I know it’s a long title, but this is not primarily a Scotch blog, so I have separated my favorite Scotches into four categories: Islay, Highlands, Speyside, and everything else. If this were a Scotch blog, each region would receive its proper due, and perhaps in ten years, I’ll do that. So, stay tuned.

As with my other favorite lists, price was not considered in my selection of these drams, just how much I enjoyed the stuff in the bottle. So, onwards and upwards, my friends. The nominees for my favorite Scotches outside Islay, Highlands, and Speyside are as follows.

Name: Arran Single Cask 1997 Vintage
Region: Islands (Isle of Arran)
Age: 16 Years, 11 Months
Proof: 106.4 (53.2% abv)
Price: $100-125/750ml
Notes: This whisky was a limited release from a single Sherry butt, bottled at its full cask strength. The whisky provided all the big sherry notes you would expect from such a whisky, but it also showed great complexity with dried orange peels and spices such as cinnamon and cardamom. This was a one-time release of only 562 bottles, so it’s unlikely that this particular whisky is still around, but if you ever stumble across a teenage sherried Arran whisky, it’s worth giving it a whirl.

Name: Highland Park 12 Year-Old
Region: Islands (Orkney)
Age: 12 Years
Proof: 86 (43% abv)
Price: $45-50/750ml
Notes: Highland Park is a wonderful distillery that has created many brilliant drams over the years, but even with the quality of Highland Park range as a whole, I keep coming back to the beautiful malt that started it all. The 12 year-old is matured mostly in refill Sherry butts, and it presents a lovely balance between sweet citrus fruits and heather in the spring time, all enhanced by a slow wafting smoke that ties the whisky all together. Highland Park 12 year-old is widely available, and one of the best value buys in any liquor store anywhere in my humble opinion.

Name: Springbank 15 Year-Old
Region: Campbeltown
Age: 15 Years
Proof: 92 (46% abv)
Price: $90-100/750ml
Notes: This is an immensely complex whisky, a mix of salty, savory peat notes accented with malted barley, fresh cut hay, and orange peels. Springbank makes many fine whiskies, but I am partial to this inculcation because it is young enough to still make out the distillery character, and aged enough to have refinement and complexity. This whisky is mostly available in higher end stores and online retailers, but it is hardly impossible to find. The downside is that it is an expensive pour for its age.

Name: Talisker 10 Year-Old
Region: Islands (Isle of Skye)
Age: 10 Years
Proof: 91.6 (45.8%)
Price: $60-70/750ml
Notes: This distillery has produced many iterations of Talisker, but I keep coming back to the standard ten year-old because the way the whisky opens up with a little water. Enjoyed neat, Talisker elicits black pepper, wet baking peat, and a slight twinge of orchard fruits. With a bit of water, the spicy and peaty notes calm down to a wafting on the breeze, while rich orchard fruits and creamy vanilla notes arise to drive the whisky. This whisky is widely available, and although it is a little expensive for decade old whisky, the juice in the bottle is worth every penny.

Name: Talisker 18 Year-Old
Region: Islands (Isle of Skye)
Age: 18 Years
Proof: 91.6 (45.8%)
Price: $100-125/750ml
Notes: This edition of Talisker has many of the familiar notes of the 10 year-old base malt, but in a somewhat different arrangement. The spicy, peppery notes are toned down a bit in the older whisky, allowing for sweeter notes like honey and caramelized peppers to play a greater role. There are also some prominent woody notes present here that do not appear in the younger malt. This is a complex dram, a great benchmark for 18 year-old peated whiskies. This is definitely available in a lot of higher end liquor stores, and it always makes a great gift.

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