Monday, April 22, 2024

What Is The Best Scottish Whiskey

Best Speyside Scotch Whiskies


Bisected from north to south by the River Spey, Speyside is a little pocket of land in the northeast of Scotland, surrounded on three sides by the Highlands and the North Sea. Its home to the highest number of distilleries in Scotland, with well over 60 at present, including Glenfiddich, the worlds best-selling single malt Scotch. The region falls on the opposite side of the flavor spectrum from the peatiness of Islay. Because of this, Scotches from the region make great entry-level offerings.

Whiskies That Are Similar To Islay

With massive numbers of distilleries on both the mainland and the islands, youre bound to be wondering if theres something similar to Islay that is less expensive!

Yes and no. There is nowhere quite like Islay in the world. But there are a few distilleries that have similar characteristics. And some that are quite near to Islay that surprisingly dont!

Where To But The Best Scotch Whisky

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The Balvenie Doublewood 12

Thanks to fertile valleys fed by the River Spey, the Scottish Speyside region is famous for producing the highest density of whisky brands in the world. Yet out of the 50 distilleries spotted across only 15 square miles, The Balvenie takes our first price as the top Speyside single malt scotch brand.

Compared to other regional varieties of single malt scotch, the best single malt scotch whisky from Speyside aim for a fruity blend thats sparse on smoky peat. As its name suggests, The Balvenie Doublewood is aged in two different types of wooden casks, imparting a unique character reminiscent of both sherry and oak. These wooden tones are then softened with layers of vanilla, cinnamon, and honey.

On the nose, youll find hints of dried stone fruit, raisin, and sultana. As the Doublewood 12 Year approaches the back of your palette, it leaves a warm and long-lasting finish thats sweet and inviting. The Doublewood 12 Year is best enjoyed on cold nights curled up by the fire with a good book.

What Is The Difference Between Whiskey And Whisky

12 Best Blended Scotch Whiskies

There is a difference between whiskey and whisky beside the spelling. The barrel type is a key differentiator from bourbon, which must age on new oak barrels. Scotch can be aged on used barrels, many of which come from bourbon country. In Scotland, there are 22 million or more barrels maturing, according to the Scotch Whisky Association.

The final product that goes into a bottle must be 40% ABV or higher.

Many Scotch aficionados will highlight their favorite regions, which can produce unique whiskies to their area of Scotland. Particularly popular regions include Islay and Speyside. With more than 100 Scotch distilleries in Scotland, there are five main types of whisky.

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What Does Islay Scotch Taste Like

Islay Scotches are typically described as smokey and medicinal, with notes of sea salt and sea minerals. At least, thats how I describe it!

All of the location factors: peat, mild temperatures, constant rain contribute to the flavor of the liquid. In fact, it is these very characteristics that make Islay the gem of the single malt regions and producer of some of the finest scotches in the world. Lets look closer at each factor and what it brings to the whisky.

Best 10 Year Old: Jura 10 Year Old

courtesy of Total Wine

Region: Islands | ABV: 40% | Tasting Notes: Vanilla, Orange, Cherry

Though not as well-known an island as its neighbor Islay, the isle of Jura also boasts a history of scotch productionand its namesake distillery offers a delicious and approachable 10-year-old expression. This scotch is rested in bourbon barrels and then finished in Oloroso sherry casks, says Adam Morgan, head bartender at Husk Nashville. This unique finish lends a balanced yet sweet finish that dances between spice and oak. The smoke on this particular scotch is soft and intriguing for any first-time scotch drinker.

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Glen Alba 22 Year Old

As chosen by leading whisky expert Charles MacLean: “I wasn’t surprised when Lidl’s range won all of their awards, they really are excellent drams that are incredibly reasonably priced.

“The Glen Alba has a rich aroma, dry overall, with a trace of white pepper: fruitcake moistened with rum and decorated with glacé angelica, with white coffee on the side. It really is remarkably good.”

