Made in Scotland with a blend of water and malted barley (or other grains) then aged for at least three years in oak barrels, Scotch whisky is a deliciously diverse liquor that is a great addition to cocktails or enjoyed on its own. While part of the whisky family, the best scotch whiskies are well-known for their smoother flavor profile due to the malting of the grains.
Scotch has long been the go-to spirit for whisky connoisseurs. So, what exactly is Scotch? “The Scotch Whisky Regulations of 2009 imposed new rules on the production and branding of Scotch. Those rules include: composition (must be a blend of water and barley, or other grains), aging process (must be aged for at least three years in oak barrels in Scotland), additives (no additives other than caramel coloring and water), and ABV (no less than 40 percent ABV). The Scotch Whisky Regulations of 2009 also regulate where Scotch can be produced, including the areas of Highland, Lowland, Speyside, Campbeltown, and Islay,” MasterClass explains.
Now, you might notice that whiskey is sometimes spelled without an “e,” and that begs the question: What’s the difference between “whiskey” and whisky.” As the fine folks at Oak and Eden explain: “To make a long explanation short, whiskey (with an ‘e’) refers to grain spirits distilled in Ireland and the United States. Whisky (with no ‘e’) refers to Scottish, Canadian, or Japanese grain spirits.”
Drinking Scotch whisky in moderation is a great choice due to its low levels of carbohydrates and sugars. Avoiding carbs, of course, is a popular dietary strategy for many health-minded folks. Research shows that following a low-carb diet could help prevent age-related cognitive decline. Similarly, another study finds that keeping carbohydrates at a minimum may also help ward off diabetes.
Now, this doesn’t mean you should be drinking Scotch whisky or any other whiskey for that matter every single night. Excess drinking can lead to an extensive list of health problems, but drinking cautiously and in moderation may work in your favor in some cases! In fact, one recent paper concludes that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol can reduce stress-related signals which could cause heart disease. Researchers with the American College of Cardiology say this is the first report to link moderate drinking with heart health in this way. Moreover, a study out of Australia finds that moderate drinking is better for aging hearts than not drinking at all! Bottom line, if you do decide to drink responsibly– scotch whisky is a great choice.
Looking for a new bottle to spruce up your home bar lineup? There’s a lot out there, and this list, of course, is simply a look at what the experts are recommending the most. Scotch whisky ranges from single malt, blended malt, single grain, blended grain and blended. If it sounds like an earful, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. StudyFinds visited 10 of the leading expert websites to see which is the best Scotch on the market today. If we missed your favorite to sip on, let us know in the comments below!
The List: Best Scotch, According to Experts
1. Talisker 10-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Made by the sea and boasting a rich gold color, Talisker’s 10-Year-Old Scotch Whisky is one that has won the hearts of many scotch devotees. “Having a saline, peated whisky in your arsenal is requisite for smoky-spicy cocktails like the Penicillin. The bartender-backed Talisker 10 Year is one of the most popular Scotches in this style. Made on the Isle of Skye and aged in ex-bourbon casks for a minimum of 10 years, Talisker is a versatile whisky that shines in stirred drinks and highballs because of its oily texture and weight,” writes Punch Drink.
The intensely smoky scotch is produced at the oldest distillery on the Isle of Skye. “With a powerful peat-smoke on the nose with just a hint of the sea-water salt of fresh oysters and citrus sweetness, this full, rich-bodied single malt has a rich dried-fruit sweetness on the palate, with clouds of smoke, strong barley malt flavors. Peppery at the back of the mouth, the finish is huge, long and warming, with an appetizing sweetness,” adds GQ Magazine.
According to Gear Patrol, “Of Highland’s distilleries, Talisker tends to bring high-octane peat bombs, and if that’s where your heart lies I’d stick to Talisker 10, which is a fantastic, go-to bottle for entry-level smoke.”
2. Glenfarclas 15-Year-Old
It’s not every day that a globally recognized scotch is still family-owned, so taking the opportunity to support Glenfarclas is a no-brainer. “Glenfarclas is one of the few remaining family owned and operated distilleries in all of Scotland. Its core line-up is packaged without fuss or frills, making them a great value (Glenfarclas 12 is great for those on a budget) 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,” writes Gear Patrol.
