Finding the best Scotch whisky isn’t a destination, it’s a journey. Your palate evolves, your tastes evolve, the amount you’re willing to spend fluctuates — lots of variables. To support you in this (very enjoyable) process, we look to experts in the field, bartenders, and our own tasting notes.
Today, we’ve turned to Drinks International’s 2022 Brand Report for a few answers. While that title sounds super official, it’s pretty relatable and straightforward. Drinks International simply asks bar owners, managers, and bartenders (from the World’s 50 Best Bars) to name the top three best-selling and the top three trending Scotch whiskies that they sell. They then collate all that information into their brand report so we can get a little insight into what people are actually drinking and asking about more and more often right now.
The ten bottles of Scotch whisky below are the “Top Ten Trending” Scotch whiskies of 2022. Or as Drinks International puts it, “an indication of the brands that are hot right now.” To help you pick the best bottles from each of these “hot” brands, we’re reaching into our own archives of bottle reviews to name our favorite expressions from each brand. Let’s get into it!
Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Scotch Whisky Posts of 2021
- The 50 Best Scotch Whiskies Of 2021, Ranked
- A Blind Ranking Of Affordable Blended Scotch Whiskies
- Our Favorite Scotch Whisky At Every Price Point From $30 To $500
- We Blind Tested Blended Scotches In The $40 Range And A Clear Winner Emerged
- The Best Bottles Of Scotch Whisky Between $50-$60
10. Naked Malt
Average Price: $34
This whisky from the very popular Famous Grouse is a dialed-in expression. The juice in the bottle is a blend of sherry-cask-finished whiskies from The Macallan and Highland Park. The whisky is then cut down to a very accessible 80 proof and then bottled in a nicely understated bottle.
There’s a sweet malt buried under a buttery scone dripping with raspberry jam with a touch of light spice lurking in the background. The sherry really kicks in on the palate with big notes of dates soaked in black tea next to creamy caramel, vanilla cake, and a touch of dry raisins. The end doesn’t overstay its welcome and leaves you with a lovely note of chocolate-covered cherries with a sweet/dry vibe.
I genuinely dig this bottle of blended malt. It’s super easy to drink and it makes a mean highball. You can’t beat the price either, especially with heavy-hitting whiskies like Highland Park and The Macallan in the mix.
9. Glenmorangie — Glenmorangie Signet
Average Price: $236
This Glenmorangie expression is a prime example of something truly special. The juice is a mix of single malts with estate-grown malts and “chocolate malts” (meaning they were roasted until dark and chocolate-y). The hot juice then went into new American oak (not ex-bourbon) for varying amounts of time.
While there’s no age statement, there are barrels up to 40 years old in this mix.
You’re greeted with a note of dried apricots with a hint of clove, leading towards a very light dark orange chocolate. The chocolate amps up the bitterness, reaching espresso bean levels as some eggnog spice kicks in with a silky mouthfeel and a touch of wet tobacco. The end brings about a flourish of bright citrus zest that dries everything out, leaving you with a lingering end and a final note of earthy dried mushrooms.
Glenmorangie, in general, is almost always stellar. This is the highwater mark of the whole line and a beautiful sipping whisky. Just make sure to add a little water (or a rock) to really let this one bloom in the glass.
8. Bruichladdich — Bruichladdich The Biodynamic Project
Average Price: $132
This whisky is the first of its kind in Scotland. The whisky is distilled from unpeated barley from a single farm. It goes beyond that though. The farm is regenerative and pulls more carbon into the soil than it emits, meaning this is a carbon-negative whisky from the jump. The whisky then ages for ten years in ex-bourbon barrels and is bottled at cask strength.
This whisky is a fruit bomb on the nose with peach syrup from the can, stewed apples with plenty of spice, butter, and pie crust, hints of vanilla pods, a touch of orange oil, and the faintest hint of apple, cherry, and apricot Turkish Delights. The palate has real peaches-in-cream vibes that lead towards dark chocolate-covered toffees with a flake of salt and a few petals of dried nasturtium and lavender. The finish leans into the malt to the point that feels like a warm bowl of Cream of Wheat cut with brown sugar and cinnamon with a dash more of orange oil, toffee, and vanilla.
The Bottom Line:
I’m partially obsessed with this bottle right now. It’s so beautifully fruity and svelte while still feeling like something special. You do need a few drops of water to really find those spicy floral and wheat-y notes, so take your time.
7. The Balvenie — The Balvenie 14-Year Caribbean Cask
Average Price: $88
The Balvenie is renowned for doing everything in-house from grain to glass and for being the distillery that spearheaded the whole “finishing whisky in a different cask” movement. In this case, the juice spends 14 years maturing in ex-bourbon barrels. The whisky is then batched and transferred to barrels that The Balvenie aged their own blend of West Indies rum in.
There’s a welcoming rush of buttery toffee up top with hints at brown spices, bright red berries, and a touch of sweet malts. The palate brings around creamy vanilla dotted with those sweet and slightly tart red berries next to a very soft and sweet oakiness. The finish is medium-length and full of soft wood, vanilla cream, and a touch of that spice.
The Bottom Line:
This is one of those modern classic bottles that should be on every bar cart. It’s a great sipper, especially on the rocks, but really shines in a cocktail.
6. Talisker — Talisker 18
Average Price: $248
This is a classic single malt that also happens to hold the title of “Best Single Malt Whisky in the World” from the World Whiskies Awards. The iconic juice is rendered in Talisker’s bespoke stills and then spends nearly two decades resting in both ex-bourbon and ex-sherry barrels, like most of the true classic single malts.
