5 Scotch Whiskies so Exclusive You Have to Fly to Buy Them
The wondrous world of scotch whisky has exploded in recent years, with exclusive bottlings from every distillery worth its weight in barrels.
Sadly for us Americans, many of the best marques are only available overseas or at duty-free shops. Here’s a quick list of some of the best drams you can buy – just remember, you’ll likely have to book a trip abroad to get your mitts on one of these bottles.
Blair Athol 12
Produced in the central Highlands region of Scotland, next door to the historic Blair Castle, Blair Athol 12-year-old soothes the senses with aromas of vanilla, orange, mild cinnamon, and dried fruit. A rich caramel flavor eases across the pallet with a slight oily texture, and the 12-year-old dram finishes with a surprising dryness for such a creamy whisky. Smooth and mellow, Blair Athol 12 is best enjoyed after an easy hike through a Highlands meadow. Unfortunately, you’ll likely have to travel to a specialty shop in the UK to pick up a bottle.
House of Hazelwood
William Grant & Sons launched this series last year as a tribute to the art-deco stylings of a house near their flagship Glenfiddich distillery. It comes in three age statements – 18, 21, and 25. The 18 is delicate, yet vibrant and the most approachable of the three. The 21 gains woody spice and cinnamon notes from malts that have been aged in European oak sherry casks. The 25 is the rarest of the group, spending time in new American oak barrels. It results in a sweeter finish with notes of brown sugar and maple. To grab any of these bottles, book an international flight and head to the closest duty-free shop.
Related: The Best Whiskies Under $20
Glen Grant 12-Year NCF
This travel store special takes after the Speyside distillery’s tradition of bright, golden whiskies that are on the more relaxed side of tasting. The “NCF” stands for “non-chill filtered”, meaning the whisky has not been chilled before bottling. This results in a cloudier, yet still delightfully drinkable spirit that retains some of the character from the original distilling process. It’s a great introduction to the scotch category and would make a fine souvenir/gift for any level of enthusiast.
Johnnie Walker Island Green
One of the most popular names in scotch has a legacy of limited-availability bottles and this one follows suit as it’s only in duty-free shops outside the USA. So, while any American has easy access to this spirit, denizens of other countries do not and thus will have to settle for getting their bottle at their closets international airport. The juice is made from both Lowland and Speyside malts and takes after the mid-level Green Label variety. It carries aromas of wood smoke and pepper with layers of orchard fruit and gentle vanilla that comes through on the palette. A solid choice at only $60 per one-liter bottle.
Bowmore Enigma 12
Like Laphroaig, Bowmore comes from the small Scottish island of Islay (pronounced ‘eye-luh’), where smoky peat aromas saturate the air, the grass, the very essence of everything – and the Enigma 12-year-old bottling, only available at duty-free shops, is no exception. You won’t get the punch-in-the-face smokiness of a Laphroaig with this Bowmore dram, which instead eases you into the savory flavor with touches of dark chocolate, caramel, and subtle salt. It’s a smooth dram for a smooth evening in front of a fireplace, perhaps paired with some smoked salmon and a fine cigar.
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Originally published July 7, 2016. Updated November 12, 2016 by Geoff Nudelman.