Finding a “smooth” whiskey is actually… kind of hard these days. With the explosion of barrel-strength whiskeys bringing the heat and massively aged expressions bringing the chewy and dry tannic wood notes, finding a whiskey that goes down like a silky dream is almost out of the norm. Luckily, the pendulum is swinging back and whiskey drinkers (pros and amateurs alike) are looking for the best overall tasting experience over bombast and extremes.
I’m so here for that shift (and don’t think “smooth” is a bad word in whiskey), so I decided it was high time for a big ol’ single malt whiskey blind taste test to find a great smooth whiskey to enjoy.
Before we get into the panel today, let’s define “smooth.” For this exercise, I’m looking at smoothness the same way I did for this bourbon blind tasting. In the dictionary, smooth means “free from projections or unevenness of surface; not rough.” Moreover, synonyms for smooth are “creamy, fluid, gentle, glossy, polished, silky, sleek, and velvety.” So for this blind tasting, I’m looking for attributes of these whiskeys that are “not rough” plus “creamy, silky, velvety, and sleek” with depth that you can find easily on the palate because of it not being rough in the first place. (This is the idea of smooth whiskey being sort of… forthcoming and easy to decipher. A notion that I like.)
Let’s get more literal though — how does “smoothness” translate to a whiskey flavor profile? Well, an ABV bomb that burns all the way down on the finish is — by definition — rough. So is a woody old whiskey that feels like chewing on an old oak stave. This is about complex whiskey that doesn’t feel like a chore to drink. It’s smooth, baby.
To find the smoothest single malt whiskey, I grabbed 20 of my favorite single malt bottles from Scotland, the U.S.A., Ireland, and Australia. I purposefully kept these picks on the higher end with a few cheaper options that I know are tasty to balance things out. I also added one crazy expensive and old bottle to see how it’d rank compared to the softer and cheaper smooth single malts on the panel.
It’s a wide net, is what I’m getting at. Our lineup today features the following single malt whiskeys:
- The GlenDronach Allardice Aged 18 Years Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky
- Strathisla 15 Years Of Age Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky 2007 Vintage Edition
- Oban 2023 Distillers Edition West Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky
- Highland Park Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky
- Starward Ginger Beer Cask #7 Single Malt Australian Whisky
- Bunnahabhain Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky Fèis Ìle 2023 Canasta Cask Matured
- The Glenlivet 21 Years of Age Single Malt Scotch Whisky The Sample Room
- Aberfeldy Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky 15 Finished in Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Wine Casks
- Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky Aged 14 Years
- Virginia Distillery Co. Courage & Conviction American Single Malt Whisky Cuvée Cask
- Talisker 2023 Distillers Edition Island Single Malt Scotch Whisky
- Bushmills Aged 25 Years Irish Single Malt Whisky
- The Dalmore Cigar Malt Reserve Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky
- Stranahan’s Colorado Single Malt Whiskey 2023 Extra Añejo Tequila Cask
- Loch Lomond Single Malt Scotch Whisky The Open Special Edition Rioja Finish
- Cragganmore 2023 Distillers Edition Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky
- The Irishman Single Malt Irish Whiskey
- Westward American Single Malt Whiskey Grand Cru Sauternes Cask
- Old Line American Single Malt Whiskey Double Oak Series Sherry Cask
- Lagavulin 2023 Distillers Edition Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky
When it comes to ranking these single malt whiskeys, smoothness is my North Star. Still, I’m also looking for depth of flavor and overall balance. In short, it has to taste really good while going down easily. Let’s dive in!
Part 1 — The Smooth Single Malt Whiskey Tasting
Nose: Soft orchard wood, soft leather, dried orange peels, raspberry jam, and creamy dark chocolate gently mingle on the nose.
Palate: That jam leans into a spiced cherry compote as stewed plums with plenty of allspice and clove lead to soft walnut cake with a malty backbone.