The Glendronach Allardice 18 Years Old Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky

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Another 18 year old release thats aged only in sherry casks, sipping this Highland single malt is like sitting in front of a blazing fire while a storm rages outside. Its aromas and flavors twist and turn, but elegantly so, switching from sweet vanilla and dried red fruits to dark chocolate and mocha on a dime. Bright fruit on the finish lures you in to take another sip. Average price: $190.

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Arran Barrel Reserve Single Malt Scotch Whisky

This non-age-statement single malt combines 7 to 8-year-old whiskies with more aged expressions, resulting in a bright and citrusy, youthful dram. The older malts shine through on the palate, lending a vanilla richness and a sweet kiss to the finish. This is an excellent summer sipping whisky. Average price: $55.

History Of Scotch Whisky

The earliest written mention of Scotch whisky occurred in the 15th century. However, the Scottish Parliament first introduced taxes on the spirit in 1644, which lead to an increase in illicit distilling, smuggling, and avoiding the taxman. Later, in 1823, the government sanctioned whisky distilling with a more fair and consistent tax system and licensing fee. As such, many of the illegal distilleries turned legit and remain so today. Many others also opened in the late 1800s. Also in the 19th century, Scotch exports began under pioneers such as Johnnie Walker and James Buchanan. This allowed producers to take advantage of the gap in the market created when the phylloxera beetle devastated French vineyards, almost ceasing production of wine, cognac, and brandy. Finally, in 1933, the first definition of Scotch whisky was secured, protecting the name by law.

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Jura Seven Wood Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Although the Islands often fall under the same classification as Highland single malt Scotch whiskies, they have a unique flavor profile that sets them apart from brands originating from the mainland in the region. Thanks to the ocean air that wafts over the northern islands, Island single malt whisky brands are famed for their magical tinge of sea air.

The Jura Seven Wood is one of the best single malt scotch whisky from this region and offers a complex blend of smoky barbeque undertones paired with the brightness of coriander, fruitiness of peach and passionfruit, and spiced honey. As it settles into the palette, the Jura Seven Wood relaxes into a warm caramel before passing down into the throat.

To best enjoy the Jura Seven Woods bouquet and flavor profile, sip it neat or on the rocks with a few drops of water. Go easy on the ice as it can dilute the complexities as it melts into the glass.

What Is The Best Beginner Scotch Whisky

The Best Scotch Whiskies Under $40

Credit: petyosi

Thats because Scotch whisky has to come from Scotland and is subject to a variety of duties and taxes as it enter the United States. Its also aged, a minimum of three years, so when you combine the aging with the duties and taxes, it makes for a more expensive product. Its hard to drop $35 on a bottle of Glenlivet and not be sure if youll like it. Its more palatable to spend less than $20 on a bourbon .

Scotch whisky also has the most character and variety. Scotch whiskies have more variety in their manufacturing processes, are aged for more than three years so the aging process can have a greater effect, and you can have two Scotch whiskies that are widely divergent in their flavor profiles. Islays and Speysides anyone?

Then throw in the fact that its 40%+ alcohol by volume and you can see that it gets to be quite intimidating for a new enthusiast.

It doesnt have to be though. I tapped our , a bunch of seasoned pros, to find out what they think is the best beginner scotch whisky. If youre new, youll see a lot of names in the list below but if you fire up Google you can find tasting notes for them. A lot of them are Speyside/Highland malts too, which I think is the best way to introduce someone to Scotch.

Alright, onto what our group thinks!

Me: My choice is Glenmorangie 10 because its inexpensive, fairly representative of a crisp and clean Speyside, and it was one of my first so Im biased in that regard.

Mike W: Another good one is Aberlour 10yr.

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The 30 Best Scotch Whisky Brands For 2021

Where Kentucky boasts more aging barrels of whiskey than living inhabitants, Scotland can counter with having one distillery for every 40,000 inhabitants . More than any other nation or region, Scotland stakes a credible claim as being the home of whisky with or without the e.

