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Scotch Whiskies We Should Have Talked About More In 2021

In 2021, we did our best to cover the newest and best bottles of whisk(e)y as they dropped throughout the year. Considering that the world of whiskey is international and oh so vast, we found the task to be… pretty much impossible. There are just so many expressions produced that even when we release our 50 or 100 favorite whiskeys of the year, a few choice bottles of the good stuff are sure to slip through the cracks. This post aims to amend that (as best we can).

The ten bottles of Scotch whisky below are bottles that I think need a little boost before 2021 winds down. There are no real parameters here, it all really comes down to whether or not the whisky tastes good and whether we covered it previously. That said, these picks happen to all be relatively accessible and not particularly expensive.

Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Scotch Whisky Posts of 2021

Speyburn Bradan Orach

Speyburn
Inver House Distillers

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $27

The Whisky:

This entry-level single malt is named after the Golden Salmon that swims the River Spey. The juice is a no-age-statement marrying of malts that leans into the honeyed hues of the region.

Tasting Notes:

The nose on this is pure honey dropping over fresh and very green apples with a hint of lemon oils and a touch of bourbon vanilla lurking deep in the background. The palate harnesses that vanilla for a creamy texture that helps the stewed apple vibe pop with plenty of dark spice, buttery notes, and a touch of lemon drop candy. The finish allows space for that candy note to drive towards a short and sweet end that’s just touched with cinnamon spice warmth.

The Bottom Line:

This is a great entry-point single malt that’s pretty damn enjoyable. It’s also a wonderful base for any single malt cocktail.

Highland Park Viking Heart 15

Highland Park 15
Edrington Group

ABV: 44%

Average Price: $135

The Whisky:

Highland Park’s Master Whisky Maker Gordon Motion hand-picked sherry seasoned American oak barrels of single malt to create this new expression. The whisky is then decanted/bottled in a throwback ceramic bottle from Wade Ceramics, which has been making bottles like this since the early 1800s.

Tasting Notes:

Even though this is a peated whisky, the nose is all about bright notes of orange and lemon oils with a deep vanilla sauce vibe, a touch of dried heather, and old sticks of cider-soaked cinnamon. The palate lets the smoke sneak in via grilled pineapple that turns towards smoked plums, soft and moist Christmas cake with plenty of dried fruits, and a sense of cinnamon-flecked tobacco leaves that have just been singed around the edges. The peat sneaks in late via an almost sea salt element that lets the orange oils, vanilla, and cinnamon-tobacco all mellow towards a silky finish.

The Bottom Line:

This is deliciously complex while still feeling very accessible. It’s peaty, yes, but that smoke is tied to sweet fruits and mild spice, meaning that it never overpowers your senses.

Springbank 21

Springbank 21
J&A Mitchell & Company

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $265

The Whisky:

This 21-year-old whisky, released in 2021, was crafted with help from old Port, sherry, and bourbon barrels. The peated Campbeltown whisky (a region I plan to cover more in 2022) is built to highlight the unique and very fruity notes of the style.

Tasting Notes:

The nose is all about the malts with a vibe that’s halfway between an oatmeal cookie and a Graham cracker with rich vanilla pudding notes, a touch of buttery toffee, and a final burst of deep red strawberries. The fruitiness takes on a savory note that’s kind of like smoked watermelon before heading back towards those cookies with plenty of cinnamon warmth and nutty depth on the palate. The finish arrives slowly with a nod towards peat as a passing fancy that’s buried beneath a vanilla cream laced with cinnamon, oats, raisins, and bitter over-roasted coffee beans.

The Bottom Line:

This is a phenomenal peated malt. The peat is so drawn back and nuanced that it’d be easy to miss it the first time around on this dram. Still, add a little water or a rock and this will bloom beautifully in your glass.

Glengoyne Cask Strength

Glengoyne
Ian Macleod Distillers Ltd

ABV: 58.8%

Average Price: $99

The Whisky:

This whisky is all about the blend of casks involved in the mix. The majority (55 percent) comes from refill oak casks, 29 percent is from first-fill Olorosso sherry, and 16 percent comes from first-fill bourbon casks. That whisky is then vatted and bottled as-is without any filtering or fussing.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a clear fruitiness on the nose that’s all gree apple and peach skins that have taken on a little patina next to eggnog, apple crumble made with plenty of cinnamon, and almost fatty white chocolate squares. The palate stews all those fruits while adding in hints of buttered popcorn, salted caramel drizzled over ginger cake, a hint of banana bread with plenty of walnuts, and a fleeting touch of orange oils. The finish mellows dramatically as the stewed fruits take center stage with a slight savory fruit vibe (think kiwi) and a touch of malt biscuits with a hint of nutmeg and clove.

The Bottom Line:

There’s a ton going on in this dram but it all makes sense. There’s a build to the taste that crescendos and then fades very nicely on your senses. Just make sure to add a little water or a rock to really let it bloom.

Benromach Cask Strength Vintage 2009 Batch 4

Benromach
Gordon & MacPhail

ABV: 58.5%

Average Price: $80

The Whisky:

There are several releases of this cask-strength whisky that are worth calling out. Last year’s Batch 4 was a highlight. The juice was sourced from only 29 first-fill bourbon and sherry casks. That small grouping of barrels was vatted and the whisky was bottled as-is.

Tasting Notes:

Deep orange oils mingle with dark chocolate notes on the nose that have just been burnt around the edges as caramelized sugars mix with a dusting of dark spice. The palate takes on a stewed fruit note that’s more red/ tart berries than orchard fruits as hints of fresh honey lead towards peppery spice and a hint of smoked applewood. The finish ties to the sweeter notes of the red berries to a smoked plum vibe as that slightly burnt dark chocolate makes a final nod on the velvet finish.