Finish: The mid-palate takes that walnut and sweetness and moves the taste toward velvety malts and soft and sweet orchard wood, dusting more of that dark chocolate and dark berry silkiness.
This builds on the finish with a nice warmth that doesn’t overwhelm the over palate. This is definitely smooth and deep … and very wintry.
Nose: Hints of vanilla cake and cherry compote with a nice winter spice lead to mincemeat pies, apple crumble, and creamy vanilla malt.
Palate: The vanilla cake drives the palate toward a blast of woody winter spice barks and burnt orange with a sense of stewed pears and blackcurrants dipped in spiced nut cakes.
Finish: A hint of banana cream pie and blueberry muffin leads the finish toward a blast of ABV heat that damn near deletes the whole palate.
Wow, this was a rollercoaster ride. It’s so deep and delicious and then that finish just blows away everything and leaves you with a buzzing/burning chest. It’s clearly cask strength but it really needs a rock or some water to calm it down.
Nose: A small billow of smoke greets you on the nose next to notes of sea brine, orange zest, and a hint of vinous fruit that feels a little like saltwater taffy and a little like old Fruit Roll-Ups with a sense of soft winter spices lurking under it all.
Palate: Sweet caramel malts form on the silky palate as stewed pear and apple mingle with salted toffee and a light sense of oyster shell and toasted seaweed barely breakthrough on the back end.
Finish: That hint of the sea fades on the finish as you’re left with soft caramel maltiness and even softer stewed pear just kissed with saffron, clove, and anise next to a whisper of plum pudding.
This was like sliding down a soft slide into a silky pool on a boardwalk. It’s so good.
Nose: There’s a light sense of wildflowers on the nose with a rich vanilla husk that leads towards a touch of peaty-smoldering nori, soft vanilla cakes, and a rich and vibrant caramel.
Palate: The taste is silken with rich and buttery toffee next to honeysuckle, eggnog spices and creaminess, and a small dose of orange zest with a supporting act of salted caramel, apple pie tobacco, and a whisper of pine dank.
Finish: The end holds onto the creaminess and spices as the peat just edges in with a whisper of resinous pine smoke, soft caramels, and dark chocolate pie sprinkled with dried berries, pears, and citrus rinds.
This is really good too. It’s a bit bourbon-forward with all that caramel. That’s not a knock.
Nose: Sharp ginger pops on the nose which leads to dark orange oils layered into salted dark chocolate with a hint of chili spice and raisin.
Palate: Candied ginger and grilled pineapple lead to fresh vanilla pods before a dark fig and date vibe takes over with more wintery spices.
Finish: Those dark fruits and spices peak on the finish as the candied ginger makes a return with a sharp pepperiness and a touch of dry sweetgrass.
This is a ginger bomb. But it doesn’t overdo it. There’s a real balance to this one even if it does feel a little one-note by the end.
Nose: Old-school creamy sherry comes through on the nose with caramel-soaked pears and peach next to roasted almond, plenty of cinnamon stick, and a hint of mushroomy earthiness.
Palate: Those caramelized pears lead to stewed figs and orange-laced dark chocolate on the palate as vanilla cream and maple syrup add some serious sweetness and lusciousness.
Finish: The end is sweet with a sense of maple syrup, candied orange, sweet apple candy, and vanilla buttercream with a rush of hot winter spice and roasted chestnut.
This is a very good pour of whisky. The end is hot and will leave you with a burning sensation in the chest but it’s kind of pleasant, like a long Scottish hug.
Nose: Leather and winter spices lead the way on the nose with a hint of saffron-stewed pears, ripe peaches, and lush eggnog next to boiled beans with a bay leaf.
Palate: The palate leans into the peaches and pears but puts them in a pie with plenty of cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg next to apricot jam and rum-raisin.
Finish: The mid-palate hits a pine resin note before descending toward brandied cherries and dark chocolate with fresh ginger sharpens and a dash of cinnamon candy before slowly melting toward pure silk.
