Best Scotch Whiskies: Superb drams at every price chosen by experts

Our experts have chosen the best Scotch whiskies you can enjoy right now with options from famous Scotch regions to suit all tastes and budgets.

Published 10th Jan 2024
Updated 17 th Jun 2024

From everything you've ever wondered about whisky, to what drams to buy based on taste and budget, we have it answered here in this ultimate guide.

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What you need to know about choosing the best Scotch whiskies

Whisky is, and always will be, synonymous with Scotland. It’s the national drink, and the history of Scotch whisky is interwoven with the country's history – with its rises, falls, illegal nature and cultural wealth in flux with that of our nation.

In this guide to the best Scotch whiskies, experts from distillers to whisky reviewers and Scotch whisky award judges list their favourites based on type, flavour and price. We’ll also give you a course in Scotch 101 so you know the ways to drink Scotch and what the different types and regions mean. Every bottle we recommended has been tasted by one or more of the experts, some have been sipped for excellence more than once.

We won’t be going into the collector’s Scotch whiskies here, it’s all about the best readily-available Scotch at different price points and flavour profiles. We've also looked to find the lowest price for each bottle at the time of publication and linked to a reputable whisky retailer.

Best Scotch Whisky guide sections: [Jump to the section you want]

Types of Scotch Whisky

Several laws and regulations define Scotch whisky labelling. We won’t go into much detail here, but you should know that there are five main categories of Scotch. Knowing the difference will help you understand what flavour to expect:

Single Malt Scotch: Single malt is a whisky made using only malted barley produced by a single distillery using a pot still. Single malts are typically rich, flavourful and complex.

Single Grain Scotch: Single grain is a Scotch whisky made using only grain that isn't malted barley produced by a single distillery using a column still. Single grain is generally sweeter and lighter in flavour and body compared to single malts.

Blended Malt Scotch: Blended malt (also known as vatted malt) is whisky made using only malted barley from two or more distilleries that have been blended. The aim here is to balance the flavour profiles.

Blended Grain Scotch: Like blended malt, this is a blend of singled grain whiskies from different distilleries. The aim is to achieve a smooth, light and subtly flavoured whisky.

Blended Scotch: Blended Scotch whisky is the most ubiquitous style of whisky blending single malts and grain whisky from many different distilleries. The result is often a consistent and balanced flavour making it more accessible to newer Scotch drinkers. Blended Scotch also tends to cost less. 

Scotch Whisky Regions

It is said that the location a Scotch whisky is distilled also gives it a distinctive character and can influence its flavour. There are five main regions:

Highland: This is the largest and most diverse of the whisky-producing regions and covers a vast area of northern Scotland. Highland whiskies can vary in character but are often full-bodied, with various flavours that include fruity, malty, and peaty notes. Some subregions, like the coastal areas, produce whiskies with a hint of sea salt and brine.

Speyside: Located within the Highland region, Speyside is home to the highest concentration of distilleries in Scotland. This region's whiskies exhibit sweetness and elegance, often with fruity, floral, and honeyed flavours. Speyside whiskies tend to be less peaty than those from other regions, and many are matured in sherry casks, which impart rich, dried fruit and spice notes.

Islay: This small island off the west coast of Scotland is known for its bold, peaty whiskies. Islay whiskies are characterised by their smoky, medicinal, and maritime qualities, often featuring notes of seaweed, iodine, and salt. The intensity of the peatiness can vary between distilleries, but Islay whiskies are some of Scotland's most robust and distinctive.

Lowland: Found in the southern part of Scotland, the Lowland region is known for its lighter, more delicate whiskies. They are typically triple-distilled, contributing to their smooth, soft, and floral character. They often exhibit grassy, citrus, and cereal notes, making them an approachable option for those new to Scotch whisky.

Campbeltown: Once a thriving whisky-producing region, Campbeltown now has three active distilleries, but more are in planning and building stage. Whiskies from this region are known for their distinctive, slightly oily character, with flavours ranging from fruity and floral to briny and peaty. Campbeltown whiskies are often described as having a "maritime" quality, which reflects the region's location near the coast.

