A glass of Scotch near a bonfire

A glass of Scotch near a bonfire (Photo by Photo by Thomas Park on Unsplash)

The smoky flavor of Scotch Whiskey is not for everyone. For the connoisseur, Scotch is an ephemeral elixir that somehow captures smoke and fire in a bottle. The world’s greatest Scotch whiskeys are luxury brands that are costly, but worth it for those who can appreciate the artisan craftsmanship that goes into the production and aging of these fine expressions. Our list of the best scotch  includes fine bottles to add to anyone’s home bar lineup.

Whether in a classy cocktail or neat with some water on the side, Scotch whiskey can be one of the finest spirits. We turned to 10 expert sources to compile this list of the best scotch labels. Let us know your favorites in the comments below!

➡️ How Our “Best Of The Best” Lists Are Created

StudyFinds’ “Best of the Best” articles are put together with the idea of taking the work out of common consumer research. Ever find yourself searching for a product or service on Google and reading multiple reviews to find items listed across many of them? Our Best of the Best lists are created with that process in mind, with each item ranked by how frequently it appears on expert reviews or lists. With Best of the Best, you are getting consensus picks — making them truly the best of the best!

brown wooden shelf with bottles
Well stocked bar (Photo by Edgar Chaparro on Unsplash)

The List: Best Scotch Whiskey, Per Experts

1. The Macallan

The Macallan Sherry Oak 12
The Macallan Sherry Oak 12 (themacallen.com)

The Macallan is one of the finest Scotch whiskeys in the world. The opening of their top-shelf expressions are big events. The Macallan reigns supreme in the world of Scotch whisky, according to Tasting Table. Founded in 1824 in Scotland’s Highlands, the distillery’s picturesque location near the River Spey is said to be reflected in the exceptional quality of their whisky. While technically categorized as a Highland single malt, its proximity to the Spey river creates a unique blend of characteristics.

Men’s Journal reinforces The Macallan’s esteemed reputation, highlighting their widely respected single malt, The Macallan Sherry Oak 12. This expression is matured exclusively in sherry-seasoned oak casks, hand-picked by their master of wood in Jerez, Spain. Man of Many also The Macallan at the top of their list. They praise the brand’s ability to consistently deliver smooth and balanced Scotch across a range of price points. However, they single out the 12-year-old Sherry Oak Cask as their personal favorite expression as well.

As far as flavor goes, the Macallan Sherry Oak 12 is known for its rich and complex flavor profile, thanks to its maturation in sherry casks. Expect prominent notes of dried fruits like raisins, prunes, and figs, along with hints of honey, vanilla, and warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. The oak barrels themselves add a touch of clove or ginger to complement the sweetness, while some tasters also perceive hints of dates, apricots, or even dark chocolate. Despite its richness, The Macallan Sherry Oak 12 is known for its smooth and balanced character, with subtle oak spice and citrus notes rounding out the experience.

2. Tamdhu

Tamdhu might not be a household name, but the Scotch they produce is top tier. Tamdhu offers a unique twist on sherry-matured single malts. Robb Report suggests Tamdhu 15 year as an alternative to well-known brands like The Macallan or GlenDronach. The Tamdhu’s 125-year tradition of exclusive sherry cask maturation sets it apart, hinting that Tamdhu might be a hidden gem worth exploring.

The fine attention to detail results in a meticulously crafted spirit. Elle reinforces this idea, describing the taste as a fruit-forward flavor profile, specifically mentioning notes of orange, apricot, fig, prune, and sweet spice. They emphasize the smoothness of the whisky, attributing it to the low alcohol burn, making it a great choice for those new to Scotch.

GQ takes it a step further, describing the 18-year Tamdhu as an exceptional treat. They highlight its distinction as the only Scotch whisky matured exclusively in Oloroso sherry casks. The expected rich sherry influence is balanced by zesty citrus notes, leading to a complex flavor profile that includes nutty milk chocolate, honey-baked oats, and stewed cinnamon apples. While acknowledging it might be a bit of an investment, GQ strongly encourages enjoying this special bottle.

3. Bowmore

Bowmore 12-Year
Bowmore 12-Year (bowmore.com)

Bowmore is produced in Scotland and is a highly lauded label amongst our sources. This is one of the most expensive labels on our list, and the exclusivity makes it that much more desirable. Liquor.com uses a colorful metaphor to describe the Bowmore 31-Year-Old, suggesting it would be a dream gift for someone who appreciates the finer things. They quote Nathaniel Smith, a beverage expert, comparing the experience to a child’s delight on Christmas morning.

Man of Many acknowledges the quality of Bowmore’s more accessible offerings, like the 12-Year-Old with its enjoyable mix of flavors. While characteristic Islay smokiness is present, it’s subtle and well-integrated with other notes. The whisky might remind you of a gentle seaside breeze with a touch of salinity, thanks to the distillery’s coastal location. Beyond the smoke, hints of vanilla and possibly even chocolate emerge from the casks during maturation. Reviewers appreciate how these various elements come together harmoniously, making the Bowmore 12 year a satisfying and enjoyable dram.

