Single malt scotch whiskeys are a thing of true beauty. Whether you’re a whiskey fan already and simply want to branch into the world of single malt scotch, or you’re a complete newbie to the whiskey scene and fancy trying something new, there is a tipple for everyone.
If you’re looking for a good single malt scotch whiskey, take a look at our 15 favorites below. Each one has been hand-selected according to its distillation process, aroma, flavor, and price. There is a huge variety of different flavor profiles on this list!
We’ve also included a handy drinkers’ guide, consisting of everything you need to know about single malt scotch whiskey. From how to best taste a single malt scotch, to the most appropriate varieties for beginners, we’ve got you covered! Take a look below!
OUR TOP PICK
OUR TOP PICK
The Aberlour 16-Year-Old has become a favorite among many single malt scotch drinkers, and it’s not hard to see why! It is perfect for individuals who love a good, robust, and classic whiskey.
Aberlour is a Speyside distillery in Scotland that has been around for over 100 years. It has an iconic reputation within the whiskey industry as one of the most consistent, high-quality distilleries that focuses simply on good whiskey and excellent casks.
The Aberlour 16 Year Old definitely doesn’t disappoint. Bottled at 43%, it is a wonderfully classic single malt scotch. It is double-matured in both oak and sherry casks, which provides a velvety smooth texture and a mild, complex flavor with notes of honey and oak.
We absolutely love this single malt scotch. It is rare to find such a smooth, complex whiskey for such a reasonable price. In fact, this is a staple drink that we plan to return to again and again.
- Aberlour distillery - has a trustworthy and iconic reputation.
- Double-matured in oak and sherry casks - produces complex and mild flavors.
- 43% - has a classic single malt scotch alcohol content.
- Budget-friendly - has a quality comparable to the most expensive on this list for a fraction of the price
- Classic - if you’re looking for a more innovative and exciting single malt scotch whiskey, this might not be for you.
If you’re looking for a wonderfully balanced and elegant single malt scotch whiskey, look no further than the Glenlivet 12-Year-Old. Specifically, if you’re a little tired of overly smokey whiskeys, this one should be perfect for you.
The Glenvilit 12 Year Old is a classic Speyside single malt. The Glenlivet’s mash process focuses on extracting sugar from the malted barley. This gives the drink a gentle richness and fruitiness that is simply delightful.
Specifically, this single malt scotch whiskey has notes of honeysuckle, citrus fruits, and vanilla. On the palate, it provides the flavors of candied nuts and cookies. To finish, the subtle sweetness gives way to a more zesty, bitter aftertaste.
Honestly, we love anything with the Glenlivet name. However, this 12-year-old single malt scotch whiskey is really something special. It is so soft and supple on the palate, with each of the flavor notes remaining completely balanced.
- Classic Speyside single malt - has a great non-smokey flavor.
- Budget-friendly - this is an excellent example of a good single malt scotch whiskey despite its low price point.
- Ex-bourbon American oak and European oak casks - give a subtle but complex flavor.
- Bitterness - for people who are not used to the barrel tannin snap associated with brown spirits, this might be a little too much.
If you’re a fan of mixing your whiskey with a few drops of water (emphasis on a few), you should definitely give the GlenDronach Original Aged 12 Years a try. In fact, for the price, this is an exceptionally good sherried malt.
This 12-year-old product is aged completely in ex-sherry casks. It is also non-chill filtered, bottled at 43%, and has no added coloring. In addition to these factors elevating the overall tasting experience, the fact that they are openly disclosed on the label is great too.
In addition to being wonderfully medium-bodied, and mellow on the palate, with hints of cherry, dried plums, and dark chocolate, this whiskey also has a great scent. It is meaty and sherried on the nose, with touches of tobacco and sweetness.
This is a really great sherried malt, especially when you factor in the low price! If you’re in need of an inexpensive but top-quality bottle to fill a space in your whiskey rack, we cannot recommend the GlenDronach Original Aged 12 Years enough.
- Non-chill filtered & no added coloring - of great quality and is a sign of a brand that is very open and clear about their processes.
- Medium-bodied & mellow - makes for an easy-going but delicious whiskey.
