Single malt and blended Scotch whisky generally fall into two flavor profiles: Sweet or smoky. Smoky scotch can have sweet flavor notes, but it’s often the peaty smoke that’s the star of the show. The sweet Scotch whiskies, on the other hand, tend to lean into florals, fruits, and honeyed sweetness (even if they carry a little smoke). While we enjoy all of the many notes prevalent in Scotch whisky, today we’re turning our attention solely to honey.
So where does this flavor come from and how can we find whiskies in which it’s heavily featured?
Honey flavor is most often prevalent in whiskies that have been aged in American white oak barrels, primarily ex-bourbon casks. Flavors reminiscent of clover, heather, and various types of honey come from the charred wood as well as the sweet esters that are created during the fermentation process, which layers in the honey notes.
To find these sweet, mellow bottles of scotch, we reached out to fifteen of our favorite bartenders and asked for their picks. Check their creative, often surprising answers below and click on the prices if you want to order a bottle for yourself.
Auchentoshan American Oak
Bobby Gleaon, USBG bartender in Las Vegas
Average Price: $45
The American oak brings notes of vanilla and coconut. The 12 years brings smooth notes of crème brûlée. The whisky is distilled three times and has a smooth, mellow finish. It’s definitely one to seek out for lovers of honeyed, floral flavors.
Dennis Shea, beverage director at Fish & Fire Food Group in Washington, DC
Average Price: $75
Dalwhinnie 15 is an easy-drinking, delicate choice. Its lack of smoke coupled with honey, citrus, and dried fruit notes make it very approachable. It delivers a creamy, inviting mouthfeel on the palate.
Eugene Lee, founding bartender at Mix Lab in Los Angeles
Average Price: $45
These days, I’m loving Aberfeldy 12. It’s fantastic as an easy sipper as well as mixed into cocktails. Try it in a classic gold rush. It’s filled with all of the flavors you want in a whisky from caramel to vanilla, and especially honey.
The Balvenie 12 Doublewood
Chris Stevens, general manager of Five Sisters Blues Cafe in Pensacola, Florida
Average Price: $70
The Balvenie 12 is sweet with a good body. This scotch has a gentle spice with hints of vanilla and honey. This single malt is going to be a little easier to drink as an introduction to single malts and has also withstood the test of time with enthusiasts around the world.
Glenmorangie The Original
Andy Printy, beverage director at Chao Baan in St. Louis
Average Price: $45
I think one of the most approachable single malts has to be Glenmorangie. They have many expressions, but their flagship label is easy to get into. And with 17-foot stills, this expression is distilled with subtlety in mind.
The nose reminds you that it’s malted barley, but the palate is packed with honeysuckle and vanilla. The finish is lightly toasted oak and just a bit of praline.
Jessica Balts, bartender at FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar in Minneapolis
Average Price: $60
Aberlour 12 is a fantastic single malt scotch for honey-lovers. It’s super smooth and filled with honey sweetness. It’s heavy on caramel-like bourbon notes and smooth like an Irish whiskey.
The Macallan 12
Andres Rairan, lead bartender at High Tide Beach Bar & Grill in Miami
Average Price: $80
The easiest single malt scotch for me is The Macallan 12. I think it’s because it was one of the first single malt scotches introduced to me. I find the whisky to be extremely smooth, clean, light, and crisp for this category. It might be a little cliché because of its popularity, but I honestly think there isn’t a smoother or easier single malt to drink.
It’s also a perfect beginner single malt for someone wanting to get into this category, especially because of the honey flavors.
The Balvenie 14 Year Caribbean Cask
Ryan Cunningham, bartender at Anchor and Brine in Tampa, Florida
Average Price: $85
Anything aged in rum casks is going to grab my attention every time and this is why The Balvenie 14 Year Caribbean Cask is easily one of my favorite Scotches. This Highland scotch is going to be mellower and more approachable for bourbon drinkers and the aging in rum casks just adds to the honeyed sweetness.
Jeremy Williams, mixologist at MDRD at the Amway Grand Plaza in Grand Rapids, Michigan
Average Price: $49.99
For people wanting to explore entry-level single malt scotch with flavors like honey, I like to steer them towards some great Speyside distilleries. Glenfiddich 12 is great because you get mellow notes of rich barley, pears, baking spices, and sophisticated wood alongside that honey.
Bruichladdich Classic Laddie
Frantjesko Leonora, lead mixologist at Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort in Curaçao
Average Price: $59.99
Bruichladdich’s Classic Laddie has a signature flavor profile of the Islay region in Scotland. This Classic Laddie is a non-age statement single malt that is light and full of citrus, sweet malted barley, vanilla, and honey notes. Sip it neat or elevate a simple highball cocktail.
The Dalmore King Alexander III
Pascal Pinault, food and beverage general manager at Ambersweet at The Confidante in Miami
Average Price: $289
The absolute most outstanding single malt is The Dalmore King Alexander III. It’s a 10/10 for every single malt nerd with a very rich smooth finish and a combination of flavors of berries, spices, honey, and orange. This is one of those single malts that shift time and space.
The Balvenie 17 Doublewood
Nikole Calvo, bar manager at SIX in Tampa, Florida
Average Price: $159
The most mellow and honeyed single malt scotch whiskey to drink would have to be The Balvenie Doublewood 17 Year. It’s finished in sherry oak casks and is absolutely delicious over a large cube. The water enhances the flavor of the malt, opening up the wood and honey flavors for an easy-drinking experience.
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