4. The GlenDronach

The GlenDronach has a layered and highly sophisticated flavor. This Scotch is said to appeal to aficionados due to its complexity. The GlenDronach offers a range of sherry-matured single malts, catering to both those who enjoy a higher alcohol content and those who prefer a standard proof.

For the high-proof enthusiasts, Vine Pair recommends the 12th edition of The GlenDronach’s Cask Strength line. This limited-edition bottling weighs in at a powerful 58.2% ABV and boasts an enticing aroma of dried fruits and caramelized nuts, influenced by its time in oloroso and Pedro Ximénez casks.

Taster’s Club spotlights their standard-proof option, praising the sumptuous flavors of dark fruits, rich chocolate, and manuka honey found in their sherried Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky. Bottled at a more moderate 46% ABV and retaining its natural color, this whisky is described as having a luxurious and memorable finish.

5. Chivas Regal

Chivas Regal is a mainstay of Scotch whiskey. This more accessible spirit is appropriate for cocktails, though they also produce ultra-fine luxury expressions as well. Chivas Regal stands out as a respected blender in the world of Scotch whisky, even among a list dominated by single malts, according to Man of Many. Their award-winning expressions are particularly noteworthy, with several top-shelf offerings like the 12 Year receiving recognition in prestigious competitions like the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. While the 12 Year is always a good choice, Man of Many suggests reaching for the truly special Chivas Regal 25 Year or the Regal XV for a more elevated experience.

Men’s Journal highlights the complexity Chivas Regal achieves in their blended whiskies. They point to the 18-year-old expression as a prime example, where a unique blend of 20 grain and malt whiskies comes together to create a smooth and intricate flavor profile. This type of blend, combining such a high number of malt whiskies, is uncommon in today’s blended Scotch market.

Vine Pair says the 18 is perfect for those who appreciate a premium blended Scotch. They describe it as approachable and easy to enjoy, offering inviting aromas of vanilla, baked apples, and caramel. The taste is well-rounded, with a focus on malty notes and a touch of sweetness. While acknowledging it might not be the most complex Scotch available, Vine Pair emphasizes that the Chivas Regal 18 delivers more depth and nuance than most blended whiskies on the market.

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About Alan Corona

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StudyFinds publishes digestible, agenda-free, transparent research summaries that are intended to inform the reader as well as stir civil, educated debate. We do not agree nor disagree with any of the studies we post, rather, we encourage our readers to debate the veracity of the findings themselves. All articles published on StudyFinds are vetted by our editors prior to publication and include links back to the source or corresponding journal article, if possible.

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  1. Graeme says:

    So if you rightly understand that whisky from Scotland is never with an ‘e’, why does the title of this article use ‘whiskey’ ?

  2. Joe says:

    Informative, goes a long way toward helping me make a decision.

  3. Tulsidas says:

    I am a heavy drink of Mauritius Rum any comments

  4. Chad Martin says:

    Couldn’t disagree more with this list. 3 of these are very peaty and for most average Joe’s these will be hard to swallow. I could never have a top 5 without Dalwhinnie 15, Glenfiddich 12 or 14, so many great Speyside scotches that I prefer.

  5. Hernan says:

    I may say it, all Scotch whisky is at its best..

    1. Harry HAASBROEK says:

      Agreed. But here far south from the equator in Africa, JW Black is still the most affordable good whisky…although not single malt.

  6. Fernando says:

    Best Scotch whiskey is Grand Old Parr, aged 12 years.

  7. Ja Oorsmeer says:

    This is such a bad bad top 5. These 5 are fine if you want something to spice up your coke. None of the top3 should even be considered decent. Pure commercial ick bait this is, so called experts. Pffffffff.

  8. John Pickering says:

    Glenfarclas for sure is my bestest best, other nominations also very desirable as are so many others! Two of my other favorites are Auchentoshan and Oban.
    Never had a single malt that is not palatable.

  9. JAMES ISAACS says:

    The BEST Single Malt Scotch I have ever had is GLENFIDDICH 21 YEAR OLD RESERVA 🤩😍 I have had others and When I can always GO Back to the above… DREAM would be a Trip to SCOTLAND and Visit Dufftown in Moray and the Glenfiddich Distillery 🤩

    1. Karstein Eriksen says:

      Agreed! It should be at the top of the list 🙂

  10. Jim says:

    Where is Dewars?

    1. Mike says:

      Hopefully in the trash!

  11. Rob Reed says:

    Will stay with Johnny Walker Black Label for its dark, charcoal flavor and consistent quality. Good enough for Winston Churchill.

  12. Harry Jenkins says:

    Don’t think you can construct a list like this a not have Balvenie on it.

  13. ANDY CORIELL says:

    This list missed the mark, no mention of any of Glenmorangie’s offerings.

  14. Molly says:

    Glengoyne 15-17 is a non-peated malt that is far better than most. Also, Mortlach 15 is an outstandingly smooth scotch, as is Johnny Walker Black. Cardhu, Bunnahabhain and Aberlour are also faves. But Talisker and Lagavulin? Ugh. I like scotch but do I want to taste it for two days straight? Nope. I do not.