Where Kentucky boasts more aging barrels of whiskey than living inhabitants, Scotland can counter with having one distillery for every 40,000 inhabitants. More than any other nation or region in the world, Scotland stakes a credible claim as being the home of whisky – with or without the “e.”
At a quick glance, the category can seem intimidating. There are various regions to explore, from Speyside to Islay. Then there are the different styles: single malts; blends and blended malts; peated and unpeated. Where to begin?
Thankfully, you’ve come to the right place. Within this list, there’s something for every palate, budget, and occasion. Whether you’re looking for a single malt that overdelivers on price, or you finally want to take the first steps into a fiery peated exploration, you’ll find the perfect partner listed below.
Without further ado, here are the 30 best Scotch whiskies for 2022.
Table Of Contents
Imperial 12 Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky
Scotch isn’t usually the category for finding decent bottles under $25 stateside — and good luck finding any whiskey aged for over a decade at this price. But this Sazerac-produced blend checks both boxes. Profile-wise, it’s not the most interesting whisky you’ll encounter but its balance and general depth of flavor are undeniable. If it’s a bargain bottle that delivers bang for buck you’re after, this is just the dram.
Average price: $20
Johnnie Walker High Rye Blended Scotch Whisky
This unique new blend from the world’s most recognizable Scotch brand includes a mash bill of 60 percent rye blended with other single malts from Diageo distilleries. The vibrant character of the grain shines on the nose, before caramel sweetness on the palate sets up a peppery finish. Good value for money and cheap enough for cocktails: what’s not to like?
Average price: $35
Compass Box Artist Blend Scotch Whisky
Aged in ex-bourbon barrels, French oak casks, and Palo Cortado-seasoned sherry butts, this blend opens with notes of underripe peaches and an attractive woody character. The palate has well-rounded, creamy texture, thanks to the producer’s decision not to chill-filter. This is a great entry-level Scotch that’s equally apt for sipping and mixing.
Average price: $37
Glenfiddich 12-Year-Old Single Malt
A familiar and reliable single malt, this whisky is aged in American oak and sherry casks. It’s an approachable intro to single malt, with vanilla and caramel aromas on the nose, and orchard fruit and rich malt notes on the palate.
Average price: $40
Deanston Virgin Oak Single Malt Whisky
A first aging period in ex-bourbon casks for this Highland single malt is followed by a finishing maturation in new oak barrels. The mixture of those two vessels is quickly apparent in the whisky’s aromas, which lean into spicy wood, banana, and caramel. Malt character breaks through on the palate, while its 46.3 percent alcohol keeps each sip lively.
Average price: $47
Laphroaig 10 Year Old Islay Single Malt
There are older and more vaunted bottlings in Laphroaig’s lineup but don’t overlook the brand’s entry-level, 10-year-old release. Caramelized pecans and a general nuttiness counter the expected burst of peated smoke on the nose. A whole wheat savory note runs through the palate, with orchard fruits brightening each sip. There’s no avoiding the smokiness of this whisky but there’s also much more to enjoy in the glass.
Average price: $50
Speyburn Arranta Casks Single Malt
A limited-edition, U.S.-only release, this single malt ages exclusively in first-fill ex-bourbon casks, providing a bold, American whiskey–tinged Scotch. Charred wood, caramel, and butterscotch lead the nose, followed by a rich palate with a sweet finish. This is a great option for bourbon drinkers casting their gaze across the Atlantic.
Average price: $50
Wemyss Malts The Hive Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
Scotch blending house Wemyss Malts names each of its expressions after the character of the liquid in bottle. This release, a fusion of up to 16 single malts aged at least eight years, gains its moniker from its luxurious honeyed character. Expect an abundance of baking spices, too, and lively texture as the whisky meets the palate.
Average price: $50
Ardbeg An Oa Islay Single Malt
Combining whiskies aged in Pedro Ximenez casks, virgin oak, and ex-bourbon barrels, this smoky single malt leads with intense campfire and barbecue aromas. That haze soon parts, revealing bright bramble fruit and sweet cherry notes. The palate is smoky, savory, slightly peppery, and continues for an age.
Average price: $51
anCnoc 12 Year Old Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Though light in color, this single malt is stunningly complex. It kicks off with nutty aromas and a hint of smoke. Apricot, tropical fruit, and vanilla define its energetic palate, which culminates with tart, dried cranberries.
Average price: $60
Glenglassaugh Revival Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Not just an evocative name, “Revival” pays homage to the Glenglassaugh distillery sitting idle for decades before its stills were fired up again and fine whisky started trickling out once more. Aged in red wine and bourbon barrels, this release is finished in sherry casks. It is intensely fruity, rich in sweet malt flavors, and coats the palate with a velvety texture.
