According to Alexander Fleming, “A good gulp of hot whisky at bedtime – it’s not very scientific, but it helps.” Who better to learn about whisky than Alexander Fleming? The man only invented Penicillin. Did we mention the fact that he was Scottish?
You can write books that are filled from prelude to epilogue with nothing but quotes concerning Scottish whisky, which really is made only in Scotland by the way. The problem is, which Scotch Whisky is best?
To answer the question, we will have to break it down into categories, as everybody’s palate is different, as well as their pocketbooks. There’s no doubt that Johnnie Walker Blue Label, The Macallan, and possibly Lagavulin are the best, but there’s more to the tale.
So which Scotch Whisky is best when all of the premiums, budgets, tastes, and smells are laid out on the table? The great thing about Scotch whisky is that the very question of which Scotch whisky is best can change in a second because there are so many exquisite varieties to choose from.
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Johnnie Walker Blue Label Scotch Whisky is far and away the most popular of Johnnie Walker’s seven Scotch Whiskey Blends. As far as Johnnie Walker goes, it sells more than twice the amount that its nearest competitor does.
Blue label is the rarest in the Johnnie Walker list of blended Scotch Whisky. It’s a historical throwback to what’s called “Old Highlander Whisky.” Johnnie Walker has always been about the “blend” rather than single malt. In the case of Blue Label, the intention was to capture the blend of the “four corners of Scotland.”
There are a variety of ways to sample Walker’s pinnacle of Scotch perfection. They come in sample sizes up to nearly two liters—all of them sealed in glass that gives off an alluring shade of blue.
The color and label are very attractive and you feel like you’ll feel like you’re getting a bargain as you hand over $250, your soul, and your youngest child for a 750ml bottle. There is no age listed on the bottles since, as a blend, there are probably several different age groups within.
At 80 proof, don’t expect it to light your gut on fire, yet that seems to be the perfect volume for this satisfying concoction of vanilla, smoke, oak, and chili pepper. It has a caramel finish that smooths the chili pepper, avoiding red eyes and smoking nostrils.
All-in-all, Johnnie Walker Blue Label is a subtly delightful Scotch blend that hits all of the high and low notes from what you would expect from Scotch. Which Scotch whisky is best may have been answered right out of the gate.
Scocthbest expensive scotch
You better sip this one really, really slow. At $2,000 a bottle, you’re going to want to take your time with this. This Scotch Whisky got a 100/100 taste rating from the Beverage Testing Institute of Chicago in 1999.
Since each of the taste testers probably donated a kidney to get to the taste testing portion, a 100 out of 100 ratings isn’t a shocker. Of course, since the Macallan has been around since 1824, there’s no denying that they know their whisky.
They even imported their oak casks from Perez, Spain, before beginning the 25-year aging process. If that doesn’t spell commitment, we don’t know what does. As soon as you crack open a bottle—very gently, of course—you’ll get a fruity aroma, with a splash of raisins.
The flavor is exceptional, like honey-glazed over a medley of fruits. At $16.50 per shot, you’ll feel like you got your money’s worth for certain. The wood smoke aftertaste will linger pleasantly for some time.
The bottle itself doesn’t stand out much, remarkably similar to something you would see on the Winn Dixie wine aisle. However, the liquid is dark amber and 86 proof, dark honey dispelled by the bottle’s illusion of mediocrity.
There’s a consistent supply and demand problem with the Macallan 25 Year Old Sherry Oak and for good reason. This is an exceptional Scotch Whisky that’s held back only by its rarity. If $2,000 is too rich for your blood, there are fewer aged varieties as well, as you’ll see below.
It’s hard to say that this single-malt wins the “which Scotch whisky is best” award, but there’s no denying its exceptional flavoring, not to mention the fact that each bottle is older than 43% of the entire world’s population.
Sure, it reads like a top-ten tongue twister, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that Glenmorangie Signet didn’t make the “which Scotch whisky is best” list. Despite its origin, this black and the dark amber bottle looks like something you would find in Pharaoh Tut’s tomb.
In 1887, the Glenmorangie Distillery Company took ownership of what was once a brewery in Tain, Rosshire, Scotland. While not exclusively on the single-malt bandwagon, that’s been the primary push for almost a century.
The company’s symbol, a representation of the carving from The Hilton of Cadboll stone, represents their commitment to producing only the best Scotch whisky. They didn’t miss the mark with the Glenmorangie Signet, an exceptionally tasty Scotch.
This 92 proof Scotch whisky sells for around $200 a bottle, a far cry from the Macallan, but no less distinctive in flavoring and aroma. It has a lighter aroma than the Macallan as well, with a lean towards the floral, with a bit of smoke, leather, and vanilla.
Tobacco, tangerines, and maybe a touch of brown sugar round out an excellent taste, with a Sherry finish. Glenmorangie Signet certainly belongs in the same category as the above, with a taste that flourishes from the look of the bottle to the taste buds.
Glenmorangie Signet is one of those rare Scotch whiskies that’s difficult to critique, as there’s not much to say in the negative. It’s a true delight from the moment you open the bottle till you finally, reluctantly, put it away.
