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The Best Scotch Whiskies On Earth, According To The Oscars Of Spirits

We’ve made it to the end of the awards for the famed San Francisco World Spirits Competition, folks. We now know the best of the best Scotch whisky expressions of 2022. Last night, the “best in class” awards were announced in San Francisco at a Gala event (where I was a presenter), and there were actually a few surprises along the way.

For the list of “best in class” Scotch whisky, this is what you need to know. The whiskies below had to be awarded a gold medal from each judge during the first round of double-blind tastings. Then, those judges had to decide whether to send that bottle to “sweeps” where it was double-blind tasted again, and those judges decided whether or not to send it to a “finals” round where it would vie for “best in class” via one last blind tasting.

And here we are. The seven Scotch whiskies below are the ones that actually rose to the top of each of their categories. Moreover, the last entry not only won “best in class” for their category, but it also won “best overall scotch” and “best in show” spirit (or best overall spirit across all categories) — an amazing feat given that over 5,000 expressions were submitted and adjudicated this year.

I’m providing my own tasting notes for most of these (where I can) to give you an idea of whether any of these are worth adding to your own bar cart. Let’s dive in!

Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Scotch Whisky Posts of The Last Six Months

Best of Class Blended Scotch, 16 Years and Older/Best of Class: Blended Scotch — Dewar’s DoubleDouble 32 Blended Scotch

Dewar's 32
Bacardi

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $170 (half bottle)

The Whisky:

Master Blender Stephanie MacLeod really hits it out of the park with these blends. This one starts with 32-year-old barrels of both single malt and single grain whiskies. Then all the single malts are blended and re-barreled in an “exhausted” barrel (meaning the barrel has aged its last whisky and would otherwise be repurposed). MacLeod does the same with the grain whiskies. Those grain and malt whiskies are then blended and put into another exhausted barrel for a spell. Finally, those barrels are blended and filled into an ex-Pedro Ximenez sherry barrel for a final maturation.

Tasting Notes:

The nose opens with a rich sticky toffee pudding full of black-tea-soaked dates, sharp cinnamon, nutmeg, buttery toffee sauce, and vanilla ice cream with hints of orange zest, wicker, and an old leather tobacco pouch. The palate largely delivers on the nose’s profile with meaty dates, figs, and prunes countered by woody spice, dark fruit leather, and a touch of honey barrel staves. The finish is shorter than expected with all that dark and dried fruit leaving you with a sweetened and wintry vibe.

Bottom Line:

This is always a strong contender. It’s one of the most revered blended whiskies in the world and no surprise in a “best in class” category. That said, this is a special bottle that you’re likely only going to break out for big events.

Best of Class Blended Scotch, No Age Statement — Pure Scot Midnight Peat

Pure Peat
Pure Peat

ABV: 44.5%

Average Price: $80

The Whisky:

This is another Scotch whisky that’s blended and bottled for the Australian whisky market. The malt and grain whiskies are blended and then finished in barrels that held spice and peat-forward whiskies. That whisky is then blended, proofed down, and bottled as-is.

Tasting Notes (from the bottler):

NOSE: Creamy toffee, floral with citrus apples. PALATE: Rich campfire smoke with toffee apples, honey, and custard. FINISH: Medium with spicy, sweet mouthfeel and tingle from the campfire smoke.

Bottom Line:

This Australian release is an interesting one. I have a bottle on the way and will give my own detailed notes when I review Australian whiskies down the road.

Best of Class Blended Malt Scotch — Naked Malt

Edrington Group

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $30

The Whisky:

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.

Tasting Notes:

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.

Bottom Line:

I like having this one around as a great cocktail base whisky. It also works as a solid on the rock sipper too, especially for the price tag.

Best of Class Distillers’ Single Malt Scotch, Up to 12 Years — Loch Lomond ‘The Glengarry’ 12

The Glengarry
Loch Lomond Distillery Company

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $76

The Whisky:

This single malt from the famed Loch Lomond Distillery is all about the aging process. The hot juice is loaded into ex-bourbon, re-fill bourbon, and re-charred oak barrels for 12 long years. Those barrels are then blended and the whisky is proofed down with Highland spring water.

Tasting Notes:

The nose is a mix of white summer flowers and a lot of fruit kind of like a fruit salad out of the can. The palate really amps up the fruitiness with overripe peaches, bruised pears, and plenty of grilled pineapple next to a rummy spiced cocktail vibe with a little bit of vanilla, allspice, and woody cinnamon. The finish keeps it easy with more canned fruit syrup, a hint of sweetgrass, and a bit of malty spice.

