Have you ever looked at the Scotch whisky aisle of a liquor store and thought, “God, what is all this?” It’s okay. We’ve all been there. And while we’ve done our best to help you navigate that increasingly crowded shelf space, today we brought in a single malt whisky expert to help out.
Chris Perugini started Single Malt Savvy back in 2014. Perugini writes whisk(e)y reviews, leads tastings, and educates the public about all things whisk(e)y — with a focus on single malts — all under the Single Malt Savvy shingle. He’s also built a social media following on Instagram, where he fills his feed with precise reviews of individual bottles to help all of us learn about whisk(e)y on a day-to-day basis.
We were lucky enough to pick Perugini’s brain about his five “must-have” bottles of single malt whisky. Perugini is someone who lives and breathes whisky every single day, so we couldn’t think of a better guide for your single malt whisky journey. Let’s dive in and see which bottles Perugini can’t live without.
If any of these bottles sound like something you’d dig, click on the prices to try them!
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?
End of the Day Dram: Bunnahabhain 12 Year
Average Price: $62
Aged in a combination of ex-bourbon casks and ex-sherry butts for at least 12 years, this whisky from Islay’s northernmost distillery is non-chill filtered and bottled at 46.3 percent ABV. In my opinion, Bunnahabhain 12 Year is also one of the best values in whisky today.
The nose is a mashup of citrus, cherry, and ripe apples and pears. You can smell the sea air influence along with some leather and earthy notes. On the palate, the fruit jumps out as the clear winner as cherries and orange are out in full force atop baking spice and vanilla. The fruit is present but fades to the background as the sea salt and earthiness really take over on the finish.
Bunnahabhain 12 is an unpeated expression, though it shares maritime influence like most of the other distilleries on Islay. This makes for a well-rounded expression with a nice balance of sweetness, spice, and a bit of sea salt that works well for any taste preference.
The Mixer: Glenmorangie Original
Average Price: $45
A classic representation of ex-bourbon cask matured whisky, this ten-year-old expression is affordable and full of pleasant flavors. Aged in slow-growth oak from the Missouri Ozarks, Glenmorangie takes their aging vessels seriously and it shows in the end result.
On the nose, there are notes of oranges, vanilla, fresh-cut flowers, and a hint of white chocolate. On the palate, you’ll find apples and pears, vanilla, and light baking spice. The finish is medium-short and leaves behind honey, fresh fruit, and hints of oak.
Long before Glenmorangie X was created, the 10 Year Original was the single malt that I always recommended as a mixer. Its light and pleasant flavor set can be taken in a variety of directions in a cocktail and it’s priced well enough that there won’t be any guilt when mixing it.
End of the Week Dram: Glen Scotia Victoriana
Average Price: $99
If you’re looking for something a bit different to round out your week, Glen Scotia Victoriana is definitely worth considering. The whisky is first matured in ex-bourbon casks before being split into two different finishing casks. 30 percent of the whisky moves to ex-Pedro Ximenez casks while the other 70 percent moves to heavy char American oak.
Victoriana is non-chill filtered and bottled at 51.5 percent ABV.
The nose is coastal and fruity with notes of salted caramel, 2x4s, apples, peaches, and a hint of leather. On the palate, one finds more stone fruit, gumdrops, fennel, sea salt, and a hint of musty basement. The finish is dry, earthy, and spicy with notes of charcoal, clove, and some warehouse dunnage with a bit of candy sweetness underneath it all.
Glen Scotia Victoriana is a malt that I think can really appeal to a bourbon drinker. Despite the fact that there’s a bit of smoke and coastal influence, it’s aged in ex-bourbon casks and features a finish in heavy char barrels, which lends a lot of bourbon-y notes to the whisky.
There’s also just a touch of “Campbeltown Funk” influence to keep things interesting.
The Celebration Dram: Glendronach 18 Year Allardice
Average Price: $184
While it’s often overshadowed by its slightly younger sibling (15 Year Revival), I think Glendronach 18 Year Allardice is where the distillery’s character really shines. Aged in a combination of ex-Oloroso and ex-Pedro Ximenez casks for at least 18 years, Glendronach Allardice is a full-bodied whisky that really leaves its mark with each sip.
On the nose, you’ll find dried red berries, dark chocolate, cinnamon, nutmeg, and almonds. The palate offers notes of plums, raisins, more nuttiness, cappuccino, creamy vanilla, and some nice oak. The finish is long and full of dried fruit, orange citrus, deep oak, toffee, and clove.
When in doubt, a heavily sherried whisky never disappoints. This release is the perfect after-dinner pour or the closing dram of the evening. Sherried sweetness, dried fruits, and baking spice offer a great combination of flavors and at 18 years old, there’s plenty of oak influence to ground the other flavors into a perfectly structured sensory experience.
The Once A Year Dram: The Balvenie 30 Year
Average Price: $1,260
Released twice a year in extremely small batches, The Balvenie 30 Year is a whisky worth splurging on for special occasion sipping. This whisky is aged in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks for at least 30 years and is bottled at a respectable 47.3 percent ABV.
On the nose, there’s sugar-covered red berries, rich oak, floral notes, and a hint of mint. On the palate, you’ll find notes of honey, vanilla, orange citrus, Pixie Stix, and a big honeyed sweetness. The finish is long and oily with notes of creme brulee topping, old oak, and baking spice.
I only drink the Balvenie 30 every once in a great while, but when I do I immediately remember why it’s one of my favorite whiskies of all time. It’s rich, complex, and beautifully balanced the whole way through. This bottling sets the standard for how old whisky should be produced — with a higher bottling strength and lack of chill filtration in addition to a tremendous flavor set.
This whisky leaves a lasting impression on all who try it.
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