Dropping around $250 for a single bottle of whisky is no small feat. At this price point, you’ll be getting bottles that are well past 12-year or 15-year entry-level single malts or blends. This is the price where you start to get into the 20-year-old single malts, the crazy blended malt whiskies, and peated smoky whiskies that go far beyond ashiness. This is the good stuff through and through. Still, we’re talking about a lot of money so a little guidance is always a good thing.
To provide you with that guidance, I’m calling out 15 bottles of Scotch whisky — both single malts and blended whiskies — that are actually worth adding to your bar cart. I’m calling out the truly “good stuff” that I professionally vouch for.
While all of these bottles absolutely slap, some are deeper and more interesting than others. So, I’ve also ranked these bottles by how truly amazing they really are as sippers. At this price point, whisky is about taking you on a journey through a flavor spectrum. More serious depth, balanced nuance, and true uniqueness are key to whisky at around $250. If that sounds like a journey you’d like to take, make sure to click on those price links to see if you can get these whiskies where you are. Let’s dive in!
- The 50 Best Scotch Whiskies Of 2022, Ranked
- The Best Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whiskies Under $100, Ranked
- The Absolute Best Scotch Whisky Between $60-$70, Ranked
- Single Malt Whiskeys From Around The World, Blind Tasted And Ranked
- We Blind Tasted Single Malt Whiskies From All Over The World To Find A Champion
15. The Macallan Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky Classic Cut
Average Price: $209
This expression from The Macallan changes things up a bit in maturation. The whisky is made from ex-bourbon and ex-sherry barrels from America (instead of the standard European ones from Spain) that are seasoned in Spain for The Macallan. That whisky is then vatted and proofed before bottling.
Nose: This opens with a hint of apple candy next to sharp and fresh ginger with hints of floral honey and bourbon vanilla acting as support on the nose.
Palate: The palate turns that ginger into gingerbread with plenty of cinnamon and brown sugar next to a dash of orange oils.
Finish: The finish layers the vanilla and gingerbread over stewed plums and a whisper of spicy/malty tobacco leaves.
This is classic Highland unpeated malt. This is smooth to its core with a deep flavor profile. Overall, this is a starter whisky (like a lot of The Macallan) that will get you hooked and lead you toward bolder whiskies down the road.
14. Dewar’s Blended Scotch Whisky Aged 25 Years The Signature
Average Price: $221
Master Blender Stephanie MacLeod has taken blended scotch to the next level with this expression. Grain and single malt whiskies are aged for 25 very long years before they’re married and placed in oak vats to get to know each other. Then the whisky is filled into single malt whisky casks from Royal Brackla Distillery for a final maturation. Think of it as a special finishing that’s a single malt barrel instead of rum, port, stout, etc., essentially making this a double-cask whisky.
Nose: There’s a note of that iconic Aberfeldy honey at the core of the nose, leading your senses towards dried apple chips, a touch of cedar, and what feels like an English muffin covered in clotted cream and berry jam.
Palate: The taste really leans into the muffin and berries as light notes of honey syrup, dried florals, and more of those dried apples (with a pinch of salt) mix on your tongue.
Finish: The end is long and fruity with a nice spice counterpoint and a final note of minty tobacco in a cedar box.
This is a great high-end whisky that feels accessible and deep. You get this whisky from the first nose to the final sip but it still takes you a long and refreshing journey along the way. If you’re looking for an easy but very refined everyday sipper (or highball whisky), then this is it.
13. Royal Brackla Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky Aged 21 Years
Average Price: $229
This whisky is the oldest aged statement from the Last Great Malts from John Dewar & Sons line. The juice is distilled slowly before it spends 21 long years maturing Olorosso sherry casks where it’s left untouched. The barrels are vatted when they’re just right, proofed with soft Speyside water, and bottled.
Nose: Light vanilla pudding with a big dollop of berry compote welcomes you on the nose as this vibrant white grape bursts forth.
Palate: The taste meanders from spicy dark chocolate towards a malty Black Forest cake as stewed cherries, light cream, and a lot of dark chocolate shavings come together.
Finish: The finish embraces the chocolate until that bright white grape comes back to bring about a nice end.
This is very similar to Dewar’s 25 above but that little bit more refined. Overall, this is the bottle you get when you want a great classic unpeated sipper that isn’t going to challenge your palate or make you think. It’s comfort in a glass.
