15 Best Scotch Whiskies Of 2023

A part of the lure of whisky is the incredible history that goes into each drop. You are drinking centuries of craftsmanship in bottles that are sometimes decades old. Even though whisky has rich traditions, it doesn't mean the industry stops evolving. We're blessed with new expressions each year, and 2023 is no different. There has been a wide range of releases, but we wanted to focus on affordable and attainable ones, so we've steered away from those super rare bottles costing thousands of dollars.

The bottles on this list are here partly from our personal experience and partly from looking at user reviews from a wide variety of sources. This was to give a rounded and objective view of the best Scotch whiskies of 2023. While there are a few expensive expressions here, and they are all single malts, hopefully, you'll find plenty within your price range, and we can inspire you to buy a bottle or two.

1. Talisker Distiller's Edition 2023

The Distiller's Edition from Talisker is a series of annual releases dating back to 1997. Coming from the island of Skye, the Distiller's Editions stay true to the distillery's origins while using a two-part maturation method to give the expression more depth and complexity. For this release, that meant first maturing it in American and European oak casks before being transferred to Amoroso seasoned and re-charred American oak casks. The distillery also added heavily re-charred ends to give it a wide range of different flavors.

With that charring, it's no surprise that the whisky has a rich amber appearance and a visibly full body. The sea air influence on the nose is immediately obvious as there is a mind salinity, along with more robust notes. The more subtle smells come from the malt and sweet fruits. The nose is excellent and is backed up by the palate. All the smells on the nose transfer to the taste and are harmoniously joined by some pepper for a lovely spice kick. The peat is quite dominant but not overwhelmingly so, and it feels like you get a new set of tasting notes with each sip. The long and powerful finish is confirmation that Talisker 2023 Distiller's Edition is one of its best.

2. Highland Park Cask Strength

Highland Park's Cask Strength is another series, but this one is in just its fourth iteration. Coming from the most northern distillery in Scotland in the Orkney Islands, this is a robust whisky that showcases its remote surroundings. The Cask Strength No. 4 still has plenty of nuance, which is helped by it being matured in various casks with both European and American oak used, along with those being from a mix of sherry, bourbon, and port casks. This 2023 release comes at an eye-watering 64.3% ABV (128.6 proof), so a little water is needed to fully open up this fine Scotch.

Without water, it's a little severe on the nose, but when toned down, you'll get a lovely light char, floral notes, and some caramel. A pleasant sweetness runs through the palate, with the char from the nose also appearing. There is a contrast of heather and honey to give the expression plenty of depth. Its earthy notes and pepper dominate the long finish for an impressive Scotch. We wouldn't recommend this Scotch for beginners due to its intense strength, but for seasoned drinkers and with a little water, it has a great limited release.

3. Glenmorangie 15-Year

No stranger to making some of the most popular Scotches out there, Glenmorangie has released a few whiskies over the years to pay respect to its Cadboll Estate. The estate is where the distillery's barley fields grow, and this whisky is a great example of what the esteemed Highland brand offers. Utilizing the tallest pot stills in Scotland, this 15-year Scotch has a wide array of aromas on the nose. There is a range of fruit smells along with further sweetness that comes from vanilla and caramel. At 43% ABV, it's a whisky you can drink straight, but a splash of water or a little ice will release even more aromas.

The slight creaminess of the mouthfeel sets the scene for an enjoyable tasting experience. The most unique notes on the palate are those of nuts, with almonds and hazelnuts being dominant. Fruits and an undertone of cinnamon support them to give extra warmth and depth. The 2023 Cadboll Estate is one of the more approachable whiskies on this list. Its value for money is a little questionable, but it's a Scotch with a huge amount of flavor.

4. Roseisle 12-Year

The Roseisle distillery is a relative baby when it comes to Scottish distilleries. Only constructed in 2009, the 12-year expression is its first-ever single malt. Bottled at 56.5% ABV cask strength (113 proof), its first entry is an impressive one. Made exclusively in bourbon casks, you get an expectedly high level of vanilla on the nose, supported by honey and a whiff of coconut. The body of the whisky is creamier than you'd expect for its alcohol strength, which is a pleasant surprise. Upon tasting, the sweetness carries through from the nose, where some fruits and spices join it.

Despite the high alcohol content, you can easily drink this on its own, but adding a little water to a glass is never a bad idea to find out what extra notes you can explore. This Scotch is gentle and smooth but offers a peppery kick. It has all the features you'd expect from a Speyside whisky, which is always a compliment. The finish is medium-long, and that spice stays through to the end but has a slight bitterness. Overall, it's a very impressive debut and worth exploring for whisky fans looking for something new.

5. Glen Grant 21-Year

Most Scotches featured here are either a part of a series or are one-off limited editions. Thankfully, the Glen Grant 21-year is here to stay as part of its core range. Created in Speyside, this Scotch was matured in both bourbon and oloroso sherry casks to give it a unique blend of flavors. The nose is pleasant and features a range of fresh fruits with the sweetness of caramel, along with some raisins. It's an excellent aroma that invites you into the great tasting experience to come.

