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The Top 15 Best Single Malt Scotch Whiskies to Try in 2022
Better access, more barrels, smart innovation and new entrants make the marketplace for single malt scotch whisky fascinating.
The following article maps out a range of the 15 best single malt scotch brands in 2020 for you to try.
From the smoke and peat of Islay, to the classic Speyside single malts, and unique upstarts from Japan and the US, these single malts are unique and interestingly flavored offerings from a range of the word’s leading distillers.
There are expressions to suit a range of tastes at affordable pricing (we’ll get to the luxury drams later) that you can pick up more than one. And as always, drink responsibly!
1. Lagavulin 16 Year
Miles and miles of peat bog in the west of Islay provide the raw material which gives the Lagavulin barley its famed smoky flavor, and the rich peaty water that runs from the Solan Lochs into the distillery only adds to the complex texture.
A nice bold lavor, the Lagavulin 16 year old has a more balanced and woodier palate compared to the 8 year, at an acceptable rise in price from the lead in product.
It’s oak cask aged to enhance the naturally smoky flavor yet offers a surprising smooth and flowing finish. Lagavulin is best enjoyed traditionally: neat or with a little water. It’s certainly a whisky for your top shelf.
2. The Balvenie Single Barrel 15 Year Old
The Balvenie 15-Year-Old Scotch Whisky is drawn from a single traditional oak whisky cask, and single distillation.
Every cask of this classic 15-Year-Old Speyside whisky is hand selected by the Malt Master and captures the vanilla and oak driven favors The Balvenie is famed for and topped with a burst of manuka honey amidst the peat to finish.
This Balvenie is a dram best served at dessert, served neat or with a few drops of water to unlock the flavor.
3. The Yamazaki 12 Year Old Single Malt Whisky
I got to learn a LOT about Japanese whisky when I taught English in Japan during the mid naughties. For many of my adult students the full whisky experience was their hobby, and as all Japanese students do, they took it extremely seriously. It made the job more fun, and I got to learn too!
I was priced out of most quality Japanese single malts (I had to go blended) but was lucky enough to drink Yamazaki 12 year old one night with a salaryman who wished to practice his English skills. I can still remember the taste 15 years later, if not the lesson.
The Yamazaki mash bill boasts 100 percent malted barley, and is cask aged in oak for 12 years before being bottled. It’s well compiled and layered, delicately tasting of sweet dried fruit and spice, with a hint of ginger on the tongue to finish.
It’s well at the top end of this list’s pricing spectrum, but I rate this Japanese whisky highly enough that it must be included.
4. The Glenmorangie 14 Year Old Port Cask Finish – Quinta Ruban Single Malt Whisky
Gold Medalist at the 2019 San Francisco World Spirit Competition, The Glenmorangie 14 Year Old Port Cask Finish has been matured in American White Oak ex-Bourbon barrels before being extra matured in specially selected Ruby port pipes from Portugal.
The Quinta Ruban single malt is a dense and complex scotch well suited to the chocolate, minty notes created by the wood finishing of the port casks, and when poured shows off a deliciously dark color.
Fantastically priced and equally suitable for the connoisseur or developing whisky drinker, The Glenmorangie 14 Year Old Port Cask Finish is one to keep handy.
5. Laphroaig Triple Wood Islay Single Malt Whisky
Laphroaig Triple Wood Islay Single Malt Whisky comes from the remote island of Islay in the Western Isles of Scotland.
The no aged expression is notable for triple maturation in 3 types of cask: American oak ex-Bourbon casks, 19th century style Quarter casks, and the finishing Oloroso sherry cask. An Oloroso sherry cask uses oxidative aging to create excellent flavors when contributing to the finish of a single malt.
The Triple Wood carries a sophisticated and complex taste compared to the Laphroiag 10yr or the Select Cask. The sweet sherry shines through in combination with heavy peat and hints of the unmistakable salt of Islay to make the taste more complex.
The result is a single malt scotch with great power, most suited to those with a taste for peaty Islay Malt. Priced for considered drinking, it will taste even better over time as it breathes.
6. The Macallan Double Cask 12 Years Old
The Macallan Double Cask 12 Years Old marries the classic Macallan style Speyside whisky with the sweetness of American oak.
This single malt edition provides perfect balance for a ‘young’ scotch, with flavors of honey, citrus and ginger contrasting effortlessly with the traditional Macallan aromas of fruit, sherry and wood spice.
The lightness of honey lingers on the palate, long after you’ve put the bottle away.