This is an amazingly smooth whisky that delivers succinct flavor notes. It smells smooth, it drinks smooth, and it finishes smooth.
Nose: This is jammy whisky on the nose with a sense of blackberry pie, blueberry muffins, and fresh raspberries in cream with a light summer floral vine — kind of like sitting under a wisteria tree on summer’s day.
Palate: A lush and creamy cinnamon cake drives the palate toward dark chocolate-covered espresso beans and floral bunt cake with a dollop of berry compote.
Finish: The end leans into the cinnamon bark as dark chocolate and dark berry mingle and sweeten toward a soft and delicious finish.
This opens and closes with pure lusciousness while delivering a nice fruity profile that’s plenty creamy. This is a very good one.
Nose: The nose draws you in with a sense of burnt orange layered into dark chocolate and then melted over a singed marshmallow with a hint of malted vanilla cookie tying it all together.
Palate: That dark chocolate drives the palate with a hint of waxiness and woody winter spice next to whole black peppercorns, fresh tangerine, and a whisper of mint chocolate chip ice cream.
Finish: The dark chocolate, woody spice, bright orange, and sharp spearmint all collide on the finish with a sense of soft malted sweetness and faint old oak staves.
This feels like a quintessential unpeated single malt with a deep profile. Moreover, the depth never gets in the way of this being silky smooth.
Nose: Light hints of lemon and orange oils mingle with dark berry soda and spicy caramel malts on the nose.
Palate: The palate leans into the citrus with a lemon meringue pie feeling next to sour cherries tossed in sea salt, mulled wine spices, and a light sense of creamed honey with a vanilla underbelly.
Finish: The end leans into that sweet honey before adding in some woody cinnamon sticks and allspice berries with a whisper of minced meat pie tobacco and old worn leather.
This is actually pretty nice overall. It’s not as luscious as some of the pours so far but it’s well on its way. Overall, this feels like a good middle-of-the-road pour if you’re looking at smoothness alone.
Nose: The nose runs deep on this whisky with mild hints of beachside campfire smoke whispering in the background as hints of red fruit, wet driftwood, and green peppercorns draw you in.
Palate: The palate embraces the red berries with a slight tartness next to the sweetness as the peat remains dry and distant and tied to the brine of the sea with an almost oyster liquor softness.
Finish: The finish lingers for just the right amount of time as sweet berries and dry peat lead towards soft dark cacao powder with a tiny note of vanilla and one last spray from the sea.
This is crazily deep while feeling like truly silky whisky. There’s so much going on and it all works while feeling perfectly balanced and sleek.
Nose: There’s a huge old tannic oak note on the nose that leads to old dark fruit leathers, a hint of old honey, and plenty of dark espresso beans just kissed with dark chocolate and winter spice.
Palate: The taste is silky but dominated by chewy old oak staves dipped in stewed dark fruits cut with winter spice barks, burnt orange, and bitter chocolate sauce.
Finish: That chocolate and barky spice merge on the finish and swing back toward that old oak with a sense of dry tobacco packed into an old cedar humidor with this fleeting sense of dried roasting sage and singed rosemary.
This is delicious. But I wouldn’t call it smooth. It’s chewy and dry. It’s also woody AF.
Nose: The nose is openly complex from the first inhalation with a matrix of sticky toffee pudding spices — cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg — next to dried red berries with a slight earthiness, a touch of salted toffee candies, and a whisper of vanilla wafers.
Palate: The palate opens with a chocolate maltiness next to a bowl of fresh and tropical fruits — pineapple, tart apples, sweet pears, plums, bruised bananas — with a mild nuttiness, sharp orange zest, and subtle winter spices.
Finish: There’s a light mustiness on the back end that leads to soft and moist pipe tobacco with a thin layer of orchard fruits and stewed figs.
