We’re Ranking The Best Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whiskies Over $100

Speyside single malt Scotch whiskies are some of the most beloved in the whole whisk(e)y game. The juice from within the Highlands tends to lean toward unpeated bright floral, fruity, and honeyed flavors with peated malts lurking around the fringes. The whiskies range from entry-level soft mixers to some of the deepest, most flavor-driven whiskies on the shelf.

Today, it’s time to rank some of the best bottles of the good stuff. This is a list of the best Speyside single malt Scotch whiskies that are worth their hefty price tags. But before we dive in, let’s get a little refresher. Speyside is a region completely within Scotland’s Highland whisky region. The regions are so attached that distilleries within Speyside are legally allowed to call themselves either “Speyside” or “Highland” whisky. The most obvious example of this grey area is The Macallan which is next to a dozen or so Speyside distilleries but is labeled as a “Highland” malt.

Beyond legal semantics, we’re talking about a whisky from a region that ranges from barley fields to mineral-rich rivers cascading off craggy mountains to the mid-Northern Scottish coastline. The region is pretty tiny but dynamic and that variation shines though in whiskies from the area. One last quick note: All of these bottles are standards and not investment unicorns — with a little sleuthing, you should be able to find them all (start by clicking on those price links).

Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Scotch Whisky Posts of The Last Six Months

10. The Glenlivet 18

The Glenlivet 18
Pernod Ricard

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $148

The Whisky:

This unpeated Speyside single malt is a classic. The whisky ages first in ex-bourbon and then ex-sherry casks for 18 years before a lot of proofing and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

The nose opens with a rush of burnt tropical fruits drizzled with cinnamon syrup and a touch of almond, white pepper, and vanilla. The palate builds on that with orange and lemon oils next to a mix of winter spices — cinnamon, clove, anise — before a leathery vanilla pod kicks in. The finish dries out with almond shells and hard raisins before the vanilla attaches to a spicy tobacco leaf on the slow fade.

Bottom Line:

This is the perfect place to start. This whisky is amazingly easy to drink but has a little too much proofing (for me). That said, if you want an easy drinker that’ll actually deliver a nice and fruity flavor profile, this is going to be your jam.

9. Glenfiddich 23

Glenfiddich 23
William Grant & Sons

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $360

The Whisky:

It’s all in the name of this yearly special release from Glenfiddich. The whisky matures for over 23 years in both ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks before it’s vatted and then filled into French Cuvée casks that held Champagne. That whisky is then cut down to proof and bottled just in time for the holiday season.

Tasting Notes:

More apples, tart, sweet, bruised, stewed, drive the nose with a gentle floral edge next to buttered brioche with a dollop of marmalade served on an old maple plank. The palate has a lush vanilla feeling to it as pear candy and dried roses lead to floral yet creamy honey. The sweetness lingers from the mid-palate to the finish as apple and pear skins and cores melt into a pot of that floral honey.

Bottom Line:

This has a nice hint of bourbon vanilla to it that helps bridge Kentucky and Scotland on the palate. Overall, if you’re already a bourbon drinker, give this a try to dip your toes in the regional style. I ranked it a little lower here thanks to those ABVs but it still has a nice, deep flavor profile despite that proofing water.

8. Aberlour 18 Years Old

Pernod Ricard

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $168

The Whisky:

The expression from Speyside’s Aberlour also uses old bourbon for its primary maturation and ex-sherry for its finishing maturation. Finally, it’s proofed down with soft Speyside water and bottled as-is.

Tasting Notes:

You’re drawn in with a note of hard butterscotch candies next to a touch of chinotto (bittersweet Italian orange), butter toffee, and the slightest wisp of peach pits. The taste builds out from that peach pit layer with a note of ripe peach flesh and fuzzy skin while jammy blackberry leads towards a soft cedar. The finish really takes its time and leaves you with a silken texture next to a honeyed sweetness and a final roundness of vanilla cream.

Bottom Line:

There’s a deeply rooted dark fruitiness to this that’s very enticing. This also gets pretty damn creamy when poured over a rock or two, which is a nice touch.

7. Craigellachie Aged 17 Years

Bacardi

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $179

The Whisky:

Craigellachie is the other whisky that helps make Dewar’s (the other base spirit being Aberfeldy). This expression is made with old-school stills and stored in old-school warehouses. The juice is aged in ex-bourbon casks for 17 years and vatted to highlight the uniqueness of the brand.

Tasting Notes:

You’re drawn in by that familiar and deep vanilla note with some apple pie in there next to a dried and salted pineapple candy, a touch of smoked oats, and a savory fruit (almost a honeydew melon). That pineapple note holds on and intensifies to a pineapple and vanilla pudding on the palate as dry and woody spices arrive next to a hint of dry tobacco, cedar, and a billow of dry smoke. The end embraces the smoke through the filter of that pineapple pudding as it slowly fades out.

Bottom Line:

Deep fruit and vanilla drive the palate, which is reminiscent of light and fruity bourbon. Overall, I love this in an old-fashioned more than a sipper but it 100 percent works in both applications.

6. BenRiach The Twenty One

Brown-Forman

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $300

The Whisky:

This whisky from BenRiach is a combination of peated and unpeated malts. The whiskies are then aged for 21 years in ex-bourbon barrels, ex-sherry casks, virgin oak casks, and former Bordeaux red wine casks. Those are then blended after their two-decade rest and proofed with that soft Speyside water.

Tasting Notes:

This bursts with fresh Band-Aids from afar. Those fresh and plasticky bandages are supported by cream soda, a hint of rum-raisin, slight nuttiness, and a dash of old potpourri. The palate carries on through the drug store with that Band-Aid vibe as creamy vanilla and soft chocolate malts interact with spicy minced meat pies, walnut coffee cake, and a hint of floral candle wax. The finish drops off pretty quickly, leaving you with old Band-Aids, burnt vanilla pods, and a touch more of that cream soda.

