The best craft whiskies of 2018 – taste tested

Looking for a change from the usual supermarket Scotch? Joel Harrison and Neil Ridley from World’s Best Spirits share their pick of the top craft whiskies.

Whisky drams on tray


Best… American craft whiskyBalcones Texas whisky

Balcones Texas Single Malt 

Made halfway between Dallas and Austin in a town called Waco, Balcones Distillery has gone from a craft distillery housed in a small unit on the edge of town to an uber-cool central location, and is now the flag for distilling in the oil-rich state. Its Texas Single Malt has flavours as big as Texas itself: rich oak, vanilla and malty goodness.

 

 

Best… Irish whiskeyMethod & madness whisky

Method And Madness Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey

Irish whiskey is going through a real renaissance at the moment. From only four distilleries originally producing whiskey to over 20 in under a decade, there’s a huge amount of personality to choose from. Method And Madness is produced by the Midleton distillery in Cork (famed for producing Jameson) which has recently opened a small craft distillery on the same site to produce future M&M expressions. This is an unusual single pot still whiskey, in that it's part-matured in French chestnut casks (as opposed to oak). Expect rich spices, hints of tropical fruit and dark chocolate.

 

 
Best… alternative craft whisky 

Starward whiskyStarward New World Malt Whisky

Australian single malt whisky. Yes, you read that correctly: Australian single malt whisky. It's simply out of this world. Starward started making single malt a decade ago and today, from their base in Melbourne, they produce a product that draws fruity flavours from maturation in Australian fortified wine casks. This beautiful whisky comes in a stunning bottle – and at a price which makes trying it a no-brainer.

 


Best… Scottish craft whiskyEden Mill whisky with brown box

Eden Mill Single Malt Whisky Hipflask Series No 7

Based in St Andrews, Eden Mill is one of a new wave of craft distilleries that are popping up all over Scotland. With a portfolio that boasts award-winning gin, beer and now single malt Scotch whisky, their very first releases are just out of the starting blocks and showcase a fantastic three-year-old spirit, matured in a variety of casks. Try the flavoursome ex-sherry cask and join their whisky journey at the very beginning.

Available from Eden Mill (£25).


Best… with foodPaul John whisky bottle with box

Paul John Brilliance Indian Single Malt Whisky

This single malt, made in Goa, is packed with flavour due to the use of six-row Himalayan barley. Matured in ex-American whiskey casks, it gives plenty of malty, vanilla notes and hints of spice. As such, it pairs wonderfully alongside robust foods – including sweet treats (particularly dark chocolate) as well as savoury spiced meat dishes.

 


Best… whisky subscription serviceOrange whisky pouch

Whisky-Me

Can’t decide on just one bottle of whisky for yourself or for a gift? Try signing up to Whisky-Me. Each month, the team behind this surprisingly fun and really well-researched club select a top-notch whisky, a sample of which is sent in pouches direct to your door. The pouches are so slim that they fit through the letterbox – meaning you won’t even have to share them with your neighbour!

Available from Whisky-Me (prices starting from £7 a month).



Best… creative Scotch whiskyCompass box Scotch whisky

Compass Box Hedonism Blended Grain Scotch Whisky

The creative minds at Compass Box Whisky draw on stocks of Scotch to develop some of the most interesting bottlings on the market today. Hedonism brings together grain whisky, naturally lighter than malt, from Scotland and the result is a tropical fruit bomb of a whisky. As always with Compass Box, the label is as stunning as the whisky inside.

 



Best… smoky craft whiskyBoutiquey whisky single malt

That Boutique-y Whisky Company Caol Ila Batch 3

Ever wondered what it would look like to see a horde of deer swimming across the Sound of Jura, led by Brian Blessed’s Prince Voltan from Flash Gordon? If that’s piqued your interest, you’ll certainly love this independently bottled Caol Ila single malt, from the island of Islay. Caol Ila is famed for its distinctly dusty/smoky aroma and this young expression, bottled at 52.2%, is bristling with peatiness, alongside some fresher citrus and milk chocolate notes. As per all of their bottles, the above scene is rendered on the label by a cartoon artist. A fun-loving whisky indeed.

Available from That Boutique-y Whisky Company (£51.95).

 

Best… whisky for after dinnerWhisky bottle with purple box

Gordon & MacPhail: Discovery Series Miltonduff 10 Year Old

If there’s one thing that independent Scotch whisky company Gordon & MacPhail knows, it’s how to introduce whisky drinkers to new distilleries. In fact, they’ve been doing this for nearly 125 years now from their base in Elgin. The company’s Discovery Series has recently been relaunched, with each one pursuing a particular flavour style from different cask types: sherry, bourbon, or smoky-style in profile. This 10-year-old Miltonduff is a deliciously sweet, rich masterpiece, perfect for after-dinner sipping: dark chocolate, tangy marmalade, stewed raisins and baked apple notes all develop, thanks to the high-quality sherry casks which G&M use to mature it.

Available from Gordon & MacPhail (£47.95).
 

For all of the products mentioned in this review, various retailers have been suggested by our affiliate partner Monetizer 101 and are not suggested or chosen by BBC Good Food. For more information on how these retailers are selected and the nature of our partnership, please read the Monetizer101 FAQ page
 

More on whisky… 

The best whisky - taste tested
The best bourbon - taste tested
Whisky or whiskey, what's the difference?
10 ways to cook with whisky

This review was last updated in June 2018. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at goodfoodwebsite@bbc.com. 

Do you have a favourite bottle of whisky? Let us know if you think we’ve missed something off our list… 

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