The World’s Best Scotch Whisky—According To The San Francisco World Spirits Competition

Food & Drink

We are less than a month out from the 2023 iteration of the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. The annual extravaganza convenes in the Bay Area between April 13th through the 15th and the results of the judging will begin trickling out on its website shortly thereafter. But today we’re looking back at what the contest named as ‘Best In Show’ for 2021. Why? Because this particular scotch whisky hasn’t gotten any less awesome in the interim. And it somehow remains one of the best value buys on liquor store shelves to this day.

Allow us to reintroduce you to Glen Scotia 25 Year Old. This patiently matured malt from the storied producer out of Cambeltown is a classic example of its region’s prototypical profile: fruity on the palate, with a cloud of briny, coastal air hovering along the not-so-distant horizon. In other words, you’re enjoying some of the hallmarks of Speyside, with some of the touchstones of Island whisky, together in the same dram.

And yet it’s still a relative newcomer to the Glen Scotia range. Remember, this is a distillery that was founded 191 years ago. The 25 Year Old only hit shelves in mid-2017. But since then little has changed with the liquid. It’s drawn from an exceedingly small stable of superstar casks, pulled by master blender Iain McAlister, and then married in first-fill bourbon barrels prior to a bottling at 48.8% ABV.

To say he was tickled by the 2021 Best In Show award would be a monumental understatement. “[It] is an honor and a tremendous boost to the entire team here at Glen Scotia Distillery,” said McAlister after receiving news of the accolade. “The Glen Scotia 25 Year Old is a really outstanding liquid and has collected a number of the top industry awards over the years, but this has to be one of the proudest moments for the distillery to date.”

The bottling in question bested over 3,800 entries across 31 separate categories to earn the top prize. So it really was no small feat. Nevertheless, here in 2023 many casual scotch drinkers continue to overlook the rare blend of drinkability and complexity exhibited in Glen Scotia 25 Year Old. Which brings us to the best part of this recap: you can still find this stellar juice on shelves, right now, at or near its intended retail price—which hovers around the $500 mark. Here’s one shop in Vermont that hasn’t yet sold out of it at $415!

These sorts of occurrences are becoming frustratingly rare in the world of scotch these days; a beautiful bottle of well-aged malt sans secondary markup. Commensurately aged liquids from big names such as The Macallan, The Dalmore, and Lagavulin all run well north of $2000 a bottle. We’re actually hesitant to even bring up the discrepancy, lest we jinx the situation. But we’d be remiss to ignore it outright. Do with the information what you will. Just don’t say that we didn’t warn you.

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