Average price: $60
The Glenlivet 14 Year Cognac Cask Selection Single Malt Scotch Whisky
The influence of the Cognac casks used to finish this expression leaps out from the get-go and continues well onto its finish. If you like fruit cake and are looking for something to savor on a fall evening, this is absolutely your jam.
Average price: $60
Talisker 10 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Produced at the oldest distillery on the Isle of Skye, this peated single malt evokes a beachside bonfire. Though powerfully smoky at its core, the palate delivers whispers of sea water and sweet malt, which add layers and intrigue.
Average price: $60
Kilchoman Distillery Machir Bay Islay Single Malt Whisky
Another Islay release that opens with prominent bonfire and barbecue aromas, this single malt follows with a one-two punch of sugar and mesquite. Caramel sweetness emerges on the palate, a result of predominant aging in bourbon casks. Pair this with anything and everything plucked straight from the smoker.
Average price: $66
BenRiach The Smoky Twelve Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky
This Speyside single malt brings together multiple components in one harmonious, enjoyable sip. Composed of peated and unpeated whiskies, the spirits age in bourbon, sherry, and Marsala wine casks. Its smoky character is delivered like a spray of perfume — not so thick that you can’t appreciate its red currant and spice notes, and the influence of oak. This whisky has bags of personality, despite its relatively young age, but never overwhelms the palate.
Average price: $68
Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2013
A notable and unusual Islay release, this single malt arrives unpeated and is made entirely from barley grown on the island. Produced to showcase terroir, its nose is fruity, with standout aromas of red currants and cranberries. That character continues onto the palate, where the quality and profile of the base ingredient also shines. Bottled at 50 percent ABV and produced from a single vintage, this is the bottle for the Scotch geek in your life.
Average price: $75
The GlenAllachie Speyside Single Malt Aged 12 Years
From the “valley of the rocks” (the translation of the Gaelic Gleann Aileachaidh), this single malt has a much bolder character than most 12 year old releases. Ripe dark berries are complemented by baking spices, toast, and oak on the nose, before the fruit transforms to richer (and sweeter) berry compote on the palate. Nicely integrated tannins from virgin oak add to the textural experience.
Average price: $76
Arran Single Malt Sauternes Cask Finish
If you’ve ever enjoyed Sauternes, one of the world’s great sweet wines, you will marvel at the extent to which those casks have influenced this whisky. Honey, white flowers, and ripe stone fruits begin the experience and continue well onto the palate. The whisky lands with a rich, luscious texture, which coats the mouth and sets up a stunning finish. Don’t be afraid to sip this over one large ice cube.
Average price: $80
Aberlour 16 Year Old
Matured in American oak and sherry butts, this 16 year old release serves a truly decadent sipping experience. Its nose brims with baking spices, while subtle aromas of sweet, fortified wine provide a perfumed backdrop. The palate is well rounded and rich, with a great concentration of flavors — especially considering it’s bottled at 40 percent ABV.
Average price: $85
Blackadder Red Snake Single Cask Single Malt
Barrel proof, single cask offerings are much more common in American whisky than Scotch, but this 60.2 percent ABV single malt is no mere novelty. Sweet vanilla and toasted oak notes from bourbon cask aging combine with aromas of rich berry compote on the nose. Intense black fruit on the palate balances out its high-octane alcohol content. This release is a must buy for whiskey geeks.
Average price: $85
Lagavulin Islay Single Malt 16 Years
Lagavulin 16 Years is a much loved standard bearer for peated single malts. Earth and smoke define its profile, and mingle nicely among an attractive array of fruit, light caramel and vanilla, and a spray of seawater. Spice lingers on its finish, leaving smoke behind as a pleasant and surprisingly subtle afterthought.
Average price: $90
The Glen Grant Single Malt Aged 15 Years
Bottled at 50 percent ABV, this 15 year old single malt has a youthful profile for its age. Floral and citrus aromas season a sweet undercurrent of cake batter, while the palate is rounded and full of sweet, malty flavor. The alcohol content is just right on this whisky, ensuring that each sip feels lively but never overwhelms the palate with heat.
Average price: $93
Old Pulteney 15 Year Old Highland Single Malt
At 15 years old, this single malt has shed most of its malt notes and instead delivers intense bursts of tropical fruit and flowers. The influence of oak is very gentle throughout, and sweetness arrives in the form of honey aromas and apricot jelly on the palate. This is a wonderful Scotch for summer sipping and makes for a great gift for a special occasion.
