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Taster’s Club Best Islay Scotch In 2023

Written by Emma C | Updated May 2023

Whether you’re new to Scotch or you’ve been enjoying certain expressions for years, you might be curious about the smoky single malts of Islay. This historic Scotch region is renowned for its mysterious, moody, robust whisky style. While the area’s peat is the defining ingredient of the distinct expression, all the best Islay Scotch stands out from the crowd in different ways. To help you choose, we’ve tasted many Islay expressions and picked out the best from the region’s few remaining distilleries. They’re listed here in this Taster’s Club’s top Islay Scotch picks for 2023 – all available in our bottle shop.

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Taster’s Club Best Islay Scotch in 2023: Available in our Bottle Shop
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1. Ardbeg Corryvreckan

Brace your taste buds for one our favorite Islay Scotches. Ardbeg Corryvreckan, named after the treacherous whirlpool north of Islay, captures the daring spirit of those who brave the abyss. This peaty powerhouse delivers swirling aromas and torrents of deep, peppery taste, creating a beautifully balanced dram that mirrors the tumultuous Corryvreckan. Not for the faint-hearted, it was awarded The World’s Best Single Malt in 2010 by the World Whiskies Awards, solidifying its place among the boldest and most revered whiskies of the world. Dive into the depths of flavor and embrace the untamed allure of Ardbeg Corryvreckan.

Region: Islay | Tasting Notes: Pepper, dark druits | ABV: 57.2%

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2. Laphroaig Quarter Cask

Laphroaig® Quarter Cask undergoes a distinctive double aging process, intensifying its profound peatiness while introducing delightful sweetness. Inspired by traditional whisky transport using smaller quarter-sized casks, this expression showcases the liveliest characteristics in our range. Unlike the notion that bigger barrels equate to superior flavor, Quarter Cask challenges expectations. Initially maturing in ex-Bourbon barrels, the whisky is then transferred to smaller casks, intensifying its interaction with the wood. This results in a dram with hints of coconut, banana, and vanilla, harmonizing with our signature heavy peat.

Region: Islay | Tasting Notes: Palate: Woody, Pine, Toffee, Malt, Smoke | ABV: 43%

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3. Lagavulin 16

Discover the distinct flavors of the islands of Scotland with Lagavulin 16 Year Old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky. This 86-proof whisky has the intense, full-bodied flavor reminiscent of a driftwood fire at dusk. The taste of dry peat smoke with strong maritime notes results in a complex dram complemented by a long, elegant finish.

Region: Islay | Tasting Notes: Palate: Malt, Sherry, Fruit, Peat, Oak | ABV: 43%

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4. Kilchoman Machir Bay

Machir Bay, Kilchoman’s signature peated single malt, is a vatting of Kilchoman matured in both bourbon and sherry casks. Named after Islay’s most spectacular beach, the high proportion of bourbon barrels creates a distinct balance of classic Islay character and fresh floral complexity. 

Region: Islay | Tasting Notes: Palate: Tropical Fruit, Dried Raisin, Smoke | ABV: 46%

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5. Bowmore 15

Matured first in bourbon barrels then in Oloroso casks, Bowmore’s 15-year-old Scotch is a fine example of a sherry cask finish whisky. The final three years spent in Oloroso sherry casks give Bowmore 15 its rich, deep color and robust warming finish.

Region: Islay | Tasting Notes: Palate: Woody, Pine, Toffee, Malt, Smoke | ABV: 43%

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6. Port Charlotte 10

Port Charlotte's 10-year-old is conceived, distilled, matured, and bottled only on Islay. Made from 100% Scottish barley, it’s trickle-distilled through tall, narrow-necked stills for a balanced, heathery style of barbeque smoke.

Region: Islay | Tasting Notes: Oak, Smoke, Sea Salt, Custard, Cream, Grape | ABV: 50%

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7. Bunnahabhain 12

Bunnahabhain’s 12-year Islay single malt Scotch was the beginning of the brand’s core range. Non-chill filtered and natural in color, this expression lets you taste the origins of Bunnahabhain with an alluring balance of sweet fruit, nuts, and vanilla, along with a delicate coastal influence.

Region: Islay | Tasting Notes: Sherry, Nut, Malt, Sultana | ABV: 46.3%

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7. Cao ila 12

Caol Ila 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky comes with a rich yet subdued, citric fruitiness. With a sweet start, the whisky ends with a lengthy, slightly sour finish. Perfect on its own or mixed in a cocktail, this award-winning whisky is best enjoyed when served neat in a rocks glass, adding ice or a splash of water for taste.

Region: Islay | Tasting Notes: Tar, Smoke, Cooked Fruit | ABV: 43%

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9. Bruichladdich Classic Laddie

This signature bottling and the definitive Bruichladdich Scotch showcases the brand’s classic, floral, elegant house style, The Classic Laddie is made from 100% Scottish barley, trickle-distilled, non-chill filtered, and free of coloring.

Region: Islay | Tasting Notes: Apples, Grapes, Cinnamon, Brown Sugar | ABV: 50%

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10. Compass Box The Peat Monster

In 2019, Compass Box created a new label for The Peat Monster and its evolved recipe, in honor of its 10th anniversary limited release. All batches of The Peat Monster released since 2019 now feature this specially commissioned artwork.

Region: Islay | Tasting Notes: Peat, Oak, Floral, Bacon, Papaya | ABV: 46%

With these Taster’s Club picks for the best Islay Scotch for Valentine's Day – all available in our bottle shop – you’ll always have options whenever you need to stock up your home bar or offer your guests something special. Each Scotch and the distillery it hails from is unique, making these bottles very interesting to learn about and experience. If you prefer a more curated experience, though, that’s totally understandable, and we’ve got a solution for you. Simply sign up for our Scotch Club and leave the work to us.

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