This has a great nose that smells sleek and creamy. The taste backs it all up and the finish drives it all home. This is a top-tier smooth malt.
Nose: This pops with a deep pink peppercorn next to floral honey (think wildflowers and mountain sage) next to salted toffee rolled in roasted almond and dipped in vanilla caramel.
Palate: That wild sage and toffee drive the palate toward a sense of old cedar planks, deep and dark berry leather, and a lush sense of vanilla over salted caramel.
Finish: The end has more salted caramel, some marzipan, and vanilla with a hint of honey-soaked dates and salted cinnamon candies with a whisper of rose-hued tobacco.
This is pretty damn good too. It’s not as smooth as some of the other pours, but it’s close. It was soft but not silky.
Nose: Stewed peaches in a cobbler drive the nose toward old pear skins, winter spice barks, and a hint of rose water cut with burnt orange with a mild nuttiness.
Palate: Those peaches and pears are joined by tart berries on the palate with a rich combination of vanilla pods, winter spice, and dark chocolate.
Finish: The vanilla takes on a whisper of smoke with a smoked plum vibe next to more orchard fruit and light woody notes on the finish.
This was pretty good. I wouldn’t necessarily call it smooth but that’s okay.
Nose: Fennel leads to dried fruits — sultanas, prunes, dried fig — and tons of fresh apples on the nose with a hint of tartness and skin next to savory (almost oily) herb branches and leaves.
Palate: The taste, on the other hand, leans into sweet oak, pear candies, fresh figs, and a softness that’s almost hard to believe while this medley of caraway, fresh fennel, and sweet cardamom dance together on your palate.
Finish: The end is full of sweet fruits — think ripe pears, green tomatoes, and star fruit — and has just the right touches of soft oak, oily vanilla, and savory green herbs as it fades towards a final note of wet wicker right after a rain storm.
This is a pretty damn fine and unique whisky. There’s so much going on and it all builds on the overall lusciousness of the pour.
Nose: The nose on this is all about the apple candy with a hint of pear in there alongside mild notes of cinnamon and maybe a little honey.
Palate: The palate is light and touches on chocolate chips and winter spice before going big with the apple candy again.
Finish: The end washes out a tad with the proofing water, leaving hints of dark spices, raisins, and more apple/pear candy.
This was succinct and small but did have a nice smoothness to it. I just don’t know that it was all that deep.
Nose: This has a deep nose that takes you on a journey through sweet grains, soft caramel, burnt orange peels, grilled peach, and summer flowers.
Palate: There’s a sharp cherry soda on the palate with a hint of grapefruit, pineapple, and ripe peach next to bright ginger, soft coconut, and a hint of honeyed malt with a whisper of nuttiness.
Finish: That orange comes back on the finish with a soft fresh floral edge next to light cedar bark braided with chewy fresh tobacco dipped in honey and dusted with citrus zest.
I’d call this “sharp” before I’d ever call it “smooth.” It’s delicious but it hits the senses with razor precision.
Nose: Caramel jumps out on the nose with a touch of salt and burnt toffee next to soft brown sugar, old leather, and prunes with a very nice layer of spiced tobacco.
Palate: The palate is very plummy with plenty of buttery brown sugar and cinnamon clumps (like fancy restaurant butter balls) next to a hint of almond and rum-raisin.
Finish: The end leans toward the almond shells with a touch of vanilla tobacco wrapped up in old leather and cedar bark.
This is pretty nice overall, well layered, and has a mild smoothness.
Nose: You’re drawn in on the nose with hints of honeyed smoke, salted caramel apples, mild whispers of vanilla, and smoldering coffee grounds before veering toward smoked oyster shells and salted butter herb compounds over brioche that’s also just kissed with campfire smoke.
Palate: The taste ties the honey to a soft oakiness before this luscious vanilla chocolate coffee arrives alongside seaside salted taffy and a touch of fish oil, more of those seared oyster shells, and the softness of a pitter-pattering rain on a pebble beach.