12. Glenfiddich Grand Cru Single Malt Scotch Whisky Aged 23 Years
Average Price: $249
It’s all in the name of this yearly special release from Glenfiddich. The whisky in the bottle matures for over 23 years in both ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks before it’s vatted and then filled into French Cuvée casks that held Champagne. That whisky is then cut down to proof and bottled just in time for the holiday season every year.
Nose: This is straight-up classic malt on the nose with stewed apples and pears with a slight tartness and floral impression over a buttery brioche with a hint of maple woodiness.
Palate: The palate is lush and supple with a vanilla foundation and layers of pear candy, old toffees, creamed honey, and orchard wood with a sweet side.
Finish: The end has a pear and apple skin ambiance leading to barks, cores, and stems with soft floral honey and a bit of proofing water.
This is quintessential unpeated malt whisky. It has every classic note on the flavor profile. The key that makes this whisky rise above simply being “classic” is that each flavor note is so dailed and tight that you’re transported by them. You feel the apples, butter, vanilla, pears, and creamy honey like you’re actually enjoying those things when you sip this whisky. It’s fantastic. Get this if you want one of the truest and most dailed whisky experiences out there that’s just … nice.
11. Aberfeldy Highland Single Malt Scotch Whiskey Aged 20 Years Exceptional Cask
Average Price: $209
This special Aberfeldy release spent 20 years mellowing in re-fill bourbon and sherry casks. Then the prime malt barrels were married and filled into hand-selected Sauternes sweet wine casks from France for a final year of maturation. The results hold onto the signature honeyed heart of Aberfeldy while adding more sweetened nuance to the dram.
Nose: There’s a clear sense of honey on the nose with dried fruit, malts, and light oak.
Palate: The taste leans into the honey and malts while a sweet red berry flourish arrives. There’s a hint of butter toffee next to those whisky malts that eventually end up with sweet honey tobacco married to soft dried apricots, sultanas, and a hint of cream soda.
Finish: The finish feels like honey-soaked cedar planks that have been left in a fruit orchard all summer with a hint of black soil lurking underneath it all.
This starts off subtly and then explodes on the palate. It’s almost like a magic trick. If you’re looking for a quietly bold unpeated sipping malt with beautiful softness, this is the play.
10. BenRiach Malting Season Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky Second Edition
Average Price: $221
The second edition of BenRiach’s Malting Season series is made with barley malted fully in-house at the distillery in Speyside. The barley in this case is Concerto barley grown for this release. Once distilled, the hot juice went into 30 first-fill bourbon barrels and rested for around nine years before batching and bottling.
Nose: There’s a nice sense of rich caramel malts on the nose with a sense of distiller’s beer from the washback next to fresh tangerine skins, almond shells, and a touch of macadamia nut cookies.
Palate: The palate leans into fresh and lightly piney honey with a sense of apple bark and orange oils next to creamy caramel malts and vanilla malts.
Finish: The end leans into marzipan laced with lemon oils next to plums and apricots dipped in that fresh honey and spun with thin lines of apple tobacco.
This is just good whisky. It’s nuanced and kind of brilliantly complex. It’s also very distinct. Overall, this is a special release so treat it like a special once-a-year bottle that you pick up for weekend sipping with friends.
9. Octomore 13.3 Edition Aged 5 Years Super Heavily Peated Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Average Price: $226
This new limited edition Octomore from Bruichladdich is all about Islay. The whisky is made from heavily peated malts grown on the island (most malts are shipping in from the mainland) back in 2015. In 2016, the whisky was distilled right by the sea at Bruichladdich and then loaded into first-fill, ex-American whiskey casks and second-fill European oak casks from the Rivesaltes region of France and the Ribera del Duero region of Spain. After five years, the casks were vatted and then bottled completely as-is.
Nose: The nose is a subtle mix of salted caramel with sweet caramel malts, apricot jam, gingerbread, and a touch of nasturtium with a whisper of smoked apples and pears before the ashen peat starts sneaking in with a sense of a BBQ pork rib rack smothered in BBQ sauce.
Palate: The palate opens with smoked brown sugar next to rich marzipan with a hint of Almond Joy next to Kiwi boot wax, orange marmalade, dried roses, lemon pepper, and a hint of oyster liquor.
Finish: The end has a caramel maltiness that’s just kissed with sea salt and potpourri cut with mild dark spices and more of that marzipan, finishing on a light fruit soda vibe.