- Budget-friendly - has a great price point considering the quality of the product.
- Finish - might not be long enough for some, but it is delicious.
Despite its lower price point, the Glengoyne 10-year-old single malt scotch is incredibly similar, if not identical, to the Glengoyne 12-year-old single malt scotch. As such, it’s a real steal! Grab one today for a surprisingly in-depth experience.
Glengoyne is technically classed as a Highland whiskey, although it is aged in the Lowlands! The Glengoyne facility is very small and limited, however, they produce consistently high-quality malt, year after year.
This single malt scotch has a great sherry scent on the nose, with hints of fresh fruit and sweet malt. It is quite a thin-bodied single malt, with a moderate fiery sensation. It does have a tiny bit of bitterness and is mildly herbal, but there are mainly notes of tropical fruits.
When trying this single malt scotch whiskey, we really enjoyed the aroma. The dominant sherry notes are delicious and a part of a well-rounded balanced aroma. However, the aroma does promise a little more than the flavors actually deliver, which is a bit of a shame.
- Similar to Glengoyne 12-year-old - matches the quality of a more mature whiskey for a smaller price.
- Small facility - produces consistently high-quality malt.
- Aroma - well balanced and promising.
- Palate & finish - didn’t quite deliver as much as the aroma.
If you’re looking for a best-selling single malt scotch whiskey, that is especially popular at the moment in the U.S.A, check out the Speyburn 10-Year-Old. Distilled in the famous Spey River valley, this tipple really doesn’t disappoint.
The Speyburn sits in the same area as some of Scotland's giant malt distilleries, such as Glenfiddich. Although Speyburn probably can’t be described as an underdog, the way they managed to establish their products as classic Speyside whiskeys is still quite something.
This single malt scotch in particular is on the more affordable side of the range. However, aged in American oak casks that held bourbon and sherry, it has a delightfully syrupy flavor with hints of cinnamon and allspice.
As lovers of a more subtle whiskey, we really enjoyed the Speyburn 10-Year-Old single malt scotch whiskey. However, it is worth noting that some consumers interpret this subtlety as a lack of flavor. So if you enjoy your punchy whiskeys, this one might be for you.
- Spey River valley - one of the most famous and well-renowned areas for distillation.
- Budget-friendly - great for single malt scotch lovers on a tighter budget.
- Subtle flavors - perfect for individuals who enjoy a lighter whiskey.
- Subtle flavors - might be too subtle for some.
If you’re looking for a great single malt scotch whiskey that comes from a distillery that values the traditional processes, be sure to give the Highland Park 12-Year-Old a try. Such processes give rise to a wonderful complexity and substance that is very hard to beat!
Specifically, Highland Park distillery is one of few to still use the method of floor malting. This is a very laborious process where barley is spread across a floor and hand-turned before the process of being kilned with peat.
This whiskey in particular has warm notes of hay, citrus, orange, and rose. As such, it's a great option if you enjoy a cold whiskey on hot summer evenings. It is dominated by fresh notes of orange and grain, which are followed by a mild sweetness, and then bitterness.
We really loved this single malt scotch. It was the perfect tipple to enjoy at the end of a long, warm, summer’s day. Considering the price point, the complexity of this whiskey was also incredibly surprising!
- Traditional distillery - produces incredibly high-quality whiskey.
- Light, summery flavor notes - ideal for summer evenings.
- Budget-friendly - the quality and complexity of this single malt scotch is very surprising considering its price point.
- Peat - there is a peat flavor that may not be to some people's taste, however, it is really quite subtle and pleasant.
If you’re looking for a single malt scotch that is renowned for being impossible to pronounce correctly, you should try Ardbeg Scotch Uigeadail! Ok, we’re just joking about the first part. However, this is a single malt scotch whiskey that you simply have to try.
First, to clear up any confusion, Uigeadail is pronounced ‘oog-a-dal-’. It is a Gaelic word, which is very much appropriate as this single malt is distilled on the island of Islay, the southernmost island of the Inner Southern Hebrides of Scotland.
