In the world of brown liquors, single malt scotch whisky has managed to hold sway over the public imagination the world over. Generally more expensive and sought-after than its cousins across the pond (like bourbon and Canadian whisky), scotch is a magical elixir that’s the subject of fierce devotion among those who love it.
In order to be called a single malt scotch, the whisky must be made at a single distillery using a pot still; it must be made from a mash made entirely of malted barley; and it must age in oak casks for at least three years. And, of course, it must be made in Scotland (though there are now single malts being made in Ireland, the U.S., and elsewhere around the world; they’re just not scotch).
While adhering to these parameters, there’s still plenty of room for creativity. Some scotch whiskies spend just a few years in barrels; some spend decades. Some are bottled at 40 to 45 percent alcohol; some are bottled at “cask strength” upwards of 60 percent. You’ll also notice that many scotches (especially from the island of Islay) are smoky; this is because the sprouting (germination) of the malted barley must be stopped by applying heat, and many distilleries burn dried peat as the fuel. Contrary to popular belief, not all scotches are peated; if you think you’re not a scotch fan, try one that’s unpeated and you might change your mind. (If you’re more of a bourbon fan, these are the 25 best bourbons in the U.S. right now.)
24/7 Tempo has compiled a list of the 32 best single malt scotch whiskies for 2022 by reviewing the results of the 2021 Ultimate Spirits Challenge, a weeks-long multi-part event covering a wide range of spirits, judged by panels including spirits writers, bartenders, consultants, and other experts in the field.
Our list includes all the single malts rated 95 points or higher. Within each scoring group, whiskies were ranked according to price, with the less expensive ones placing higher. In one case there was a tie in score and price, noted as such. Prices were suggested retail prices for a 750 ml bottle as of mid-2021, and may have changed since the judging and may vary from state to state and in some cases from store to store. (For scotch, bourbon, and other whisky/whiskey types, also tasted by judges at the Ultimate Spirits Challenge, these are the best whiskies under $50 for 2022).
There’s a whole world (or rather, a whole country) of single malt scotch out there. Some are young, some are super-aged; some have a higher proof than others; some are smoky; some are far more affordable than others. Some cost about the same as any good kind of spirits, while others are priced strictly in collectible territory. Note that the highest-rated examples in this list are by no means always the most expensive ones.
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