10 Highest-Scoring Whiskies in the Fall 2021 Buying Guide

The Fall 2021 issue of Whisky Advocate features over 130 whisky reviews covering a range of styles. Since the issue focuses on bourbon, the Buying Guide is chock-full of reviews that cover cask-finishing, non-Kentucky producers, Texas’s growing craft scene, and more, but there is plenty else to enjoy, including single malts from Scotland, the U.S., Germany, Ireland, India, and Taiwan.

As for high scores, we have those as well, with the below whiskies all earning 93 points or more. These don’t include our Editors’ Choice, Best Value, or Collectibles selections, but represent the very best from the whisky world, including two cask strength Irish whiskeys, age statements ranging from 6 to 24 years old, and a pair of single malt scotches that use home-grown barley. Familiar names like Barrell, Balvenie, and Ardbeg are joined by Bib & Tucker and Blue Note, two Tennessee-based brands proving that the Volunteer State can make high-quality bourbon in addition to the state’s trademark whiskey style.

Check out the 10 highest-scoring whiskies below and visit the Fall 2021 Buying Guide for the full slate of reviews.

Top Scores From Whisky Advocate‘s Fall 2021 Issue

barrell bourbon batch 027Barrell Cask-Strength Blend of Straight Bourbons (Batch 029)
94 points, 57.94%, $90

Initially soft and reticent on the nose, with water revealing the sweet maltiness of a vanilla shake, as well as buttered toast, almonds, and melon. A smooth creamy palate shows honey, blueberry pie, and vanilla ice cream. Baking spice and more pie notes emerge, along with toasted walnuts, bitter coffee, chocolate, and a finish of cinnamon-sprinkled vanilla custard and baking spice. A hot one, even with water, but loaded with well-integrated flavors.—David Fleming

The Irishman Vintage Cask (2021 Release)
94 points, 54.8%, $165

Honey, viennoiserie, and floral top notes combine with baked orange, ground hazelnut, baking spices, and dunnage floor to produce a solid nose with plenty of promise. Toffee, spices, and Dundee cake lead to an imposing spicy peak, followed by flavors of malty drinks, peppery spices, dark-roasted grains, and Smucker’s Magic Shell ice cream topping. Powerfully good, with a long spicy send-off. This oozes class and sophistication. (750 bottles for the U.S.)—Jonny McCormick

balvenie 19 year old the edge of burnhead wood scotchBalvenie 19 year old Edge of Burnhead Wood
93 points, 48.7%, $300

Distilled from barley grown on Balvenie’s Dufftown estate and dried at the distillery over heather plucked from nearby Burnhead Wood. Tropical fragrance of lime and guava, refined by balanced minerality. Spiced honey greets the palate, followed by bitter chocolate and a deeper note of baked orange. Long and spiced on the finish of honey, lemon, vanilla, and a sprinkling of white pepper. All the elegance of Speyside, with added depth and complexity. (1,200 bottles for the U.S.)—David Fleming

Bib & Tucker 6 year old Small Batch Bourbon (No. 22)
93 points, 46%, $46

Fresh herbs greet the nose, followed by notes of marmalade, birthday cake, roasted peanuts, and musty antique shop. Well-tempered sweetness on the palate—a basketful of fresh blueberries, fresh peaches and golden raisins—with lemon iced tea, root beer, sugared espresso, and generous spice. A rich finish offers coffee ice cream, dark chocolate, allspice, French toast, and sweet banana. A superbly structured, complex whiskey that makes for very easy sipping.—David Fleming

Writers’ Tears Cask Strength (2021 Release)
93 points, 54.2%, $145

Rich, malty, and bursting with pot still spices, time enables the appearance of deeper layers of toffee, Brazil nut, cherry, sultana cake, espresso foam, and the aromas of a dark cigar wrapper. Mouth-filling flavors of dark caramel, nuts, orange, clove, milk chocolate, and toasted almond, with firecracker pot still spices. A drying finish with malt, amaretti, and espresso. This is epic stuff. (1,500 bottles for the U.S.)—Jonny McCormick

craigellachie 24 year old single cask scotchCraigellachie 24 year old Exceptional Cask Single Cask (No. 4127013182)
93 points, 52.2%, $300

Matured in a single oloroso sherry butt. Quite fruity on the nose, with notes of kiwi, juicy mango, fruit cocktail, blueberry pie, lemon bars, and strawberry shortcake, in addition to cinnamon graham crackers and raisin bread. The palate is lively, with cinnamon, tangy lemon-lime citrus, and orange scone. Good length on the finish with lemon-poppyseed muffin. (474 bottles)—Ted Simmons

Blue Note 17 year old Barrel Proof Straight Bouron (Barrel No. 12841)
93 points, 54.45%, $175

Herbs, spice, mint, and saddle leather quickly reveal this whiskey’s maturity. As it rests in the glass, vanilla ice cream emerges, along with melon and caffé latte. It’s hot and muscular, but its aged and herbal flavors soon cede ground to melted milk chocolate and cinnamon-topped cappuccino. A thoroughly pleasurable melding of chocolate, herbs, and cinnamon spice, with oak influence in tasteful balance.—David Fleming

Ardbeg Scorch
93 points, 46%, $120

Ardbeg’s Feis Ile 2021 release was made available to the general public in June. Matured in heavily charred bourbon barrels to create a “scorching” effect. Fragrant peat and malt, dried seashells, brine, sea salt, and dockside wood on the nose. Richly layered on the palate—charcoal, iodine, and surprisingly balanced peat influence, considering this whisky’s name. Baked apple and a hint of bitter chocolate, cooked bananas, and dark berries on a long finish.—David Fleming

Paul John Mithuna
93 points, 58%, $300

Named after the 3rd zodiac sign of Indian astrology—but then of course you knew that—the nose has red cherry laces, ground black pepper, and hints of ginger, resin, and toffee apple. The flavors are colossal; beginning with warm fruity caramels and sweet vanilla desserts, it shows off burnt sugar toppings of crème brûlée, Seville orange peel, indulgent dark chocolate, generous layers of maltiness, and delicious mocha notes. Quite spectacular. (3,000 bottles for the U.S.)—Jonny McCormick

Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2012
93 points, 50%, $70

Distilled from barley grown on eight western and central Islay farms in 2011. Light tropical fruit notes of kiwi and melon, along with pine nuts, ripe banana, lemon peel, and fresh hay, with excellent minerality and some salinity. A honeyed, refined palate with mature wood notes, espresso, porridge, peaches, and apricots. The finish offers vanilla cream, cinnamon spice, dark chocolate shavings, caramel, peach, and a dash of sea salt.—David Fleming

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5 Great Irish Whiskeys to Try Now

Sample single pot still or some of Ireland’s inventive finishing techniques with one of these selections from the Fall 2022 Buying Guide.