These days, it seems like all the showiest limited-edition whiskies are bourbons and ryes. They take up the most space on liquor store shelves and feature heavily on Instagram feeds and bar lists. Although plenty of whiskey lovers drink scotch, the fabled spirit has lost a bit of its luster of late. Toiling under a 25 percent import tariff in the U.S. since October 2018, the scotch industry has largely been lying low. Distillers ran down the clock in the hopes of a change in trade policy. Supply chain issues and production interruptions due to the pandemic have also taken a toll on transatlantic whisky commerce. Thankfully, things are leveling off for scotch producers, so you can get some incredible limited-edition scotches.
In June, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and UK International Trade Secretary Liz Truss agreed to suspend the tariffs on single malt scotch (and a host of other products) for five years. Distilleries and bottling lines that closed during the lockdowns of 2020 are now back up and running, churning out plenty of the good stuff.
Those are all great reasons to treat yourself to some of the newest scotches to his the scene, if thirst for something new wasn’t enough. Look for these delicious single malts (and one knockout blend) from Islay, the Highlands, Campbeltown, and more.
The Best New Limited-Edition Scotches of 2021
1. Lagavulin Offerman Edition: Guinness Cask Finish
Parks and Recreation star Nick Offerman made no secret of his IRL love for Lagavulin when in character as Ron Swanson; it was the prickly department director’s favorite scotch too. So when Offerman teamed up with the distillery to launch his own 11-year-old single malt in 2019, TV and whisky fans alike embraced it. Now the collaborators are back with a new whisky. This one is finished for four months in beer barrels from Guinness’s Open Gate Brewery in Maryland. Take a close look at the front label and you’ll see the famous Guinness toucans. They’re flying over a tiny Offerman and his father, Ric, fishing in a wee rowboat.
2. Dewar’s 19-Year-Old The Champion’s Edition
This spring, Dewar’s announced a three-year sponsorship of the U.S. Open golf tournament, and one component of that partnership is, of course, whisky. The inaugural release in Dewar’s special U.S. Open series includes a blend of malt and grain whiskies, all aged at least 19 years. It was finished in ex-bourbon casks under the expert hand of master blender Stephanie Macleod. The bottle, in a sleek silver box, hit shelves in May and can still be found at retail. Even better: A portion of sales supports the USGA Foundation.
3. Ardbeg Scorch
During the annual Fèis Ìle, the Islay Festival of Malt and Music, each of the island’s distilleries releases a limited-edition whisky. Rarely do those bottlings make their way stateside, except in the case of Ardbeg. It offers both a cask-strength release for its fan club, the Ardbeg Committee, and a more widely available version at 46 percent ABV. Inspired by dragon mythology, this year’s whisky, Ardbeg Scorch, was aged in heavily charred ex-bourbon casks. It yields an intensely oak-forward character that mingles nicely with the distillery’s characteristic oily, ashy peat.
4. Talisker 43-Year-Old Xpedition Oak: The Atlantic Challenge
The oldest release ever to come from the Isle of Skye distillery, this whisky is appropriately pricy—though still a relative bargain compared to similarly aged scotches from higher-profile producers. Xpedition Oak has all the signature hallmarks of Talisker—sweet smoke, sea salt, and peppery spice—and you may taste a little something extra too: The whisky was finished in casks made with wood staves that sailed along the route of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, an annual rowing competition that raises money for charity. Just 1,830 bottles—an homage to the distillery’s founding year—are available, with bottle number one set to be auctioned to support Parley for the Oceans later this year.
5. Ardnamurchan Small Batch AD/03.21:02
Most new distilleries can’t afford to wait more than the required three-year aging period to release their first scotches, but Ardnamurchan—owned by independent bottler Adelphi Selections—doubled that timeframe for its debut. After opening in 2014, the remote Highland distillery, which sits on a narrow, finger-like peninsula in the country’s far west, has allowed this moderately peated single malt to mature in sherry and bourbon casks for around six years before bottling it at 46.8 percent ABV. The first batch of about 5,000 bottles just hit the U.S. market, each one traceable via blockchain. And if you’re looking for even more, there’s also a U.S.-only single cask of unpeated Ardnamurchan ($110) at a hefty cask strength of 59.4% ABV.
6. Glen Scotia Campbeltown Malts Festival Bordeaux Finish
Tiny Campbeltown was once the beating heart of scotch whisky production, but today has just three distilleries—Springbank, Glengyle, and Glen Scotia. The latter creates a robust, oily spirit that takes well to just about any type of cask. Though most maturation takes place in ex-bourbon barrels, the annual limited edition, bottled for the local whisky festival, typically features a special finish, including rum, tawny port, and—this year—red wine casks from Médoc in Bordeaux. Bottled at a cask strength of 56.1% ABV, it tastes of fruit, honey, and the distillery’s signature saltwater note.
[$100; in stores and online at glenscotia.com]
7. Dalmore 12-Year-Old Sherry Cask Select
There’s an abundance of 12-year-old scotches on the market, but when Dalmore releases a new offering, whisky fans pay attention. The luxe Highland distillery launched this single malt exclusively at Total Wine & More stores in the U.S. earlier this year, where it will remain until at least February 2022. Initially aged in ex-bourbon casks, the whisky—overseen by legendary master distiller Richard Paterson—spent a two-year finishing period in sherry casks that were custom-designed for Dalmore by three cooperages (Paez, Tevasa, and Vasyma) and seasoned with a special PX-oloroso blend.
For access to exclusive gear videos, celebrity interviews, and more, subscribe on YouTube!