This whisky is for peated whisky fans. If you’re not into the heavy peat monsters, this will not be for you. You’ve been warned. That said, this has so much more going for it than just smoky peated whisky vibes. It’s truly deep and fascinating with a rich flavor profile worth spending time exploring.
8. Highland Park Single Malt Scotch Whisky 21 Years Old (2020 Release)
Average Price: $234
This special release from 2020 is sort of like a Scotch “small batch” whisky. The whisky is a marrying of whiskies aged in nine first-fill sherry casks, eight bourbon casks, and nine refill barrels. Those whiskies are then vatted and brought down to proof on the windswept Orkney Islands.
Nose: There’s a clear sense of grilled tropical fruits drizzled with sweet and thick balsamic next to hints of shelled nuts and fresh ginger.
Palate: The ginger spice persists as saffron-stewed pears mingle with vanilla husks, raisins, and pecans baked into pancake syrup.
Finish: The end lingers for a while and warms towards the spicier end of the ginger as an earthy, almost mossy, peaty smoke dances through your senses.
This is a peated whisky that leans far more into the sweet oak sugars and yeasts than the peated malts. Don’t get me wrong, this is peated and it is clear from the finish. But that smokiness is tied to bigger and clearer notes of spice, fruit, and earthiness, making this a great whisky for someone looking for something complex, dark, and fascinating.
7. Johnnie Walker Blue Label Blended Scotch Whisky
Average Price: $239
This is the mountaintop of Johnnie Walker’s whiskies. The blend is a marriage of ultra-rare grain and malt stock from extinct Diageo distilleries around Scotland. That’s just … cool. This expression is all about barrel selection and the mastery of a great noser and blender working together to create something special.
Nose: The nose on this one feels like silk with soft malts, dried plums, good marzipan, old boot leather, mulled wine spices, and a whisper of fireplace smoke.
Palate: The taste layers orange oils into the marzipan as rose-water-infused honey leads to a line of bitter dark chocolate that’s touched with smoked malts and nuts.
Finish: The end has an even keel of velvet mouthfeel next to floral honey, soft smoldering smoke from a fireplace, and old dried fruit.
Johnnie Blue is always a good choice. It’s such an approachable blended whisky with a subtle peatiness that’s almost a ghost compared to the rest of the flavor profile. This is the sort of whisky that leads to “ah-ha!” moments where you finally get what all the fuss is about.
6. The Balvenie Single Malt Scotch Whisky PortWood Aged 21 Years
Average Price: $227
This masterfully crafted expression from The Balvenie takes some serious time. The whisky is initially aged for 21 years in ex-bourbon casks. That whisky is then transferred to small port pipes, which held port in Portugal for 30 long years. That’s a long, long time, creating some very rare and well-seasoned oak. The effect is singular and distinct.
Nose: You’re pulled in by a gentle sense of ripe yet soft peaches next to wet rose petals and a small billow of cherry tobacco smoke from a pipe.
Palate: The palate, again, is gentle and carries notes of red, sweet, and tart berries, stewed plums, and tiny moments of velvety and buttery pain au chocolat.
Finish: The finish holds onto that chocolate as it slowly meanders through your senses, leaving you with dark fruits, a whisper more of that cherry tobacco, and a pure silk mouthfeel.
This is a great whisky for any old bourbon whiskey fan out there. There’s a clear continuity to the flavor profile between this and 10-plus-year-old bourbons. So if you’re a high-end bourbon fan looking to get into really good high-end scotch, you’ll be very happy with this bottle.
5. Glenfarclas Highland Single Malt Scotch Whiskey Aged 25 Years
Average Price: $219
This unpeated Speyside malt is left alone for a very long time. The whisky is aged in a combination of ex-bourbon and first-fill Spanish sherry casks for 25 years. The barrels that actually make it to that age are vatted and proofed with local water for bottling.
Nose: Walnut and date Christmas cake draws you in on the nose with a mix of burnt orange, creamy honey, and thin lines of espresso cream with a dollop of dark chocolate.
Palate: Sweet nut cakes and rum raisin malted cookie dance on the palate with rich toffee, dark chocolate-covered espresso beans, and a whisper of Earl Grey tea leaves mixed with clove and allspice.
Finish: That spice layers into the sweet malt with a sense of old oak cellars and salted dark chocolate over dates soaked in espresso and sprinkled with dry lavender.
This is a great whisky. It’s also about half the price of other 25-year-old whiskies. I’d argue that this makes a perfect dessert or digestif pour after a big meal. Pour this into a big snifter and slowly enjoy it.