Finish: The end is very long and pure velvet on the tongue as the sweet oak fades towards a sweet honeyed smokiness with a hint of salty roasted almonds and burnt vanilla husks.
This is freaking delicious. It’s also pure silk from top to bottom with an incredibly deep and varied profile.
Part 2 — The Smooth Single Malt Whiskey Ranking
20. Bushmills Aged 25 Years Irish Single Malt Whiskey — Taste 12
Average Price: $949
This small-batch high-age-statement whiskey from north Ireland is a bold pour. The whiskey in the bottle is made from a whiskey that spent about four years in both ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks before batching and re-barreling into ruby port casks for 21 long years of “finishing”. Those casks were small-batched, proofed, and bottled as-is.
This is a really good whiskey. But it’s so tannic that I wouldn’t in a million years call it smooth. If you are looking for that chewy dry wood bomb, then, by all means, dive in.
19. Strathisla 15 Years Of Age Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky 2007 Vintage Edition — Taste 2
Average Price: $143
This special bottling for The Whisky Exchange is a whisky nerd’s expression. The whisky spent 15 years resting in first-fill bourbon casks before it was hand-picked and bottled without any proofing water.
This has a great profile until the finish blows everything out with that cask-strength ABV. That alone is why I wouldn’t call this smooth. Now, if you want to add a large rock or some water, then things might change. But that wasn’t a parameter for this tasting. So here we are.
18. Westward American Single Malt Whiskey Grand Cru Sauternes Cask — Taste 18
Average Price: $99
This is Portland’s classic American single malt taken up a level. After years of resting, a single barrel was re-barreled in a sauternes cask from France’s Grand Cru Classé estate. 14 months later, Westward bottled that whiskey with a kiss of local water.
This had such a grainy craft vibe that it felt like an outlier. Overall, graininess doesn’t scream “smooth” to me. This is good if you’re looking for a solid craft American single malt.
17. Loch Lomond Single Malt Scotch Whisky The Open 2023 Special Edition Rioja Finish — Taste 15
Average Price: $39
This new release for 2023’s golf open in the U.K. is a simple no-age statement whisky on the surface. Below that surface, the whisky was finished in Spanish Rioja wine casks after a long spell in ex-bourbon casks. Those wine casks were vatted, proofed, and bottled for this limited edition release.
This was nice enough but a little thin. I can see using this in cocktails — where it would shine through nicely. But I’d never call it a smooth sipper.
16. Old Line American Single Malt Whiskey Double Oak Series Sherry Cask — Taste 19
Average Price: $65
This Baltimore whiskey is made with 100% malted barley — Premium 2 Row Malt and Deep Roast Malt — before going into new American oak for exactly “3.6 years” (their metric). Once those barrels hit that sweet spot, they’re vatted and then re-barreled into ex-Olorosso sherry casks for a final ten-month rest.
This was getting into the smooth stuff in earnest. There was a lot to like here but the spice added a small layer of sharpness that took away from the overall smoothness of this one.
15. The Irishman Single Malt Irish Whiskey — Taste 17
Average Price: $44
This whiskey is made from Irish barley that’s mashed and then triple distilled. The hot juice is then filled in ex-bourbon and ex-Oloroso sherry casks for a long maturation (no age is given). Those barrels and then blended and the whiskey is proofed down for bottling.
Again, this was nice but a tad thin. This did have a nice depth and felt like a fully realized single malt. It wasn’t overly smooth but delivered a nice experience.
14. Starward Ginger Beer Cask #7 Single Malt Australian Whisky — Taste 5
Average Price: $90
This whiskey takes Starward’s signature and award-winning single malt and ages it in ginger beer casks. Starward makes ginger beer in-house and ages that in old whisky barrels. Those barrels, in turn, become whisky-finishing vessels for a 12-month final maturation before batching, proofing, and bottling.