Now, let's get into the flavor. The initial impression is super fresh and fruity, with a lean and elegant flavor. However, this becomes more smoky, salty, and citrusy as it progresses. However, the smokiness isn’t at all overpowering, but rather, is subtle and gentle.
We love that there is not a single off note or point of disharmony in the flavor of this whiskey. Everything is incredibly well-balanced and is certain to impress any house guest! It also has a very high strength of 54.2%. What’s not to love?
- Well-balanced - makes for a very pleasant tasting experience.
- High alcohol content - 54.2% strength makes for a wonderfully strong whiskey.
- Fresh, lean & elegant flavor - means that, despite its strength, it has a very light flavor.
- Higher price point - more expensive than others on this lift.
If you’re looking for a dry, full-bodied single malt scotch whiskey with a full and intense aroma, be sure to give the Lagavulin 16-year-old. It has a mature flavor that is a bit like marmite, you either absolutely love it, or it's way too much for you!
Founded over 200 years ago, this whiskey is distilled in the Lagavulin distillery, located on the isle of Isley. This area is known for its peated whiskeys, and this product is no different. The deep, smoky notes are fully evident in the Lagavulin 16-year-old.
This best-selling bottle is not for the faint-hearted but has a wonderfully complex flavor. It has a thickness that forces you to savor each drop, and in turn, this allows you to pick up every deep oak and mature fruit flavor.
When we tried this whiskey, we found that it really packed a punch! However, with a few dashes of water, emphasis on a few (as to not ‘drown it’ as my nan would say), this whiskey becomes the most perfect evening tipple.
- Lagavulin distillery - has an excellent reputation for good peated whiskeys.
- Complex flavors - makes for a very interesting drink (for well-seasoned whiskey drinkers).
- Thickness - forces you to experience every flavor and note.
- Intensity - not for the faint-hearted, but it is also delicious when watered down.
Whiskey enthusiasts tend to talk about 3 big names more than any others: Macallan, Glenfiddich, and Balvenie. If you’re looking to buy a world-renowned single malt scotch whiskey, look no further than the Balvenie 15-year-old.
To experience a true Balvenie whiskey, it is necessary to purchase an official release, which can be hard to hunt down. Despite this exclusivity being a bit of a pain in the backside, it is definitely worth it!
The Balvenie 15-year-old has a very gentle aroma with hints of cinnamon, orange, and sherry. It is also very gentle on the palate, with notes of marmalade, walnuts, and faint caramel and chocolate.
We very much enjoyed the subtle but complex nature of this whiskey. It is very well presented and refined, with a lovely luxurious feel. However, it is likely that you will need to pay slightly more money for this than it’s actually worth.
- World-renowned - means you know that this whiskey is of top-quality.
- Gentle aroma and palate - make for a very well-balanced, delicious whiskey.
- Exclusive - makes for a great bottle to pull out at a party.
- Exclusive - means you will likely pay more for the bottle than necessary.
Even if you’ve never tried this whiskey, you’ve likely seen it. The Classic Laddie is Bruichladdich’s flagship single malt, and it really stands out on the shelf. Take this as your sign to finally pick up a bottle and give it a try!
Unlike all of the other whiskeys on this list, The Classic Laddie doesn’t have an age statement or rigid cask bill. Rather, it claims to always be made with Scottish barley, and that it is never chill-filtered or artificially colored.
Each bottle comes with a code that will tell you about that particular batch. Generally, however, this whiskey is a bright, fruity one with a lavish richness and notes of vanilla, chamomile, and bittersweet toasted nuts.
We found this single malt scotch particularly innovative. If you’re tired of trying the same-old, boring whiskeys that claim to be ‘the best’, this is definitely one for you to try. It’s well-balanced, delicious, and something very new!
- Code with each bottle - this gives you all the information you might want to know about your specific bottle of whiskey.
- Bright, fruity, and rich flavor - makes for a delicious whiskey.
- Innovative - over the past decade, this brand has focused on exploring the nuances of whiskey ingredients.
- No age statements or similar info - for some, the lack of traditional age statements and similar information might be a problem, but we want you to ask yourself, how important are these, really?
