With whisky becoming more commercial and therefore more expensive, it can seem like quality drams at an affordable price are out of reach. The best Scotch whisky often seems to come with a three-digit price tag. That is why we have put together this list of 10 of the best Scotch whiskies to try in 2021, and the type of drinker that they suit best. If you do sample a dram, get in touch and let us know what you think!
And so, in no particular order…
Best For Big Flavour Drinkers
Glenallachie 15 Year Old:
Billy Walker, Sherry cask supremo, got very bored of early retirement and has turned a relatively unknown distillery into a powerhouse of big sherry casks and fun cask creation (avec BenRiach). The 15YO’s heavy Oloroso & Pedro Ximinez influences are easily seen with their mahogany colours cutting through everything else in the room. Presented at 46%, natural colour and non-chill filtered, a must for all whisky drinkers with a taste for the richer side of life.
Summary: Loads of sherry. It’s like being attacked by chocolate, orange and coffee. Best for anyone who loves their sherry casks!
Best For Peat Lovers
Port Charlotte 10 Year Old:
Peat. Big, bolstering, powerful peat from Port Charlotte 10YO. By far and away one of the most consistent batch releases on the smoky market. Most of the usual fanfare surrounding Bruichladdich was not directed at this release. No over the top sherry and wine casks, no huge PPM count. Just a huge and well rounded peated single malt with depths that rival whiskies much older than itself. 50% ABV. Natural Colour. Non-Chill filtered
Summary: Peat fans, this is the best and most consistent Islay whisky that is currently available.
Best For Islay Lovers, With A Twist
Caol Ila Distillers Edition:
Caol Ila’s classic sweet smoke has been well-loved among drinkers for a long time. But, to add an element of creaminess to the recipe, the Distiller’s Edition has been aided with the help of some Moscatel wine casks. Waves of BBQ smoke and salted caramel will coat your palate for hours, possibly even days. A wonderful concoction of sweet smokiness from the biggest distillery on Islay. 43% ABV
Summary: Islay with a twist! Best suited for the peat fan who wants something a little different, a little creamier than most Islay.
Best For The Experimental Drinkers
Their second publicly released single malt and what a treat it is. Let us hope that the investors and collectors focus their attention on the first release, leaving more bottles of the second release to be sampled and enjoyed. Combining 50% peated and 50% unpeated barley with ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks, in a natural state. Perfect. They did wait for six years before releasing their first single malt, this comes in just under seven – let’s just call it six and some years old. Delicate milk chocolate smells and a gentle amount of smoke provide a solid flavour profile for a younger whisky. Think Oban and Highland Park! 46.8% ABV. Natural Colour. Non-Chill Filtered.
Summary: 50% peated and 50% unpeated barley with bourbon and sherry at under seven years old. A whisky to try and break down in your notebook, and best for a drinker who wants something a little different.
Best For Adventurous Drinkers
Ailsa Bay 1.2:
On the subject of sweet smoke… This single malt has seen a transformation in design over the last release. No heavy granite stopper in the top this time – probably saved a lot on shipping costs! – but it also sets apart the releases from one another. Occupying quarter casks for a large amount of its life and using refill American Oak and Virgin Oak, this Ailsa Bay expression has the punch of west coast peated whisky and the soft, alluring sweetness that bourbon throws into the ring. 48.9% ABV. Natural Colour. Non-Chill Filtered
Summary: The adventurous amongst you will love this. Medium peat, small barrels, ex-American oak and virgin oak. Spicy, sweet, smoky Lowland. Stunner.
For The Nostalgic Lowland Lovers
Kingsbarns Dream to Dram:
The reinvention of Lowland whiskies has been long and arduous for distilleries and whisky drinkers. Kingsbarns has taken the ideals of fresh, vibrant, hot weather whisky and totally perched itself at the top of the tree. Ex-bourbon casks and STR wine barrels have given this younger single malt a refreshing and crisp citrus flavour. In short or long drinks, this will provide you with ample joy in these sunnier months. 46% ABV. Natural Colour. Non-Chill Filtered.
Summary: This is best for the nostalgic of us. It’s a new distillery, but its style is that of older and long lost Lowland styles. Lighter, delicate and still packed with flavour.
Best Scotch For, Well, Everyone…
Arran: All of Arran:
Pretty much says all it needs to. Whether it’s the 10YO, Quarter Cask, The Bodega, 18YO, 21YO, obscure single casks, try them all! Arran has really seen dividends pay off with its radical bottle redesign and unbelievable cask selections, within its batch products and single barrel releases. The range, depth and variations of flavours the distillery is producing can’t be beat right now. Even their peated distillery, Lagg, will be at the three-year point in 2021. Big things to come from Arran. 46%-Natural Cask Strength Releases. Natural Colour. Non-Chill Filtered.
Summary: This is for everyone. They won’t blow you away with loads of peat. But the range and depth of flavour is incredible across the range.
Best For The Underdog
The world of sherried whisky is complicated. However, Speyburn 18YO makes this less complicated, as it is one of the finest and most underrated heavily sherried whiskies that you can currently lay your hands on. We’ve already mentioned Glenallachie and their big sherry influences, which are well-known amongst drinkers.. But within all of this, this Speyburn single malt has sat there, under the cover of darkness. Please try it. 46%. Natural Colour. Non-Chill Filtered.
Summary: The Underdog. It isn’t a well known brand, but this is as good as the best in the sherry cask, older styles. Everyone likes an underdog.
Best For The Classic Loch Lomond Lovers
Loch Lomond 14YO:
As a distillery that literally produces everything you can think of; Loch Lomond has hit it out of the park again. This time with a whisky matured in ex-American and French oaks. The usual array of gingers spices and subtle vanilla from Loch Lomond is one show here, but with a welcomed and warm selection of cinnamon and tropical fruits. A distillery that is openly different in all of its approaches and happily shows off its adventures with oak and spirit style. 46%. Natural Colour. Non-Chill Filtered.
Summary: For those of you that have adored Loch Lomond over the last few years; this is for you. A new release which combines the fun, adventurous side of whisky making with stunning cask selection.
Best For The Whisky Hunters
Glen Scotia 10YO Campbeltown Malts Festival 2021:
This is sold out in most places already…I’m hoping for a later release of stock in the year. However, even with that, wow! These Campbeltown Festival Releases are a hot topic for drinkers every year, this is no different. Unpeated style, cask strength and ex-Bordeaux wine casks. An actual dream comes true. Much like their sister distillery, Loch Lomond, we can always count on Glen Scotia for something a little more unusual and exciting for drinkers. Gone are the days of the sherry cask finishing. They’re making their whisky exciting for us all. Natural Cask Strength 56.1%. Natural Colour. Non-Chill Filtered.
Summary: For those whisky hunters, a bottle for you. A collectible piece from a range that has impressed everyone in the last few years. Still fun, still natural in its approach. Keep an eye on this range, but I’d advise getting two. Drink one, keep one.
And there we have it! The best Scotch whisky for under £100, so that in 2021 you can sample some great Scotch whiskies without a hefty price tag. If you have any other recommendations for the best Scotch whiskies to try this year please do let us know.