7. Ardbeg Scotch Uigeadail
Ardbeg’s founder established their distillery on the rugged, wild coastal rocks of South Islay. The Uigeadail is named for the loch Uigeadail (pronounced Ooga-dal it is Gaelic for ‘dark and mysterious place’) that Ardbeg source their pure water from.
This Ardberg single malt produces a strong (54% ABV) whisky with notes of smoke, leather, dried fruits and walnut oil, all characteristic of a properly concocted Islay.
Perfect for the Islay whisky lover or conscientious single malt drinker looking for rich flavor, I recommend releasing the smokey peat, sherry and hint of cinnamon with a few drops of still water.
8. Westward American Single Malt Whisky
Westward is a whisky of the American Northwest, but it’s not out of place on this list alongside the celebrated single malts of Scotland.
Westwood mixes floral tasting notes, vanilla and maple syrup, with a taste of oak and caramel.
This is an impressive American single malt that stands out with its craftmanship. It’s well worth a shot for you to impress newcomers and the seasoned scotch drinker over a cube of ice.
9. Tullamore Dew 14 Year Single Malt Irish Whiskey
This 14 year old, triple distilled Irish single malt has been finished in bourbon, Port, Madeira and Oloroso Sherry cask.
Sweeter and more floral than the Scottish malts, this mellow taste of Ireland has hints of butterscotch amidst it’s smooth and delicate texture.
If you’re looking for a unique, lightly smokey single malt and a taste of the Irish, then Tullamore Dew 14 Year will be a hit no matter your taste of choice.
10. Auchentoshan Three Wood Lowland Single Malt Scotch
Lowland scotch? Auchentoshan is distilled at Clydebank, not on Islay or deep in the Highlands.
This single malt is matured in ex Bourbon barrel oak and finished in Spanish Olorosso and Pedro Ximenez casks.
Three wood’s compelling aroma is rich with dark fruits, thick butterscotch, and roasted hazelnuts, and is unmistakably smooth on the palate from the sherry and brandy cask finish.
This lowland scotch is recommended for everyone, however it would suit a whisky drinker looking for a smoother, less peated malt taste.
11. Glengoyne Single Malt Cask Strength
The hand-crafted process, un-chilled filtration and Scotland’s slowest distillation is evident in every glass of this Glengoyne Cask Strength Single Malt.
The drying of barley used in this expression is also different, utilizing warm air drying rather than using peat smoke to create a robust malt with flavor of bananas, digestive biscuits and pepper.
With an ABV of 56.7% Glengoyne Single Malt Cask Strength is recommended for drinking with a few drops of water to bring out the flavors further.
12. Highland Park 15 Year Old
Highland Park 15 Year Old is an exceptional pale gold single malt, with a luxuriously rich taste and smoky finish. Experts rate it only a touch below the benchmark 18 year old single malt scotch whisky for flavor and finish
The nose holds notes of camphor, peat, citrus fruits and flowers.
There are limited quantities available, so when you get your chance to get this bottle make sure you add it to the top shelf!
13. The Glenlivet 15 Year
The Glenlivet 15 Year Old gets its distinctive flavor from a process of selective maturation in French Limousin oak casks used to age cognac.
This single malt scotch whisky is tremendously balanced with the oak adding a subtle sweetness and spice to the malt.
This whisky is recommended this for the experienced single malt drinker looking to move their experience away from the power and smokiness of a heavily peated malt Islay.
14. Talisker Storm
Talisker Storm Single Malt Scotch Whisky is distilled on the shores of the Isle of Skye in Scotland.
Fresh water is drawn directly from underground springs next to the distillery, two very distinctive wash stills and wooden worm tub condensers are used during distillation to create a smoother drop than the heavy peated malt single malts of Islay.
Talisker Storm offers a complex yet gentle peat flavor enhanced by rich vanilla, subtle notes of spice, and just a hint of the sea where the distillery calls home.
Drink this expression neat to really experience the taste of Skye.
15. Glenfiddich Bourbon Barrel Reserve 14 Year
Glenfiddich Malt Master Brian Kinsman waits 14 years as this whisky matures in ex-bourbon American Oak casks. He then finishes the whisky in charred new American Oak barrels supplied by The Kelvin Cooperage in Louisville, Kentucky.
The maturation process creates a wonderfully rounded flavor of spice and peat contrasting brilliantly with honey notes, vanilla and fruit.
If you’re a lover of American whiskey (note the spelling) then this single malt whisky expression will allow you to enjoy the best of both worlds.