Taster’s Club Best Scotch Brands in 2023
Written by Emma C | Updated May 2023
If you’re looking for your next bottle of Scotch, you’ve probably noticed how daunting it can be to sort through so many brands and find the best Scotch brands in the crowd. Whether you’re new to Scotch or only know about a specific brand, there are some key factors to look for. Understanding the region that Scotch expressions come from and the specific nuances of each is important since these things largely affect a bottle’s character.
Expressions from Islay like Ardbeg are quite peaty, while The GlenDronach from the Highland region offers sweeter notes. When shopping around, you’ll have tons of information coming at you about aging, flavors, proof, and more – so, it’s always best to have some idea of what you want. To help, we’ve tasted expressions from many brands and have come up with this list of the best Taster’s Club top Scotch brands for 2023, all available in our bottle shop.
The Best Scotch Brands: Available in Taster’s Club Bottle Shop
- Top Single Malt: Aberfeldy 12 | The Glendronach 15
- Top Blended Malt: Dewar’s 19 Year | Johnnie Walker Gold Label
- Top Speyside: Aberlour 18 | Benriach The Smokey Twelve
- Top Islay: Ardberg Uigeadail | Bowmore 15
- Top Highland: Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or | Glengoyne 18
- Top Lowland: Glenkinchie 12 Year Old | Auchentoshan Three Wood
- Top Campbeltown: Glen Scotia 10 Year | Springbank 18
- Top Islands: Arran Sherry Cask Finish ‘The Bodega’ | Old Pulteney Huddart
Top Single Malt
The GlenDronach 15
An early pioneer of sherry cask maturation, The GlenDronach has a deep history going back to the 1770s. The distillery is known for distinctive and characterful single malts aged in oak Sherry casks, which dates back to its founder, James Allardice, in 1826. The GlenDronach 15 offers notes of dark fruits, rich chocolate, and manuka honey with a memorable finish worthy of this monumental malt’s history.
Region: Highland | Tasting Notes: Fruit, Chocolate, Honey | ABV: 46%
Aberlour 12 Year Old Scotch Whisky
Aberfeldy has been producing Scotch whisky since 1898. Today, it operates the Dewar’s World of Whisky educational facility and is known for its heritage and time-honored production methods, and quality water source, the Pitilie Burn. The maker’s Aberfeldy 12 single malt Scotch is a honeyed dram with notes of fruit, spices, lots of vanilla, and just a hint of smoke.
Region: Highland | Notes: Fruit, Spice, Vanilla, Smoke | ABV: 40%
Top Blended Malt
Dewar’s 19 Year
John Dewar founded Dewar’s with his sons John Alexander and Tommy, who turned it from a small wine & spirits shop to a world-renowned blended Scotch whisky brand, today being the world’s most-awarded blended Scotch whisky. Dewar’s 19 Year Old Champion’s Edition was created by four-time Master Blender of the Year, Stephanie Macleod, with the USGA. To honor the site of the 2023 Tournament at the Los Angeles Country Club, the 2023 19-Year-Old Champion’s Edition is double-aged and finished in Napa Valley red wine casks.
Region: Highland | Tasting Notes: Red Fruits, Cherries, Nutmeg | ABV: 43%
Johnnie Walker Gold Label
In 1819, within the year that John Walker’s father died, he began blending whiskies to make each dram as good as the next. After a busy number of decades, by 1920 the brand’s whisky was being sold in 120 countries. Today, Johnnie Walker is the world’s largest whisky brand. Its Gold Label whisky is luxurious, creamy, and honeyed – a wonderful tribute to the harmony of Speyside and Highland whiskies, with just a hint of smoldering embers from the West Coast.
Region: Highland, Speyside | Tasting Notes: Honey, Spiced Vanilla | ABV: 40%
Aberlour believes in locally sourced ingredients, community, and the knowledge and passion of its makers from generation to generation. The brand’s maturation process is a huge contributor to its characteristic rich and complex Speyside whisky. Aberlour 18 has a significant proportion of sherry wood and marks a big step up from its younger counterparts. On the nose, you’ll get old leathery cigar boxes, vanilla, and orange marmalade. The spirit is syrupy on the palate, with oranges, sweet sherry, honey, and figs. Spicy oak, caramel, citrus fruits, and aniseed come forward in the lengthy finish.
Region: Speyside | Tasting Notes: Orange, Sherry, Fig, Honey | ABV: 43%
Benriach The Smoky Twelve
Benriach’s whisky-making heritage goes back to 1898 when founder John Duff built his distillery. Today, water is taken from a mineral-rich aquifer deep under the premises. The brand’s makers work with full flavor options in single malt, thanks to the longstanding distilling tradition of three whisky styles. The Smoky Twelve is crafted from unpeated and peated spirit and triple cask-matured for at least 12 years in bourbon barrels, sherry casks, and Marsala wine casks, then married together to create a smooth, creamy single malt, multilayered with flavors of malt, dried fruit, vanilla, spice, herbs, and nuts.
Region: Speyside | Tasting Notes: Malt, Dried Fruit, Vanilla, Nut | ABV: 43%
Ardbeg makes world-renowned whisky, including six prestigious award-winning expressions.The distillery has been making its spirits for over 200 years with abundant soft water, fertile soil, and acres of peat unique to Islay. One great example is its Uigeadail (pronounced ‘oog-a-dal’), a special vatting that marries Ardbeg’s traditional deep, smoky notes with luscious, raisiny tones of old ex-Sherry casks. This expression was voted by the 120,000+ strong Ardbeg Committee as their favorite Ardbeg.
