There’s never been a better time to be a whisky fan than now (pandemic issues aside). It doesn’t take long to get lost in a sea of new releases, independent bottlings, and special editions – and rarely, if ever, will you come across a definitively ‘bad’ whisky among them.
And this is where accolades and awards come in. Of course, being called “The Best” is subjective; we all have our own biases and preferences. But what it can do is point us to some of the outstanding whiskies that were made and drunk in 2021, and will continue to shine in 2022.
Here are some of the “best” whiskies that we have in store, as named by some of leading experts and pundits.
Deanston 18 Year Old Bourbon Matured
This exclusively ex-bourbon matured whisky provides a good contrast to the sherry-leaning trend we see in whiskies today. There is no shortage of people who love this, including the folks at The Whisky Exchange, who named this their Whisky of The Year 2022.
What TWE said: “A fruity, sweet 18-year-old single malt from Highland distillery Deanston that has been matured in first-fill ex-bourbon casks, cranking the distillery’s honeyed, fruity character up to eleven. Aromatic oak spice mingles with floral malt, green grass, honey-drizzled vanilla pods and hints of nutmeg on the nose, complemented by notes of white pepper, gingerbread, oranges, Manuka honey and baking spices throughout the palate.”
Ledaig 18 Year Old
Ledaig – the name given to the peated whisky coming from Tobermory distillery – has been quietly growing a reputation for making the best non-Islay peated Scotch. That’s been confirmed with this stunner, which was finished in sherry casks to balance the sweet, fruity brown sugar richness with smoke and sea salt on the palate.
What they said: “Some intriguing smoky herbs and iodine on the nose, making for an intriguing earthy aroma. Then on the palate there’s more peat smoke, rubber soles and an interesting medicinal note. Things seem to sweeten up a little with freshly squashed peppers and sweet wine cask that leads into a salty long finish.”
Bunnahabhain 25 Year Old
In this blind tasting competition organised by leading industry publication The Spirits Business, the Bunnahabhain 25 turned judges’ heads, and was enjoyed for having “lots of forest floor rancio and gentle spice”. It won a Master medal in the Single Malt: Islay – Aged between 19‐30 Years category and ultimately taking home the coveted Taste Master title.
Ledaig 10 Year Old
Ralf Mitchell is one of YouTube’s most respected and influential whisky pundits, known for his no-nonsense approach when it comes to Scotch. The Ledaig 10 Year Old was his choice in 2022, and it’s easy to see why: there’s plenty of rich and earthy smoke, with char and iodine in the background, balanced out by fresh fruit, raisin and black pepper notes.
What Ralfy said: “It’s distinctive – peaty, tannic, slightly dried powdered gingery-ness, with that raisin note carrying right through. Delicious stuff!”
Arran 10 Year Old
The last year also marked the inaugural Online Scotch Whisky Awards, an online community awards led by Roy Duff and Ralf Mitchell. Together with dozens of WhiskyTubers – whisky-based YouTube channels – they independently nominated their best whiskies and distilleries that were then put up for a public vote. An affordable, approachable, and well-made whisky that’s bottled at 46% abv and natural colour, this ticks all the boxes a whisky geek looks for.
It also won the night’s Best Entry Level Single Malt, as a testament to its value and quality.
Teeling 28 Year Old Vintage Reserve
Teeling is no stranger to the spotlight, especially after its 24-year-old expression won World’s Best Single Malt in World Whiskies Awards 2019. This 28-year-old Irish single malt is a worthy winner, made by maturing the spirit in Bourbon casks before being moved over to Sauternes wine casks to marry.
What they said: “Dark chocolate on the nose with raspberries and some kind of cough sweet. The palate is delicious and smooth with nuttiness and fruity milk chocolate. The finish is superb and extremely enjoyable. Well-balanced. “
Tobermory 23 Year Old
Tobermory’s distillate and sherry casks are a match made in heaven – just ask those who managed to get their hands on the now-gone 15-year-old expression released in 2008. This Tobermory 23 Year Old spent its time resting in Oloroso sherry casks to create “an even more exquisite and full-flavoured whisky” compared to the original 15-year-old.
Tobermory Mountain Gin
To win once at the World Gin Awards is an achievement, and to do it twice is astonishing. Having won World’s Best Classic Gin at the World Gin Awards 2021, the limited-edition Tobermory Mountain Gin was recently announced as the best Scottish Gin in the 2022 World Gin awards.
Impressing the judges with its smooth, rich and gently sweet flavours, the Mountain Gin uses botanicals including Hebridean tea, wild heather and a splash of spirit from the Tobermory whisky stills. A gin this good doesn’t need much tonic, if at all, to be enjoyed at its best.