a list of high roller Scotch...

Ken Gargett

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The Best High-Roller Scotch


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.

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1: Ardbeg Grooves ($130)


“It’s one of my favorites of the Committee Release options from Ardbeg—different than the rest of the line and worth every penny.”—Patrick Marran, bartender at New York City's On the Rocks

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2: Ardbeg Kelpie ($140)


“This one is out there and definitely for a more adventurous palate but so much going on—limited release yearly.”—Michael J. Huebner, beverage director at Denver's Zeppelin Station

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3: Ardbeg 21 Year ($600)


“It’s hard to justify this price point, but it’s a damn good whisky.”—Adam Fortuna, assistant general manager and sommelier at Grand Rapids, Mich.'s Reserve Wine & Food

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4: Auchentoshan 18 Year ($104)


“This is an absolutely balanced and different, triple-distilled, yet woody, complex and honeyed whisky.”—Nathaniel David Smith, bartender at St. Paul, Minn.'s Hodges Bend and ambassador for Teeling Irish whiskey

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5: The Balvenie PortWood ($227)


“It’s a masterful whisky with perfect balance.”—Cari Hah, bar manager at Los Angeles' Big Bar

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6: Bladnoch Talia 25 Year ($500)


“Lowland single malts don't get enough love in the States. This is a good choice to help fix that.”—Marran

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“It’s smoky holiday cookies in a bottle—sold!”—Joshua-Peter Smith, bar director at San Francisco's Mourad

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“This is a scotch made for wine lovers. It’s matured in a variety of wine casks, which gives it a dark fruit flavor with a spicy finish.”—Shawn Chen, beverage director at New York City's RedFarm and principal bartender at New York City's Decoy

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9: Glenfiddich 21 Year ($170)


“Plenty of baking spice and everything nice gives this scotch the ability to have a winter vacation on the beach in the comfort of your own home.”—Joshua-Peter Smith

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10: Glenmorangie 18 Year ($139)


“This is possibly my favorite scotch. The whisky has great depth and tells a story from the front to the finish. It has just the perfect touch of peat and a wonderful long finish—highly recommend.”—Hah

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11: Glenmorangie Signet ($236)


“Beauty has no age, and this no-age-statement was made to impress—luxury packaging, dark chocolate and roasted flavor notes. Rich, full-bodied, no flaws, this is art in a bottle.”—Jung Park, founder of Philadelphia's Cocktail Culture Co.

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12: Highland Park 18 Year ($148)


“This whisky has everything—peat, salinity, honey, heather, chocolate, cherries, sherry. It’s super integrated—huge but refined.”—Zac Overman, beverage director and co-owner of Seattle's L'Oursin

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13: Highland Park 30 Year ($1,125)


“It’s a rare dram for those lucky enough to enjoy it. It’s Orkney at its peak—mouthwatering brine, complex spice and dark chocolate, with appealing, approachable smoke.”—Nathaniel David Smith

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“It’s kind of basic but a must-have for a high-roller scotch collection.”—Park

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15: The John Walker ($3,200)


“It doesn't get any more high-roller than this outstanding bottling from Johnnie Walker. This whisky is meant to take you back in time in the best possible way.”—Huebner

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“It has all the beauty of the 16-year-old but with a touch of extra sweetness from ex-sherry casks.”—Fortuna

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“It’s an Islay scotch with so much more than collectibility—smoke balanced with the softness imbued by American hogsheads. It’s a delightful whisky for drinking or collecting.”—Nathaniel David Smith

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18: Laphroaig 18 Year ($188)


“If you can find this discontinued bottle, buy all of it.”—Fortuna

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19: Laphroaig Lore ($120)


“I love the peat in this whisky. It’s strong but not overwhelming, and it carries through from front to finish.”—Hah

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“Springbank Distillery can do no wrong, and this gem proves its prowess once again. Notes of rhubarb, candied plums, a touch of peat and a whisper of sea salt make this an excellent sipping scotch.”—Joshua-Peter Smith

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“It's discontinued, but there are still a few out there. I always lean toward this when I see it in another bar.”—Marran

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22: The Macallan Rare Cask ($300)


“It’s one of the most recognizable scotch brands. The rare cask is crafted using liquid aged in first-fill sherry oak casks, which makes it a rare treat.”—Chen

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23: The Macallan 25 Year ($1,800)


“Here’s God in the form of scotch, for the true whisky connoisseur. Fruity notes, refined sherry, rich and full with a long finish, this is best of the best—worth every penny.”—Park

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24: Octomore 08.3 ($260)


“Octomore boasts being the most peaty on the market, for when I'm looking for the most flavors in every sip.”—Yani Moraitis Frye, owner, operator and head bartender at Detroit's Bad Luck

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“For the high-roller who needs a cask-strength option, this one is a sherry bomb, matured in first-fill sherry butts. Only 583 bottles were produced.”—Huebner

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26: Talisker 25 Year ($360)


“The finish is smooth and does not require much ice. Notes of heather, chocolate and slight smoke prevail.”—Lucinda Sterling, managing partner and bartender at New York City's Middle Branch

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Not sure that I am a big fan of this list. Some worthy selections to be sure, but some are out of left field. 

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52 minutes ago, Cayman17 said:

Is the Signet that good? Want to try it but keep skipping over it to buy more Oban 14 before it disappears completely 

The Signet is Heaven in a bottle. Absolutely fantastic. On my second bottle, but enjoy it sparingly due to the higher price point. I could drink this as a one and only for the rest of my life. 

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Talisker DE can be had at the same.price of the 10 by me, oddly. I wasnt really a fan. Heavy on sherry. Not big on that.

Octomore is.kind of a gimmick, but one I love!

I'd add bruddiladich black arts and any port Ellen to this. Highly sought after.

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6 hours ago, NYgarman said:

The Signet is Heaven in a bottle. Absolutely fantastic. On my second bottle, but enjoy it sparingly due to the higher price point. I could drink this as a one and only for the rest of my life. 

agreed. i was blown away when i first tried the signet. had been a bit ho hum about it before - not sure why - but i loved it. 

i'd be staggered if any whisky fan agreed entirely with a list like this. there will always be others you want to include. 

agree also with fop that high roller perhaps should mean a smidge more. 

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16 hours ago, Cayman17 said:

Is the Signet that good? Want to try it but keep skipping over it to buy more Oban 14 before it disappears completely 

Signet is the nectar of the gods. Only made once a year at Glenmorangie with a unique toasting of the malt. Chocolate mocha goodness that is smooth beyond explanation. 

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