Scotch whisky — like bourbon, Irish whiskey, Japanese whisky, and any other regional variation — always has new expressions hitting the market. With scotch, there are fewer “new” brands but that’s balanced with more old-school shingles doing new things while also updating their age statement classics every year. While the vast majority of yearly releases are going to be very similar to those that came before, there’s still plenty of nuances to be explored between, say, a 2020 Lagavulin 8 and a 2021 Lagavulin 8.
With that in mind, we’re calling out our favorite new Scotch whiskies that we’ve sampled in 2021 (so far). Our parameters are simple: Did we try the new juice this year and is the bottle under $100? That last parameter really limited what we can write about though. The entire Diageo Legends Untold Collection had to be cut, as the least expensive bottle is around $150 (the most spendy bottle in that set is in the thousands). So, we’ll get those higher-end new releases later.
Until then, check out these scotch whiskeys under $100 that we’re digging on this year. They should all be fairly findable and affordable, just click on those prices!
Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Scotch Whisky Posts of 2021
- 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
- Blind Scotch Taste Test — Which 12-Year-Old Single Malt Whisky Is Best?
Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 10
Average Price: $85
Bruichladdich really has fun with peated whisky. This expression keeps the peat phenols in the mid-range, leaning high. The casking is a mix of first and second-fill bourbon barrels and second-fill French wine barrels. That utilization of second-fill oak means there’s a very light touch of wood on this peated whisky.
Imagine a dark chocolate orange drizzled in salted caramel and served on a wet leaf of seaweed and you’ll be on the right track for the nose. The smoke kicks in on the palate with a vibe that feels like those wet seaweed leaves thrown on a smoldering pile of pine to create a massive billow of smoke everywhere, as hints of buttery white wine and strawberry jam-covered scones linger in the background. The finish leans into the bready nature of the scones with a dry straw edge that’s followed by a mouthful of the seaweed heavy grey smoke.
This is quintessential and it seems to be getting funkier and better this year. But it’s also not for the faint of heart. This is salty and smoky way before it’s sweet and bready. Have you ever smelt the smoke from a fire while on a boat in choppy seas?
It’s kind of like that.
Average Price: $94
This small Speyside distillery has been producing quality whisky for over 200 years. This expression is aged 16 years in both ex-bourbon and ex-Olorosso sherry casks. It’s then married and proofed with soft Speyside water from the Highlands and bottled.
There’s a matrix of dried dark fruits next to powdery dark spices with hints of walnuts and dried florals that draw you in on the nose. The taste delivers on those notes while adding a deep plummy jam cut with clove and slightly sweet wood. The end really holds onto that jammy fruit and spice as it slowly fades across your senses, leaving a velvet texture in your mouth.
I just tried this last month with the new 18-year-old from Aberlour. They both slap this year but the 18 is just a little north of $100. That being said, the 16 is still a damn masterpiece, especially for anyone looking for a lovely, sweet scotch.
Average Price: $75
This is one of the most awarded single malts ever. The juice is matured in ex-bourbon casks in Talisker’s warehouse, which is literally feet away from the sea. The subtly peated malts take on a real seaside feel as those years tick past, creating a whisky that will not disappoint.
There’s a distance to Talisker that draws you in on the nose — I like to describe it as campfire smoke smelled from a few hundred yards down a rainy beach. The sea spray mellows the smoky peat to a fine point as oyster shell minerality dances with pears rinsed in seawater, dried apricot, and rich malt. The end doesn’t overstay its welcome and reminds you of oysters, liquor, and that smoldering campfire two coves over.
Talisker 10 is one of the most awarded malts on the market (including this year). The biggest reason this bottle is on the list though is its new 2021 packaging. Diageo has pledged to go carbon neutral by 2030, and this is the start of that. The new Talisker look shrinks the packaging by six percent, which will save 28 tons of packaging weight per year. The recyclability increased by 98 percent and the plastics used were reduced by 86 percent.
Dewar’s Caribbean Smooth
Average Price: $24
Rum cask finishing is nothing new, but it is all the rage. This blend from Master Blender Stephanie Macleod is a marriage of 40 whiskies that are vatted and finished in Caribbean rum casks. That final maturation gives the whisky a smooth feel, making it the perfect cocktail base.
There’s a clear sense of burnt brown sugars and grilled pineapple on the nose, with hints of cloves and vanilla and maybe some dry grass. The taste edges towards a dark molasses rumminess with a touch of dried fruit, more cloves, and a slight mango sweetness. The end really embraces the rummier aspects while holding onto the tropical fruitiness on a fast fade.
