Scotch has long captivated thoughtful drinkers, whether it’s the luxury connotation fostered by many brands or the sense that it’s the essence of Scotland, a moody travel capsule in a bottle. Perhaps it’s the sense that scotch is always created with intent that makes it such a go-to gifting item.
The latest crop of new scotch releases underscore the effort that goes into making these prized whiskies—for example, The Macallan Estate, a new addition to the core lineup that emphasizes barley made on the distillery estate. Meanwhile, finishes continue to add range to the category, with brands using everything from oloroso sherry casks (Laphroaig Càirdeas) to port barrels (the revamped Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban).
Laphroaig Càirdeas Triple Wood Cask Strength ($88)
The latest annual release from Laphroaig distillery manager John Campbell, this limited-edition celebrates friendship (“Càirdeas” in Gaelic). This year’s release incorporates triple maturation: The whisky is first matured in ex-bourbon barrels, then transferred to smaller quarter casks and finished in European oak casks that previously held oloroso sherry. The final result is rich, smoky and raisiny, bottled at a punchy 119 proof.
Compass Box The Peat Monster ($65)
This super smoky cult favorite, made from a blend of uber-peated scotches, has been revamped with a delightfully raucous, cartoony new label. What’s in the bottle also has changed, which is not surprising, since the components have evolved more or less constantly since the label debuted in 2003. The recipe is currently “99% Islay malt whisky,” the producer says, with an oilier, creamier style than previous incarnations. But here’s what hasn’t changed: The price is holding fast at $65. And compared to the revolving door of limited editions, founder and /distiller John Glaser says The Peat Monster now will be available year-round.
The Glenlivet 14 Year Cognac Cask Selection ($63)
Launched in July 2019 exclusively to the U.S. market, this single malt scotch is finished in former cognac casks. The producer describes this as “a modern spin” on the category, designed to entice “a new generation of whisky drinkers.” In other words, this is The Glenlivet’s unabashed play to bring in millennial consumers. Expect nuanced raisiny richness layered on top of vanilla and spice. FYI: Through the end of 2019, The Glenlivet will donate $1 from every bottle sold at participating retailers to the Purple Heart Foundation.
Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban ($59)
OK, this isn’t exactly a new scotch but more of a revamp to an existing model. Glenmorangie revealed that its port cask Quinta Ruban expression is moving from 12 to 14 years old. The extra two years of maturation for the single malt is anticipated to coax out deeper flavors of orange and dark chocolate, for a bolder sip. And the packaging will change from black to green, making it more visible on the shelf.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
Johnnie Walker Blue Label Glenury Royal Ghost & Rare ($345)
The final installment to Johnnie Walker’s limited-edition Blue Label series, this scotch is blended with “ghost whiskies” from distilleries that closed their doors long ago. In particular, this bottling draws on rare casks from the Highland’s Glenury Royal distillery, shuttered in 1985. Founded in 1825, Glenury was destroyed by a devastating fire but later flourished to become one of only three Scottish distilleries to enjoy a royal title. Making this an even rarer find, there have only been eight official bottlings of Glenury Royal in the past 23 years. Available October 2019 until supplies run out.
The Macallan Estate ($250)
This Speyside single malt, released in June 2019, will be part of The Macallan’s core lineup going forward. It’s distilled from barley grown on The Macallan’s 485-acre Easter Elchies estate—an endeavor the distillery undertakes for just one week each year. The producer describes the whisky as a “tribute to home and heritage.” Look for warming wood and spice notes, with hints of dried fig and citrus.
The Street Pumas Blended ($28)
Part of a lineup positioned as affordable well spirits for bartenders to use in mixing drinks, this blended scotch by The Street Pumas is aged for three years in Scotland, then brought to proof in Jerez, Spain (as is the rest of the line), with no flavors or color added. The pour has a pale straw hue and a light, mild palate, balancing gentle smoke, spice and floral freshness. The alcohol heat feels relatively intense for an 80-proof whisky, so maybe it’s a good thing that it’s intended to mix.