This is the kind of Scotch that you should drink in front of a warm fire, in silence and contemplation, to truly draw out each of its distinctive characteristics. It is a character all its own, and it’s not a bad one in the least.
Like the island, unless you’re from Scotland, you probably have no idea where to find a bottle of Isle of Jura. That’s because they only sell about 200 bottles per year in the United States. The 30-year-old moniker was established to celebrate the Standing Stone, known as Diurachs.
While this Isle of Jura isn’t quite as old as the ancient stones from 3,000 years ago, it certainly lives up to the reputation it seeks to inspire. Aged in American oak casks for 27 years before switching to oak casks from Spain, Isle of Jura is bottled at 80 proof.
This isn’t one of those dark and broody, amber colors that seem to be the default color of so many exceptional Scotch Whiskies. Rather, it’s bright and vivacious gold. when held up to the light, and bottled in a curvy and appealing clear glass.
Cinnamon and honey are the immediate scents upon opening, but the wood is there, subtly hidden, but present nonetheless. After the initial scent, there’s a citrus tone that’s almost felt rather than sensed as if it expressed rather than experienced.
This is a smooth Scotch whisky, with the suggestions of honey aromas transferred to taste, along with cinnamon and oranges. The first sip fades into cinnamon, sherry, and citrus. It’s an excellent follow-up that leaves you feeling wholly satisfied.
There’s no heavy burn, but a simple, spreading warmth with a touch of afterglow. It’s a smoother Scotch all the way through, and nothing along the way gets diverted from that path. If you prefer a smooth finish, this may be your “which Scotch whisky is best” winner.
This is a difficult bottle to find, but you would be remiss to not try. Online is almost impossible, but you may have some luck in an auction format. Regardless, Isle of Jura bottles younger Scotch that isn’t far from the quality of this one.
Just because it’s on a budget, doesn’t mean that it has to be mediocre scotch whisky. Which Scotch Whisky is best isn’t indicative of cost or how refined you have to be to drink it. Don’t worry, you don’t have to sit in an upscale hotel lounge wearing an Armani suit to enjoy a good Scotch.
Scotch Whisky often isn’t expensive or cheap based on its quality, but rather on its availability. Like metals, the rarer it is, the more expensive it is. The good thing about Scotch whisky, is there are some great tasting options out there for everyone.
Originally a farming distillery, Bowmore is quite possibly the oldest in the whole of Scotland. That’s disputable, of course, as is everything nowadays, but it speaks to the longevity and commitment of a distillery that has existed for the better part of three centuries.
Established in 1779, Bowmore is known for doing everything the old-fashioned way, hand-turning its own barley. They must’ve gotten pretty good at it over the centuries as Bowmore is a well-known, respected brand of Scotch whisky.
At $77 a bottle, the 15-year old version is 86 proof and comes with a light or dark orange appearance. If you like the taste of melon or cantaloupe, this Scotch will be right up your alley. Melon is the primary smell and taste though there are strong hints of sherry and wood smoke.
There’s definitely some spice to it as well, though it doesn’t linger and there is a pleasant iff lingering burn as you down it, without being overtly offensive. Overall, it’s a pleasant Scotch, especially if you like melons.
There’s not much of a difference between the 15-year old version and the 12, or the 18 for that matter. The only differences are very subtle hints of spice in the 15-year old version.
Bowmore also appears on our guide about the Best Scotch for Begginers!Go check it out!
Of course, the Macallan had to make another appearance here. No list would be complete without including Macallan and, so far as which Scotch whisky is best is concerned, Macallan always has a place.
While the Macallan 25-year Old Sherry Oak requires taking out a second mortgage—if you can so much as locate a bottle—the Macallan Edition No. 6 has no such scruples with your bank account at $180 for a 750ml bottle.
The sixth edition is the final release in the Macallan Edition Series, and they may very well have saved the best for last. Edition No. 6 eschews the fruit and flowery concoctions that so often rub up against the nose and palate when opening a bottle of Scotch.
Instead, you’ll be treated to the smell of salt, sea, and leather, with an exorbitant splash of sherry—something Macallan is well known for. Macallan has managed to achieve a perfect balance between sweet and tart.
On your first sip, expect to taste orange, gingerbread, and spice, perfectly balanced with each flavor jiving off of the next. There’s also a hint of white pepper and sesame. Of course, all of these flavors are warmly embraced in sherry to round out the effectiveness of each.
Sherry is so thoroughly entwined in the Macallan name that any Scotch whisky connoisseur would be hard-pressed to name a Macallan Scotch that didn’t leverage the flavor to some degree or another.
The Macallan takes their Scotch seriously, and this is another fine edition that you should strongly consider.
A relative newcomer to the pantheon of Scotch whisky, The Sassenach is a product of the Great Glen distillery founded by the Scottish actor, Sam Heughan. We might also add that the Sassenach Blended Scotch Whisky isn’t a bad start in the least.
Of course, we needed a blended scotch whisky to add to the ever-controversial, which Scotch whisky is best list. This is actually the very first Scotch Whiskey to be produced by the Great Glen and is the result of several blends of exceptional Scotch whiskies.
