Spirits & Liqueurs Scotch

The Best High-Roller Scotch

Image: Elizabeth Reyes

You know who knows best which bottles to buy? The people who pour and sell drinks—that’s who. We asked dozens of top bartending and spirits industry professionals to tell us which bottles they love and why.

Heads up: The numerical order below is not organized by importance or quality; it’s an alphabetical list, not a ranking. Prices are averages and can vary from state to state.

  • Balvenie Portwood 21 Year ($200)

    “This is a single malt aged in port casks. It's rich and dark, with notes of dark chocolate. It's a perfect after-dinner scotch enjoyed with a cigar.”—Jennifer K. Knott, head bartender at 312 Chicago

  • Ben Nevis 21 Year ($105)

    “It’s located at the highest altitude in the mountains of the British Isles. Although it’s very pale in color, don’t let that fool as young. It has slight fruity aromas, with nutty and toffee flavors, and a lingering dry finish of tobacco, pepper and smoke. Ben Nevis Distillery has an interesting background story, with its distillery closing, being sold and reopened. It’s now controlled by Nikka Whisky Distilling Company, Ltd., the other Japanese whisky powerhouse.”—Juyoung Kang, lead bartender at Las Vegas' Dorsey

  • Bowmore 25 Year ($500)

    “It has dark fruits and gentle smoke. Buy this for someone you love.”—Ann-Marie Verdi, co-owner and beverage director at Los Angeles' Bellwether

  • Bruichladdich Black Art 4 1990 ($362)

    “They work with the very finest American and French oak to explore that most esoteric relationship between spirit and wood, and to me, wood adds and brings such amazing flavors profiles to and from the spirits.”—Mcson Salicetti, head bartender at New York City's Crimson & Rye

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  • Bunnahabhain 25 Year ($372)

    “I don't usually go for this late in aging, but damn this is good. It goes great with a dessert and cigars. It's definitely the highlight whisky for entertainment with refinement.”—Kang

  • Compass Box The Circus ($450)

    “It's a perfect blend—so much dried fruit, like red apple and Bartlett pear. It is quite intense for a blend with all the cinnamon and chai-type spices but rounds out with toasted almonds and hazelnuts on the finish. John Glaser keeps putting out phenomenal whiskies.”—Brian Means, bartender at San Francisco's Mina Group

  • Compass Box Flaming Heart ($130)

    “It's like JW Black but brilliant.”—David Y. Dong, bartender at New York City's North End Grill

  • Compass Box Spice Tree Extravaganza ($124)

    “John Glaser is a rebellious master distiller. This is a marriage of hybrid casks of elegant wood, with notes of cinnamon, black pepper, leather, red apple and clove.”Gil Izaguirre, beverage director at Chicago's Honey's

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  • The Dalmore Cigar Malt Reserve ($150)

    “Ex-bourbon, Matusalem and cab sauvignon barrels give this scotch exquisite notes of bananas foster with fresh orange zest.”—Izaguirre

  • The Dalmore 18 Year ($160)

    “This fantastic 18-year-old with cherry and raisin notes is one of the great whiskies from Richard Patterson.”—Sam Willy, restaurant manager at New York City's Gabriel Kreuther

  • The Glendronach Allardice 18 Year ($200)

    “Hands down, Glendronach 18 Allardice. The exclusive use of oloroso sherry casks for maturation plays a heavy hand in the flavor profile. Expect notes of dried fruits, exotic spices, leather and polished wood.”—Tommy Tardie, owner and operator at New York City's Fine & Rare and The Flatiron Room

  • The Glendronach 15 Year ($200)

    “It's one of the best balanced heavily sherried whiskies available. I heard a rumor it was maybe discontinued, but if you find a bottle, buy it! It doesn't disappoint.”—Kang

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  • Glenmorangie Extremely Rare 18 Year ($153)

    “With this age statement, it's significantly smooth with notes of short bread and stonefruit to appease any palate.”—Izaguirre

  • Glenmorangie Signet ($170)

    “A beautiful package leads to this chocolate-filled dessert scotch, perfect for sipping as I snuggle up on the leather couch fireside.”—Verdi

  • Gordon & MacPhail Macallan Speymalt 1973 ($2,072)

    “This hard-to-find (but possible) bottle is worth keeping your eyes out for. It’s one of the few single malts that shows older bottlings can display restraint and balance. It’s easily the finest product I've tasted from the Macallan distillery.”—Peder Schweigert, general manager at Minneapolis' Marvel Bar

  • Hazelburn Barolo Cask Matured 9 Year ($115)

    “This Campbeltown scotch starts with subtle baking spices on the nose, followed by toasted macadamia nuts and almonds coming out from the first-fill bourbon barrel. The finish pulls out dried fig and rich plum flavors from the Barolo hogsheads it’s finished in. It’s one of my favorites from Campbeltown.”—Alicia Walton, owner and bartender at San Francisco's Sea Star

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  • Highland Park 18 Year ($150)

    “It's one of the most decorated whiskies in the world, and you'll understand after one sip.”—Neal Bodenheimer, owner and bartender at New Orleans' Cane & Table and Cure

  • Lagavulin 200th Anniversary Edition 12 Year ($135)

    “It's the absolute best single malt of the year—just spectacular. Get it before it's gone.”—H. Joseph Ehrmann, owner of San Francisco's Elixir

  • Macallan Fine Oak 17 Year ($240)

    “It's a delicious scotch to drink and also great to start a collection, as it was discontinued last year.”—Willy

  • Macallan 25 Year ($1,810)

    “This is the 'money is no object' choice. It's matured in sherry oak casks for a minimum of 25 years. It's a masterpiece.”—Verdi

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  • Macallan Rare Cask ($288)

    “It uses handpicked first-fill sherry casks from the top 1 percent of barrels currently aging at the distillery. The result is a richer, darker, more chocolately version of Macallan with a thicker profile and a complex palate of raisins, sultana, orange peel and ginger. The flavor profoundness is exquisite!”—Salicetti

  • Shackleton The Discovery Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt ($121)

    “This is a recreation of the bottle Sir Ernest Shackleton left in Antarctica sometime between 1907 and 1909. It's a pretty cool effort. Only 50,000 bottles were made, and it comes with awesome history, a map and photos.”—Chris Hannah, head bartender at New Orleans' French 75

  • Springbank Local Barley 11 Year ($160)

    “A well-balanced single malt from one of the last independently owned distilleries in Scotland, this expression has notes of honey, a bit of peat and a bitter almond finish.”—Paul McGee, owner and bartender at Chicago's Lost Lake

  • Springbank 15 Year ($110)

    “I love sherry-cask-aged scotch, and this one really delivers. So much tropical fruit—mango and pineapple—but there's a lot of creamy marzipan and some gentle peat on the back end.”—Means

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  • Springbank 18 Year ($161)

    “This is everything you want in a Lowland, let alone a scotch. It's vanilla-y, fruity, salty and spicy. The aromatics alone will make your heart smile.”—Camille Cavan, bar manager at Portland, Ore.'s Quaintrelle