The Absolute Worst Whiskey Brands From Around The World

Bottles of the worst whiskey
Bottles of the worst whiskey - Static Media / Getty

People can have a diverse range of preferences when it comes to whiskey. A smooth wheated bourbon may appeal to some, whereas others may prefer a peat-forward Scotch malt. This can make choosing the worst whiskey brands tough, as we don't all dislike the same brands. However, there is plenty of whiskey out there that is just bad. Among the myriad brands competing for your business, some should just never be considered.

While determining the worst whiskey brands, I didn't want to just focus on the worst of the bottom shelf. I'll also include some pricier spirits that, while not the worst whiskeys in the world, offer poor taste and bad value. With my vast knowledge of whiskey acquired over many years of tasting, I've sampled the best and worst of the whiskey world. Here at Tasting Table, we love highlighting those great whiskeys to try, but here are the ones you should avoid.

Read more: The 27 Best Bourbon Brands, Ranked

Proper No. Twelve

Bottle of Proper No. Twelve
Bottle of Proper No. Twelve - Vershinin89/Shutterstock

Our journey around the world starts in Ireland. Proper No. Twelve is a whiskey brand launched by MMA fighter Conor McGregor and due to his immense popularity, it was destined to sell well. The brand has enjoyed plenty of success with its marketing, but while it will appeal to some, whiskey enthusiasts are not impressed. It ticks all of the boxes on what makes a bad whiskey. What makes it worse is that it's not particularly cheap either. Sadly, it has never justified the hype.

The whiskey has a harsh and unrefined taste, with a pronounced alcohol burn that overwhelms the palate. If there are any nice flavors to be found in this whiskey, the harshness smothers them. There is some sweetness there but in combination with the heavy ethanol, it gives you a rough finish that leaves much to be desired. It's not a whiskey that can be enjoyed neat and likely won't make a great cocktail either. If you want a decent bottle of affordable and better ranked Irish whiskey, there are plenty of options. Unless you simply want to satisfy your curiosity, don't waste your money buying Proper No. Twelve.

Black Velvet

Bottle of Black Velvet
Bottle of Black Velvet - HVWilliamsburg/X (Formerly Twitter)

Though this list isn't completely dominated by budget brands, there are quite a few entries here, including this one. Black Velvet is a Canadian whisky brand with widespread availability, but its appeal comes almost exclusively from its low price. Cost is the only plus point here, as it has poor taste and a complete lack of refinement. It has everything you don't want in a spirit with a harsh mouthfeel and an aftertaste that almost tastes like artificial sweetener.

As with most of the expressions on this list, any subtle flavors are overshadowed by an unpleasant alcohol burn. There are many great Canadian whiskies but this isn't one of them. The sweetness is overbearing and isn't balanced by any nice earthy notes. Many whiskey brands prioritize volume and affordability over quality, as there will always be a market for them. However, better craftsmanship can be found in many other bottles, even at the budget end of the price spectrum.


Bottle of Cardhu
Bottle of Cardhu - Billy Watkins/Shutterstock

This Scotch whisky has the dubious honor of being the "best" drink on this list. It's a single malt packaged in a beautiful bottle that excites you for what's inside. However, that excitement soon turns to disappointment. It's hard to pick out any tasting notes as the flavor is so shallow. Unfortunately, that shallow flavor doesn't come with an enjoyable mouthfeel, as there is a harsh finish you'd usually associate with a cheap blended Scotch. There is only a muted caramel influence, and the oak is quite musty. With a mid-range price tag and great packaging, you can see why someone would pick it up thinking it'd be a great present for a Scotch-loving friend or relative.

It always seems suspicious when whiskey comes in a fancy bottle. As the likes of Pappy Van Winkle prove, you don't need an elaborate bottle if the contents are good enough. With Cardhu, the whisky simply isn't good enough. It has a generic and boring taste that means you'd be better off saving yourself some money and picking something else. There are plenty of mid-range Scotches that you'd be better off buying.

Glen Moray

Bottles of Glen Moray
Bottles of Glen Moray - Irik Bik/Shutterstock

While plenty of cheap blended Scotch whiskies are available, it's rare to find a budget single malt since they are usually enjoyed neat. However, Glen Moray is one of the cheapest single malt whiskies you can get. I've known friends to appreciate the low price and think it's a decent pour, but I've never got the appeal. In my view, the whisky has very little character and is almost completely lacking in taste. It's extremely thin on the nose and shallow on the palate. The finish is short and it fails to make much of an impression. There are some fleeting glimpses of malt sweetness but overall, you're left wanting much more.

Glen Moray isn't as harsh as many of the others on this list but that's the most positive thing it has going. Furthermore, it's a poor representation of what single malt whiskies are all about. You'd be better off looking at what other single malts are available or spending a little more money to get something much nicer. Scotch is known for its nuance and depth, but Glen Moray isn't. It's due to these factors that I don't see any reason to get a bottle.

