and analyses.
For the seasoned whiskey aficionados, it is a drink they can describe as velvety, honey-flavored, vanilla-layered, and fruit-covered drink, whereby they can spend hours on the finish alone.
On the other hand, beginners would describe it as strong or not that strong or mention only one tasting note, the most expressed one.
Also check: 15 Best Alcohol for Shots
Therefore different people enjoy whiskey differently, and some prefer drinking it slowly, while others like their whiskey in the form of a shot.
Even though whiskey is a slow-sipping drink, drinking is an art best left to the artist, so if you like your whiskey in a shot glass, gone in a second, nothing is stopping you from enjoying your whiskey your way.
It is a popular opinion that good whiskey is wasted when had as a shot and that shot whiskey is not a good whiskey. Although there may be some truth to it, still it isn’t entirely like that.
A good whiskey is meant to be enjoyed slowly, but a good whiskey cannot be bad as a shot, and whether it is wasted or not is a conclusion the drinker should make, as it is their money.
On the other hand, whiskeys that are advertised for shots are generally regarded as bad whiskeys because they are considered of lower quality. The shots goes fast, and you don’t have much time to explore the taste, so why make it flavorful anyway?
So what are the best whiskeys for shots?
Deciding which whiskey you want to do a shot with depends on what you want in a shot. Usually, the shot whiskeys are a bit harsher than the slow sippers, have a higher rye content (not all of them, but many), and are stronger in flavor than the rest.
Good shot whiskeys should be highly aromatic, spicy, smoky, and edgy. Most of them have a natural herbal taste, expressive cinnamon, and spice notes and produce great kicks.
To make your decision-making easier, in this article, I will give you a list of the 21 best whiskeys for shots.
Fireball whiskey is a cinnamon-flavored whiskey, the main purpose of which is to be had in the form of shots. While most whiskeys are intended to sip slowly with the possibility of having as shots, the Fireball cinnamon whiskey is a shooter whiskey with the possibility of slow sipping.
It is expressively spicy and harsh, so if you want a shot of this spirit, you better prepare yourself and expect a genuine fireball in your mouth and throat.
As I said, it tastes expressively like cinnamon combined with spices, with just a hint of vanilla and citrus you probably won’t even notice.
A shot of Fireball whiskey creates a strong burn, not only in your throat but in your stomach as well, so it is a good idea to chase it with something sweet. Although strong, Fireball is a great shooting whiskey with an excellent kick.
2. Johnnie Walker Red Label
The Johnnie Walker Red Label is the harshest one of the Johnnie Walker spirit expressions. Even though it is pretty sharp, it is still Johnnie Walker, so it has a certain elegance about it. It is mainly recommended for cocktails rather than neat, but it also does an excellent job for shots.
If you don’t like overly aggressive flavors, this spirit may be a good fit for you. It will bite, but not too sharply.
The Johnnie Walker Red Label has a recognizable Johnny Walker smokiness and vanilla notes; however, you won’t feel much of it before you do the shot and settle to feel the aftertaste.
3. Jack Daniel’s Gentleman
The Gentleman expression under the jack Daniels name is one of the most versatile spirits on the market. It mixes great in cocktails and does excellent for shots. Needless to say that it sips slowly too.
It has the brand’s recognizable smokiness and somewhat of a honey-like note since it is a Tennessee whiskey. As a shot, it is far more assertive than as a slow sipper or a cocktail mixer, but nevertheless, it is an excellent choice to have for shots. It is an elegant whiskey, so it will produce an elegant kick.
If it is too much to handle, you can chase it with water, and you are all done.
4. Johnnie Walker Blue Label
I could be sentenced to death for saying that Johnnie Walker Blue Label is suitable for shots, but it is true. Doing shots with Johnnie Walker Blue Label is, indeed, borderline crime since it hasn’t aged for 28 years only, so you would jug it and not explore the sea of flavors it offers you.
Nevertheless, a premium whiskey like this gives you premium shots, and even though you won’t feel its entire charm while drinking it, it will emerge on the surface with its delightful aftertaste. It is like sipping it slowly but in reverse.
The J.W. Blue Label is so powerful that its true character is bound to resurface, whether while drinking it or while digesting it. It will be a slow burn filled with smokiness, dark chocolate notes, vanilla, and dried fruit, all hitting you at the same time.
