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The Most Overhyped Bottles Of Scotch Whisky (Plus Alternates We Recommend)

Calling out the most “overrated” or “overhyped” whiskies (or overrated/overhyped anything for that matter) is a tricky task. We all have the bottles of whisky we love for tradition’s sake alone. Sometimes, these preferences have been passed down generation after generation. To have someone sh*t on something so personal isn’t just annoying, it’s deflating.

That’s not what we’re here to do. Our number one rule is: Like what you like and don’t apologize for that. Our number two rule is: Every palate is different and you have every right in the world to disagree with the whisky writers, judges, and experts. In fact, that’s just another layer of what makes drinking fun — the analysis, the disagreement, and the resulting banter.

This isn’t about talking down to anyone’s choices or even saying that any of these whiskies aren’t finely crafted. This is more about calling out expressions that gobble up more than their share of the spotlight, thereby leaving other wonderful bottles of whisky lingering on the shelf. So trust that we’re not, in any way, telling you not to keep loving these bottles.

In fact, we’ve provided tasting notes and links for buying each expression so that you can judge for yourself and argue with us (in a friendly manner!) in the comments. We’ve also offered alternate options that we like a whole lot more.

Ballantine’s Finest

Ballentine

ABV: 40%
Average Price: $20

The Whisky:

Ballentine’s Finest is a blend of 40 single malt and single grain whiskies from around Scotland. Ballantine’s has been around long enough for it to be called a classic and remains one of the best selling scotches on the planet.

Tasting Notes:

Malts and toffee mingle on the nose with a billow of smoke. The taste really leans into the sweet malts that were clearly peated yet carry a caramel edge. It has a warm, albeit short end.

Bottom Line:

This is cheap and easy-ish drinking but can be astringently smoky and alcohol-forward. Their 12 Year takes off the rougher edges and is only $10 more.

The Famous Grouse

Famous Grouse

ABV: 40%
Average Price: $24

The Whisky:

The Famous Grouse is an old-school blend that got its start in a Scottish grocery store where grocers often blended their own whiskies to sell. The juice is now a mix of single malts and single grains with a focus on parent company partners Highland Park and The Macallan.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a Christmas cake nose that’s spicy, fruity, and malty and supported by a note of citrus. The palate keeps those notes rolling with an additional whisper of oak. The end is short and creamy with a distant wisp of smoke.

Bottom Line:

This is a solid mixing whisky but rarely used that way. We’d argue that there are more interesting barrel finishings of The Famous Grouse — from the Cask Series — in the same price range that offer deeper flavor profiles.

Dewar’s White Label

Dewar

ABV: 40%
Average Price: $25

The Whisky:

Dewar’s ranks up there among the biggest selling scotches in the world. The juice in the bottle is a blend of 40 single malts and single grains with a focus on Aberfeldy.

Tasting Notes:

Honey apples with a grassy note open this one up. The sip leans into the honey sweetness with the addition of oak, vanilla, and a touch of spice and smoke. The finish relishes on that honey sweetness as it fades out.

Bottom Line:

This is a perfectly fine blend for mixing. If you’re looking for a sipper though, their longer aged versions get that job done and only cost $10 or so more.

Glenfiddich 12

Glenfiddich

ABV: 40%
Average Price: $34

The Whisky:

This Speyside single malt is behind every bar and on every liquor store shelf, pretty much worldwide. Glenfiddich ages their whisky is a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks before bottling in their signature three-corner green bottles.

Tasting Notes:

Spicy caramel apples and oak mix with a hint of toffee up top. The sip brings the bourbon vanilla with butterscotch maltiness and more of that apple. There’s a floral note deep in there somewhere that emerges just as the sweet sip fades out rather quickly.

Bottom Line:

This is a perfectly serviceable bottle of booze. However, Glenfiddich is doing much more interesting things now with bourbon and beer barrel finishes at slightly higher price points that deserve a bit more attention in our estimation.

Johnnie Walker White Walker

Diageo

ABV: 41.7%
Average Price: $40

The Whisky:

This bottle was released back in 2018 to celebrate Game Of Thrones ending its run. The juice is a blend with a focus on Diageo single malts from Cardhu and one of the northernmost Scottish distilleries, Clynelish. The bottle is meant to be frozen, revealing a special logo when cold enough to drink.

Tasting Notes:

Grain and smoke hit your first but there’s a metallic nature to the nose. There’s a bit of tart apple next to a hint of spice. The smoke is dialed way back and comes with a whisper of vanilla.

