Every year the Scotch whisky industry releases new and exciting whiskies. This guide breaks down the 10 best Scotch whiskies of 2023.
Before we dive into these delectable mouth-watering delights, it’s important to note not all whiskies are 2023 releases, but all are available at time of writing in 2023.
Let’s get stuck in!
Criteria for the 10 Best Scotch Whiskies of 2023
Scotch whisky ranges in quality and availability. To make my 10 best scotch whiskies of 2023 list a whisky must:
- Be an age statement whisky,
- Be a single malt scotch,
- Be available to enjoy in 2023,
- Be from an established distillery.
Alongside the main criteria, I am also picky on the type of scotch whisky I am including. If a whisky is chill-filtered, it probably won’t make the list – unless it is really delicious.
10. Laphroaig 10
What better way to start our best scotch whiskies of 2023 than Laphroaig 10 at number 10.
Laphroaig have a whole range of smoky scotch whiskies that showcase the dedication and expertise of their 200-hundred year history. There are plenty of older age statement whiskies from Laphroaig that are reasonably good, but the 10 stands out as the absolute best they produce.
Younger Laphroaigs are Smokier
You see, as the whisky matures it loses some of the peat and smoke until over time it becomes a mellow flavour note. The Laphroaig 10 however has all the smoky aggressiveness contained within the bottle and is a favourite for anyone who loves heavily peated whisky.
Matured in bourbon casks, it is non chill-filtered and has no additional colouring. The result, a grab you by the neck and throttle you with smoke whisky that always packs a heavy punch.
9. Dalmore 15 – Best Scotch Whiskies 2023
Dalmore is a Highlands distillery that is a common stop on the Highland distillery tours.
Dalmore claims their 25-year-old whisky is their best, but honestly, the 15 is better. The 25-year-old has of course been in the barrel for a decade longer which translates to more woody notes creeping in and seizing the throne from the fruity sherry casks.
If you like those drier woody notes to your whisky, Dalmore 25 is a great bet. If you prefer mouth-watering full bodied fruity whiskies, the 15 is the way to go. Aged for 12 years in bourbon casks and then finished in three different types of sherry cask, the 15 has a characterful flavour.
Three Casks to Finish
Finishing in three different casks is an interesting choice and I suspect it’s done out of necessity rather than for the resulting whisky. Sherry casks are expensive and hard to come by, so Dalmore likely grabbed as many different kinds as they could.
Most whiskies would degrade being moved between three casks over three years because little fruit flavour from the barrel would be imparted over such short maturation periods. However, the cask quality is obviously good as the Dalmore 15 shines.
8. Macallan 12
A best Scotch whiskies of 2023 list would not be complete without a Macallan – in fact we have two featured!
Macallan has long been known as one of (if not) the finest whisky distilleries and the 12-year-old makes for a budget friendly entry point to their amazing range of whiskies.
The Macallan 12 is a little trickier to track down and can be the most difficult whisky to source on this list. This is mainly due to the popularity and Macallan’s ability to meet demand.
No Age Statement Whiskies
It is for this reason many distilleries now market no-age-statement whiskies predominantly as it allows them to sell younger whiskies (such as the Macallan Amber) at age-statement prices and meet consumer demand.
Macallan 12 is a sherry cask whisky with 100% of the maturation period spent in the sherry casks. The result is a sweet, enticing and honey-filled whisky drinking experience.
7. Lagavulin 16 – Best Scotch Whiskies 2023
We now venture back to Islay (where the Laphroaig 10 also originates) which is notorious for its peated whiskies.
The Lagavulin 16 is a particularly special whisky as it retains the heavy smokiness despite being aged for longer and has a wonderful depth behind it. Expect a less aggressive smoke than the Laphroaig 10 and a lot more sweetness.
In fact, the Lagavulin 16 boasts a salty tinge too to round out the flavour into a smoky salted-caramel whisky. The extra age in the barrel also imparts some of those oak, dry notes.
All in all, there are so many well combined flavours that Lagavulin becomes a beautiful embroidered tapestry in your mouth for you to un-weave and decipher.
6. Glenlivet 15
Okay, so I said I wouldn’t include chill-filtered whiskies as they tend to not taste as good. Glenlivet 15 gets a pass though as they have produced a whisky that works when chill-filtered.
Conscious of the perception of chill-filtering, Glenlivet even has a webpage dedicated to the process and explaining how previous Glenlivet’s were all non-chill filtered.