You get a range of tropical and fruity notes on the palate, such as baked apples, pears, and apricots. It has a smooth mouthfeel, showcasing the sweetness and the kick you'll get from cinnamon and nutmeg. A slight saltiness on the long finish completes a Scotch with plenty of interesting tasting notes. The price is a little steep, but that's to be expected from a 21-year Scotch, and if you can afford it, you won't be disappointed.

6. GlenDronach Cask Strength Batch 12

Here, we feature another cask-strength Scotch, with this one being bottled at 58.2% ABV (116.4 proof). This is the distillery's twelfth batch of its cask-strength whisky, and, as with many Scotches on this list, it has matured in various casks. In this case, it combines Pedro Ximenez and oloroso sherry casks. Due to this, we get an aromatic nose but one that isn't completely dominated by its sherry influences. We also get a little bit of everything, as spice features alongside delicate fruits and a hint of sandalwood.

The start of the palate isn't as overpowering as you may expect, and vanilla joins the notes on the nose for a well-balanced profile. Sherry is ever-present, and the bright flavor is supported by citrus and new wood alongside dried fruit. Each sip gives you something different, and we even have a bit of chocolate here too. Glendronach is known for its robust sherried single malts, and this is a perfect example of what it offers. Whether or not this is its greatest batch of cask-strength Scotch is up for debate, but it's a beautiful continuation of a great bottling series.

7. Bunnahabhain Fèis Ìle 2023

The rest of our selections here are dominated by Islay whiskies, which is partly due to the famed Fèis Ìle festival that happens on the island every year. The celebration of whisky and music inspires many of Islay's distilleries to create special releases. The 2023 Canasta Cask was just one of three that Bunnahabhain showcased at the festival, but we thought it was the best. Most distilleries on the island use peat smoke to dry the barley, but Bunnahabhain doesn't take that approach, and when added with rare Canasta sherry casks, it delivers a highly unique Scotch.

The first feature that may capture your attention is the dark mahogany color, which is completely natural. The nose is a burst of sherry and is quite fruity, along with delightful roasted nuts and cinnamon. The casks used dominate the palate, but the most distinctive and surprising taste here is one of chocolate, which is much more apparent than in the vast majority of Scotches. This is ably supported by more nutty flavors and the sweetness of honey. Bunnahabhain has repeatedly shown that an Islay whisky doesn't have to be robust and powerful to be great, and it has proved it again here.

8. Kilchoman Loch Gorm

Loch Gorm is another whisky on this list that is matured in sherry casks, but unlike the Bunnahabhain above, this Islay whisky is heavily peated. Only established in 2005, Kilchoman was the first distillery on the island in well over 100 years but has proved itself to be a worthy addition to its famous neighbors. The 2023 Loch Gorm has plenty of smoke on the nose but also offers hints of cacao to go with the influence it gets from the cask.

The palate is dominated by earthy flavors, with the peat and spice playing a prominent role in this rich expression. Dark chocolate and dark fruit support those tastes to give a powerful whisky, which isn't too overpowering at 46% ABV (92 proof). The finish is long and memorable, with a touch of the salinity you expect from an island malt. As with Roseisle, this distillery deserves plenty of attention despite its young age. With it being one of the more affordable Scotches on this list, it's a great place to start for those wanting to sample 2023 Scotch.

9. Clynelish 10-Year

As with the Roseisle above, this whisky comes from Diageo's annual special releases. This year, there was a focus on the artwork, with the Roseisle bottle featuring a kite, and the Clynelish bottle going for a jazz angle, along with the name "The Jazz Crescendo." Of course, nice artwork means very little if what's inside doesn't deliver, but thankfully, this 10-year ticks all the right boxes. Made in first-fill bourbon casks, vanilla features heavily on the nose and palate, but that's far from the only tasting note.

The nose overall is quite bright, with the most obvious notes being zesty lemon and a range of other fruits, such as white grapes and a hint of banana. The palate is as lively as the nose, a trademark of almost all Clynelish whiskies. An array of pleasant fruits in the nose sit on a bed of honey and fresh wood. A slightly waxy mouthfeel is pleasant, and the finish is long and beautifully sweet. This special release is instantly recognizable as Clynelish and is a delicious expression, but as with many limited Scotches, it's a little overpriced.

10. Lagavulin 14-Year Fèis Ìle

Diageo also released a 12-year Lagavulin in its special release series, but here we're focusing on the distillery's Fèis Ìle expression. This 14-year-old whisky was another festival highlight but, sadly, another expression that comes at a steep price. Regardless, this is a fantastic Scotch with many qualities you'd expect from a Lagavulin. Matured in a combination of American and European oak casks, the unique aspect of this whisky is that it was finished in Armagnac casks. This combination of casks clashes the typical robust earthy flavor you associate with this brand against a fruity twist.