At a quick glance, the category can seem intimidating. There are various regions to explore, from Speyside to Islay. Then there are the different styles: single malts blends and blended malts peated and unpeated. Where to begin?

Thankfully, youve come to the right place. Within this list, theres something for every palate, budget, and occasion. Whether youre looking for a single malt that overdelivers on price, or you finally want to take the first steps into a fiery peated exploration, youll find the perfect partner listed below.

Without further ado, here are the 30 best Scotch whiskies for 2021.

Glenfarclas 17 Year Old

Glenfarclas is one of the few remaining family owned and operated distilleries in all of Scotland. Their core line-up is packaged without fuss or frills, making them a great value and the 17 year just gets it right. Matured exclusively in ex-Oloroso sherry casks, this has big butterscotch and sherried fruit, mix with a little peat smoke for an easy-drinking, reliable Scotch.

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The Balvenie Doublewood 12 Year Old

The Balvenie is a great distillery. Like at Springbank, every phase of whisky production takes place at The Balvenie. Their core lineup is diverse enough to satisfy most palates, with bottles showcasing sherry, bourbon, port, and rum, and peat week releases that crank the smoke. And while other distilleries are removing age statements to cut corners, The Balvenie has been doubling down on incredible, aged offerings like Tun 1509, which releases yearly in small quantities and should be on your wishlist. The Balvenie DoubleWood is 12-year-old whisky thats spent nine months in ex-Oloroso sherry casks and makes for a great intro to the distillery at a fabulous price.

The Macallan Double Cask 15 Years Old Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Top 10 Scotches Under $50 (Voted By The Scotch Community)

Even if you were to taste it blind, The Macallans signature sherried style is evident a mile off. The 15 year old release drinks like a whisky five or 10 years its senior in a good way. Pouring a dark toffee hue, intense dried apricot and golden raisin aromas relay its extensive time in cask. Its a similar story on the palate, which remains energetic, richly concentrated, and effortlessly luxurious. Average price: $138.

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Bruichladdich Black Art 1990 Edition 61

The sixth commercially available version of this mythic whisky is an unpeated Islay malt aged 26 years in cask types Bruichladdich prefers to keep secret. What is manifest, though, is that Black Art is an exceptionally rare and unique dram. The aromas are plentiful, among them raisin, apple, blackberry jam, brown sugar, and charred oak. The vitality of the oak and the fruit is sensational. Its a whisky that twists and changes constantly. Mysterious and inscrutable, it delivers an assortment of tastes that surprise and delight, from honeycomb to ginger-nut biscuits to tobacco. It is non-chill-filtered and bottled at a cask strength of 93.2 proof.

Screening For Potential Adulteration

Refilling and fabrication or tampering of branded Scotch whiskies are types of Scotch whisky adulteration that diminishes brand integrity, consumer confidence, and profitability in the Scotch industry. Deviation from normal concentrations of major constituents, such as alcohol congeners, provides a precise, quantitative method for determining authenticity of Scotch whiskies. Over 100 compounds can be detected during counterfeit analysis, including phenolics and terpenes which may vary in concentration by different geographic origins, the barley used in the fermentation mash, or the oak cask used during ageing. Typical high-throughput instruments used in counterfeit detection are liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry.

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Speyburn 15 Years Old Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Aged in American and Spanish oak, this 15 year old single malt is bold and perfumed. Dried red berries and a seasoning of baking spices lead the nose, followed by rich malt and decadent dried fruits on the palate. The pleasant 46 percent alcohol content energizes the palate and keeps the finish lively. Average price: $68.

Best Campbeltown Scotch Whiskies

best Scottish whisky brands

Campbeltown juts out toward Ireland from mainland Scotland its a peninsula sandwiched between Islay to the west and the Lowlands to the east. Once home to 34 distilleries and considered the whisky capital of the world, a post-war economic downturn left the region with only a handful of active distilleries. In general, expect Campbeltown whisky to be dry and pungent, with a peatiness thats less smokey and meaty, like that found in Islay, and more earthy decay and fantastic funk.