Average price: $95
Bowmore 15 Years Old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Should you seek a quote-unquote approachable step into the world of peated whisky, this should be the first destination. Sure, it’s pricey, but its aromatic profile is among the most dazzling you will ever encounter. Red berries, violets, golden raisins, and just a whiff of peat begin the show. The palate then kicks into gear with rich, powerful character. Peated notes hold everything together, while a fresh berry finish adds a gleaming smile.
Average price: $100
Chivas Regal Aged 18 Years
An approachable blended whisky for those working with a big budget, Chivas 18 serves vanilla, baked apples, and caramel on the nose. The palate is rounded, malty, and mildly sweet. Overall, this is not the most complex Scotch on the market, but its flavor profile offers greater depth and nuance than most blends.
Average price: $113
Balblair 15 Year Old
At this age and price, great Scotches offer an experience that evolves in glass, and this release is no exception. Intense dried fruit aromas (mainly prunes) set a decadent tone, followed by seasonings of toffee, baking spices, and citrus. Velvet sips introduce leather onto the palate, with spiced oak notes emerging over time. This full-bodied, full-flavored Scotch will easily hold up to an ice cube or two, or even just a few drops of water.
Average price: $120
The Balvenie French Oak 16-Year-Old
Among the more unusually aged Scotches on this roundup, The Balvenie 16 is finished in Pineau des Charentes casks. Those fortified grape must casks prove particularly prominent on the palate, which is lively and energetic overall, and follows a stone fruit and dark berry rich nose. This release is a great alternative if you’re not sold on bolder, full-bodied bottlings.
Average price: $175
Mortlach 20 Year Old Cowie’s Blue Seal Single Malt Scotch Whisky
“Tamed” for 20 years, reads the label on this exceptional single malt, but don’t take that as an indication of prudence or lack of character. Violets and sweet raspberries set the tone on its scintillating nose, followed by honeyed oak, vanilla, and baking spices. You’ll be wanting something remarkable from a whisky this age and this price, and this spirit delivers.
Average price: $240
The GlenDronach Parliament Aged 21 Years
The first of two single malts with heavy sherry influence to round out this list, The GlenDronach 21 matured in Pedro Ximénez and oloroso casks. Its golden amber hue is lighter than you may expect at this age, and hints at the vibrant life that remains in the whisky. Rich bramble fruit sets off an expressive nose, while the full-bodied palate is rich in baking spices and awash with sweet sherry notes on the finish.
Average price: $323
The Macallan Double Cask 18 Years Old
Sure, there’s no escaping the exorbitant price of this release, but the whisky ranks as one of The Macallan’s most luxurious permanent expressions, having joined the brand’s core Double Cask lineup in 2020. Aged in oloroso-seasoned American and European oak casks, booze-soaked golden raisins join ginger and caramel on the nose. High-definition dried fruit notes arrive on the palate, along with hints of nuts, and a luscious mouthfeel. Ball out on a bottle and savor it sparingly over time.
Average price: $380
How is Scotch different from whiskey?
Technically speaking, all Scotch is whiskey, though producers in the nation and the industry at large opt to drop the “e” from the word, spelling it “whisky” instead.
What are the different types of Scotch?
In total there are five different Scotch regions: Campbeltown, Highland, Islay, Lowland, and Speyside. While producers in each region share some general similarities in style — almost all Islay whisky is peated, for example — so many factors go into Scotch production that two distillers from the same region may produce vastly different styles of whisky.
What is the proper way to drink Scotch?
Scotch is a very versatile spirit that can be sipped neat, with a few drops of water, on the rocks, or mixed in cocktails.
VinePair’s Tasting Methodology
Throughout the year, VinePair conducts numerous tastings for our popular Buy This Booze column and wine and spirits reviews. Our mission is to provide a clear, reliable source of information for drinkers, providing an overview applicable to day-to-day buying and drinking.
Tastings are not typically conducted blind. In alignment with our reviews mission, we believe in purposefully tasting all products as our readers typically would, with full knowledge of the producer, the region, and — importantly — the price.
For Buy This Booze roundups, we typically include a maximum of one expression per brand, though we do allow multiple products from the same production facility (i.e., released under different labels).
For this Scotch roundup, we considered a number of different factors before finalizing the list. Our overall aim was to provide a complete overview of the myriad styles and expressions of Scotch that define the world’s most famous whisky producing nation. That means entry-level, “approachable” blends featured alongside intricately finished and limited-edition releases that spirits geeks go to great lengths to seek out. We are confident that every bottle that made this final ranking delivers on flavor, balance, depth, and complexity for each of their respective price points.