The Best Scotch Whisky of 2021

by Anthony Dias Blue  |  03.20.2022

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I’m a scotch drinker, and looking over the Gold and Double Gold winners from the 2021 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, I can only wish my father owned a liquor store.

First and foremost, the judges bestowed the unique Best of the Best whisky award on a 25-year-old single malt from an obscure Cambeltown distillery, Glen Scotia. This magnificent but understated elixir can be yours for a mere $500, if you can find it. Glen Scotia is one of three distilleries left in this region that used to be the center of activity in the Highlands. If you can’t find this sainted bottle, no worry. There are many other winners that are certain to slake your thirst nicely.

Next on the hit parade is the winner of the single malt category that honors “13 to 19 year old” whiskies. The champ in this very competitive group is the lovely 18-year-old beauty from Talisker, one of my favorites. This spicy and smooth creation is made on the Isle of Skye, so it contains some of the salty, briny maritime notes that are common but much more front and center in the products of Islay. The Taslisker 18 will set you back $170 – a bargain for such a smooth, complex dram.

Lagavulin 8 Year Old & Drams

The next step down is only a drop in price but certainly not in flavor. Anything from the famed Islay distillery Lagavulin is bound to be bursting with rich, salty notes from an island surrounded by the sea. The double gold winner of the “up to 12 years of age” group is the 8-year-old Lagavulin. This is an excellent introduction to the unique charms of this exceptional community of twelve distilleries. If you are just beginning to appreciate Scotland’s great products, Islay (pronounced ”eye-luh”) is probably not the place to start, but this multi-layered 8-year-old is a nice introduction to the remarkable flavors of this island. This experimentation will cost you only $75.

Let’s say you are surfeited with the complex flavors of pure single malt. Maybe it’s time to sample the subtle but no less seductive style of blended scotch. While single malt comes from a single distillery and is a showcase of that distillery’s style, blended Scotch is the expression of the master blender of the particular house’s style. He or she mixes a number of single malts and softens the blend with a dose of neutral grain spirits.

The big winner in the blended area is Dewar’s. Top blended up to 15 years is the “Caribbean Smooth” which was aged in rum barrels, and smooth it is. This one is a mere $22; you could buy a case! If you want to step up just a little, to the “16 Years and Older” classification check out the “Double Double 27 Year Old” from Dewar’s. it’s spectacular and just $90 a bottle.

The list presents a lovely range of flavors as well as a good range of prices. Best dive in now while they’re still available.