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World Whisky Day 2022: 10 best Scottish single malt whiskies to bless your home bar

For connoisseurs and newbies alike, savour Scotland’s finest with these top bottles

<p>From special edition to cask strength, these distilleries are pulling out all the stops  </p>

From special edition to cask strength, these distilleries are pulling out all the stops

It is a busy time for the Scottish whisky scene. There has been a clutch of new distilleries opening in recent years, with their whiskies now coming on to the market at a greater frequency, and many of them are finding innovative ways to produce their spirits and breathe some life into the industry.

Meanwhile, established distilleries are becoming increasingly inventive with their products and marketing, not only to keep up with the new local kids on the block but also to compete with the explosion of whisky distilleries around the world (besides the huge amounts of gins, rums and more that are filling the spirit aisles).

To attract your attention, distilleries are constantly on the hunt for unique casks in which to mature their spirits, often promoting them with inventive serving suggestions – sipping neat is no longer the only option. You’ll also find familiar brands giving their established ranges a makeover; limited editions to tempt the collector or those seeking something a little more exclusive; more whisky bottled at cask strength; and, besides young whisky from new distilleries, you might also notice a few distilleries boasting of their oldest ever releases.

In a bid to further their appeal they will also team up with other brands to produce extra special collaborative editions, such as the recent partnership between Islay’s Bowmore and luxury car manufacturer Aston Martin for their “Masters Selection” (and yes, the whisky is good).

To help you with your next venture into the whisky market we’ve put together these suggestions featuring some of our favourite Scottish single malts. Whether you’re already a fan and are looking to expand the range of bottles in your own collection, or are at the early stages of whisky appreciation, then we’re confident that this list will cover all tastes.

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How we tested

To come up with this selection we lined up some notable new releases alongside some of our old favourites and steadily tasted them over the course of a month. Besides looking for exceptional whisky-making craftsmanship we wanted our list to showcase the range of styles available, highlighting some of the best of the new releases alongside a few more familiar products.

The best Scottish single malt whiskeys for 2022 are:

GlenAllachie 12

Best: Overall

Rating: 10/10

  • ABV: 46%
  • Size: 70cl
  • Region: Speyside

Scotland’s Speyside distilleries are well known for its love of sherry casks to mature spirits in and, in recent years, GlenAllachie has been picking up awards aplenty for its sherried expressions. It’s recently released three special editions that have been finished in pedro ximénez, madeira and ruby port, but for sherry expertise from the brand’s core range look no further than its 12 year old whisky.

It has been matured in a combination of virgin oak, pedro ximénez and oloroso casks and you’ll be met by the sweet fruity aromas of sherry from the first sniff. On sipping, this isn’t the kind of sherry-bomb preferred by some neighbouring distilleries – the sweet raisin, butterscotch and honey mingle nicely with darker notes of milky chocolate and coffee. It’s packed with flavour but is effortless to sip, and its less intense sherry nature makes it not only a great introduction to Speyside whiskies but to Scottish single malts in general.

Balvenie 25 year old rare marriages

Best: Aged whisky

Rating: 9/10

  • ABV: 48%
  • Size: 70cl
  • Region: Speyside

There has been a recent flurry of extremely old whiskies being teased from their casks and bottled for those with money to burn. Earlier this year The Singleton of Dufftown released a 39 year old whisky at around £2,300, Glensglassaugh a 50 year old for £5,500 and Glen Grant bottled a 60 year old whisky for over £20,000. For an oldie that’s a little less bank-breaking you’ll need to trim a few years off the age, and we reckon this 25 year old from the ever popular Balvenie distillery fits the bill.

It’s a rich and fruity, sweet sipping experience, layered with multiple flavours from all those years spent in oak. Dark berries mingle with toffee apple while some gingery warmth makes it more suited to the long, dark nights of winter. And, as you would hope from an old release, the wood makes its mark too, with age mellowing its spicy character to provide a long lasting, cinnamon-sprinkled finish.

Lindores Abbey MCDXCIV

Best: New distillery

Rating: 8/10

  • ABV: 46%
  • Size: 70cl
  • Region: Lowland

The past year has seen the first whisky releases from numerous new distilleries, including a smoky, briney whisky from the Isle of Skye’s small Torabhaig distillery and a lightly peated single malt from Raasay, the first distillery on Skye’s tiny island neighbour.

A distillery that has further grabbed the attention of whisky drinkers is Lindores Abbey, based in Fife within the Lowland region. The new distillery’s first whisky was released in summer 2021, but the production of whisky on the site was first recorded in 1494 (the year you’ll get if you correctly translate those Roman numerals it’s named for).

The new release is initially surprisingly gentle on the palette for such a young whisky, before a wave of fresh vanilla and bright orchard fruits hit with some lively spice. Richer fruits develop on further sipping and light oak notes emerge through the creamy texture at the finish. A great start for this incarnation of the distillery and the beautiful bottle alone is well worth a portion of the price.

AnCnoc 2009

Best: Limited edition bargain

Rating: 8/10

  • ABV: 46%
  • Size: 70cl
  • Region: Highland

While it’s important to keep your whisky cabinet well stocked with your favourite bottles, it’s also a good idea to find room for a few limited edition releases. These bottles are the result of distilleries delving into the vaults and uncorking a cask or two of something it thinks deserves special attention.

Limited editions are often sold at a higher price than core range products, and tend to sell out quickly, so if you spy a bargain it’s worth getting in there quickly. One such well priced release is this 2009 vintage from the increasingly popular small Highland distillery AnCnoc, which has been matured in a combination of ex-bourbon casks and first fill Spanish butts. AnCnoc’s whisky tends to have a citrus freshness and honey sweetness that adds lighter notes to its depth of flavour. This new release introduces more spicy wood notes and some delicious creamy, sweet chocolate to the experience, making it much more of a cold weather sipper. Grab a bottle while you can.

