10 of the tastiest little-known scotch whiskies

Whether you’re looking for a smoky blend or a floral Single Malt, we’ve found the most seldom-seen, sensational scotch whiskies out there…

As you read this, there are over 130 whisky distilleries malting, mashing, blending and bottling across Scotland. From Thurso to the Solway Firth, these spirited brands — both big and small — are hard at work whipping up everything from Single Malts to boutique blends. And, between them, they produce over 60 million gallons of the amber stuff every year.

But, while you’ll always clock the same big names behind bars around the world, there are hidden gems to be uncorked in Scotland; delectable diamonds in the Lowland, Highland and Island roughs. Below, we’ve rounded up our ten favourite whiskies of the last year from lesser-known brands and distilleries. So take a look, take a chance — and enjoy some of the most seldom-seen, sensational scotch whiskies out there…

Deanston Virgin Oak

Where’s it from? Doune, on the banks of the River Teith. The Deanston Distillery proudly proclaims that it isn’t ‘your typical distillery’ — as it uses an open-topped mash tun, one of only a few still in use in Scotland.

What’s it like? Heady, delightfully sweet and with more bourbon swagger than a scotch should rightfully have. Think lemon zest, sweet barley sugar and baking spices from nutmeg to vanilla. Also, a sticky heather honey finish.

Who’s it for? If the awards last year are anything to go by (this bottling won four prestigious gongs in 2021), we’d say everyone. But, if we had to pin down the perfect drinker, we’d say a bourbon or rye enthusiast looking for a change. 

Torabhaig Single Malt ‘All Gleann’ Edition

Where’s it from? The wild, windy and beautiful Isle of Skye; Torabhaig is the island’s second distillery and was established with one aim; to to produce a traditional island-style malt whisky – medium-weight and medium-peated.

What’s it like? Like taking a stroll along an island beach. With lashings of incense and struck flint on the nose, there’s a saline character once you take a sip — before it washes back out with subtle peat and burnt marshmallow.

Who’s it for? Campbeltown whisky fans hoping to broaden their horizons. With a similar wave-whipped, salt-soaked character, it’s a fine option if drinkers want to take their tastebuds on a trip up Scotland’s west coast.

10 of the tastiest little-known scotch whiskies

Torabhaig Single Malt ‘All Gleann’ Edition

£49.95

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Tamdhu Quercus Alba Distinction

Where’s it from? The excellently-named village of Knockando in Banffshire. Tamdhu doesn’t get the recognition it deserves; founded in 1897 and with a huge back catalogue of spirits (most of which are sadly used in blends such as The Famous Grouse and Cutty Sark).

What’s it like? Vibrant. The rich, fruity flavours of Tamdhu’s handsomely-bottled limited edition are an ode to Oloroso sherry casks; brimming with warming cinnamon, plummy dates and chocolatey, syrupy decadence.

Who’s it for? Drinkers with a very discerning palate and an even sweeter tooth. Also, if you take pleasure in charting the history of your whisky, this spirit’s ‘North America to Spain to Speyside’ journey makes for a globe-trotting, mouth-watering tale. 

10 of the tastiest little-known scotch whiskies

Tamdhu Quercus Alba Distinction

£65.00

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Seaweed & Aeons & Digging & Fire 10-Year-Old

Where’s it from? A single undisclosed, unnamed distillery on Islay. How exciting is that?! As if the name and the no-frills bottling didn’t add enough eccentricity to this whisky, this mystery doubles down on the intrigue. 

What’s it like? For such an enigma, that name really does say it all. The coastal salinity kicks things off, before you dig through a chewy layer of smoky peat to find a complex, smoky heart. We wouldn’t call 10 years an ‘aeon’, but that’s a minor quibble; it’s delicious.

Who’s it for? Certainly not for beginners — or the faint-hearted. There’s a lot going on in this whisky, and while it epitomises the uncompromising Islay style, the rich, forceful taste may overpower less experienced dram-drinkers.

10 of the tastiest little-known scotch whiskies

Seaweed & Aeons & Digging & Fire 10-Year-Old

£34.95

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Arran Machrie Moor Single Malt

Where’s it from? The Isle of Arran — where you’ll find the mystical peat bog, Machrie Moore, from which this whisky takes its name. One of the island’s first peated Single Malts, it’s produced at the Lochranza Distillery.