Other unofficial regions include the Islands. The Islands include all the whisky-producing islands apart from Islay, such as Orkney, Skye, Mull, Jura and Arran. These whiskies can be diverse but tend to have maritime characteristics such as briny or salty notes. Some islands are known for peaty whiskies, like those from the Isle of Skye, while others produce whiskies with a lighter, more delicate profile, such as those from the Isle of Arran.

Many other factors come into play when it comes to flavour. Raw ingredients, distillation process, ageing conditions and casks all impact flavours, but knowing the basic types of Scotch and the flavour characteristics of regions will help you choose the best Scotch whisky for your tastes.  

We’ve included a variety of types in each category, so there’s something for everyone. In our beginner’s list, we focus on more accessible drams in terms of price and flavour. 

best scotch whiskies
Some of the whiskies in our review

We notch it up with our best Scotch whiskies for less than £100. There are still some budget options, but there’s more depth and flavour. 

Then we go to the higher-end with bolder flavours and prices. You can use the links above to jump to the right section. Unless otherwise stated, all bottles are 70cl in volume. 

Best Scotch Whiskies for Beginners

Just because we’ve labelled these Scotch whiskies for beginners, it doesn’t mean they’re not great. Depending on mood, even whisky connoisseurs can enjoy many of these, especially as a regular drink.

Auchentoshan 12-year-old

Style: single malt, Region: Lowland, ABV: 40%

Price: £45 - Get it at The Whisky Shop

Best for those looking to try single malts but don't know where to start.

Auchentoshan is a delightful little distillery based just outside of Glasgow.

One of the most exciting things about their whisky is that (much like Irish whiskey) it is triple distilled, meaning it's one of the smoothest single malts around.

The 12-year-old is sweet and honeyed, perfect for those adjusting their palates to whisky flavours.

The Glenmorangie 10-year-old

Style: Single malt, Region: Highland, ABV: 40%

Price: ~ £48 - Get it at Amazon.

Best for those wanting to try single malt on a budget.

This classic whisky has set a high standard for Highland drams, which their more popular Speyside cousins often overlook. The Glenmorangie is a well-balanced, warming, not-too-strong whisky which will appeal to those who want to try a dram neat for the first time.

There’s vanilla and orange; honey, malt, apricots and banana may be found on the palette. The finish is fruity and light.

Balvenie Double Wood 12-Year-Old

Style: Single malt, Region: Speyside, ABV: 40%

Price: ~£44 - Get it at Amazon

Best for those who like a very smooth dram.

One for beginners and sherry fans, this whisky can be found in most bars and is extremely smooth. Launched in 1993, you can enjoy it alone or in a long drink, such as a highball, where the sweetness can balance the soda. This whisky began maturation in an ex-Bourbon barrel before being finished in a sherry cask to give it a rounder, fruitier flavour. 

There’s a hint of Christmas cake on the nose and palate, honey, and vanilla. The finish is sweet yet spicy.

Glendronach 12-Year-Old Original

Style: single malt, Region: Highland, ABV: 43%

Price: ~£51.50 - Get it at The Whisky Exchange

Best for those who like a little sweetness and a smooth finish.

If you’ve not heard of GlenDronach then make a note. It makes some cracking Scotch, much of it using sherry barrels. 

This smooth Highland sherried single malt is accessible to newer palates thanks to its gentle flavour of dried fruits and spice with a hint of sherry sweetness. 

It can be found for around £40, making it reasonably accessible. 

Glen Grant 10-year-old

Style: single malt, Region: Speyside, ABV: 40%

Price: ~£36.10 - Get it at Master of Malt

Best for those who like super-sweet flavours.

Named Single Malt of the Year (10yo & Under) by the whisky writer Sean Murphy, the Glen Grant 10-year-old deserves all the plaudits it gets and more.