If you have the opportunity to experience the J.W. Blue Label like this, you need to take it. Contrary to popular opinion, this whiskey needs to be enjoyed in every possible way.
5. Crown Royal Green Apple
The Crown Royal is a premium Canadian whiskey brand famous for its smoothness, rich flavor, texture, and aroma. The green apple expression bears the markings of the Crown Royal brand interjected with the freshness and fruitiness of the green apple.
Aged with green apples, the whiskey acquires the green apple taste, becoming an exquisite natural-tasting spirit. A shot of this whiskey will refresh you, lift your spirits and leave you with a delicious aftertaste you will feel longer after you have taken the shot.
To elevate it even further, chase the Crown Royal Green Apple shot with a sip of apple juice to accentuate and bring out the flavors you may have missed.
6. Jameson Irish Whiskey
Irish whiskey is known for its natural notes, herbal tones, and overall freshness. It is the people’s drink and is, therefore, easy to drink, with flavors you can easily detect and largely appreciate. In general, Jameson Irish whiskey is a delicious spirit, combining several flavors, but not overwhelmingly complex.
A shot of Jameson Irish whiskey is a delight for the palate and the throat. It is a warming spirit with a delicious aftertaste, releasing note after note.
What is interesting about this whiskey is that each new shot tastes slightly different than the previous one, as the aftertaste plays a significant role in molding each new sip/shot.
7. Buffalo Trace Bourbon Whiskey
Bourbon is a whiskey variety known for shots. While you traditionally sip and explore whiskey, you shoot bourbon. It is harsher than whiskey but delicious, nevertheless. Buffalo Trace Bourbon is a world-renowned spirit excellent for shots.
You won’t get to feel its spiciness, vanilla tones, or fruity notes, but you will most certainly enjoy the warmth it creates in your mouth and throat, making your entire body jump from the place.
It slowly releases a very particular aftertaste, mixed with alcohol flavor and citrus, so it is definitely worth a shot.
8. Evan Williams
If you are just beginning to explore the whiskey shot world, I don’t recommend you start here, as you may get the wrong idea.
Evan Williams is an exceptionally good bourbon, very smooth and highly flavorful. It still has the standard bourbon harshness, but nothing you can’t handle if you are a shot and bourbon lover.
A shot of Evan Williams is warm with a noticeable bite and a fresh aftertaste. You may even feel the freshness in your mouth for a while after drinking it, so don’t think twice before ordering one, as you will love that cold sensation on your palate while enjoying the warm burn.
9. Bulleit Bourbon
The Bulleit bourbon is a textbook bourbon, biting and stinging as bourbons usually do. Therefore a shot of this spirit would definitely be a challenging experience, so if you are a newbie in the whiskey shot department, think twice before having a shot of this delicious but harsh spirit.
It creates a strong and intense burn, which is definitely not easy to handle if you don’t have sufficient experience. However, if you know how to enjoy such bourbon, you will find its ruggedness delightful.
10. Angel’s Envy
With the abundance of flavors it combines, such as vanilla, ripe fruit, chocolate, spices, and candied tangerine, the Angel’s Envy has definitely been made to be enjoyed slowly while discussing each flavor note in depth.
Still, imagine how all of those flavors would feel at an accelerated rate. It would be a genuine flavor bomb exploding in your throat.
Even though you may not feel them one by one, they will not disappear, and you will enjoy them afterward, feeling each of them as they emerge with each new shot.
11. Johnnie Walker Black Label
Rugged, assertive, and challenging, yet elegant and perfectly balanced, the J.W. Black Label may be just what you want in a whiskey shot if you like combining a black suit and a Harley Davidson.
Although you may not feel all the tasting notes in those few shots seconds, you will know that you are having a Johnnie Walker shot, nevertheless.
Even though the finish may not be so exploratory, you will still feel the smokiness, the leathery notes, and the slight peppery tones in your throat, reflecting further from the smooth and warm burn a shot of this whiskey creates.
12. Maker’s Mark
If you are a beginner and just starting to explore whiskey shots, this bourbon may be a great starting point for you. The Maker’s Mark bourbon whiskey is sweet, gentle, corn-flavored, and mild, so a shot of it, although still assertive, would be pretty well-balanced.