Along with the peat you'd expect on the nose, there is a delightful range of fruits, with two standouts being mango and apricots. The palate is quite crisp, with the smoke being more reserved when compared to the famed Lagavulin 16-year. The creaminess gives a gorgeous mouthfeel and allows you to explore its diverse profile. This 14-year is surprisingly easy to drink straight, considering it has an ABV of 58.4% (116.8 proof). The finish could be a little longer, but it's not short by any means, and the slight spice gives it plenty of warmth.

11. Kilchoman 100% Islay 13th Edition

The second expression we're featuring from Kilchoman is its 100% Islay series. The "100% Islay" name comes from the fact that all the barley used is grown on its farm on the island, and the rest of the process, including maturation and bottling, happens on Islay as well. The only outside influence on this Scotch is the bourbon casks in which it matures. There is always an added comfort in knowing exactly where the whisky you're drinking has come from, and the traditional production method here results in an excellent expression from the young distillery.

The bourbon casks unsurprisingly give it a significant vanilla influence with a light fruitiness joining it on the nose. With the palate, you get more of a peat influence in a Scotch that is quite light, considering it is bottled at 50% ABV (100 proof), but there is plenty of depth there. A maritime influence is notable on the palate, and saltiness is present in the medium-long finish, which is quite dry and ends with a surprising amount of smoke. It's a whisky that takes you on a great journey, and we loved the intensity on show.

12. Ardbeg BizarreBQ

Ardbeg is another Islay distillery with a few releases in 2023, but we loved everything about its BizarreBQ. The Scotch whisky industry can take itself a little too seriously at times, but Ardbeg likes to do things differently. This is a barbecue-inspired expression that has matured in various casks. While double-charred oak and sherry casks may be fairly standard, Ardbeg has also used "BBQ casks" for this whisky. These are barrels that have received even more charring by using a traditional brazier. It takes Ardbeg's classic robust flavor to a whole new level.

Despite the unique maturation, there is plenty of nuance here. Berries and praline add some brevity to the heavier tasting notes as you get plenty of charred, earthy aromas and leather. The BBQ taste it was looking for is notable on the palate, with an oak car and coal gas being quite powerful. There is a tobacco and medicinal element you'd expect from the peat influence, with the sweeter and more delicate flavors coming in the form of vanilla, citrus, and chocolate. The medium finish is quite nutty and nicely wraps up the experience. If you're a grilling and whisky fan, you'll love this.

13. Kilkerran 8-Year Cask Strength

We briefly step away from Islay to visit the curious region of Campbeltown. Once declared the home of whisky with over 30 distilleries, the Kintyre Peninsula now only has three, with Glengyle being one of them. In 2004, the distillery was given a new life after closing in 1925 but couldn't use the Glengyle name as Loch Lomond already claimed it, hence the name Kilkerran, an old Gaelic name for Campbeltown. But enough of the history lesson — let's talk bout the Scotch.

While technically on the mainland, Campbeltown is as exposed as Many island distilleries, which is reflected in Kilkerran's single malt. There is smoke on the nose, spiciness from figs, and brighter notes of berries. Dried fruits, leather, sherry, and nuts mostly dominate the palate. The peat is there on your tastebuds and continues to a satisfying finish. At 54.9% ABV (109.8 proof), this is an intense whisky with remarkable character.

14. Caol Ila 13-Year Fèis Ìle

Another powerful Scotch is this one from Caol Ila. Its Fèis Ìle release for 2023 was especially important as this was the first time the distillery hosted a day of the festival at its new visitor experience. This expression follows a theme from many whiskies on this list by being at least partly matured by sherry casks. It helps to give this 13-year whisky a brilliant nose as it has a delightful combination of char, salted caramel, honey, and a touch of white chocolate.

Moving on to the palate, there is an impressive array of tropical fruits on what is a surprisingly sweet whisky. Under that sweetness are all the notes you'd expect from an Islay whisky, as it features a foundation of smoke, nuts, and malt. The finish is impressive as it seemingly lasts forever, with some warm toasted marshmallows being the standout feature. It can be overpowering at 60.4% ABV (120.8 proof), so we'd recommend at least trying it with some water.

15. Laphroaig Càirdeas 2023

Càirdeas is a long-running series of expressions from Laphroaig dating back to 2008 and has always been introduced at the Fèis Ìle festival. The word "càirdeas" is Gaelic for "friendship," which is apt considering this Scotch is only available directly from Laphroaig if you're a member of its loyalty program. Thankfully, there are no barriers to becoming a member, which allows you to buy fine whiskies such as this one.

This 2023 Càirdeas was matured in white port and Madeira casks, giving it a unique set of tasting notes. The nose is brilliant, with the most pleasant aromas probably being salted caramel, but there is also candy and peach here. There is fruitiness and sweetness on the palate on a base of gentle smoke that doesn't dominate the taste. You can find even more notes, such as toffee, citrus, and nuts, with a splash of water and a few more sips. This is smoother and softer than most Laphroaig whiskies such as its famous 10-year, which may be a good or bad thing, depending on your preference.