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Bartenders Name The Most Underrated Scotch Whiskies For Late-Summer

The spirits world (whisky in particular) is extremely complicated for the newcomer to wade through. There are some overrated expressions out there that get a ton of press based on name recognition alone. On the flip side, many expressions are deserving of adoration and grab headlines because of their high quality, flavor, and craft. Then on the flip-flip side, you have underrated whiskies that don’t get the mainstream love they deserve.

Today is their time to shine.

Since we’re in the business of helping you along on your drinking journey, we’re going to highlight some of these lesser-known offerings today. To offer the assist, we asked a handful of our favorite bartenders to tell us their picks for the most underrated Scotch whiskies to drink this summer. If nothing else, it’s intriguing to see how they define “underrated” — because some very big brands get shouted out.

Check their answers below!

The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve

The Glenlivet

Michael Parish, head bartender at Jia in Miami

ABV: 40%
Average Price: $40

Why This Bottle?

The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve is my pick. If you’re a fan of single malt Scotch whisky, then try The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve and I guarantee it’ll become your new go-to. Deliciously smooth and sweet from hints of citrus fruit.

Aberlour 12

Aberlour

Andy Shannon, co-founder of Candra Drinks in London

ABV: 40%
Average Price: $59

Why This Bottle?

It’s difficult to say if this is underrated or not, but it should be in even more bars and homes. Aberlour 12 is an all-time favorite Scotch whisky. With toffee and spice notes it packs a lot of flavors and won’t break the bank. It’s always a win.

Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2012

Bruichladdich

Daniel Yang, lead bartender at Rosina inside The Venetian Resort in Las Vegas

ABV: 50%
Average Price: $65

Why This Bottle?

Bruichladdich’s unpeated Islay Barley any day of the week. While it’s not the most well-known Scotch — especially since they’re an unpeated Islay scotch — the light notes of oak and barley make this selection exquisite. I enjoy this either on a single rock or even in Penicillin.

Chivas Regal Mizunara

Chivas Regal

Rustyn Lee, beverage director at Atomic Saloon Show in Paradise, Nevada

ABV: 40%
Average Price: $49

Why This Bottle?

Chivas Regal Mizunara is my pick. Utilizing the Mizunara barrels leaves this Scotch a little lighter in style and shows some interesting flavors, including heather and anise.

The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14

The Balvenie

Adam Mason, cocktail specialist at LouVino in Louisville

ABV: 43%
Average Price: $85

Why This Bottle?

The Balvenie Caribbean Cask is aged in rum barrels and is under-peated so it’s one of the most approachable Scotches to help whisky drinkers dip their toe into something new. It’s not commonly found in the American market but is easily one of if not my favorite Scotches to drink.

The Glenlivet Nadurra Oloroso

The Glenlivet

Source: Michael Lay, assistant director of bars for MINA Group in San Francisco

ABV: 60.3%
Average Price: $90

Why This Bottle?

Glenlivet Nadurra Sherry Cask is a great pick for summer sipping. It has no age statement but it’s cask strength so you can throw a big ice cube in it. It’s rich and nutty. Very flavorful.

Glenfarclas 17

Glenfarclas

Young Kim, beverage director at Fine & Rare in New York City

ABV: 43%
Average Price: $100

Why This Bottle?

If you like sherried and non-peaty Speyside single malts, try Glenfarclas 17. It is complex yet balanced with dried fruit, baking spices, butterscotch, toasted nuts, and even some coffee on the finish. It’s been owned by the same family for 6th generations, and they focus more on making family whisky than marketing which brings the cost down.

Glenfiddich 12

Glenfiddich

Jeremy Williams, mixologist at MDRD at the Amway Grand Plaza in Grand Rapids, Michigan

ABV: 40%
Average Price: $49

Why This Bottle?

With so many terrific single malts available today, I find it easy to stray from the classics. Glenfiddich 12 is a wonderful example of what makes the Speyside so special. Sophisticated notes of pear leather, dry citrus, and shortbread are met with wood spice and biscuity barley. The finish is long and oh so smooth.