This really is an excellent mixing scotch. It works wonders in a tropical fruit-centric highball or even as a replacement in Daiquiri or Dark ‘N Stormy. It’s also been winning plenty of awards this year to take it very seriously.
Compass Box Artist Blend Scotch Whisky
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.
This may well be one of my favorite blends of the year. It’s refined, deep, and makes a hell of a cocktail.
Johnnie Walker Black Label: The Jane Walker Edition
Average Price: $38
Master Blender Emma Walker created this blend with Cardhu — a Speyside distillery — at its core. Cardhu was famously founded and run by another female pioneer in whisky, Elizabeth Cumming, back in the 1800s. The juice is a blend of malts that aged at least ten years from the Diageo stable of Scotch single malts.
The sip has a nose with a clean maltiness next to raisins and peach juice with a hint of leather coming in late. The palate is light, almost airy, with stewed apples floating in rich cream next to a touch of milk chocolate. The finish has a very faint hint of Johnnie Walker peat next to dry reeds, more malts, and a bitter chocolate powder.
The Bottom Line:
This is a really subtle riff on Johnnie Walker Black that helps women’s organizations right now. The use of sweeter malts instead of peatier ones gives the whole feel a very approachable vibe. It’s sippable, mixable, and giftable.
Highland Park Cask Strength
Average Price: $95
This yearly drop is part of a new line from the Orkney Island’s distillery. The juice is a blend of single malts that are aged exclusively in old American oak that previously held sherry. The barrels are married and bottled as is, to assure you’re getting all the nuance and flavor of their malts meeting that oak.
There’s a light sense of wildflowers on the nose with a rich vanilla husk that leads towards a touch of peat. The taste is surprisingly silken (for a cask strength) with rich and buttery toffee next to honeysuckle, eggnog spices and creaminess, and a small dose of orange zest as a counterpoint. The end holds onto the creaminess and spices as the peat just edges in with a whisper of resinous pine smoke.
We’re already pretty big fans of this bottle from way up in Scotland’s northern reaches. It’s edging toward the pricier end, but 100 percent worth investing in to expand your whisky palate.
Average Price: $69
This entry-point single malt from the Highlands is an easy drinker. The juice is aged in a combo of ex-bourbon casks and “double fired” or charred used American oak barrels. The results are touched with a little water to bring it down to proof and then bottled.
There’s a rich lemon pudding vibe on the nose that leads towards Granny Smith apple cores and plenty of malts. The taste veers into honey sweetness with dark spices (think cloves) and a touch of orange oils. There’s a light old oakiness with hints of worn leather and very mild tobacco on the short end.
This is the perfect introduction to sweet single malts. It’s easy, straightforward, and hits on just the right notes. While this isn’t the first version of this, this year’s sip just hit right when I tried it again.
Average Price: $65
This expression was originally released to celebrate the distillery’s 200th anniversary. The whisky was created to mimic the juice that was being bottled back in the 1880s, during a high point in Lagavulin’s history. The whisky became a modern hit and is now part of their core line.
There’s a sense of fried fish wrapped in newspaper that greets you on the nose, next to honey-lemon, dry and earthy malts, and a nod to chocolate-covered cherries. The taste brings a solid billow of campfire smoke with traces of dark chocolate, burning cinnamon sticks, dry mint, and burnt potato skins (yes, really). The end is long-ish and marries the tastes together, leaving you with the memory of drinking a dark mint-chocolate spiked espresso next to a smoldering backyard fire on a cold autumn night while somewhere in the distance the sea laps at the shore.
Every year I try this and every year I like it more and more. This year might have been the tipping point and I actually bought a bottle for my own shelf.
Average Price: $78
Speyside’s Tamdhu upped their game a few years back by replacing their 10-year expression with this masterful whisky. The juice is aged for 12 years in a combination of American and European oak that held sherry first. They use both first-fill and re-filled barrels in the aging process before vatting the results, proofing with Speyside’s rich water, and bottling.
There’s a bit of a Christmas cake vibe with candied orange, plenty of dark spice (especially cinnamon sticks), a maltiness that feels bread-y, a touch of sweet oak, and maybe a hint of peppermint candy. The taste veers more into the ripe and red berries with that cinnamon still in play but the breadiness is more like a buttery sugar cake with sherry/plummy depth. The end offers an interesting fade — with everything dialed in, creating shortbread and raspberry jam that’s just touched by the faintest wisp of fruity smoke.
This is really bloody tasty for a 12-year-old. Again, I just had it again last month and It’s silken enough to drink neat. But if you really want to dive deep into those flavors, you’ll need to nose and water this dram and take your time exploring its depths.
As a Drizly affiliate, Uproxx may receive a commission pursuant to certain items on this list.