Bottom Line:

This one is a little sweet for me, but I get the attraction. Overall, I’d use this for cocktails or highballs.

Best of Class Distillers’ Single Malt Scotch, 13 to 19 Years — Lagavulin 16

Diageo

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $123

The Whisky:

This is the most recognizable Lagavulin out there. The malts are smoked just down the road from the distillery at Port Ellen and the juice is crafted expertly by the sea at the famed and beloved Lagavulin Distillery. Finally, the whisky spends 16 long years mellowing in old American and Spanish oak before being blended and proofed with spring water from a creek just outside the distillery walls.

Tasting Notes:

Imagine a beach fire that’s using dried seaweed as fuel next to mugs of honeyed black tea and a clump of wet moss on the nose. The taste of this dram meanders through dried pipe tobacco smoke laced with hints of vanilla and tart apple while notes of briny caramel lead towards an oyster shell minerality. The finish is pure silk as the seaweed grows wetter and the smoke sweetens towards that caramel, vanilla, and apple.

Bottom Line:

Hell yeah, this is a great whisky and a killer peated Islay malt that’s pretty much an icon at this point. Pour this over a rock, sip it neat, or make yourself a Smoky Cokey. No matter what path you choose, you won’t be disappointed!

Best of Class Distillers’ Single Malt Scotch, No Age Statement — Glen Scotia Victoriana Cask Strength Single Malt

Glen Scotia
Loch Lomond Distillery Company

ABV: 54.2%

Average Price: $120

The Whisky:

This Campbelltown whisky is a rarity, like most whiskies from the tiny region. This whisky spends a final 12 months maturing in 30 percent Pedro Ximenez sherry butts and 70 percent heavily charred American oak before bottling truly as-is — no proofing, no filtering, no coloring.

Tasting Notes:

The nose on this is thick with a lot of savory fruit — figs, summer squash — next to sweet oranges, overripe pineapple, and robust but fresh florals. On the palate, that floral nature takes in a nasturtium vibe with a layer of spice next to a thin line of saltwater taffy wax paper wrappers, rum-soaked cinnamon sticks, and a thin layer of creamy vanilla. The end has a vibe that’s kind of like malt-soaked tropical fruit next to spicy vanilla pudding with a whisper of singed apple bark lurking in the background.

Bottom Line:

This is another classic that’s also going to be a bit hard to find outside of very high-end whisky situations. It’s a quintessential Campbeltown whisky that works wonders neat or on a single rock. It’s approachable, deep, and worth the search to find (especially if you’re into the unique stuff).

Best of Class Independent Merchant Single Malt — GreatDrams Islay Single Cask Single Malt Whisky

Great Drams Cask Strength
Great Drams

ABV: 48.2%

Average Price: $94

The Whisky:

This new release from the much-lauded Great Drams — an independent bottler in the UK — is another winner. The Islay whisky in this case was aged in ex-bourbon casks before making its way to the Great Drams blendery where it was bottled as-is.

Tasting Notes (from the bottler):

Beautifully balanced, classic Islay peated whisky notes as well as lovely soothing vanilla and citrus fruit notes along with cinnamon and warming spice notes too.

Bottom Line:

Great Drams is always killing it in the bottling space. Their releases are dailed-in and killer barrel picks from across the U.K. that never fails to wow. This is worth tracking down if you’re in the U.K. and bringing home.

Best of Class Distillers’ Single Malt Scotch, 20 Years and Older/Best of Class Overall Scotch/Best in Show Whisk(e)y — Benromach 40

Benromach 40
Gordon and MacPhail

ABV: 57.1%

Average Price: $1,218

The Whisky:

This Speyside distillery is for the whisky nerds out there. This particular release just dropped last summer with only 1,000 total. The whisky in those bottles was produced in 1981 and then spent four decades chilling out in old Oloroso sherry casks before going into the bottle as-is.

Tasting Notes:

This is soft on the nose with flourishes of plum puddings and mince meat pies next to candied ginger, lightly spiced malts, a hint of dark cacao powder, orange zest, and old brown sugar. The palate keeps that subtly as stewed apples with a hint of saffron dance with a dash of grapefruit pith, more orange zest, old maple syrup, and waxy dark cacao nibs freshly picked from a tree. The end has a twinge of tannic old oak stave with dry sweetgrass and cedar bark braids next to a thin line of black-tea-soaked dates and allspice.

Bottom Line:

This is just delicious. I tasted it again only yesterday and it was shockingly soft and lush with a real depth that just keeps on going. There’s always something new to find every time you go back to nose and sip. It’s a hell of a bottle.

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