Bottom Line:

Look, this is a gimmick. Also, freezing the whisky really mutes any flavors that might be there. In the end, there are plenty of other Johnnie Walkers you can drink for the same price that eschews the gimmick and, frankly, doesn’t need to be frozen to drink.

Even if you want to stick with the GoT theme, Diageo has an entire line of killer single malts that trump this bottle.

Ardbeg Wee Beastie

Ardbeg

ABV: 47.4%
Average Price: $50

The Whisky:

Islay’s Ardbeg is a smoky single malt classic. Their new 2020 release, Wee Beastie, is a five-year-old whisky that was aged in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks before marrying and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

This is a hot and smoky whisky. The peat and alcohol warmth is very present on the nose and in the palate. Orchard fruit and vanilla try and peek through the smoky heat. The sip hints at fatty smoked bacon with a slight seaside brininess as it fades back into a big cloud of peaty smoke.

Bottom Line:

This is a brand new expression so it got a lot of hype this year. We think it got more than it deserved. Ardbeg 10 is a classic and this bottle (plus the five extra years that the 10 enjoys in the barrel) makes it clear why.

Highland Park 12

Highland Park

ABV: 43%
Average Price: $56

The Whisky:

A perennial best-seller, the Orkney Island’s Highland Park sort of bridges sweet and smoky scotches. Their 12 Year is matured exclusively in ex-sherry casks, with one-fifth of these being first-fill sherry.

Tasting Notes:

The nose is sweet, grassy, smoky, tart, floral, and full of vanilla. Those notes carry on without a clear focus on any one aspect, except maybe the honey sweetness. The end is swift with a nod to lemon, peat, and fruit.

Bottom Line:

The lack of focus on this dram knocks it down a few pegs in our book. Also, there are tighter single malts in the 12-year range that cost less (see Glenfiddich above). That all being said, Highland Park has a very wide range of whiskies with higher agings and various finishing techniques that we prefer.

Laphroaig 10

Laphroaig

ABV: 43%
Average Price: $58

The Whisky:

Laphroaig is another classic Islay peat-monster distillery. This juice is designed to capture the brine of the sea and marry it to the deep peaty smoke of the malts.

Tasting Notes:

It should come as no surprise that hefty billows of peaty smoke greet you. The oily sip edges towards pears, plaster, vanilla, and a hint of toffee sweetness. The end has a nice spicy warmth with vanilla as the smoke completely surrounds your senses in a murky cloud.

Bottom Line:

Again, we’re not saying this is crap whisky. It’s just a bit pricy for an entry-point whisky that’s best used as a mixer and not a sipper. However, if you’re a peat-seeker, this might be exactly your jam.

Aberlour A’Bunadh

Aberlour

ABV: 59.6%
Average Price: $102

The Whisky:

Aberlour is one of those distilleries you either know about and adore or have never heard of. Their A’Bunadh — which means “original” in Scottish Gaelic — is an unadulterated version of their whisky which is bottled at cask strength. It’s become one of the most sought-after single malts for single malt hunters (which doesn’t help the price of this on the shelf).

Tasting Notes:

Christmas cake cut with plenty of spicy orange zest and nutty sherry notes great you. The sip delivers on those notes with the addition of dark cherries, dark chocolate, and a good dose of oak. The end amps up the spice, chocolate, and oak as it fades at a fairly easy pace.

Bottom Line:

This is a fine sipper but actually works better as a mixer, especially for whiskey sours. For us, $100 for a mixer feels like a bit much. Still, this is a fine whiskey… just one that we really wish we could pay $50 for.

The Dalmore 18

The Dalmore

ABV: 43%
Average Price: $230

The Whisky:

The Dalmore is an interesting Highland distillery. Like most of the distilleries around Scotland, it’s very old and distinguished. Their 18 Year is a juice that’s aged for 14 years in ex-bourbon and then transferred to sherry casks that are made especially for The Dalmore in Spain.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a sense of that bourbon vanilla next to orange zest and dark chocolate on the nose. The palate carries on with the dark chocolate and orange, adding in notes of bitter coffee and potpourri florals next to a hint of black licorice. The sip has an earthy spiciness and sweet syrup finish.

Bottom Line:

This is a big swing, but there’s almost too much going on here. The dried florals, licorice, chocolate, and syrup just don’t vibe. And for this price? You can snag The Dalmore 12 instead. It’s a bit more dialed even though it’s younger and far cheaper.

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