Kentucky Gentleman

Bottle of Kentucky Gentleman
Bottle of Kentucky Gentleman - letsnotbehayest/X (Formerly Twitter)

"Gentleman" would be an apt name for a refined and elegant whiskey. When used here, it's somewhat of a misnomer. There isn't anything gentlemanly about this bourbon as it is harsh, unpalatable, and offensive to your taste buds. Even though they haven't been adulterated, many of these cheaper drinks almost taste artificial. This is another example of a drink that doesn't have the right to call itself "straight" bourbon. It's made from 51% genuine bourbon, with neutral grain spirit making up the remainder of the bottle.

It only offers muted hints of vanilla and oak, but they are joined by a strong ethanol influence that can quickly extinguish any sweetness. The addition of neutral spirits makes the classic bourbon taste fade into the background and it lacks any kind of character. Widely found at under $10, it would be unfair to say that much should be expected from Kentucky Gentleman. But when the likes of Evan Williams or Benchmark can be bought for only a few dollars more, I see little reason to purchase this one.


Bottle of Togouchi Premium
Bottle of Togouchi Premium - uncle_polka_dot/X (Formerly Twitter)

Japanese whisky, on the whole, is fantastic. It's known for its clean-tasting profile, lack of harshness, and elegant flavors. Yamazaki 12-Year is the perfect example of that, but Togouchi isn't. What makes it worse is that those looking to try authentic Japanese whisky will be disappointed. Togouchi whisky isn't sourced in Japan. Instead, it's a mix of Canadian grain whisky and Scottish malt. There is inherently nothing wrong with that, as many great whiskies are sourced from elsewhere to be blended, matured, and bottled. To be fair, Togouchi doesn't hide the fact that this basic whisky isn't made in Japan. Uniquely aged in a tunnel, the whisky sadly doesn't live up to its interesting origins.

Overall, it lacks the depth and character we have come to expect from Japanese whisky. This leaves many drinkers who haven't read the fine print very disappointed. Its premium bottle isn't terrible by any means and there is some sweetness that comes from chocolate and vanilla. However, it's not worth anything close to the steep price, which is why it's best to stay clear. Japanese whisky can be expensive, but if you want to sample an affordable and authentic bottle, Suntory Toki is a great place to start.


Can of Stillhouse
Can of Stillhouse - haroldcollective/Instagram

White whiskey is certainly an acquired taste. Usually used for cocktails, it allows you to taste the raw origins of whiskey before it's placed in a barrel. While all these whiskeys can give you an alcohol burn, some are much better than others. With the lack of aging, they are usually cheap, but Stillhouse isn't a whiskey that falls in the budget bracket. It comes in a stainless steel can that may appeal to those looking for something quirky.

When a brand has a gimmick, you always want some craftsmanship to go with it, but that isn't found here. Since this whiskey is made from 100% corn, there is a hint of sweetness, but the ethanol constantly overpowers it. You won't get any other flavors here, and any warmth comes from the alcohol burn. The brand offers other flavored spirits that are more palatable, but you can't help but feel its original corn whiskey is more of a novelty than anything else. The stainless steel can makes it stand out and you can picture people picking it up out of curiosity. That curiosity will be quickly followed by disappointment.

Lonehand Whiskey

Bottle of Lonehand Whiskey
Bottle of Lonehand Whiskey - DisneyfanSteve/X (Formerly Twitter)

The cheap whiskeys we've looked at so far all have one thing in common — an alcohol burn on the palate. Lonehand is an exception; you get a whole load of nothingness instead. It's hard to give tasting notes for this expression as there are so few to give. It has an extremely bland flavor with a slight fruitiness, but that's all. It is sweet, but it's difficult to link that sweetness to a flavor. The vanilla or caramel notes are muted.

Given it's a Tennessee sour mash whiskey and the appearance of the bottle, I can't help but feel that it's trying to appeal to those who can't quite get their hands on a bottle of Jack Daniel's. However, it can't compare to the famous brand because it doesn't have its richness, smoothness, or depth of flavor. It's a one-dimensional and forgettable whiskey. Thankfully, for those looking for an alternative Tennessee whiskey to Jack Daniel's, there are plenty of great bottles out there.

Whyte & Mackay

Bottles of Whyte & Mackay
Bottles of Whyte & Mackay - Q77photo/Shutterstock

Whyte & Mackay is a Scotch whisky brand with a long history. Despite that heritage, it remains one of the worst budget whiskey brands. The smell isn't too bad, but on your first sip, you're met with an incredible harshness that doesn't ease away. There is a fleeting hint of vanilla, but any flavors you get are dulled. The finish is unpleasant, and if drunk neat, you'll soon be reaching for a glass of something else to get the taste out of your mouth. It works okay if you want to throw it in with a mixer, but there are better whiskies for that.

Other bottom-shelf Scotches such as Famous Grouse, Grant's, and Ballantine's won't wow you with the taste but are much better options. Due to those alternatives, there is no reason to grab a bottle of Whyte & Mackay. Given its prominence and advertising efforts, you'd have hoped they'd focus more on quality craftsmanship. It's simply one of those whiskeys people buy blindly when they just want a cheap Scotch. Even if that's all that you're after, grab something else.