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What Is Scotch How Is Scotch Made

Scotch, which is also often called Scotch whisky, is the classic whisky of Scotland. According to law, malt Scotch, which also includes single malt Scotch, must be made entirely from malted barley. Scotch grain whisky, which is not seen all that often in the United States, can be produced from a mash bill that includes other cereal grains, too. For both, the grain is soaked in a hot bath of water, which in turn is fermented, producing what is typically referred to as ‘distiller’s beer.’ That liquid is then distilled, concentrating the alcohol until it reaches the required potency, at which point it is put into wooden barrels to age. It’s during the barrel-aging process that whisky gains its color and much of its flavor.

The Macallan Sherry Oak 18 Years Old

Great Scotch? Yes. Smooth? Ridiculously? Overpriced? Definitely. The Macallan 18 Sherry is the perfect Scotch for non-Scotch drinkers. Its difficult not to love it, but as a luxury Scotch bottle it isnt designed to challenge you, but rather to open the door for anyone to enjoy what 18 years can do to transform whisky. It makes for a nice gift, and is a showcase of what 18-year-old sherry-bombs can taste like, but the more adventurous should look elsewhere.

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The 25 Best Scotch Whiskies You Can Buy In 2021

Everything you need to know about Scotlands favorite brown spirit, including important terminology and a cheat sheet to the best bottles across all price points.

This definitive guide to the best Scotch whiskies of 2021explores everything you need to know about Scotlands favorite brown spirit, including important terminology, a cheat sheet for each distilling region, and, of course, a list of the best bottles for sale at your local liquor store, and beyond.

Peated or unpeated? Sherry-cask aged, ex-bourbon cask aged or some combination of the two? The tweaks and variations that go into each bottle of Scotch are intimidating, especially for bourbon and rye drinkers who may not be accustomed to the price of a whiskey thats been aged for 18 years or more.

We recommend thinking of each bottle of Scotch as falling somewhere along two spectrums: from light to rich delicate to smoky. From there, its easy to move along those two spectrums to find bottles you like. Novices should start by exploring the regions of Scotland.

For starters, there are five Scotch regions: Speyside, Highlands, Islay, Lowlands and Campbeltown. While every distillery is unique, there are unofficial regional styles that can help cut out some of the noise when browsing a liquor store.

Makes For A Dynamic Highball: Jane Walker By Johnnie Walker 10 Year


Jane and ginger, anyone? This blend, featuring Clynelish, is a solid iteration of the classic and familiar woody, maritime, maltiness we know and love of Johnnie Walker blends, says Victoria. It makes for a dynamic and elegant highballwith fresh lemon.

Arbikie Highland Rye 4 Year


So pretty: sweet menthol, complex high, a bright summer garden breeze, a standout, flavorful dram, caramelized orange peel, lighter fluid , balanced and bright, yet not overdone. Would emphasize quality in most classic Scotch cocktails, from a Blood and Sand to my preferred: a perfect Rob Roy.

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Bonus: Kilchoman Machir Bay

Islays Farm distillery has created a really excellent sample in Machir Bay. Aged in ex-bourbon and ex-Olosoro sherry casks, the dram is full of spice and vanilla-flavored cookies. Its fruity and warm, but lighter than some of the heavier peats.

  • Color: pale gold, the lightest
  • Nose: Medicinal, sea salt spray, seaweed, honey cream, bread
  • Palate no water: Sweet honey cream, sea salt sprinkles, sea breeze
  • Nose water: Apples, honey, orchard fruit, the tiniest hint of salt
  • Palate water: Light and airy, honey, apple, raisins, salt, the medicinal finish lasts long on the tongue
  • Peat: Present, but not overwhelming, a hint of smoke in the back, like walking in an orchard
  • Body: Light body

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