Deliciously sweet, there are abundant notes of pineapple, orange, vanilla and cream and a great example of ex-bourbon cask whisky and that traditional light fruity Speyside style.

Bowmore 12-years-old

Style: single malt, Region: Islay, ABV: 40%

Price: ~£36.99 - Get it at Amazon

Best for those looking to try something with a little smoke.

For those of you feeling brave, or those who simply like bold and punchy flavours, then the Bowmore 12 is an excellent whisky to introduce you to the joys of peat and smoke.

Exceptionally drinkable and filled with the iodine flavours of some of the more astringent Islays (Laphroaig anyone?), the Bowmore's peat level hovers around the middle ground and when mixed with the tropical fruit flavours of the distillery's style, you get a dram that's peaty but well balanced, even for beginners.

Monkey Shoulder

Style: Blended Malt, ABV: 40%

Price: ~£24 - Get it at Amazon

Best for sharing with friends.

You will undoubtedly have seen Monkey Shoulder in various places. It's a really great (and often overlooked) Scotch whisky.

Made from a mix of three different Speyside Single Malts - Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie - Monkey Shoulder is popularly used in cocktails but, in our mind, is perfectly drinkable neat and at  such great value, is a great little whisky for sharing with friends.

Slightly more complex than the other whiskies on this list, it's well worth checking out. If it's not your cup of tea, you can always use a mixer like soda or lemonade and not feel terribly guilty about it. Alternatively, it makes a great base for the best Scotch whisky cocktails.

Douglas Laing's Rock Oyster

Style: Blended Malt, ABV: 46.8%

Price: ~£40 - Get it at Amazon

Best for matching with oysters (or, more simply, discovering a more savoury style of whisky).

For those lacking a sweet tooth, all this talk of flavours like toffee, vanilla and dried fruits might not appeal.

So, a whisky that favours more umami flavours might be more your thing, and Rock Oyster is certainly a whisky that doesn't shy away from those delightful savoury flavours.

Unlike other whiskies on this list, Rock Oyster is salty and briny on the nose and citrus and sweet peat tasting; a true maritime malt, it's a great example of what coastal whiskies (and in particular those from the islands) can taste like.

Haig Club Single Grain

Picture: The Whisky Exchange

Style: Single Grain, ABV: 40%

Price: ~£45 - Get it at Amazon

Best for bridging the gap between Bourbon and single malt Scotch.

We'll probably lose our cool kid whisky club card for including this one, but if you ignore all of the crazy marketing and ostentatious packaging, this is a really enjoyable whisky.

It's also a great example of how good single grain could be if more people understood it. Far more likely to take on the sweeter vanilla and honeyed notes of a Bourbon-style whisky, it's the perfect stepping stone between American and Scottish-style whisky.

It's probably one of the best-value single grains out there, and though there are many better versions of the style, none are so accessible or reasonably priced.

Well worth trying if you are a bourbon fan and want to try something vaguely similar that’s Scottish.

Johnnie Walker 12-year-old black label

Style: Blended, ABV: 40%

Price: ~£25 - Get it at Master of Malt

Best for those who enjoy their Scotch in a cocktail.

When picking a whisky for a cocktail or to try as a beginner, it has to be Johnnie Walker black label. There’s a reason this whisky and brand has stood the test of time, and is recognisable (and available) all over the world. Made from about 40 different whiskies, Johnnie Walker black label is known for its mellow smokiness.

On the nose there’s hints of citrus and pepper. On the palate you may find cereal, toffee, hints of wood smoke and more citrus. The finish is fruity.

Compass Box Great King Street (Artist's Blend)

Style: Blended whisky, ABV: 43%

Price: ~£45 - Get it at Master of Malt

Best for those who want to try how good premium blends can be.

In our mind, blended whisky gets a bad rap; usually consigned to the "it's an old man's drink" bin or considered too harsh to do anything other than drown in coke. It's the stern uncool uncle to the trendier single malt.

Thankfully, some companies, such as the excellent Compass Box, are going out of their way to change that perception and make blends hip again.

