Scotch is, without a doubt, one of the classiest liquors on the market. Many scotch whiskey brands have a proud tradition that dates back centuries.
I’ve created this list of the best scotch brands for everyone. Whether you are a scotch aficionado or just discovering this delightful spirit, this list will give you something to wet your whistle.
Each of these brands of scotch has its unique spirits. This list should begin your scotch exploration, not the end.
By the end of this list, you will be ready to explore the wonderful world of scotch and have some inspiration the next time you go shopping.
Quick Recap of Scotch Brands
- The Balvenie
- Highland Park
- The Macallan
- Caol Ila
The Top Scotch Brands To Try!
The Bowmore distillery hails from the island of Islay. It has been in operation since 1779, and most of the inhabitants of Islay are involved in the production of Bowmore’s fine scotch. Bowmore prides itself in hand-selecting the oak casks used to age their scotch. Additionally, the salty air of Islay gives Bowmore scotch a distinct flavor profile that is unmatched by other scotches.
Bowmore is one of the oldest scotch distillers in Scotland, and you can taste their experience and attention to detail in each bottle of Bowmore. Given their rich history, it is easy to see why Bowmore is one of the best scotch brands.
12. The Balvenie
The Balvenie creates great single malt scotch in no small part due to their commitment to their five pillars. These pillars are homegrown barley, hand turned on the malting floor, copper stills, expert cooperage, and the fine-tuned palette of Malt Master David Steward.
This distillery was founded in 1892 by William Grant, the same man who founded Glenfiddich. The rich history of The Balvenie can be tasted in each sip of scotch.
11. Highland Park
Highland Park comes of the rough and windswept isles of Orkney. These rugged isles have been the home of Highland Park since 1798. Highland Park has a unique five-step process to their scotch. It begins by hand turning the grains on the malting floor every eight hours. This labor-intensive step is followed by using only hand-cut peat to dry the malt before aging the scotch in oak casks.
The brutal winters of the Orkney Islands put the scotch through a chilled maturation process that melds the flavors perfectly. This labor of love is a particular scotch that is unlike any other. Highland Park scotch is known to be smokey with notes of honey and warm spices.
Glenmorangie is another distillery that hails from the Scottish Highlands. This distillery has been in operation since 1843 and proudly boasts the tallest copper stills in all of Scotland. The height of Glenmorangie’s copper stills creates deeper aromas and more pungent tastes in their scotch.
In addition to their copper stills, Glenmorangie uses only the finest water from Tarlogie Spring. Tarlogie Spring is known for its high mineral content, which gives Glenmorangie scotch a unique flavor profile.
Glenmorangie has taken a step outside the box with some of their less conventional scotch. These include sweet dessert scotches that are best served with dinner. Their unique take on scotch earns them a spot on my list of the best scotch brands.
Bruichladdich is another distillery that hails from the rugged Isle of Islay. Bruichladdich is known for distilling some of the peatiest whiskies. The intensive use of peat in the drying of the malt produces an exceptionally smokey flavor in all of Bruichladdich’s scotches. Bruichladdich also produces scotch on the non-smoky floral side if you are looking for something less smokey.
Bruichladdich ages all of their casks in warehouses that sit on the Loch Indaal. The proximity to the ocean and seasonal changes add an additional layer of flavor to Bruichladdich scotch. You should not miss this brand of scotch.
Like many of the other distilleries on my list of the best scotch brands, Laphroaig hails from the south coast of Islay. Laphroig was founded by the brother Donald and Alexander Johnston in 1815. Together, they created a scotch that is world-renowned for its peaty-smokey flavor. Laphroaig owes its unique smokey taste to Laphroaig’s cold smoking process.
This process occurs before the malted barley is dried and allows the oils to be better absorbed by the mash. This is all done by hand, and you can taste the attention to detail. In an exciting twist, Laphroig ages its scotch in Maker’s Mark barrels, giving the scotch its distinct caramel flavor.
Bladnoch is the first distillery from the Scottish lowlands to make my list of the best scotch brands. This distillery sits on the banks of the Bladnoch River, from which it takes its name. Bladnoch offers eight different scotch. Each scotch is aged differently and has a different flavor profile.
Bladnoch bottles their great scotch in unique square bottles, which gives each bottle an exciting look. Bladnoch distills something for every palette. The Samsara is smokey and fragrant, while the ten years has apples and wood spice notes. You cannot go wrong with this brand of scotch.
Glenlivet’s distillery is located in the wilds of the Livet valley, deep in the Scottish Highlands. The founder, George Smith, was able to master his craft far away from the long arm of the law. Smith distilled a scotch that, although illegal, was renowned throughout England. Glenlivet became one of the most famous scotch brands when King George IV visited Scotland in 1822 and asked to try Glenlivet.
Since this moment, Glenlivet has become one of the world’s most famous and popular scotches. The distillery continues George Smith’s vision by breaking tradition, setting high standards, and distilling the finest scotch. Glenlivet also produces some of the most expensive scotch in the world.
5. The Macallan
Macallan has become one of the most famous scotch brands globally due to its appearance in several Hollywood productions, most notably Jame Bond’s Skyfall. Macallan has undoubtedly come a long way since it was founded by Alexander Reid, who was a barley farmer by trade. He founded the distillery in 1824, and it became one of the first legal distilleries in Scotland.