What’s it like? Surprisingly tropical. The palate offers the light smoke and citrus you’d expect, but take a sip and flavours of vanilla, pineapple and other exotic fruits explode — before subsiding once more into a treacly, peaty finish.

Who’s it for? Those of you looking for something new, but also natural. With no artificial colourings, this non-chill filtered spirit is whisky without refinement. It’s rugged, real — but somehow very, very smooth.

10 of the tastiest little-known scotch whiskies

Arran Machrie Moor Single Malt

£44.99

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Bladnoch Vinaya

Where’s it from? Bladnoch, one of the six remaining Lowland distilleries. Recently, Dr Nick Savage — a former Master Distiller at The Macallan — joined the brand, ushering in a new, exciting age for the whiskymaker. 

What’s it like? A symphony of flavour; or perhaps a cacophony. There’s so much going on here — apple, chocolate, boiled sweets, pepper, flowers, barley — that it probably shouldn’t work. And yet, it’s delicious.

Who’s it for? Those of you looking for that one signature, striking bottle of whisky for your home bar. Because, as undeniably beautiful as that bottle is, the cacophonous whisky inside still manages to be rather mellow — and butter-smooth. 

J.G. Thomson & Co. ‘Smoky' Blended Scotch Whisky

Where’s it from? Edinburgh, where J.G. Thomson & Co. have established a new brand offering a collection of small batch spirits. They also offer gin and rum — but the five-strong whisky range really is exceptional.

What’s it like? It certainly lives up to its name. Made from 100% Islay malts, this blend is thick; with notes of  burning ash, baked seaweed, barbecued fruits and smoked sugar. Particularly palatable is the hint of clove on the finish.

Who’s it for? Peaty Single Malt fans looking for something different; but equally drinkable. A blend this may be, but the Pedro Ximenez butts and ex-bourbon barrels add richness and sweetness in equal lip-smacking measure.

10 of the tastiest little-known scotch whiskies

J.G. Thomson & Co. ‘Smoky' Blended Scotch Whisky

£42.50

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Wolfburn Morven

Where’s it from? The most northerly distillery on the Scottish mainland. Wolfburn sits in Thurso, and reopened (after closing in the 1860s) in 2013. Thankfully, the time off hasn’t done any harm — and the whisky is better than ever.

What’s it like? It’s another smoky one; but the Morven doesn’t lean as far into the burn as some of the other bottles on this list. Instead, after its first fiery whiff, more mellow, malty notes of flowers and light spices appear.

Who’s it for? Drinkers who are looking for something new; but don’t want to decamp or decant too far outside of their comfort zones. Well-rounded and rich, this is a whisky that tastes like a whisky — but one that’ll bring a smile to your face all the same.

Kingsbarns Dream to Dram

Where’s it from? Douglas Clement’s Kingsbarns Distillery, which first began its whiskymaking mission in St Andrews in 2009. In 2020, this bottling won top accolades at both the World Whiskies Awards and The Scotch Whisky Masters.

What’s it like? Considerably lighter than our other suggestions. Intensely fruity it may be, but this ‘Dream to Dram’ is floral, balanced and reasonably pale in colour — despite the re-charred ex-Portuguese red wine casks used to age it. 

Who’s it for? Those looking for something new. If you’re after a spirit overflowing with light, bright flavours (think banana, pineapple, herbs and spicy ginger) then add this one to your collection. It’ll make the perfect summer whisky.

10 of the tastiest little-known scotch whiskies

Kingsbarns Dream to Dram

£45.00

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Filthy Smoke 10-Year-Old

Where’s it from? The suitably scientific-sounding Atom Labs; a small team of intrepid innovators putting fresh spins on spirits. This ‘mystery’ 10-Year-Old Single Malt comes from Islay originally — before Atom attacked it. 

What’s it like? Filthy. It’s the muckiest malt you’ll ever decant — crammed with earthy, peaty, natural notes and finished in sherry casks specially selected for their gunpowdery, sulphurous smell. That said, it’s still an absolute treat.

Who’s it for? The non-conformists. If you want idiosyncratic flavours in your whisky (we’re talking dry-rubbed ribs, BBQ sauce and pink peppercorns) and a bottle design that might scare your more conservative malts off the shelf, this is the spirit for you. 

10 of the tastiest little-known scotch whiskies

Filthy Smoke 10-Year-Old

£27.49

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