Great King Street Whisky is named after the address of their offices in Edinburgh and is designed to appeal to all types of whisky drinkers, from beginners to geeks.

With a higher single malt-to-grain ratio than your average blend, this expression is designed to be as at home in cocktails as it is being drunk neat.

Best Scotch Whiskies under £100

The Dalmore 15

Style: Single malt, Region: Highland, ABV: 40%

Price: ~£80 - Get it at Master of Malt

Best for long autumn evenings.

This 15-year-old is a classic from The Dalmore and has spent 12 years in ex-Bourbon casks before being finished in Matusalem, Apostoles and Amoroso sherry casks, making it a complex, warming dram that is ideal for when the seasons change.

You get hazelnuts and spice on the nose, which develop on the palate into a full-blown Christmas cake with toffee and cherries. It has a long, sweet finish.

Bowmore 15-Year-Old

Picture: Bowmore

Style: Single malt, Region: Islay, ABV: 40%

Price: ~£60 - Get it at The Bottle Club

Best for whisky aficionados.

Matured in a combination of both bourbon and sherry casks, the final three years of this whisky's cask life are spent in an Oloroso sherry wood giving it an intriguing mix of toffee, fruit and peat that will have you coming back to tease out different flavours each and every time.

You’ll notice the sherry cask influence on the nose, with sweetness from vanilla, coconut and dark fruits. On the palate, there’s rich fruit, peat smoke, blackcurrant and spiced ginger biscuits. It finishes with rich notes and a linger of smoke.

Benromach 15-Year-Old

Style: Single malt, Region: Speyside, ABV: 43%

Price: ~£60 - Get it at Master of Malt

Best for those who like their whisky sweet and fruity.

Another whisky matured in a combination of bourbon and sherry oak casks, Benromach 15 is lightly peated and therefore a great all-rounder in terms of taste, meaning you can try a little smoke without feeling overwhelmed. 

The extra age also adds a delightful depth and balance that you won't find in younger versions, all for just a little over £60.

Ballantine's 17-years-old

Style: Blended, ABV: 40%

Price: ~£80 - Get it at The Whisky Exchange

Best for those looking to try whisky the traditional way with a great quality dram.

Traditional blended brands like Johnnie Walker, Grants and Dewar's sometimes get a bad rap because they aren't single malts, but in our minds, there are some truly outstanding blended whiskies out there waiting to be rediscovered, and this is one of them.

Massively smooth but deceptively complex, there are many flavours and tastes to tease out with each sip.

Perfect for those looking to enjoy Scotland's most traditional and successful whisky category without compromising quality.


Style: Single malt, Region: Highland, ABV: 46%

Price: ~£60 - Get it at Master of Malt

Launched a few years ago, Nc’nean’s Organic Single Malt is the first whisky released to the public by this new, independent distillery which now has a variety of different whiskies on offer.

Organic, made with renewable energy and bottled in the UK’s first-ever 100% recycled clear glass bottle, the whisky showcases Nc’nean’s commitment to protecting the environment.

Nc’nean’s whisky is made from organic Scottish barley whose natural yields and rich soils contribute a great depth of flavour, and gentle fermentation and distillation accentuate the delicate, fruity flavours in the spirit.

The whisky achieves its signature body and sweetness from having been left to mature for three years in selected ex-Bourbon and specially treated STR ex-red wine barrels. Nc’nean has chosen each barrel for the distinct flavours the wood contributes to the whisky.

Glenkinchie Distillers Edition

Style: Single malt, Region: Lowland, ABV: 43%

Price: ~£60 - Get it at Master of Malt

Best Lowland scotch whisky.

This single malt from the Glenkinchie Distilley in the Lowlands, was distilled back in 2007 and finished for three to six months in Amontillado sherry casks.

Chosen by Craig Johnstone (@whiskycraig), distiller at Lark Distillery, Tasmania: "Lowland malts are often overlooked, yet this Amontillado Sherry Cask finished Glenkinchie has a great mouthfeel, with notes of rich dark fruits, biscuit sweetness and an unmistakable Lowland subtlety and complexity. It'll make you rethink this region."