Laphroaig 10 year old

Best: Peated whisky

Rating: 8/10

  • ABV: 40%
  • Size: 70cl
  • Region: Islay

We recently explored some of the best peated whiskies from around the world and came up with a list of 10, from big hitting peat bombs to subtly smoky drams. For anyone who is unsure as to whether they like whisky that packs a lot of peat or not, here’s another, and it’s an Islay classic with intense smoky notes that will either get you purring with pleasure or growling your instant disapproval.

Besides flavouring the whisky with a big blast of smoke the peat also lashes the palate with medicinal iodine notes and briny seaweed, a common love-it-or-hate-it characteristic of many peated Islay whiskies. There’s also an underlying sweetness to the whisky which helps to accentuate some juicy fruit notes, but it’s mainly about the peat which will linger long into the night. Think you might like heavily peated whisky? At well under £40 this is one to try.

The Macallan Harmony Collection Rich cacao

Best: For whisky collectors

Rating: 9/10

  • ABV: 44%
  • Size: 70cl
  • Region: Speyside

For many people whisky has become an investment and, for those who collect bottles in the hope they’ll soar in value, The Macallan is usually the first distillery they will look at. Among the reasons why The Macallan’s whiskies are so sought after are its constant praise for producing high quality products using small-scale, traditional methods and the exclusivity of many of its releases.

One of its most recent ventures has seen them partnering with chocolatier Jordi Roca to create a whisky that pairs perfectly with chocolate. The result is a spirit that has subtle cocoa notes wrapped in sweet sherried booze, layered with hints of fruity fig and spicy ginger – sip it with a quality chocolate and the flavours merge into a boozy confection delight.

As with most of The Macallan’s limited edition releases it might be hard to track a bottle down, but persevere and hopefully you’ll soon be rewarded – whether you’re a whisky collector or someone who wants to indulge in a new booze and chocolate experience. Unfortunately this one is currently out of stock, but you can still sign up for email notifications to be alerted once it’s back.

Aberlour a’bunadh

Best: Cask strength whisky

Rating: 9/10

  • ABV: 61.5%
  • Size: 70cl
  • Region: Speyside

Whisky drinkers are increasingly turning to cask strength releases, keen for a taste of liquid straight from the barrel while giving them the option to dilute it according to personal preference. While lots of limited edition releases are now bottled at cask strength, there are also a few core expressions that have been sold this way for years.

Aberlour A’Bunadh first entered the market way back in 1997 and has been a huge hit with consumers ever since. Bottling directly from the casks (ex-sherry in this case) means that the strength varies with each batch (our latest sample was 61.2 per cent) but its exceptional quality always remains. It has a sweet vanilla and fruit cake aroma while the deep, rich amber colour hints at the depth of flavour within. You’ll find stone fruits and prune juice, warming ginger, leathery oak, syrupy sweet honey and, at the finish, some chocolate, raisins and yet more of that gingery heat that will sustain you for a long while.

Old Pulteney 12 year old

Best: Classic bargain

Rating: 8/10

  • ABV: 40%
  • Size: 70cl
  • Region: Highland

What would be the best bottle with which to introduce someone to Scottish single malt whisky? We think it should be something that’s readily available, with a cheap price tag and flavours that conjure the essence of Scottish whisky, but without overwhelming the palate.

Old Pulteney 12 year old certainly ticks all boxes, with sweet flavours from its bourbon cask ageing making it instantly accessible, while some briney notes conjure images of the spectcaular Scottish coast. There are flavours of herbs and spices to give it some warmth and complexity while the sweeter notes take on the flavours of honey and lemon. A great choice for whisky novices and one that a bottle that should be constantly replenished.

Talisker 18

Best: Full flavoured classic

Rating: 9/10

  • ABV: 45.8%
  • Size: 70cl
  • Region: Islands

This 18 year old classic from Talisker on the Isle of Skye has most of the key flavours you would expect to find in a Scottish whisky. There’s plenty of fruit, from tangy orange to rich berries; a sweetness like smooth toffee; some oak spices that bring with them chilli and black pepper heat; and an array of additional flavours associated with peated whisky that include smoke, iodine and even char.

Talisker whisky is also noted for having “maritime” characteristics and, with some briney touches drifting in on those smoky notes, you can see why. It’s an exceptional dram, bursting with flavour, but maintains a smooth and easy to sip nature – no wonder it’s so popular with whisky lovers.

Unfortunately, this amber beauty is currently out of stock, but you can sign up for an email alert the minute it’s back.

Nc’nean organic single malt whisky

Best: Organic whisky

Rating: 8/10

  • ABV: 46%
  • Size: 70cl
  • Region: Highland

Another new distillery, Nc’nean, situated on the Morven Peninsula, was set up with a determination to do things differently to the norm. With sustainability as the main focus of its process, the distillery is powered by renewable energy, recycles 97.97 per cent of its waste and uses organic Scottish barley, with the resulting spirits bottled in 100 per cent recycled glass.

Such is the excitement surrounding this distillery that its seasonal releases are selling out within days, but regular releases of its core whisky are more frequently available and the distillery is already up to batch 10. It’s a light and easy going spirit, with bright citrus notes offset by a few earthier and oakier flavours, while clean, malty grains hold it all together. Further proof that the Scottish whisky industry has exciting times ahead.

The verdict: Scotch single malt whiskey

GlenAllachie 12 has enough depth of flavour to wow the whisky crowds, but is easy enough to drink that it makes a great starting point for the whisky novice too. An excellent all round introduction to single malt Scottish whisky.

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