The Bottom Line:

The peat in this is so attached to the fruit and chocolate that you’ll probably miss it. This is a great dessert whisky that’s bright yet lush.

Bruichladdich The Biodynamic Project

Bruichladdich
Rémy Cointreau

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $132

The Whisky:

This whisky is the first of its kind in Scotland. The whisky is distilled from unpeated barley from a single farm. It goes beyond that though. The farm is regenerative and pulls more carbon into the soil than it emits, meaning this is a carbon-negative whisky from the jump. The whisky then ages for ten years in ex-bourbon barrels and is bottled at cask strength.

Tasting Notes:

This whisky is a fruit bomb on the nose with peach syrup from the can, stewed apples with plenty of spice, butter, and pie crust, hints of vanilla pods, a touch of orange oil, and the faintest hint of apple, cherry, and apricot Turkish Delights. The palate has real peaches-in-cream vibes that lead towards dark chocolate-covered toffees with a flake of salt and a few petals of dried nasturtium and lavender. The finish leans into the malt to the point that feels like a warm bowl of Cream of Wheat cut with brown sugar and cinnamon with a dash more of orange oil, toffee, and vanilla.

The Bottom Line:

This is a bold and delicious whisky. Make sure to add some water or a rock to let this one explode with more flavors and textures.

The Glenallachie 21 Cask Strength

GlenAllachie 21
The GlenAllachie Distillers Company Limited

ABV: 51.4%

Average Price: $265

The Whisky:

Glenallachie’s Master Distiller Billy Walker hand-selected just five casks for this release. The barrels were ex-Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso sherry puncheons (a large barrel that’s around 100 gallons, give or take). Those whiskies were vatted and bottled as-is.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a note of grapefruit pith when you nose this dram that leads towards honeyed chocolate truffles with a touch of cinnamon and orange. The palate goes full Christmas cake with plenty of dried nuts, candied and dried fruits, rich wintry spice, and a touch of chocolate maltiness next to candied ginger, more orange, and a note of golden corn syrup. That sweetness attaches to the fruit and spice to create a stewed plum vibe on the finish that luxuriates in mild spice, sweet and meaty stone fruit, and a touch more of that chocolate.

The Bottom Line:

This is like drinking silk. It’s pure wintry vibes and soft as velvet. I can’t overstate how easy-drinking this beautiful whisky is.

Craigellachie 17

Craigellachie 17
Bacadri

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $179

The Whisky:

Craigellachie is the other main whisky that helps make Dewar’s (the other base spirit being Aberfeldy). This expression is made with old-school stills and stored in old-school warehouses. The juice is aged in ex-bourbon casks for 17 long years and vatted to highlight the uniqueness of the brand.

Tasting Notes:

You’re drawn in by that familiar and deep vanilla note with some apple pie in there next to a dried and salted pineapple candy, a touch of smoked oats, and a savory fruit (almost a honeydew melon). That pineapple note holds on and intensifies to a pineapple and vanilla pudding on the palate as dry and woody spices arrive next to a hint of dry tobacco, cedar, and a billow of dry smoke. The end embraces the smoke through the filter of that pineapple pudding as it slowly fades out.

The Bottom Line:

If you’re looking for the perfect bridge between smoked and fruity scotch, this is the bottle for you. It’s subtle yet very vibrant and fruity. It’s also one of those drams that really needs a little water (or a rock) to let it fully bloom.

Aultmore Foggie Moss 12

Aultmore 12
Bacardi

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $75

The Whisky:

Speaking of Dewar’s, this is part of their Last Great Malts range. The juice is a rare release from a distillery that releases bottles every few years (this bottle dropped back in 2014).

Tasting Notes:

The nose bursts forth with notes of ripe apples and pears next to a seriously creamy vanilla base with touches of orange blossoms and soft cedar bark. The palate wraps those apples and pears into a soft and buttery puff pastry with plenty of soft spice and brown sugars as the vanilla thickens into a pudding with the florals becoming slightly more dried towards the mid-palate. The finish hoists those stewed apples and pears to center stage as the mild spice gently fades away.

The Bottom Line:

This rarity is a damn fine dram of whisky. It’s not simple by any stretch but it has this accessibility that holds you tight and feels right on your senses, especially if you’re looking for a whisky that mimics a delicious breakfast pastry.

Loch Lomond 18

Loch Lomond
Loch Lomond Distillery Company

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $104

The Whisky:

Loch Lomond is renowned for making both malt and grain whiskies, both peated and unpeated, and winning tons of awards for doing so. This expression was the creation of Loch Lomond’s Master Cooper, Tommy Wallace, who hand-selected the barrels to be vatted, proofed with Highland water, and bottled as-is.

Tasting Notes:

The oak comes through on the nose but is tied to applewood that’s been dipped in fresh and floral honey to the point that it feels like a honeycomb rolled in heather petals in a nearby field. The palate delivers on that while adding in an almost savory gooseberry next to grapefruit oils and an old cedar box full of berry-laced tobacco. That berry tobacco note leads to a nutty flourish near the end that then gives way to a hint of Band-Aid and clove as the peat just sneaks in on the finish.

The Bottom Line:

While this is peated, it’s the beautiful fruits and floral honey that will linger the longest in your senses. This really is a great all-around Highland dram that highlights the beauty of the region’s unpeated and peated styles in one glass.

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