The Sassenach

whiskies awards

Style: Blended, ABV: 46%

Price: ~£80 - Get it at Master of Malt

Best for outlanders.

Outlander star Sam Heughan released The Sassenach blended Scotch in late 2020, after revealing it was a dream of his to have his own whisky. A sell-out success, the fruity and complex whisky is back on sale in the UK. It has won multiple double gold awards from places such as the San Francisco World Spirits Championship and the New York World Wine and Spirits Competition.

There’s honey and a hint of cinnamon on the nose while on the palate that honey sweetness is more intense, with notes of butterscotch, more cinnamon, apricot and raisin. The finish is long and sweet with a fruity note.

Glen Scotia Victoriana Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Style: Single malt, Region: Campbeltown, ABV: 54.2%

Price: ~£75 - Get it at The Whisky Shop

Best for whisky connoisseurs.

Glen Scotia Victoriana is a cask-strength single malt ideal for the whisky connoisseurs.

With its rare character and maturity finished in deep, charred oak, the Victoriana is a smooth single malt whisky.

Bottled traditionally straight from the cask and without filtration, its subtle wood and vanilla flavour is enhanced by a full-bodied spicy fruit aroma and mildly smoky aftertaste.

This single malt offers a full-bodied palate with initial hints of oak, crème brûlée and caramelised fruits, leading to rich dark chocolate and blackcurrant palate.

Ardbeg Uigeadail

Style: Single malt, Region: Islay, ABV: 54.2%

Price: ~£60 - Get it at Master of Malt

Best scotch without an age.

Uigeadail, pronounced ‘Oog-a-dal’, it’s a special vatting that marries Ardbeg’s traditional smoky notes with raisiny tones of old ex-Sherry casks.

Chosen by Becky Paskin, founder of OurWhisky: "People have been scared away from whiskies without age statements lately, but this lightly smoky expression from Islay’s Ardbeg distillery, which is bursting with rich fruitcake and spices, is one of the best value single malts you can buy."

Old Pulteney 12-year-old

Style: Single malt, Region: Highland, ABV: 40%

Price: ~£35 - Get it at Waitrose Cellar

Best for complexity on a budget.

Hailing from what was the most northerly distillery on the mainland, Old Pulteney is a wonderful example of a maritime malt, taking its character from the fishing village of Wick in which it is located.

Matured wholly in ex-bourbon casks, the Old Pulteney 12-years-old is the definitive expression in the Old Pulteney family.

Mixing the citrus fruit flavours of lemon and lime with honey and a hint of coastal sea air, it’s a distinctive character worthy of those looking for something a little more complex without breaking the bank.

Chosen by Mark Connelly, co-founder of Glasgow's Whisky Festival: "Old Pulteney is rich without being too off-putting for some, like the Islay whiskies, and it is consistent and affordable.

"It has a lovely sweetness delightfully balanced by salty, coastal notes - it should be a staple of every home whisky bar."

Benromach 10-Year-Old

Style: Single malt, Region: Speyside, ABV: 43%

Price: ~£40 - Get it at Master of Malt

Best as a regular tipple on a budget.

Chosen by Blair Bowman, whisky writer and founder of World Whisky Day: "Well if I had to choose only one single malt to drink until the day I die I think I'd go for Benromach 10 year old.

"It tastes exactly how you think a whisky should taste, totally balanced sweet and fruit flavours. At 43% Abv, it gives it that extra bit of oomph and a juicy and chewy mouth feel. Delicious!"

Best Premium Scotch Whiskies

MacNair’s Lum Reek Peated 21-Year-Old

Style: Blended malt, ABV: 48%

Price: ~£125 - Get it at Master of Malt

Best for those looking for something different.

This award-winning blended malt (created by whisky legend and master blender at The GlenAllachie, Billy Walker) is made with Islay and Speyside peated malts, combined with older GlenAllachie to create a rich dram.