Although this was a tad one note on the ginger, it was still well-built and tasted good. The ginger did feel smoothly integrated. The only ding here is that it was a little light on the finish.
13. Stranahan’s Colorado Single Malt Whiskey 2023 Extra Añejo Tequila Cask — Taste 14
Average Price: $78
The second Diamond Peak release of 2023 is a 100% Colorado malt whisky. The whiskey barrels were five to eight years old (all-new American oak) that was batched and re-barrelled into Jose Cuervo’s Reserva de la Familia Extra Añejo Tequila for two more years of resting. Finally, those barrels were batched, proofed, and bottled.
This was good. There was a nice smoothness that had depth. If you’re looking for an easy sipper, this is it.
12. Bunnahabhain Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky Fèis Ìle 2023 Canasta Cask Matured — Taste 6
Average Price: $103
The annual Fèis Ìle release from Islay’s Bunnahabhain is here! The whisky is an unpeated single malt that was aged exclusively in rare Canasta sherry casks. Those casks were vatted and bottled as-is for this annual release.
This was very well-rounded and ran deep on the profile. I don’t know if I’d call it “smooth” but I do know that I’d call it delicious. Hence, it’s kind of in the middle of this particular ranking.
11. Virginia Distillery Co. Courage & Conviction American Single Malt Whisky Cuvée Cask — Taste 10
Average Price: $85
This expression is made from 100% malted barley distillate that’s aged for three years in Cuvée wine casks in the foothills of Virginia’s Appalachia. Those barrels are vatted and proofed down with local water and bottled without filtration or coloration, letting the barrels shine in the glass.
This is very in the middle too. It’s a really well-built single malt but didn’t really present as “smooth.”
10. Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky Aged 14 Years — Taste 9
Average Price: $46
Glenmorangie’s 14-Year expression spends 10 years resting in used American oak casks. Those barrels are vatted and the whisky is re-barreled into Quinta Ruban port wine casks from Portugal for another four years of mellowing before batching, proofing, and bottling as-is.
This was tasty and smooth. It felt like a truly classic unpeated single malt but didn’t excite me. That said, this hits every parameter perfectly well and tastes really freaking good.
9. Highland Park Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky — Taste 4
Average Price: $86
This yearly drop has become a cornerstone of the Orkney Island distillery. The whisky is a blend of single malts that are aged exclusively in old American oak that previously held sherry. The barrels are married and bottled as is, to assure you’re getting all the nuance and flavor of their malts meeting that oak.
This had a nice bourbon edge which add more depth to it while also holding onto some nice silkiness. The end was a little warm but didn’t overwhelm anything.
8. The GlenDronach Allardice Aged 18 Years Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky — Taste 1
Average Price: $181
This Highland whisky is a local tradition of sorts, dating back to the brand’s origins in the 1820s. The whisky in the bottle is hewn from barrels of at least 18-year-old whiskies. The maturation is done exclusively in hand-picked Olorosso sherry casks from Spain.
This was like Christmas in a glass with a little bit of that edge left in the best possible way to counter the lush nature of the sip. Honestly … if this tasting was in November instead of July, this might have won.
7. Aberfeldy Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky 15 Finished in Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Wine Casks — Taste 8
Average Price: $65
This year’s Aberfeldy 15-year Limited Edition takes classic unpeated Aberfeldy malt and marries it to California wine country. The whisky is filled into Napa Cabernet Sauvignon casks that were hand-picked. Once that whisky is just right, it’s vatted, proofed, and bottled.
This was very smooth while delivering a nice fruity base. It was just good.
6. Cragganmore 2023 Distillers Edition Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky — Taste 16
Average Price: $88
Cragganmore is an iconic Scottish distillery. This yearly whisky release is matured in sherry casks for 12 years. It’s then transferred into port-seasoned American oak casks for a final maturation phase before proofing and bottling.