Bottom Line:

I had to call out at least one peaty whisky. This is aged enough that the peat is drawn back and not overly tannic or ashy (there’s no sense of licking out a BBQ here). I really dig this over a single rock that mutes the Band-Aid and amps up the smoked dried fruits and creamy vanilla.

5. The Balvenie PortWood Aged 21 Years

William Grant & Sons

ABV: 47.6%

Average Price: $300

The Whisky:

This masterfully crafted expression from The Balvenie takes some serious time. The whisky is initially aged for 21 years in ex-bourbon casks. That whisky is then transferred to small port pipes, which held port in Portugal for 30 long years. That’s a long, long time, creating some very rare and well-seasoned oak. The effect is singular and distinct.

Tasting Notes:

You’re pulled in by a gentle sense of ripe yet soft peaches next to wet rose petals and a small billow of cherry tobacco smoke from a pipe. The palate, again, is gentle and carries notes of red, sweet, and tart berries, stewed plums, and tiny moments of velvety and buttery pain au chocolat. The finish holds onto that chocolate as it slowly meanders through your senses, leaving you with dark fruits, a whisper more of that cherry tobacco, and a pure silk mouthfeel.

Bottom Line:

This is where we get into the beautifully delicious pours. Any of these top five could be number one depending on the day and mood you are pouring with.

4. Cardhu Aged 14 Years The Scarlet Blossoms of Black Rock

Cardhu 11
Diageo

ABV: 55.5%

Average Price: $155

The Whisky:

This year’s Cardhu is a subtle malt that’s just touched with wine casks after spending a dozen years mellowing in refill bourbon barrels. Those wine casks are dumped into a vat and then this is, again, bottled at barrel strength.

Tasting Notes:

This feels like a layered fruit tart that starts with almost sour apples and grapes that’s topped with a layer of buttery pastry topped with red berries and pear that’s topped with another layer of buttery pastry that’s then topped with savory lychee that’s then topped with dried orange zest, dried lavender petals, and a drizzle of cinnamon-spiced honey. The palate adds a creamy dollop of vanilla-laced whipped cream with a few lines of buttery toffee and more of those florals. Then the taste veers into a tannic, vinous red wine vibe with a touch of wet cedar and a hint of black peppercorn. The finish arrives quickly as that pepper smooths out into a powdery white pepper and the apple and pear return to softly bring about the short end.

Bottom Line:

This is a lovely limited edition bottle of a brand that rarely gets the love it deserves in the U.S. If you do chase one down, pour it over a single rock amps up the creaminess of the spiced honey and the brightness of the fruitiness with an added buttery base.

3. The GlenAllachie 21 Cask Strength

GlenAllachie 21
The GlenAllachie Distillers Company Limited

ABV: 51.4%

Average Price: $265

The Whisky:

Glenallachie’s Master Distiller Billy Walker hand-selected just five casks for this release. The barrels were ex-Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso sherry puncheons (a large barrel that’s around 100 gallons, give or take). Those whiskies were vatted and bottled as-is.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a note of grapefruit pith when you nose this dram that leads towards honeyed chocolate truffles with a touch of cinnamon and orange. The palate goes full Christmas cake with plenty of dried nuts, candied and dried fruits, rich wintry spice, and a touch of chocolate maltiness next to candied ginger, more orange, and a note of golden corn syrup. That sweetness attaches to the fruit and spice to create a stewed plum vibe on the finish that luxuriates in mild spice, sweet and meaty stone fruit, and a touch more of that chocolate.

The Bottom Line:

Honey, chocolate, orange, and cinnamon go together so well, especially in this whisky. Overall, this whisky does benefit from taking your time on the nose and taste and adding in water to let it bloom toward those Christmas cake vibes.

2. Benrinnes 21

Diageo

ABV: 56.9%

Average Price: $480

The Whisky:

Benrinnes is that other distillery in Aberlour up in Speyside. The distillery is also one of the only malts that are triple distilled (like Irish whiskey). The juice in this bottle goes back to that era of distillation with a focus on sherry cask maturation over two decades before bottling as-is.

Tasting Notes:

The nose is full of peanut brittle touched with finishing salts, match flints, brewer’s yeast, Milk Duds, and sticky toffee pudding. The palate leans into the date cake and adds bold eggnog spices next to a bowl full of dried fruits soaking in brandy next to a savory fruit that’s halfway between a cucumber and winter squash. The finish lingers for a while and leaves you with an almost burnt chocolate maltiness, salt flakes, and more of those dates.

Bottom Line:

The chocolate maltiness and spiced holiday cake are can’t-miss notes in this one, which makes it hard not to love. Overall, you do want to pour this over a single rock or add a little water to get to the deeper notes and calm those ABVs down a tad.

1. Mortlach 20

Diageo

ABV: 43.4%

Average Price: $230

The Whisky:

Dufftown’s Mortlach is one of those distilleries that may just make you fall in love with scotch. The mash is distilled 2.81 times, according to Mortlach’s unique distilling methods. That juice is then loaded in sherry casks and left to do its thing for 20 long years. The results are vatted, brought down to proof with that soft Speyside water, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

There’s an apple pie feel that pulls you in with stewed and spicy apples, black raisins, and walnuts next to a hint of caramelized pineapple and a whisper of sea salt. That apple pie filling kicks up a notch as a savory buttery pie crust comes into play, while hints of mint, figs, vanilla, oak, and dark cacao mingle on the tongue. The end comes along very slowly with more walnuts and raisins leading towards a final savory note that’s almost … extra virgin olive oil?

Bottom Line:

This is a perfect whisky, full stop.

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