4. The Dalmore Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky Aged 18 Years
Average Price: $225
This is more than just an 18-year-old whisky. The whisky spent 14 years maturing in ex-bourbon casks. Then the whisky was filled into Matusalem sherry casks that held sherry for 30 years for four more years of maturation. The casks, from Bodega González-Byass, are exceedingly rare and impart something truly unique into this whisky.
Nose: Dried roses meet your nose as orange-zest bespeckled dark chocolate dances with hints of old book leather, vanilla husks, and sultanas.
Palate: The taste holds onto the orange and chocolate tightly as a nutty, peppery, syrupy vibe takes over with a light touch of oakiness.
Finish: The chocolate zeroes in its bitter qualities on the end, with a little bit more vanilla sweetness and a savory counterpoint that’s kind of like saline (or wet salt).
This is the perfect confluence of unique, rare, and delicious. Buy and drink this if you want a whisky that has seriously unique depth but still gives you a comforting embrace with every nose and sip.
3. Scapa Single Malt Scotch Whisky Vintage Edition 19 Years Old
Average Price: $234
This special edition of Scapa was bottled exclusively for The Whisky Exchange. The whisky was distilled back in 2003 and bottled in August 2022. During the 19 years between those dates, the whisky rested in first-fill American oak barrels before bottling 100% as-is at cask strength.
Nose: Tart yet stewed green apples swim in vanilla buttercream on the nose as apricot jam and marmalade mingle with soft winter spices, lemon cream, raisin bread, and a hint of oyster shell.
Palate: Pear orchards and apple hand pies drive the palate as more lemon cream folds into a coffee cake (with a lot of cinnamon and nutmeg) with a dollop of marmalade, thin lines of honey, and raw brown sugar cubes next to a fleeting hint of wood wax.
Finish: Rye crackers with salt and sesame dipped in honey arise on the finish with a soft sense of salted black licorice, more of that raisin bread, vanilla buttercream, and spicy apple butter.
This is freaking excellent. It’s wild yet understandable on the palate. It just keeps going but always makes sense in the end. This is a great one-off bottle to add to any bar cart, especially for a whisky fan who’s looking for something truly unique and special that we’ll likely never see again.
2. Mortlach Single Malt Scotch Whisky Aged for 20 Years
Average Price: $240
Dufftown’s Mortlach is one of those distilleries that may just make you fall in love with scotch. The mash is distilled 2.81 times, according to Mortlach’s unique distilling methods. That juice is then loaded in sherry casks and left to do its thing for 20 long years. The results are vatted, brought down to proof with that soft Speyside water, and bottled.
Nose: Freshly baked apple pie with cinnamon bark and nutmeg lead to black raisins, fatty walnuts, grilled pineapple, and sea-salt-infused dark cacao sauce with a hint of vanilla and pear on the nose.
Palate: The palate leans into the lard pie crust under that apple pie with a hint of powdered sugar icing next to mint chocolate chip, old vanilla pods, and banana’s foster with a smidge of clove and allspice thrown in.
Finish: There’s a light sense of caramel malts on the end that leads to a walnut cake full of raisins and cinnamon with a buttery vibe next to a savory note that’s part green herbs and part extra virgin olive oil.
This is about as close as you can get to perfection when it comes to unpeated Scotch whisky.
1. Caol Ila Aged 25 Years Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Average Price: $218
This is the first official Caol Ila 25 Year that was bottled with a good dose of proofing water (previous 25-year limited editions were bottled at cask strength). This whisky is made from Caol Ila’s famed briny peated malts. The whisky spent 25 years mellowing right next to the sea on Islay until a few barrels were just right.
Nose: Smoked vanilla pods and salted black licorice lead on the nose with a sense of burnt toffee, burnt stout, and the darkest of chocolate cut with oyster liqueur, beach rocks, and a fleeting (almost inexplicable) sense of freshly mown lawn.
Palate: The palate is luxuriously silken with a soft salted toffee next to a whisper of bourbon caramel next to old leather pouches that held spiced pear tobacco and old maritime ropes with a touch more of that oyster brine.
Finish: The end has a balanced and subtle spiced maltiness that then leans toward the vanilla, toffee, and licorice candy sweetness with a hint of plum and apricot next to a soft summer sea breeze carrying a sense of blooming wildflowers.
This is one of the truly great whiskies in the world. It is perfect. It is delicious. It should be on your bar cart if you consider yourself a whisky connoisseur.