The burn it leaves is pleasantly warm, but except for the alcohol-flavored aftertaste, you won’t feel many other tasting notes.
13. Jim Beam Straight Bourbon
Jim Beam bourbon is a pillar in the bourbon world and probably one of the best-known on this list. However, I wouldn’t recommend it for shots to someone with no previous knowledge and experience with whiskey shooters, as it can unpleasantly surprise you if you haven’t had a whiskey shot before.
Therefore, before having a Jim Beam shot, make sure you have something to compare it to, and don’t start learning with it, as it would be a pretty harsh lesson.
14. Crown Royal Rye
The Crown Royal Rye variety is a smooth high-rye Canadian whiskey belonging to the world-renowned brand. Even though Crown Royal whiskey is famous for being very smooth, flavorful, and even gentle, the high rye variety is a bit rougher but richer too.
It is bittersweet and expressively flavorful. A shot of this whiskey is, in a word, unusual. It is uncommon for a shot to be flavorful, but this one is. Therefore, if you want to have a shot you can somewhat explore, try the Crown Royal Rye variety.
15. Belle Meade Honey Cask Bourbon
Combining maple syrup, citrus zest, and caramel, combined with a floral fragrance, a shot of this bourbon whiskey is where you want to start if you are new to this department.
If you are an experienced whiskey shot enthusiast, you probably know how aromatic a shot of this bourbon is.
It is one of the rare bourbons you can do shots with and still experience the flavors in full.
16. Four Roses Yellow Label
The Four Roses whiskey is the damsel in distress among its counterparts. The yellow label expression of this brand is very gentle, flavorful, floral, and refreshing. Having it as a shot it will undoubtedly remind you that it is still whiskey, but in a way, you will be able to handle it.
17. Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey
Known and loved by many, the Tennessee Honey variety of the Jack Daniel’s assortment is gentle, smooth, and very rich.
Having a shot of this whiskey means experiencing all of the flavors at the same time, whereby the honey dimension is the one that is expressed the most.
Sliding smoothly down your throat, this is an absolute delicacy, releasing its magic long after you swallow.
18. Pendleton Canadian Whiskey
Combining toffee, vanilla, and maple syrup, this whiskey is a delicacy to sip slowly, but that doesn’t mean that it is a bad decision to have it as a shot.
It is smooth and light, so a shot of this whiskey isn’t too aggressive, despite the fact that it falls under the whiskey category.
19. Teeling Irish Whiskey
This is a very delicious and warm whiskey. With hints of brown sugar, banana, and vanilla, it is easy to drink and good for shots as well as slow sipping.
The most noticeable sensation you will get from this whiskey is the warmth spreading through your chest, so if you need to warm up a little, this whiskey shot will pop you right up.
20. Very Old Barton
If you want to cringe your face after a whiskey shot, then the Very Old Barton bourbon whiskey is the one for you. It is vital even as a slow sipper, so you can imagine how it would feel to have it as a shot.
It is strong and edgy but a very good choice if you like such flavors.
21. Elijah Craig
Flavorful, aromatic, fresh, and crisp, this is an excellent whiskey for shots, as you feel it more in the nose than on the palate.
A shot of this whiskey is vibrant, dynamic, and very refreshing. It leaves you with a chill sensation in your mouth and a fresh and delicious aftertaste.
What Are the Best Whiskeys To Take Shots With?
Generally, a whiskey that sips slowly is a whiskey you can do shots with. Since the shot lasts for a much shorter time than the sip does, you don’t feel much of the flavor, but the quality will always find a way to surface.
Depending on your preference, there is a wide variety of shot whiskeys you can choose from, and saying that there is only one.
If you want something to shake you up, you should go for cinnamon-flavored whiskeys, such as Fireball.
If you are looking for something more elegant, then you should go for Johnnie Walker or Jack Daniels.
In between, there are many other brands you can choose from which would be equally right for you.
Can You Use Whiskey for Shots?
Even though whiskey is a spirit intended for slow sipping, you can certainly do shots with it.
What Is The Easiest Liquor To Take Shots Of?
Whiskey is considered as the gentlest drink for straight shots.