MacNair's Lum Reek 21-year-old was voted Worlds Best Blended Malt 2020 and is aged in Oloroso, virgin oak and red wine casks.

On the nose, you’ll find the oak and wood smoke, which turns to earthy peat on the palate, where you may also find dark chocolate, pepper and spice. The finish is rich, with honey and bonfire embers.

Benromach 21-year-old


Style: Single malt, Region: Speyside, ABV: 43%

Price: ~£140 - Get it at Master of Malt

Best for toasting a celebration.

To mark the worldwide release of Benromach’s new look, the Speyside distillery launched a new permanent addition to its core range – the Benromach 21 Year Old - and it’s well worth the price tag. Matured exclusively in first-fill sherry and bourbon casks, the 21-Year-Old is a rounded, well-balanced whisky that will surely become a classic.

This whisky leads with sherry aromas followed by the taste of subtle spice, raspberry and Seville orange, with a soft smoky finish.

Springbank 10

Picture: Springbank

Style: Single malt, Region: Campbeltown, ABV: 46%

Price: ~ £100 - Get it at The Whisky Stock

A malt from the only distillery doing everything themselves, hiring local people and promoting a community-first attitude in an industry that is often criticised for its corporate approach.

On top of all this, it is absolutely delicious capturing sweetness, saltiness, oak and peat. Springbank is the epitome of a whisky with a sense of people and place.

Caperdonich 18-Year-Old Peated Secret Speyside

Style: Single malt, Region: Speyside, ABV: 48%

Price: ~£140 - Get it at Master of Malt

Best under-priced premium scotch.

It’s a sad fact, but not all distilleries make it. All that remains are their bottlings, and these can become increasingly precious to collectors, meaning that you might need a stiff drink to get over the prices.

We think this beautiful dram from closed distillery Caperdonich is probably (whisper it) under-priced, although certainly not cheap. Part of Chivas’s Secret Speyside collection, referring to the area around the River Spey in Scotland, this peated bottling is one of a kind, and when it’s gone, it’s gone for good.

We opened it outside as the sun went down and were immediately hit with the smell of seaside bonfires, carbolic soap and smoke. Pour a healthy splash into the glass though, and the sweetness comes bursting through, along with cinnamon and baked fruit. Take a sip and there’s the flavours of rich, sweet oranges, fudge and peppery spice. There’s nothing quite like it, and <sob> there won’t be again.

Highland Park 18

9 of the most expensive whiskies you can find in Edinburgh bars
Picture: Highland Park

Style: Single malt, Region: Highland, ABV: 43%

Price: ~£130 - Get it at Master of Malt

Chosen by Anne-Sophie Bigot, international whisky blogger at "My 'best whisky' would be Highland Park 18. Its quality-to-price ratio is unbeatable, it is widely available and easy to find, and I can enjoy it whatever the occasion.

"Mostly though, I've chosen it because it is the dram that made me realise I wanted to be part of this industry years ago.

"The mouthfeel is pure velvet, the smokiness is subtle, the fruity notes aren't overwhelming – this is simply a fantastic whisky."

Scotch Whisky FAQ

Should you add mixers, ice or water to Scotch whisky?

First, the rules for drinking Scotch whisky.

There are no rules.

No, seriously. Other than trying as many whiskies as you can, whenever you can, there aren't any laws as to how you should drink it.

You can enjoy it any way you like.

However, we have some advice to get the best out of your whisky-drinking experience.

So it's probably not the best idea to drown a 20-year-old dram in Coke or Irn-Bru - that's what cheaper blended whiskies are designed for – but if that's the way you like to drink it, then go for it (we'll try not to judge).

Regarding water and ice, it all comes down to how they affect the Scotch.

Ice will cool it down and dampen any flavours. Feel free to put your whisky on the rocks if that is the desired effect.

With water, it's a case of sip it and see. Taste and decide whether the whisky is rich and oily enough to benefit from being opened up by a few drops, releasing new flavours and depth. With lighter whiskies, water often isn't needed.

