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We Asked 17 Bartenders: What’s the Best New Scotch That’s Earned a Spot on Your Bar?

Scotch is a legacy product – it’s been around for hundreds of years, as have some of the most popular brands that produce it. But even in a category crowded with acclaimed brands, there’s newness to explore. Younger distillers have taken an interest in producing Scotch over the last few decades, bringing smaller companies into the ring to compete with familiar old favorites.

It’s the rare home bar cart that has extra space for a constant influx of new bottles, though. That’s why we asked bartenders from across the country to share the new Scotch whiskies — some new to the industry, and some new to them — that have earned a coveted spot on their bars.

The best new Scotch, according to bartenders:

Compass Box Artist Blend
GlenAllachie 15 Year
Arran Sauternes Cask Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Oban 14
Balvenie 15
Redacted Bros. Blended Malt Whisky SRV5
The Famous Grouse
The Balvenie 60
Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 10 Year
Caol Ila 12 Year Scotch
Talisker 10 Year
Ultra Marine Blended Scotch
Glenmorangie X
Balblair 15
Dalmore Cigar Malt Reserve
Glen Scotia 15 Year

“We like to work with Compass Box Artist Blend because it is such a versatile whisky. It is smooth and robust with lovely fruit and spice notes. We use the Scotch in our Globetrotter cocktail: a combination of Artist Blend, Irish whiskey, blanc vermouth, blackberry, and bergamot.” —Ian Alexander, head bartender, The Dead Rabbit, NYC

“The best Scotch that is new to me is GlenAllachie 15 Year. The GlenAllachie distillery has been around since 1967, but it was purchased by master distiller Billy Walker and his business partner from the Chivas brothers in 2017. This Scotch is incredibly smooth and has a relatively low price point in comparison to many of its competitors. I really love the philosophy behind the company, like how they take strides to reduce their carbon footprint across their solar-powered distillery, plus I always want to support independent companies.” —Tom Brander, beverage manager, Wilder, Philadelphia

“Our best new Scotch at Gravitas that we highlight is Arran Sauternes Cask Single Malt Scotch Whisky. Matured in oak casks, it gives a pleasant honey and citrus notes on the nose and light peat, zest, apricot, and melon for the finish. I enjoy this Scotch because it is not too overwhelming, and it’s a unique style that I’ve never come across before.” —Mike Ross, lead bartender, Gravitas, Washington, D.C.

“Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky is quite the treat. Being double-matured in Pedro Ximénez cask wood lends to a sweet, mellow, full-bodied sipping Scotch. It has [that] salty tang, classic peat smoke, and incredibly long, oaky finish you’re looking for.” —Mandy Shaver, food & beverage supervisor, 1799 Kitchen & Cocktails, The Harpeth, Franklin, Tenn.

“I’d say Oban 14. This single malt West Highlands Scotch offers a balance of fruit, leather, and peat. Could definitely be considered a gateway into a vast category of spirits. Whether you are new to Scotch or you have been indulging for years, Oban 14 has everything you need. It absolutely deserves a spot on any bar, anywhere.” —Cody Sowell, mixologist, Revivalist and 106 Jefferson, Huntsville, Ala.

“One of the best new Scotches for Sonsie’s bar is Balvenie 15. Its smooth and rich flavor profile makes it a popular choice among Scotch enthusiasts.” —Rafael Sau, restaurant manager, Sonsie, Boston

“The best new Scotch that we’ve added to the bar recently has been Redacted Bros Blended Malt Whisky SRV5. Blended malts aren’t as well-known as other Scotch styles, but you can find some real gems if you look hard enough. Redacted Bros (known as Thompson Bros outside the United States) are the independent bottling arm of Dornoch Distillery. The SRV5 is a blend of single malts from Islay, Speyside, and the Northern Highlands and has some lovely tropical fruit notes, gentle smoke, and a waxy texture. It’s a great sipper, but the cocktail-friendly price also means it’s great for mixing in drinks.” —Adam Montgomerie, bar manager, Hawksmoor, NYC