This is subtle. The nose has a light yet clear sense of ripe plums, orange oils, buttery toffee, and an almost sour apple next to a distant whiff of briny campfire smoke from one beach over. The orange oils remain on the palate as eggnog spices peek in gently, with hints of that butter toffee driving a rich silkiness. The smoke remains in the distance as the spices warm your senses and the meaty fruit takes the edge off on the slow and satisfying fade.
This would probably be my number one pick from this list. This bottle is outstanding and might just change the way you think about “peated” whisky with its super subtle and marine-forward vibes.
5. Ardbeg — Ardbeg An Oa
Average Price: $65
This is a quintessential Islay peaty whisky. The juice is aged in a combo of Pedro Ximénez, charred virgin oak, and ex-bourbon casks before being married and rested again in Ardbeg’s bespoke oak “Gathering Vat,” allowing the whiskies to really meld into a cohesive dram.
Imagine slow-smoked peaches, soft cherrywood on fire, and singed sage. That nose leads towards buttery but almost burnt toffee with hints of egg nog spices, savory leafy green veg with a bit of dirt, walnut shells, black tea, and a little bit of pancake syrup (the high fructose corn syrup kind). The finish is long, has hits of black licorice, and really brings the soft yet sweet smoke with an almost meat smoker edge.
This is a peaty whisky that has great nuance. I’d recommend drinking it on two rocks to calm that peat down a bit — you’ll almost get a sense of smoldering orchard wood dripping with smoked salmon fat. Either way, it’s a great sipping dram and worthy of exploration.
4. Compass Box — Compass Box Artist Blend
Average Price: $40
The lion’s share of this blend — 45 percent — comes from a single grain whisky aged in ex-bourbon from Cameronbridge Distillery. 22 percent is a single malt aged in ex-bourbon that comes from Linkwood Distillery. The rest is a mix of French oak and ex-bourbon single malts and blended malts from the Highlands, Clyneilish, Linkwood, and Balmenach. Those whiskies are vatted and then proofed down before bottling.
This opens with a very clear and concise note of apple candy with a hint of salted caramel ice cream cut with a touch of eggnog spices. There’s a nice maltiness that leans into a creamy vanilla, soft holiday spice mix, butter toffee, and a hint of milk chocolate near the end. The finish is warming with a whisper of tobacco next to a woody apple, spice candies (maybe ginger), and a final hint of cocoa and caramel.
There are so many great Compass Box whiskies these days that picking just one feels like a fool’s errand. But if I had to, I think I’d go with their entry-point blended whisky. This is a dream to drink with a nice, approachable flavor profile. It’s always inviting and works really well in cocktails or as a sipper at a killer price point.
3. Monkey Shoulder
Average Price: $36
This Speyside blend is crafted as a workhorse whisky. The juice is drawn from the William Grant & Sons distilleries, focusing on Kininvie, Glenfiddich, and The Balvenie. The juice is then rested for up to six months after blending to let it mellow even more before proofing and bottling.
There’s a nice welcoming note of creamy vanilla that almost becomes cream soda, next to hints of zesty orange marmalade, malts, and dark spices. The taste delivers on those notes by amping the spices up to Christmas cake territory with a slight tart berry edge next to that cream soda sweetness. The end is short and sweet with a nice lightness that really makes this very drinkable.
This is the least surprising “trending” whisky on this list. Monkey Shoulder dominates the easy-going bar scene. They know their whisky is a great mixer and the brand really leans into that. Definitely grab a bottle of Monkey and start mixing up some cool cocktails.
2. The Macallan — The Macallan 18 Double Cask
Average Price: $350
This single malt from Scotland’s famed and stunning Highlands is matured for 18 long years in two separate cask programs. Part of the juice rests in American oak casks that were sent to Spain to hold sherry for a spell before they’re sent up to Scotland to hold this whisky. The other casks are European oak that also held sherry in Spain before their trip to the Highlands. Each wood brings a unique character to the mix that helps this single malt really shine.
There are very delicate notes of American oak on the nose with hints of dry vanilla, orange oils, and buttery toffee next to the finer European sherry woodiness, with candied fruit and a touch of eggnog spices, especially clove and nutmeg. The palate leans into the soft vanilla with a cut of raw ginger spice, golden sultanas, more orange, and a touch of salted caramel with a pure silk texture. The mid-palate hones those spice notes towards a mildly dry wood with the candied and dried fruit bringing a sweetness and velvet texture. The very end has a candied orange peel bitterness and sweetness that sits with you for a while, reminding you to go back for another sip sooner rather than later.
This isn’t quite unicorn territory, but this is a “wow” bottle of whisky to have on your bar cart. The Macallan is beloved in whisky circles and drinking this expression helps it all make sense — this is just wonderful from nose to finish. This is the lushest sip on the whole list.
1. Johnnie Walker — Johnnie Walker Green Label
Average Price: $67
The blend is a “pure malt” blended whisky, meaning that it’s made only with single malts (usually blended scotch is made with both grain and malt whisky). In this case, the juice is pulled from all over Scotland with a focus on Speyside, Highland, Lowland, and Island malts, including a minimum of 15-year-old Talisker, Caol Ila, Cragganmore, and Linkwood.
This sip draws you in with the smells of an old, soft cedar box that’s held black pepper, sweet fruits, and oily vanilla pods next to a hint of green grass. The taste really holds onto the cedar as the fruits lean tropical with a hint of dried roses pinging in the background. The end builds on that by adding a note of spicy tobacco, a splash of sea spray, and a distant billow of campfire smoke.
I struggled with whether this pick should be Johnnie Blue or Green and I had to land on the latter. Johnnie Green is such an amazingly good deal for the stellar quality of the whisky blended into this bottle. Look at it this way, a Caol Ila 15 on its own will set you back north of $130. This bottle costs half of that and has that whisky in the mix. Plus, it is freakin’ delicious.