Lastly, have some water to drink side by side with your dram. This will lubricate your throat and stop that natural reflux reaction from drinking Scotch with a high alcohol volume.

How much should you spend on Scotch whisky?

There’s no right amount to spend on Scotch whisky, but you can whittle it down based on several factors. Your budget, taste preferences, and whether you’re buying it as a gift, for a special occasion or as a regular tipple all play a part in how much you’ll want to spend. To simplify, we’ve split the price ranges for you, but there are great Scotch experiences to be had even on the budget end of the scale, especially if you’re starting your Scotch-tasting journey.  

Entry-level whiskies: If you are new to Scotch whisky or looking for an everyday, casual sipper, you can find decent bottles for £25-£50. These whiskies may be younger or blended, but they can offer a pleasant and approachable experience. Glen Moray Elgin Classic is an excellent, affordable whisky available in most supermarkets.

Mid-range whiskies: For a higher-quality experience or to explore more complex flavours, consider spending between £50 and £100. You can find a variety of single malts with more age and depth of character, as well as premium blended whiskies at these prices.

Premium whiskies: If you are looking for a special bottle for yourself or as a gift, you might spend £100 or more. These whiskies often come from well-regarded distilleries, have a significant age statement, or are limited editions. The flavours and complexity of these whiskies can be exceptional, providing a memorable experience for enthusiasts and connoisseurs.

Collector's whiskies: Prices can reach thousands of pounds for rare and highly sought-after whiskies. These bottles are typically targeted towards collectors and investors, as they may appreciate value over time. It is essential to research and understand the market before investing in these whiskies, as their value is not guaranteed.

What are the main ingredients used to produce Scotch whisky?

The main ingredients used in Scotch whisky production are water, malted barley, and yeast. Water is essential for mashing the grains and diluting the final product, while malted barley provides the sugars necessary for fermentation. Yeast is added to ferment the sugars into alcohol.

What is the minimum age requirement for Scotch whisky to be considered "aged"?

Scotch whisky must be aged in oak casks for at least three years before it can be legally sold and labelled as Scotch. Many whiskies are aged for longer periods, with some of the most common examples aged for 12, 15, 18, or even 25 years or more.

What is the difference between peated and unpeated Scotch whisky?

The main difference between peated and unpeated Scotch whisky is using peat during malting. Peated whiskies are made with malted barley that has been dried over peat fires, which imparts a smoky, earthy flavour to the whisky. On the other hand, unpeated whiskies use malted barley that has been dried using different heat sources, resulting in a cleaner, less smoky flavour.

Why are some Scotch whiskies darker in colour than others?

The colour of Scotch whisky primarily comes from the oak casks used during the ageing process. Whiskies aged in casks that previously held sherry, port, or other fortified wines often have a darker colour, as the wood absorbs the colour and flavour compounds from the previous contents.

Additionally, the time a whisky spends in the cask can also influence its colour, with longer ageing periods generally resulting in a darker hue. Some producers add caramel colouring (E150a) to achieve consistent colour across batches, but this practice is controversial among whisky enthusiasts.

What does "cask strength" mean?

"Cask strength" refers to Scotch whisky bottled directly from the cask (also known as barrels, hogsheads or butts, depending on the size) without being diluted with water. Most whiskies are diluted to a standard alcohol by volume (ABV) of 40-46% before bottling. Cask-strength whiskies, however, can have a much higher ABV, sometimes over 60%, depending on the cask and ageing conditions. These whiskies are often prized for their intense flavours and the ability to dilute them to the drinker's preferred strength.

Why trust the Scotsman's Guide to the Best Scotch Whiskies?

Many contributors have collaborated to create this list, some of whom wrote large parts of this Scotch Whisky guide, such as Rosalind Erskine and Sean Murphy. The following have all contributed to The Scotsman’s selection of the best Scotch whiskies:

Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne, whisky and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind is the Food and Drink Editor and whisky writer for The Scotsman, as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.
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