This is so fresh, funky, and fun while still being delicious and so sleek. I liked this a lot. The only reason it’s a bit lower is that it’s a complete outlier profile-wise.
5. The Dalmore Cigar Malt Reserve Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky — Taste 13
Average Price: $199
This Highland whisky is a no-age-statement version of The Dalmore. The whisky is made from Golden barley that grows on the island in rich and very coastal soils. The ground malted barley is mixed with pure water from the Cromarty Firth nearby during the mashing process. After a couple of times through pot stills, the hot whisky is loaded into ex-bourbon casks, 30-year-old Matusalem Oloroso Sherry butts, and former Cabernet Sauvignon from the Saint-Estèphe appellation of Bordeaux. After 10 to 15 years, those barrels are vatted, the whiskey is proofed, and it’s bottled.
Basically from here on out, we’re talking about both insanely delicious and awesome smooth whiskies. This is delicious and goes down so easily. It’s only a little lower in that it felt classic and nothing more.
4. Talisker 2023 Distillers Edition Island Single Malt Scotch Whisky — Taste 11
Average Price: $113
The 2023 Distillers Edition is a classic Talisker that’s aged by the sea and finished for six months in Amoroso sherry casks. The whisky was distilled in 2012 and bottled at 10 years old. It was then finished in another Amoroso sherry cask, making it “double cask” matured.
This is so unique and beautifully built that it’s hard not to fall in love with it immediately. If you’re looking for the silkiest seaside subtle peated whisky walked through a fruit orchard in fall, this is it.
3. Oban 2023 Distillers Edition West Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky — Taste 3
Average Price: $156
This expression is a love letter to the tiny town of Oban on the western coast of Scotland. The whisky is standard Oban that’s finished in Montilla Fino sherry casks to add an extra dimension to the already finely crafted whisky from the distillery. Those casks are then vatted and proofed before bottling.
This feels like the memories of a childhood spent running around a seaside boardwalk in a glass. It’s as smooth, shiny, misty, and sweet as those memories.
2. The Glenlivet 21 Years of Age Single Malt Scotch Whisky The Sample Room — Taste 7
Average Price: $299
This redesigned The Glenlivet is still a classic whisky. The hot juice is aged in a triple combination of first-fill Oloroso sherry, Troncais oak Cognac casks, and vintage Colheita Port casks. After 21 long years (at least), the barrels are vatted and proofed down before bottling.
This is the paragon of smooth unpeated malt. The only reason it’s not number one today is that there was a whisky that just ran deeper while holding onto that insane smoothness.
1. Lagavulin 2023 Distillers Edition Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky — Taste 20
Average Price: $115
2023’s Distillers Edition is a prime example of the heights Lagavulin can reach. The whisky was aged for 15 years in the core Lagavulin barrels (ex-bourbon and ex-sherry) and then finished for around six months in Pedro Ximénez sherry casks that were specifically made and held specific sherry before the whisky was loaded into the barrels. The result is a 15-year-old Lagavulin that’ll help you fall in love with the brand and style.
This is incredible whisky that has so, so much going on and it’s all like lush silk pajamas in a satin-sheeted bed. This is a clear winner and a great whisky.
Part 3 — Final Thoughts on the Smoothest Single Malt Whiskeys
The ranking of these whiskies isn’t that far off where they’d be if I removed “smooth” from the equation. The Glenlivet would have probably been more middle of the road because it’s so smooth that you might miss the depth that’s there. Other than that, the best whisky is often the whisky that you can actually taste. Too much oak or too much proof or too much of one note over another and you lose that. That’s the lesson here.
In the end, there are a lot of good whiskeys on this list. But if you’re looking for truly smooth flavor bombs, then the top six are going to be the ones to focus on. Re-read the tasting notes, find what speaks to you, and then hit that price link to see if you can snag a bottle of super smooth and delicious single malt whisky in your neck of the woods.