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Need a few ideas to get started on your Scotch shopping spree? Read on for some of the Scotch brands we’re excited about now.
Located on the island of Orkney off the north coast of Scotland, Highland Park celebrates the deep connections between the northern Highlands and Scandinavia. The Orkneys were actually part of Norway for many centuries, and Nordic traditions still persist today. The brand’s core single malt, Highland Park 12 Years Viking Honour, is a fantastic place to get to know Highland Park’s honeyed, lightly peated character. Or, splurge on a bottle of Highland Park The Light 17-Year-Old for a more vibrant, summery style.
If you think blended Scotch whisky is somehow inherently inferior, you haven’t met Johnnie. The Johnnie Walker line of blended Scotches masterfully unites malt and grain whisky. Some of Johnnie Walkers’ expressions, like Johnnie Walker Black Label and Johnnie Walker Green Label, can easily go toe to toe with whiskies with a price tag three times the size.
Founded in 1989 and now operated by single malt Scotch whisky specialist Gordon & MacPhail, the Benromach Distillery is committed to doing things the hard way. Traditional practices, slow fermentation and distillation, and a creative approach to cask finishing give Benromach whiskies a rich, characterful flavor. While it’s located in Speyside, Benromach isn’t afraid to use a touch of smoke. Their 15-Year-Old is a perfect example of an old-school, full-flavored style.
A classic sherry-forward flavor profile with dried fruits, nuts, chocolate, and spices characterizes this Speyside charmer. Until recently, Glendronach whiskies were hard to find in the United States. The distillery was recently acquired by an American company, however, which means we’ve happily started to see a few more expressions on U.S. shores. If you’re a fan of sherried whiskies like the Macallan or Dalmore, you owe it to yourself to give Glendronach a try.
Islay is world famous for its peated whisky, but not all Islay producers are entirely wedded to the reek. The Bruichladdich Distillery uses an experimental approach to make both unpeated and peated whiskies, including the super heavily peated Octomore series, which is released at cask strength for maximum oomph.
Bruichladdich is also pushing the boundaries of sustainability and providence, working directly with local farms and making serious strides towards carbon neutrality. Plus, they’re the first Certified B Corp in Scotch whisky. A great place to start is Bruichladdich Classic Laddie, a beautifully elegant unpeated single malt that comes in a snappy contemporary blue bottle.
On the other end of the spectrum from Classic Laddie, Ardbeg is all about Islay’s smoky, peaty funk. Made with heavily peated malt, Ardbeg’s whiskies are unabashedly full-flavored, with bombastic smoke and often creative approaches to cask finishing. Named for the loch from which Ardbeg draws its water, cask strength Ardbeg Uigeadail is both pungently smoky and delicately fruity and floral. Drink it neat for maximum flavor, or add a splash of water to turn down the volume on the smoke just a little bit.
This icon of the Scottish Highlands is so beloved by its fans that they refer to it by a nickname: Glenmo. Whether you’re a confirmed devotee or just getting to know this remarkable distillery, Glenmorangie has something you’ll love. Famous for its unusually tall stills, Glenmorangie produces a delicate, fruity spirit that takes well to cask finishing. Expressions featuring Sauternes, Port, and sherry casks are core parts of the Glenmorangie portfolio, as well as the iconic Signet, which includes a touch of dark-roast malt.
Famous for one of the longest-serving master blenders in the business, Balvenie is entering a new era as malt master David Stewart prepares to retire and pass the baton to his apprentice, Kelsey McKechnie. Expect exciting new things at Balvenie in the years to come, as well as continued excellence in their standard releases. One of our favorites is Balvenie Caribbean Cask, which melds the rich toffee and cereal of classic single malt with the tropical fruits of Caribbean rum.
Tiny, historic Bladnoch is one of the last remaining single malt distilleries in the Lowlands, a region known for making unpeated, often triple-distilled whiskies. Bladnoch, however, seems to be staging a comeback. Their new master blender, Dr. Nick Savage, last worked at Macallan, so we’re excited to see what he does next at this small, quality-focused producer. Get to know their citrussy, elegant style with Bladnoch Samsara or the 15-year-old Bladnoch Adela, which was matured in Oloroso sherry casks.
Another Islay powerhouse, Lagavulin is one of the most famous heavily peated whiskies in the world–so famous that even fictional television bureaucrat Ron Swanson knows and loves it. Lavishly peated and full-bodied whiskies offer plenty of smoke alongside a rich oak influence and an appealing sweetness. Their 16-year-old is the core of the lineup, and a must-have for any whisky collection, but we’d be remiss not to mention their collaboration with Nick Offerman, which yielded a Guinness-cask finished 11-year-old single malt.
A Speyside cult classic, Glenfarclas is famous for pared-down, old-school single malt whiskies aged in sherry casks. It’s also still remarkably affordable for a whisky of its stature, due in part to its status as one of the few independently owned distilleries still operating in Scotland. Glenfarclas 21 Years is a benchmark, with rich sherry, tropical fruit, nutmeg, and almonds all held together with sweet vanilla and cocoa.
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