Jacob Osborn
24 Best Scotch Whisky Brands | Man of Many
Our list of the best Scotch Whisky goes like this.
The Best Scotch Whisky Brands at a Glance
Best Overall Scotch: The Macallan
1. The Macallan
Best for: Value for Money
2. Glen Moray
Best for: Blended Scotch Whisky
3. Johnnie Walker
While we’re still roaming around Islay, let’s stop at yet another one of the island’s relatively few active distilleries. In the game since 1881, Bunnahabhain releases a modest selection of core statements and the occasional one-off. It’s also a favourite of whisky specialist Emma Cookson who describes the 12-year-old in the following way.
4. Bunnahabhain
If you don’t want to spend hours at the nearest liquor store, grab a bottle of Glenfiddich and be done with it. Like some other names on the list, this is one of the best Scotch whisky brands because it’s one of the most consistent, reliable, and (relatively) affordable. While you’ll likely find this brand in most bottle shops, that’s not to say it isn’t a seriously impressive piece of whisky-making ingenuity. Glenfiddich has received more awards since 2000 than any other single malt Scotch whisky in two of the world’s most prestigious competitions; the International Wine & Spirit Competition and the International Spirits Challenge. The recently introduced 14 Year Old Bourbon Barrel Reserve is our top pick, namely due to the fact that it is a genuine winner, bringing deep notes of caramel, oak, and spice.
5. Glenfiddich
Best for: Cocktails
6. Tobermory Distillery
Founded just one year before Lagavulin was this similarly smoky and no less extraordinary neighbour. Far more versatile by comparison, Laphroaig consistently surprises with new releases and annual collaborations. Its benchmark expression is the mighty 10 Year, which pretty much defines the brand. Think heavy peat, chocolate-covered espresso beans, and blasts of iodine and you’ll get the idea. To take those flavours up a few notches, snag a bottle of the 10-Year Cask Strength; it’s a personal favourite.
7. Laphroaig
Best for: Single Malt
8. The Balvenie
The one, the only: Lagavulin. Popularised by actor Nick Offerman (who was recently honoured with his own release), this Islay-based distillery has mastered the art of single malt Scotch. Its 16 Year statement is quite simply the stuff of legend and one of the world’s best whiskies, presuming you have a penchant for peat. Like refined molasses melting over a bonfire, it delivers palpable layers of sweet and pungent smoke. More than a quality brand, Lagavulin will awaken dormant taste buds.
9. Lagavulin
Affordable single malt whisky doesn’t get more classic than the Talisker 10 Year, which unravels one layer at a time before trailing out on a peaty finish. It won a Double Gold Medal and “Best Single Malt Scotch up to 12 years” in the 2015 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Move up from there and you arrive at the acclaimed 18 Year, which was named the “Best Single Malt In The World” at the 2007 World Whiskies Awards. No matter which expression you try, you’ll probably smack your lips and say, “Damn, that’s good Scotch!”
10. Talisker
Best for: Peated Scotch Whisky
11. Ardbeg
For over three decades, Glenmorangie’s Original 10 Year has been the most popular single malt in all of Scotland (where they know a thing or two about whisky). Combine that with the brand’s endless slate of awards and you have a spirit that basically sells itself. The Original also serves as the base whisky for a variety of finishing programs, yielding rich expressions like Quinta Ruban and Lasanta.
12. Glenmorangie
We’re going back to Islay, to Islay, to Islay…we’re going back to Islay because that’s where you’ll find Bowmore, i.e. another one of the best Scotch whisky brands. The flagship 12 Year is certainly nothing to scoff at, nor is its palatable mix of salt, vanilla, chocolate, and soft smoke. On the far opposite side of the spectrum is the ultra-rare Bowmore 31-Year-Old, which must be tasted to be believed. And by that, we mean we don’t believe we’ll ever get to taste it!
13. Bowmore
One look at the rich red colour of The Glendronach Original 12 Year and you’ve already got sherry on your mind. Unsurprisingly, the whisky is matured in a combination of Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez ex-sherry casks, paving the way for luscious colour and taste alike. When only the biggest flavour explosion will suffice, accept nothing less than The GlenDronach Parliament 21-Year-Old. That said, the privilege will cost you.
14. The GlenDronach
Since first launching in 1824, The Glenlivet has ceased operations just once over the course of its lifespan and that was for a little event called WWII. Bigger now than ever before, it’s the second-best-selling single malt Scotch whisky brand in the world (first place goes to Glenfiddich). Its core range is anchored by some straightforward sippers, namely the 12 Year and the Founder’s Reserve. We’re personally more partial to the 18 Year or the Nadurra 16 Year, the latter of which is bottled at cask strength.
15. The Glenlivet
Given the domination of single malts on our list of the best Scotch whisky brands, let’s make way for this renowned blender. A number of Chivas Regal’s top-shelf entries have taken home major awards, including Gold and Double Gold in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. While we’d never refuse a glass of the 12 Year, it’s the 25 Year or the Regal XV we’re really after.
16. Chivas Regal
If you’ve never heard of Ben Nevis, you’re not alone. Here’s what whisky expert Emma Cookson has to say about its allure;
17. Ben Nevis
Located in the Scottish west coast port of Oban is this distillery of the same name, which takes direct inspiration from the local maritime climate. The 21 Year Cask Strength is worthy of your bucket list, but in the meantime, you’ll have to settle for the brand’s popular 14 Year or Little Bay expressions. Both are dried with peat and the 14 Year delivers plenty of smoke, in particular.