Johnnie Walker Black Label

Johnnie Walker

Lyndee Sadler, bartender at Bamboo Willie’s Beachside Bar in Pensacola, Florida

ABV: 40%
Average Price: $39

Why This Bottle?

Johnnie Walker Black Label is the most underrated Scotch whisky. The price point sometimes makes customers change their minds, but the combination of fruit and vanilla allows for a very smooth taste. You can taste the oak in it as well.

Dalwhinnie 15

Dalwhinnie

Jacob Mata, bar manager at Garden & Grain in Pensacola, Florida

ABV: 43%
Average Price: $79

Why This Bottle?

Scotch whisky is a category of whiskey that is filled with heavy hitters. When it comes to Scotch, people tend to be very particular and usually know what they like to drink. One bottle that gets passed over more than it should have to be Dalwhinnie 15. This Scotch is something that can be enjoyed by seasoned scotch enthusiasts and novices alike. The delicate flavor is crisp and clean. Dalwhinnie 15 has a bright aromatic nose with notes of apple blossom, honeysuckle, and a touch of smoke. On the palate, you get a balanced malt character and a gentle smoke note. This Scotch has a lasting finish of malty and nutty flavors. A small measure of water will go a long way to open up all the flavors this Scotch has to offer.

Chivas Regal Extra

Chivas Regal

Chaz Gallo, director of food and beverage at The Bristol Hotel in Bristol, Virginia

ABV: 40%
Average Price: $40

Why This Bottle?

Chivas Regal has been doing this for a long time and recently released Chivas Regal Extra. This creation from legendary master blender Colin Scott has handpicked and rare whiskies aged in Oloroso sherry butts with a perfectly balanced sweet and spice.

Bruichladdich The Classic Laddie

Bruichladdich

Liam Odien, beverage director at Playa Provisions in Playa Del Rey, California

ABV: 46%
Average Price: $59

Why This Bottle?

Bruichladdich The Classic Laddie. I’m not sure if I’d call it underrated, so much as underknown– everyone who tries it enjoys the heck out of it. Bruichladdich focuses explicitly on terroir, and they source their barley entirely from Scotland. The Scottish barley showcases malt and molasses. The Classic Laddie is an unpeated Islay, so you get all the nice coastal minerality and salinity without having to wrestle with peat to find it.

Springbank 12 Cask Strength

Springbank

Ryan Anderson, complex director of beverage at Ace Hotel in New Orleans

ABV: 56.1%
Average Price: $100

Why This Bottle?

During summer I want to drink lighter Scotch. I usually go for Springbank 12 from the Springbank distillery located in Campbeltown, Scotland. They make lighter expressions of Scotch that focus on the natural quality of the water and barley being used. It’s so smooth and packed with subtle flavor. Campbeltown is an underrated area for Scotch production, losing sales to its more famous neighbors like Islay or Speyside. This is fine with me because there’s usually more Springbank to go around on the shelves.

Compass Box Glasgow Blend

Compass Box

Matt Nicholas, bar manager for The Kennedy Bar in Pensacola, Florida

ABV: 43%
Average Price: $39

Why This Bottle?

Glasgow Blend By Compass Box is a bold, lightly peated, sherry finished blended Scotch whisky with a wonderful price for what is in the bottle. Rich, sweet, slightly smoky, perfect for summer evenings.

Cutty Sark

Cutty Sark

Scott Wenger, bartender at The Continental in Tampa

ABV: 40%
Average Price: $15

Why This Bottle?

I have long been a fan of Cutty Sark. A blended whisky, it is not as heavy on the peat and very smooth and even a little bit citrusy. Really great with just soda water or your favorite soft drink. I tend to go for the original blended Scotch, but the Prohibition Edition is great too.


As a Drizly affiliate, Uproxx may receive a commission pursuant to certain items on this list.

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