Also, it’s aged in an oak cask that once held Madeira wine which adds a unique layer of flavoring to the overall appeal of this delicious blend. If this is Sam Heughan’s first attempt, we will eagerly anticipate the next, because it will be difficult to outdo the first.
Opening the bottle for the first time instantly evokes caramel, cinnamon, and apricot. It’s a pleasant cocktail that expands the anticipation for the real thing.
The taste is even better, with the mingled flavors of vanilla, honey, almond, and raisin all adequately represented without too much or too little of any. There’s a subtle sense of spice as well, that also lingers pleasantly, long after the final sip.
There’s also a hint of toffee and nutmeg that exposes itself in the long term. That’s what makes this Scotch whisky a thoroughly contemplative drink. There’s a lot to like with the flavors and aromas mixed so well, it has to be enjoyed more than once to take in the whole experience.
Another ancient—at least in terms of our modern sensibilities—Scotch whisky distiller, Lagavulin was founded in 1816 and is a highly esteemed producer of single malt Scotch.
The 8-year old Lagavulin is a result of Lagavulin’s 200th anniversary and it’s essentially another version of their 16-year old Scotch Whisky. This isn’t the first time Lagavulin has released a Scotch that was only 8-years young.
In the 1880s Alfred Barnard was refreshed by a taste of Lagavulin’s 8-year Scotch and was delightfully impressed. That’s saying something since Alfred Barnard was a pretty famous whisky connoisseur.
Not much has changed in almost a century and a half since that very first taste test. Despite Lagavulin’s notoriety as an upscale producer of some of the best Scotch Whiskies, an 8-year old release was something of interest.
Lagavulin didn’t disappoint. The aroma is a pleasant blend of salt and sweet, with honey toast and sea salt along with a strong sense of smoke in the background. Which Scotch whisky is best always starts with the aroma. If that’s no good, it kills the flavor before it’s tested.
The flavor is a mixture of sweet smoke, green apple, malt, and iodine. Like the aroma, the smell is a concoction of equally balanced flavors. Lagavulin 8-year Old Scotch Whisky is the exception to the rule of young-aged Scotch associated with venerable distillers.
Lovers of peat may have something to say concerning which Scotch whisky is best. This single malt Scotch is layered in peat. The flagship whisky of the Ardbeg distillery, which has produced whisky since the late 18th century.
Located in Ardbeg, Scotland—surprised?—the Ardbeg distillery is known for its heavy usage of peat and they produce between 9,000 and 10,000 barrels per year. A 750ml bottle usually runs between $50 and $60.
Ardbeg prefers to use peat pretty heavily in their production process, eschewing salt and brine in favor of sweet and smoky. It’s been quite the successful formula for them, as Ardbeg is practically a household name in the UK.
The whisky itself is very clear, pale straw color and comes in a dark, forest green bottle that very nearly denotes their affinity for peat.
Of course, when opening the first bottle, the smell of peat is both expected and delivered in spades. However, it isn’t overpowering and doesn’t cover the additional hints of vanilla and lime.
If you’re a lover of peat, the aroma is sublime, with just enough of an aroma cocktail to entice the senses.
The taste is all too similar, with overlapping flavors of vanilla, buttercream, and citrus. These flavors are perfectly mixed and synchronize well with the overall flavor of peat. Smoked wood and charcoal amply finish, the lasting flavor long after you set down the bottle.
Ardbeg chose a good year to represent their brand, as the Ardbeg 10-Year Old Scotch is a delicious and welcome single malt, Scotch Whisky.
Which Scotch Whisky Is Best? – Last Thoughts
If you wanted to categorize it in terms of age and rarity, then which Scotch whisky is best is gauged by the heaviness of your wallet or purse. However, most people don’t necessarily think that way.
Someone who has an affinity for peat may feel like Ardbeg 10-Year is going to be hands-down the best Scotch whisky they’ve ever had. Someone who prefers sweet and salty, with hints of caramel and vanilla, may prefer Johnnie Walker Blue Label.
Of course, there has to be an ultimate Scotch Whisky that puts the rest to shame, the problem is, it’s all a matter of perspective.
Which Scotch whisky is best might be better served by popularity, but that would mean Johnnie Walker (pick your label) since it outsells the next closest competitor by a ratio of 2:1.
Bud light is the most popular light beer by far in the USA, but there is probably a fairly large subset of beer drinkers that would vehemently disagree. So when it comes down to which Scotch whisky is best, it’s simply a matter of combining all of the best of each category—budget, taste, aroma, premium, etc.—and arriving at the one that covers them all better than the rest.
Ultimately, Johnnie Walker’s Blue Label has to take the cake for which Scotch whisky is best because it encapsulates the best of what Scotch whiskies have to offer, while not arriving at a point where purchasing a bottle means forking over a ludicrous sum. Of course, Johnnie Walker Blue Label is an outstanding Scotch whisky, with only one in every ten thousand casks designated as Blue Label. It is the rarest Scotch Whisky from the most famous and popular blended whisky distilleries in the world.
With that kind of moniker, it had better live up to the name—even more so as a blended Scotch whisky—and Johnnie Walker Blue Label certainly does that and more.