If you thought scotch was a stodgy old spirit sipped in the overstuffed chairs of country clubs, you’re couldn’t be more wrong. From unusual finishes to punk rock-inspired blends, the latest crop of new scotch releases hones in on bold flavors and interesting backstories. These are the seven new scotch bottles to try now.
1: ARDBEG GROOVES ($110)
Initially released in March for Ardbeg Day, this single malt was matured in former red wine casks given a particularly heavy char, which creates “grooves” in the wood. (Also known as “alligator char,” this technique was also used for Ardbeg Alligator). The whisky has Ardbeg’s signature peatiness, but the char also brings out mouthwatering barbecue-like notes that suggest bacon and campfire smoke, trailing off with hints of dark chocolate and salted caramel.
2: COMPASS BOX DELILAH’S XXV ($100)
A collaboration to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Chicago punk rock whisky bar Delilah’s, this limited-edition blended sipper has layers of toasty oak, vanilla and fresh pear, plus hints of gingery spice and a faint whiff of smoke, finishing enticingly long.
3: GLENFIDDICH FIRE & CANE ($50)
A new direction for Glenfiddich (whose whiskies veer toward the lighter side), this peated single malt is finished in South American rum barrels and channels both smoky and sweet. Look for toffee, toasted marshmallow, campfire smoke and spice.
4: GLEN GRANT BATCH STRENGTH ($77)
This single malt is aged 15 years, using only first-fill ex-bourbon barrels, then bottled at 100 proof, yielding “the most intensified expression of our classic Speyside single malt,” says the producer. The end result offers juicy pear, marmalade and vanilla, finishing with a lingering veil of peat smoke and baking spice.
5: JOHNNIE WALKER BLUE LABEL GHOST AND RARE PORT ELLEN ($350)
This limited-edition blended whisky released in October is the second in a series of special editions blending so-called “ghost” whiskies from shuttered distilleries with rare single malts. This iteration spotlights a particularly iconic distillery on Islay, Port Ellen, noted for producing whiskies with saline and peaty intensity, although that aspect will be tempered by honey and heather notes more typical of the Johnnie Walker profile.
6: LAPHROAIG CAIRDEAS FINO ($80)
It’s unusual to see scotches finished in dry fino sherry casks, whose delicate, saline nuances are likely to be lost against the backdrop of a robust whisky. Expect Laphroaig’s signature billows of peat to be front and center in this scotch released last August as a limited edition.
7: THE MACALLAN EDITION NO. 4 ($100)
Created to commemorate the brand’s newly renovated and reopened distillery, this limited-edition, non-age-statement bottling has a classic Speyside profile, meshing honey, orchard fruit and oak. (Of course, if you happen to have several thousand dollars burning a hole in your pocket, try the pricier Macallan M Black or Magnum bottlings.)