Chill-Filtering and Non-Chill Filtered
The truth is the chill filtering does detract from the depth of flavour and if the Glenlivet 15 had been non chill-filtered it would be fuller and richer. As it is though, it is a highly polished and clean whisky drinking experience that makes for the perfect scotch introduction for beginners.
It has spent enough time in the barrel to pick up the oak and spiciness that drapes over a fruit and nut body. The chill filtering works here as some of the spicy dry notes would have been lost if the fruit had been stronger – so Glenlivet 15 definitely plays to its strengths.
5. Highland Park 25 – Best Scotch Whiskies 2023
The first of two Highland Parks to make my best scotch whiskies of 2023 list, the wonderful Highland Park 25.
This whisky would be in my top 3, however I can’t place it higher due to the price.
There are very few whisky drinking experiences that transcend simply having a glass of whisky and take you to an otherworldly sensory experience. The Highland Park 25 is an absolute gem of a whisky that you will struggle to just sip.
A Gateway to Islay
It is so mouth-watering you will be salivating for your next sip and become caught up in a cyclic whirlpool of Scotch.
A great advantage of Highland Park is they lightly peat their whiskies for a smoky hint, making them excellent if you want to try peated whisky without diving into the heavy smoke of Islay.
If Scotch whisky could be a drug, the Highland Park 25 would tick the box. The saving grace may well be the price point as it will encourage you to savour it rather than finish the bottle!
4. Caol Ila 18
Caol Ila has a hard time being one of nine very competitive distilleries on Islay. It also doesn’t carry the name of Laphroaig, Lagavulin or Ardbeg.
But damn, do they make good scotch. Carrying the traditional Islay smoky notes, there is a complexity in the Caol Ila you might not find with other Islay whiskies.
For a peated whisky it is smooth and the smoke is more on the nose than in the body of the scotch. It has a sweet/sour finish that gives it a char, barbeque, gnarly character.
When you consider the maturation period of 18 years, the price being under £100 is also a huge plus. It is not often you will find a whisky that has been in the cask for almost 2 decades and represents good value for money.
3. Benromach 10 – Best Scotch Whiskies 2023
You might wonder why a chill-filtered, first fill scotch whisky makes number 3 on my best scotch whiskies of 2023 list. In truth, I completely understand if this one isn’t for you.
For me, the Benromach represents the best Speyside whisky for beginners. After all, everyone has to start their whisky journey somewhere and it certainly shouldn’t be a Laphroaig or Lagavulin.
You will find Benromach 10 stocked in most supermarkets with an attractive price. It also has a lot of complexity compared to other Speyside whiskies while still maintaining the light and fragrant character.
Benromach is a Great Entry Scotch
Easy to drink with a range of fruits from summer berries to apples and citrus. Don’t expect much barrel influence as I suspect the sherry casks are only used for a short finish. The Benromach carries all of the warm spice you would expect of whisky aged in oak barrels.
It also has a very slight peaty quality, making it the perfect gateway to Highland Park or the Islay distilleries for those particularly apprehensive about smoke. Benromach is a lesser-known distillery and is still struggling to find its place in the whisky market with a number of rebrands under its belt, which is a shame as the scotch itself isn’t half bad.
2. Macallan 18
Remember I said it was hard to find a really good scotch that has been matured for 18 years for under £100? You will be sorely disappointed if you expect the Macallan 18 to be that cheap.
The Macallan 18 is a prime example of a fantastic scotch that commands a very high price point.
With Macallan the reputation precedes the drink and that isn’t a criticism, every sip is as good as their reputation. The longer maturation adds extra spice to the flavour profile of the 12 and there are also hints of fudge and vanilla that interplay with the hearty full-bodied fruit.
1. The Best Scotch Whiskies of 2023 – Highland Park 12
Without question the best scotch whisky on the market in 2023 is the Highland Park 12 for a number of reasons.
- It tastes amazing with fruity, caramel depth.
- Enough smoke to really impact the expression of the whisky.
- Extremely good value for money.
Highland Park is the sister distillery to the more famous Macallan. Their distillery has all the expertise and craftsmanship of Macallan.
There aren’t many words I can use to describe how enjoyable this scotch is, you will just have to try it for yourself. Be aware, Highland Park 12 is a high demand whisky and can be trickier to track down. Despite its rarity it still maintains a frankly cheap price point.
Don’t be tempted by the no age statement line-up of Highland Park – whilst they are still better than most other scotches on the market (this is true), they pale in comparison to the age statement Highland Parks.