Officially dating back to the 1830s, the distillery is a master of its craft. “Juicy, and offered at a fairly strong 46% ABV, this dram is for those who like their Scotch bold and unapologetic,” says Men’s Health. “On the nose, there’s boozy port and sherry, sultana followed by a little smoke and leather. To sip, there’s a hint of jalapeno and a little anise, and again, a little smoke. Exceptionally smooth, it’s an intriguing whisky. Just wait for that balanced pepper spice finish.”
3. Ardbeg Corryvreckan
Heady, intense and powerful, Ardbeg’s Corryvreckan Scotch whisky takes its name from the famous whirlpool that lies to the north of Scottish island of Islay. “Winner of The World’s Best Single Malt in 2010 by the World Whiskies Awards, Corryvreckan is intense, non-chill-filtered experience of peat and pepper aged in virgin French Limousin oak. If you’re looking for more fruitiness than spice, another fantastic Ardbeg is Uigeadail, which substitutes virgin French Limousin oak for ex-Sherry casks,” mentions Gear Patrol.
At 57.1 percent ABV, Ardbeg makes a great option for a slow sipping Scotch, full of flavor and punch. “Ardbeg’s Corryvreckan swirls together rich, peaty tobacco with a medicinal herbaceous quality. There’s plenty going on, with sweet spice, citrus peel and some testers even detecting a caramelized tomato quality,” says Elle.
According to Vine Pair, “this smoky single malt leads with intense campfire and barbecue aromas. That haze soon parts, revealing bright bramble fruit and sweet cherry notes. The palate is smoky, savory, slightly peppery, and continues for an age.”
4. The Macallan Double Cask 18 Years Old
Sure to impress even the most particular of Scotch drinkers, The Macallan Double Cask 18 Years Old is one of the best luxury Scotch whiskies money can buy. “Sure, there’s no escaping the exorbitant price of this release, but the whisky ranks as one of The Macallan’s most luxurious permanent expressions, having joined the brand’s core Double Cask lineup in 2020. Aged in oloroso-seasoned American and European oak casks, booze-soaked golden raisins join ginger and caramel on the nose. High-definition dried fruit notes arrive on the palate, along with hints of nuts, and a luscious mouthfeel. Ball out on a bottle and savor it sparingly over time,” writes Vine Pair.
The popular distillery is well-known for its straightforward Scotch whiskies, which often end with a creamy finish. “With an aroma of dried fruits, ginger and toffee with rich orange and hints of clove with nutmeg, it opens on the palate with rich raisin and sultana, notes of caramel, vanilla and ginger, balanced by wood spice and zesty citrus. The finish is warm oak spice and ginger turning to sweet orange,” raves GQ.
Elle also likes the 12-year, writing, “Deliciously buttery and super smooth, it’s quite the crowd-pleaser.”
5. Lagavulin 16-Year-Old
If you’re looking for a Scotch that’s both high quality and accessible, the Lagavulin 16-Year-Old is a great place to start. “Need a crowd pleaser? Here’s your go-to bottle. Popularized by the character Ron Swanson in Parks and Recreation, this legendary bottle merges peat with campfire smoke. It’s aggressive and mouth-wateringly savory, like brisket on a hot summer day, and it is available in nearly every liquor store, duty free shop and self-respecting bar in America and abroad,” writes Gear Patrol.
Reviewers also love this Scotch for its well-balanced, yet complex flavors. “Lagavulin 16 Years is a much loved standard bearer for peated single malts. Earth and smoke define its profile, and mingle nicely among an attractive array of fruit, light caramel and vanilla, and a spray of seawater. Spice lingers on its finish, leaving smoke behind as a pleasant and surprisingly subtle afterthought,” adds VinePair.
To sum it all up, Elle says, “Opening up with bright lemon zest, this powerful peat-filled whisky is typical of southern Islay.”
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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.