18. Oban
Under the supervision of legendary Master Distiller Jim McEwan, this Islay-based brand underwent a complete overhaul back in 2001. Total transparency and a number of fantastic releases (of both the peated and non-peated variety) would soon follow. That includes the iconic Black Art series, which is supremely high in quality and price alike. For those who don’t have hundreds of dollars to spend on alcohol, the Port Charlotte or Classic Laddie make for solid jumping-off points.
19. Bruichladdich
Why did we put Caol Ila on the list? Because we’re all about that smoke, ’bout that smoke. We know it’s an acquired taste, but we still think less of you if you don’t like it. Just kidding—we have nothing against all you peat-haters out there. Everyone else, start picking up what this long-running Scotch whisky brand is throwing down. You’ll be glad you did.
20. Caol Ila
The northernmost single malt Scotch whisky distillery is also one of the best. It goes by the name of Highland Park and it hails from the archipelago of Orkney, where the winds are fierce and the weather is temperate. Making brilliant use of its surroundings, the distillery smokes hand-malted barley over local peat, resulting in a distinctive flavour profile. In 1997, it introduced an 18 Year expression and the world of whisky has never been quite the same. To put it another way: this stuff is gooooood. Unfortunately, it’s also really expensive, which is why you should stick with the superb 12 Year until that big bonus check comes in.
21. Highland Park
Family owned and operated, Springbank is Scotland’s oldest independent distillery and one of the last brands standing in the once-thriving region of Campbeltown. The standard 10 Year single malt is distilled 2.5 times and mildly peated, leading to a wonderfully diverse profile. A hard-working brand if there ever was one, it performs 100% of the production (malting, ageing, bottling, etc) on-site.
22. Springbank
The first new distillery to be built on the island of Islay in 124 years, Kilchoman has come a long way in precious little time. As the owner of nearby Rockside Farm, the brand oversees every single aspect of production, going from barley to bottle. The 100% Islay series, in particular, represents grain-to-glass in the truest sense of the concept. We expect more great things from this veritable newcomer.
23. Kilchoman
While it might be the most familiar name, the unique distillery is actually one of the world’s best. Previously, the distillery mainly produced whisky for blends, however, in recent years, Glenallachie has undergone some serious changes, introducing a number of fruity, single-malt expressions. According to Shuttleworth, Glenallachie is a hidden gem of Scotland, offering an outstanding portfolio of spirits, backed by some very famous names. “Previously owned by Chivas Brothers and recently bought by a group including Billy Walker, Glenallachie is putting out some of the most exciting whisky in Speyside,” he says. It all comes thanks to a vast library of 50,000 casks dating back to the ’70s, a leading cask program and Walker’s unparalleled expertise.
24. Glenallachie
Whether it’s your first time discovering this wonderful spirit or you’re just on the lookout for your next dram, we’re putting together a list that promises a genuine treat because there’s no shortage of quality statements here. And for all the seasoned sippers out there – we’re talking with some of the top whisky experts in the country to curate our list – and surely you can always use a refresher.  We’ll be ticking off our list of the best Scotch first before taking a deeper look at why they made the list, including everything you need to know.
How to Choose the Best Scotch Whisky
So what is Scotch whisky? Well, we could wax poetic about the “water of life” and so on, but instead, we’ll stick to the basics. According to the official Scotch Whisky Regulations (SWR) – which were last updated in 2009 – genuine Scotch whisky must meet the following criteria:
What is Scotch Whisky?
We spoke to whisky expert Oliver Maruda to get to the bottom of why the regulatory body exists;
Why Does the Regulatory Body Exist?
From Johnnie Walker to The Macallan, the long list of Scotch whisky brands that have infiltrated the global market is nothing short of incredible. Over the years, the spirit has become one of the leading exports for Scotland, with the Scotch Whisky Association revealing that the export value of Scotch whisky in 2021 was £4.51 billion, up £705 million compared to 2020. On average, 44 bottles of Scotch whisky are exported every second, thrown from all parts of the country to a massive international legion of fans, hailing from regions as far-reaching as the USA, France, Australia and even Latvia, which accounted for £176 million of Scotch exports in 2020. According to Scotch expert and Crown Resorts venue manager Aaron Shuttleworth, each region of Scotland is responsible for pioneering its own versions of the spirit, which in turn has garnered a unique and engaged fanbase. While Highland Scotches
The Rise of Scotch Whisky
We’ve previously covered Scotland’s whisky regions, so if you want to know more about them, check out our article. And while you’re digging, why not check out our in-depth article about single malt Scotch whisky and how it gets made. Last but not least, our extensive guide to peaty whisky is sure to have the smoky dram fans excited. Yes, it isn’t an official “type” per se, but nevertheless exists in a category all its own. Putting all that aside, Scotch whisky breaks down according to the following types:
Types of Scotch Whisky
Out of all the Scotch whisky sold in the world, it’s estimated 90% of it is a blend.
Is There a Misconception of Blended Scotch Whisky?
If you’re not quite aboard the Scotch whisky train or looking for something a little different in the drinking scene, why not check out our articles on some of the other great drams from across the world?
Alternatives to Scotch Whisky
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