If you’re looking for a tried-and-tested, top-quality single malt scotch whiskey, with an excellent reputation, give the Macallan 12-year-old a try. Very few spirits in the world can compare to the depth and variety of The Macallan.
Everything Macallan releases tend to be a perfect example of a scotch whisky. They generally have clear malt notes, and the effects of the wood in the aging processes are clear. The Macallan 12-year-old is no different!
The aroma of this whiskey is very oaky and somewhat bitter in the beginning, though this softens quickly. The flavors are full and sweet, with a lot of sherry, plums, and cinnamon. However, these flavors aren’t overly complex. Rather, they are simple but effective.
We particularly loved how this bottle was suitable for newbies and well-seasoned whiskey drinkers alike. It was the perfect drink to bring out at a small gathering! Although it might not be the bottle we always reach for, when we do, it definitely doesn’t disappoint!
- Macallan - a world-renowned whiskey brand that is known for its quality.
- Simple, effective, non-complex flavors - great for both people who are new to single malt whiskey, and those who have enjoyed it for some time.
- 43 % - makes for a very standard whiskey.
- Lack of complexity - might be a problem for some.
Commonly referred to as ‘The 12’, this single malt scotch has quite the legendary reputation. If you’re a fan of opening a bottle of prestigious whiskey at a party, The Dalmore Aged 12 Years is perfect.
The Dalmore distillery opened in Alness, the Highland region of Scotland, in 1839. However, the myths and legends surrounding the label extend much further back. The iconic stag’s head comes from a story about King Alexander III dating back to 1263.
The flavor of this whiskey is also somewhat legendary. The dominant note on the palette is chocolate, with hints of spiced oak and sherry. This is a very rich, sweet whiskey with a full mouthfeel. There is a lingering toffee finish that sticks around for a while after.
We really enjoyed the clean and straightforward nature of this whiskey, the presentation of the bottle, to the non-complex flavor palate. The sweetness also makes this whiskey more approachable, however, it can quickly become a bit overwhelming.
- Prestigious - has a great reputation.
- Chocolate is dominant on the palate - makes for a deliciously sweet, more approachable whiskey.
- 40% ABV - has a standard whiskey strength.
- Chocolate is dominant on the palate - this might be too sweet for some.
If you’re looking for a great introductory bottle for Bourbon drinkers beginning to explore the wonderful world of Scotch, the Glenfiddich Bourbon Barrel Reserve 14 Year is perfect. It is also one of the best within its price range.
This scotch is a fairly new one, arriving on the market in 2016. However, it fits snugly into the Glenfiddich core line-up of whiskies, including the 12, 13, 18, and 21. This one is matured entirely in ex-bourbon American Oak and finished in deep charred new American Oak casks.
On the palate, this scotch whiskey is creamy, with strong hints of fresh pairs, stewed fruit, citrus, and some cinnamon. The finish is short to medium length, with hints of honey, black pepper, caramel, and milk chocolate.
When we tried this single malt scotch, we were very surprised by the quality. In fact, we think that it is arguably better than the well-established 12- and 15-year-old. When you consider the price, this scotch is pretty much unbeatable.
- Ex-bourbon American Oak & deep charred new American Oak casks - make for a great tasting scotch that is perfect for bourbon drinkers (see also 'Sipping And Whiskey: Best Sipping Bourbons').
- Fruity on the palate - means it has a great fresh flavor.
- Budget-friendly - this is definitely one of the best scotch whiskeys you can get within its price range.
Finally, a list of the best single malt scotch whiskeys wouldn’t be complete without a Talisker. In fact, whether you’re a well-seasoned single malt scotch drinker or not, Talisker’s reputation likely precedes itself. Take this as a sign to give it a try!
Interestingly, Talisker is the only distillery located on the Isle of Skye. Within this distillery, they use worm tubs instead of modern condensers, in order to deliver a fuller flavor. Its touches like this make Talisker stand out.
The flavor of this scotch is rich and sweet at first. However, a wall of smokey goodness swiftly follows. Although, for a whiskey with such a punch, the finish is surprisingly light, with a moderate warmth that lingers for a good amount of time.