“The Famous Grouse, a blended Scotch from Perth, Scotland. [It’s] delicious and approachable blended Scotch produced from handcrafted oak casks. Smooth on the nose with minimal peat, [it’s] great for cocktails, on the rocks, or on its own. Definitely a great option for the everyday consumer with an excellent price point for an exceptional whisky.” —Jerry Skakun, beverage operations manager, InterContinental San Diego, San Diego

“The most exciting addition to our bar is The Balvenie 60. [Ours is] one of only 71 bottles sold in the world and [just] seven bottles in the United States, and the only bottle in the world available for consumption at a bar or restaurant. The Scotch is from 1962, the year David Steward started at the distillery. It is a symbol of his work and a handoff to the next generation.” —Daniel Grajewski, senior director of wine & beverage, Nubeluz by José Andrés, NYC

“Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 10 Year is one of my favorites at the moment. It has everything that I look for in an Islay Scotch. On the nose, you get ashy smoke, barbecued pineapple, and sea spray, [while] the palate delivers baking spices, grilled coconuts, and a touch of oyster brine. It offers a long, earthy, smoky-bacon finish.” —Jon Pizano, beverage manager, Lazy Bird, Cira, Cabra, Chicago

“Caol Ila 12 Year Scotch is a favorite at our bar. My brother-in-law, who was born in Wales but is 99 percent Scottish, put me on a few months back. It’s lighter and fresher than any Scotch I’ve tried before while still carrying complexity and a balanced peaty note that I have come to love!” —Christopher Weathered, chef and owner, Mill & Main, Kerhonkson, N.Y.

“I’m always looking for a show of terroir in any spirit hitting our bar, but because Scotch is so expressive, it can be somewhat polarizing. That being said, I like a Scotch that lacks couth. Talisker 10 Year brings so much salt and fresh smoke that it’s absolutely built to drink with our grilled oysters. I visited their distillery and ate (and drank) this pairing to death.” —Jack Zarecky, beverage manager and sommelier, St. Anselm, Washington, D.C.

“Blended Scotch has an undeserved bad reputation, and bottles like the Ultra Marine are a great example of why you should give them a chance. Modeled after the tasting notes of the first releases of Johnnie Walker Blue Label from the ’80s, it’s bottled at 102 proof, non-chill filtered, [and has] a heavy sherry component. It’s perfect for those side-by-side comparisons with the modern descendent of its inspiration as well as enjoying on its own.” —Adam Fournier, bar director, Spago Beverly Hills, Los Angeles 

“I highly recommend Glenmorangie X as a new addition to any bar looking to elevate its cocktails without breaking the bank. With its velvety smooth yet complex character, subtle notes of caramel and baking spices, and hints of sugar belles and clementines, this limited-release Glenmorangie expression offers a deeply enjoyable sipping experience at an affordable price point.” —Alec Kass, beverage manager, Rosevale Kitchen & Cocktail Room and Starchild Rooftop, NYC

“Our team has really been digging Balblair 15 as a nuanced sherry cask selection. It has a robust malt presence that isn’t overtaken by the maturation while delivering all the baked fruit and toasted nut qualities that sherried malt fans enjoy. A balanced malt with a craft presentation at 46 percent, non-chill filtered, and of natural color —what’s not to love?” —Thomas Mahne, bar manager, The Lexington, St. Paul, Minn.

“We recently brought Dalmore Cigar Malt Reserve to our Scotch lineup. First off, you’ll notice its nose full of cinnamon, vanilla, and red fruits. After the first sip, the taste brings a hint of toffee and tropical fruit. It finishes strong with notes of spicy chocolate and orange zest.” —Fernando Grullon, beverage director, Rebels Guild at The Revere Hotel, Boston

“Scotch is starting to appeal to a broader audience, and it’s important to know that not all Scotch is robust, peaty, and smoky. My favorite Scotch of 2024 is, in fact, the opposite: Glen Scotia 15 Year from Campbeltown. Glen Scotia 15 is unpeated and utilizes first-fill bourbon cask, lending spicy, vanilla oak tones with fresh red apple and a signature saltiness that is synonymous with the region.” —Jacob Johnson, corporate beverage director, Tavistock Restaurant Collection, Boston, Atlanta, Orlando, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale

The article We Asked 17 Bartenders: What’s the Best New Scotch That’s Earned a Spot on Your Bar? appeared first on VinePair.

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