Macallan produces some of the finest scotch in the world. Although they have affordable bottles, Macallan’s finest is regularly sold for over 100k USD. In 2020 a collection of Macallan scotch was sold for almost one million dollars. The Macallan is genuinely one of the world’s finest scotch brands, and they distill some of the most expensive scotch in the world.
4. Caol Ila
Like many of the scotch brands on this list, Caol Ila hails from the Isle of Islay. It has grown a great deal since its humble beginning in 1846. Caol Ila proudly lays claim to be the island’s largest distillery, and it owes its success to the high-quality scotch that it distills each year.
Caol Ila has a wide variety of scotch, most award-winning. Each has a unique flavor profile due to Caol Ila’s aging processes to produce its scotch.
Talisker distills their scotch in one of the world’s most rugged and remote locations. Talisker is based on the Isle of Sky and is the oldest distillery on the island. It has been in continuous operation since 1830 when the MacAskill brothers opened it.
Talisker scotch is known for its pepper, moss, and saltwater hints. However, each line of scotch has its unique undertones. Talisker is genuinely one of the finest scotch brands, and each of their lines of scotch deserves a try. Some of their rarer bottles are considered some of the most expensive scotch in the world.
Lagavulin produces some of the finest scotch in the world. They pride themselves in being one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland, and their 240+ years of experience can be found in each bottle of scotch.
Like some other scotch brands on this list, Lagavulin did not have a legal beginning. However, as the law changed, Lagavulin rapidly became known for the quality of their scotch. The Lagavulin distillery is located on Islay. Its proximity to the coast gives it access to the most delicate peat bogs and water from the Solan Lochs.
Lagavulin is known for several different lines of scotch. Their most popular balance the smokiness from the peat with notes of honey, salt, and wood. Other Lagavulin scotches have a sweet and salty tang. Lagavulin is a fantastic brand of scotch.
Oban hails from the namesake port town of Oban. This distillery has the distinction of being one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland. It was founded in 1794 and has been in continuous operation ever since. Unlike some other distilleries on this list, Oban does not pride itself on the rugged conditions under which its scotch is distilled.
The Gulf Stream warms Oban. As a result of the milder climate, Oban scotch has a distinct fresh quality that melds perfectly with notes of sea salt. It is perhaps one of the more unique flavors found in scotch. Few distilleries can match Oban’s unique setting, making Oban scotch genuinely unique.
Scotch Whiskey Brands: Conclusion
Each of these scotch brands has earned its spot on this list. These distilleries produce some of the finest scotch in the world, and I recommend that you try each of these scotch brands’ offerings.
Each distillery has its unique distilling process, and the particular environmental conditions of each distillery infused the scotch with notes that cannot be found anywhere else.
What Is Scotch?
Scotch is a malt or grain whiskey made in Scotland. For a spirit to be labeled “scotch,” it must meet the strict regulations of Scotch Whiskey Regulations 2009. All scotch must be aged at least three years in oak barrels and be a minimum of 40% alcohol.
Are Scotch and Whiskey the Same Thing?
Scotch and whiskey are not the same things. Whiskey is a variety of liquors made from fermented grains and then aged. Whiskey is commonly made using corn, barley, rye, or wheat. Scotch is a whiskey with a slightly different distilling process and heated over a peat fire. Scotch whisky brands cannot label a bottle of scotch unless it is bottled and produced in Scotland. Whiskey can be made anywhere.
What Is Scotch Made From?
Scotch is made from malted barley, water, and yeast. These three simple ingredients produce an outstanding spirit when distilled and appropriately aged.
How Should I Drink Scotch?
Scotch whiskey brands recommend that scotch be served at room temperature. It shouldn’t be chilled like other spirits. Traditionally, a glass of scotch is served with a side of distilled water to dilute it. If you prefer a colder and more diluted beverage, you can drink it neat (no ice or water) or on the rock (with ice).
How Is Scotch Made?
Scotch whiskey brands produce this spirit by combining malted barley, water, and yeast. The barley is malted by steeping it in water and then germinating. The barely is then dried over peat fires, giving scotch its distinctive smokey flavor. After the malted barley is dried, it is ground and mixed with hot water to make a mash.
Yeast is added to the mash to start the fermentation process, and then the mash is distilled until it reaches an ABV of at least 40%. After distillation, the scotch is aged for at least three years in oak casks. The oak casks are what give scotch its distinctive golden color.
What Is the Difference Between Scotch and Whiskey?
The difference between scotch and whiskey is where it is produced and distilled. Scotch is a whisky that is produced and distilled in Scotland. Whiskey is made in other parts of the world. Both scotch and whiskey use a similar production and distillation process. They also both use identical ingredients.
What Does Scotch Taste Like?
Scotch traditionally has a sharp and distinct flavor. It is more biting than bourbon. Blended scotch is much smoother but features a spicy finish. Single malt scotches tend to taste oak and have a smoky finish. However, all scotch does not taste the same, and scotch brands will taste different depending on the ingredients used and how long it is aged.