Region: Islay | Tasting Notes: Fruitcake, Honey, Smoke | ABV: 54.2%
Bowmore is Islay’s oldest licensed distillery and the site of the oldest Scotch aging warehouses in the world – the No. 1 Vaults. The maker’s single malts have been matured and crafted for over 240 years. Bowmore 15 is matured first in bourbon barrels, then in oloroso sherry casks for the final three years. These last years give the spirits its rich, deep color and robust warming finish.
Region: Islay | Tasting Notes: Cedar, Toffee | ABV: 43%
Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or
Glenmorangie’s roots go back to 1843 when a farmer named William Matheson and his wife Anne built the distillery where it sits today in Scotland’s Highland region. The brand’s mascot is a giraffe, as the stills used to produce the whisky are the same height. This extra space lets in more aroma and flavor to the spirit, giving it its distinct, light, and fruity character. The maker’s Nectar D’Or contains the delicate, fruity spirit of those giraffe-high stills and is aged in American oak bourbon casks along with casks that once held Sauternes sweet white wine.
Region: Highland | Tasting Notes: White Chocolate, Almond Croissant | ABV: 46%
Glengoyne has been making whisky since 1833 and still prides itself on patience. Its whiskies are made with air-dried barley and spend three minutes in stills – the slowest in Scotland – before being transferred to casks that take six years to prepare. This produces the brand’s signature complex, fruity profile. Glengoyne 18, matured in first-fill sherry casks, offers spicy vanilla fruit, ripe apples, and a rich, luxurious mouthfeel.
Region: Highland | Tasting Notes: Vanilla, Apple, Spice | ABV: 43%
Glenkinchie 12 Year Old
Glenkinchie, located just outside Edinburgh, goes back to 1825 and is named for 'De Quincy', the original owners of the farmland the distiller sits on. Malting floors were turned into a malt whisky museum in 1969, and in the late 1980s, the name made a comeback under United Distillers’ Classic Malts brand. Its 12-year-old flagship expression is a fantastic introduction to the region. The spirit shows off the characteristic lightness and grassy elements that Lowland whiskies are known for, with nods to cooked fruit and Sauternes wine along the way.
Region: Lowland | Tasting Notes: Stewed Fruit, Dessert Wine, Honey | ABV: 43%
Auchentoshan Three Wood
Achentoshan was built in 1823 by corn merchant John Bulloch and is one of the top Lowlands distilleries today. Its award-winning single malt is matured in three different cask types – American Bourbon, Spanish Oloroso Sherry, and Pedro Ximenez Sherry. Three Wood is rich and complex with toffee and sherry flavors.
Region: Lowland | Tasting Notes: Toffee, Sherry | ABV: 43%
Glen Scotia 10 Year
Glen Scotia’s distillery carries a deep heritage, as seen in its historic buildings and whisky-making process. Today, it continues to make peated and non-peated Scotch with traditional methods that showcase its maritime roots, cask finishings, and flavors. The maker’s 10-year expression offers a unique flavor profile of rich oils, green fruits, and citrus, with its signature maritime nuances.
Region: Campbeltown | Tasting Notes: Oil, Fruit, Citrus | ABV: 40%
Springbank uses traditional production methods in its handmade whisky. Each step of its production process is done onsite at its Campbeltown distillery, which gives the maker total control over the final result. The 18-year-old expression is full of authority as a classic, full-bodied dram. It has a delicious nose of maraschino cherries, sea salt, citrus, cassis, raspberry, and pepper, followed by unique flavors of stewed fruit, berries, salted caramel, pretzels, coffee, and spice.
Region: Campbeltown Tasting Notes: Fruit, Salted Caramel, Coffee, Spice | ABV: 46%
Arran Sherry Cask Finish ‘The Bodega’
Known as ‘Scotland in miniature’, Arran shares features of both the Highlands and Lowlands. The geography – including nearby water, microclimate, and air quality – impacts the spirit during distillation and maturation and makes up its character. The maker’s Sherry Cask 'The Bodega' is a stunning new addition to its core range of whiskies and is the perfect choice if you enjoy your single malt with plenty of body and complexity.
Region: Islands | Tasting Notes: Cherry Cordials, Figs, Caramel | ABV: 55.8%
Old Pulteney Huddart
Distilled at Pulteney Distillery in Wick, Old Pulteney handcrafts single malt whiskies and ages them beside the sea to impart a distinct coastal character. Its Huddart expression is richly warming, embracing a mellow smoky character. The combination of influence from the salt-infused sea air and the peat smoke makes for a whisky with real character, depth, and identity. With a richness extending into its rich gold color, this single malt offers plenty of complexity and flavor.
Region: Islands | Tasting Notes: Burnt Sugar, Fried Banana, Brine | ABV: 46%
This list of Taster’s Club’s best scotch brands for 2023 is a super easy go-to whenever you’re having people over or when you simply need to unwind. Everything is available in our online bottle shop, open 24/7. But, if you’re looking for a more curated experience, try our Scotch Club. We have two tiers to choose from, and you’ll receive amazing monthly selections from today's award-winning distilleries not found on every liquor store shelf.
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