Hayes Parker Kentucky Bourbon

Small bottle of Hayes Parker Bourbon and glass
Small bottle of Hayes Parker Bourbon and glass - mbs59er/X (Formerly Twitter)

Ultimately, I could have chosen dozens of bad whiskeys that use Kentucky's name and reputation to promote the brand. We've seen one on this list already, and this is another. This whiskey is more than just bland; it's actively bad. Honestly, there is nothing redeemable about this whiskey. It has a wet cardboard influence on both the nose and the palate that is hard to get past. There is a high level of sweetness, but it's quite sickly and almost sticks in your mouth.

Thankfully there isn't much of an alcohol burn, so a quick glass of water can get rid of the taste. It can be used with mixers but even then, it'll probably make your drink too sweet. The best bourbon is smooth and rich, but this is a direct contrast. "Straight" bourbon needs to be aged for at least two years, and this spirit doesn't have that designation. With such a lack of aging, it's like a glorified white whiskey.

Bolanachi Highlands Whisky

Bottle of Bolanachi Highlands Whisky
Bottle of Bolanachi Highlands Whisky - Tomikaga73/X (Formerly Twitter)

When you move away from the established brands, the world of whiskey can become murky. Bolanachi Highlands Whisky has an interesting name but with mysterious origins. The bottle markets itself as Scottish but seems to be found only in Egypt. No doubt there are plenty of people — particularly those vacationing in Egypt searching for a drink at the hotel bar — who have been curiously excited to try this new whisky only to be instantly disappointed.

It's known for having a strange taste that makes you wonder if it's truly whisky and how it was aged. It's incredibly thin with a harsh and bitter taste. If anything, it's proof that you should always treat brands you've never heard of with a good amount of skepticism. And while it has "Highlands" in the name, you also question whether or not this spirit has been anywhere near the stunning mountains of Scotland.

Templeton Rye

Bottle of Templeton Rye
Bottle of Templeton Rye - dramgoodbourbon/Instagram

The whiskey market can be deceptive. People don't always have the time to research every whiskey they buy and some brands take advantage of that. Templeton Rye is made using a stock recipe from a distillery in Indiana but the company misled consumers that it was made in its home of Iowa. It also inferred it had prohibition-era roots despite the company first releasing its product in 2006. A class-action lawsuit meant Templeton needed to be clearer with its labeling, but it's still easy to see how some people may think this is genuine Iowa whiskey.

That may all be forgiven if this was a great rye whiskey, but it fails to hit the mark. It's an underwhelming drink that is much thinner than many other ryes. Its sweetness can be a little sickly and you don't get the range of spices expected from a rye. It's a good example of how it's worth digging a little deeper if a new whiskey claims to have a great story. The lack of transparency and the mediocre taste profile mean this is a whiskey to be avoided.

Two Stars Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Bottle of Two Stars Bourbon
Bottle of Two Stars Bourbon - Courtney_Guth/X (Formerly Twitter)

It's an interesting marketing move to call your bourbon "Two Stars." Whether it's a hotel rating or a book review, it has never been a term connected with high quality. Then again, a more apt name for this whiskey perhaps would have been "One Star." The name is a reference to the municipal flag of Louisville in Kentucky, but it doesn't deliver the quality you'd expect from the heartland of bourbon production.

Two Stars is a budget bourbon with a harsh, alcohol-forward tasting profile. There is very little nuance here as it's an unrefined drink with a burn that disguises any flavors it may have. It feels like one of those whiskey brands that simply exist for those looking to pick up the cheapest whiskey available. There are many better options out there, even if you're on a tight budget.

Fake Whiskey Brands

Unbranded bottle and glass
Unbranded bottle and glass - Evgeny Karandaev/Shutterstock

Perhaps the worst whiskey brand of them all isn't a brand at all, it's the fake whiskey that masquerades as a coveted brand. With many premium bottles of whiskey, there will be people making counterfeit products that aim to deceive customers. These faux brands not only affect the integrity of the industry but also hit the wallet and (potentially) health of those looking to buy one. These bottles often closely resemble well-known and reputable brands such as Pappy Van Winkle, with the Japanese whisky market being particularly vulnerable as well. These fakes can be hard to spot, which is why it's usually best to buy from reputable sources.

The consequence of purchasing fake whiskey extends beyond monetary loss. There is no regulation of counterfeit bottles, and their creators will go to any lengths to try and match the taste. This includes adding harmful chemicals and contaminants that can pose serious health risks. When buying whiskey, make sure you know where it comes from, especially if you're parting with a large amount of money. And while you should avoid all of the other whiskeys on this list, make sure to avoid fake brands as well.


Whiskey glass in a barrel
Whiskey glass in a barrel - Smit/Shutterstock

I didn't want to stuff the list full of vague brands that make bottom-shelf whiskey. While plenty of those appear, I also wanted to include some brands that fall well below expectations for taste and value. Simply put, I will never buy any of these bottles again and I don't think you should either.

I've had the misfortune of sampling most of these whiskeys, including all the expressions with a higher price tag. I've also sampled hundreds of whiskeys from all over the world, which gives me expert insight into separating the good from the bad. While all our tastebuds are different, the result is a list that is a fair and honest reflection of the worst whiskey brands.

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