We love the complexity of this whiskey. The flavors are so well-balanced and there is just enough peat without being overpowering. This single malt scotch whiskey is definitely one of the most interesting within its age group.
- Talisker - has an incredible reputation for producing high-quality single malt scotch whiskeys.
- Use more traditional distilling methods - makes for a fuller flavor.
- Complex - this is a very interesting drink considering its age.
- Smokey - might be too much for some.
Ok, so this one isn’t technically a single malt scotch. However, it is one of the best single malt whiskeys you can buy today. If you’re yet to try any Japanese whiskey, dip your toe in by tasting the Yamazaki 12-Year-Old.
Capturing the harmony and balance between nature and mankind is a central concept in the Japanese Whiskey industry. This results in a great texture and taste, as they try to extract the best qualities from nature’s ingredients.
This excellently made whiskey opens with delicate and floral notes with hints of vanilla and cinnamon. On the palate, the oak flavors bring out soft, light, and floral notes. There is also an exotic feel to this whiskey, thanks to hints of citrus and coconut.
Honestly, as big fans of traditional Scottish whiskey, the idea of Japanese whiskey seemed a little odd. However, since trying this Yamazaki whiskey, we are total converts! The balance between sweet and spicy is unrivalled!
- 48 % - means this has a slightly higher than average alcohol content.
- Very well-balanced - makes for a very pleasant tasting experience.
- Soft, light, floral notes - provide a wonderfully fresh flavor.
- Price - this whiskey is less budget-friendly than others on this list.
About Single Malt Scotch
Single malt scotch is a single malt whiskey that is made in Scotland. To qualify for this category, this whiskey must have been distilled at a single distillery.
Further, the distillation process must be a pot still process, and the whiskey must be made from a mash of malted barley. It must have also been distilled in matured oak casks for at least three years.
How To Taste Whiskey
Now you know all about the best single malt scotch whiskeys, it’s important to understand how to taste them properly. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as knocking back a shot like they do in movies (see also 'Pupper’s Beer: Is the Letterkenny Brew Real?').
Rather, when tasting whiskey, you should aim to keep it in your mouth for somewhere between 12 to 20 seconds. You should maneuver it from the middle of your tongue, to underneath it, then back to the middle. After holding it for a little longer, you can then swallow it.
Though, the first sip simply primes your tastebuds. On the second sip, you’ll be able to taste exactly what's going on. A lot of the tasting is also in the nose, to make sure to really take in the aroma of the whiskey too.
Finally, make sure that you’re tasting the whiskey in an appropriate glass. A heavy-bottomed tumbler is a good option. Generally, look for a specific whiskey glass that will prevent the warmth of your hands from evaporating the whiskey.
What To Look For When Picking A Whiskey
If you’re new to single malt scotch whiskeys, you might want to steer clear of the overly smokey and peated styles.
These can be very overpowering and might put you off this style unnecessarily. Instead, look for a sweet and fruity number. These are generally lighter and more appropriate for newbies.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s The Best Way To Serve Whiskey?
Honestly, there is no wrong way to drink whiskey. However, tasting experts will argue that it is necessary to try it neat first. This way, you understand the flavors of the whiskey and can then more appropriately decide what to mix it with.
Although, if sipping whiskey neat sounds like far too much for you, not to worry. Adding a few splashes of water is very normal. This might affect the flavor ever so slightly, but not enough to cause any concern.
Can You Drink Single Malt Scotch On The Rocks?
Yes! Scotch on the rocks is probably one of the best, most pure ways to drink a good scotch whiskey. This method works to preserve the flavor and arguably makes it more pleasurable.
However, as mentioned above, some experts will argue that drinking scotch neat, without any water or ice, is the best way to consume it.
Can You Mix Scotch And Coke?
Yes! In many southern European countries, Scotch and Coke is a very popular drink. Although some whiskey aficionados might turn their noses up at this combination, we really enjoy it! Give it a try and see for yourself!
What Single Malt Scotch Whiskies Are Good For Beginners?
If you’re a little overwhelmed by the jargon and options, we recommend going for a simple Speyside whiskey. Anything distilled in that area has wonderfully accessible flavors, such as notes of fruits and fresh floral tones.
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