Six 12 year old Whiskies to Try Now

When it comes to aging whisky, there’s no one size fits all approach. There are a number of variables that can impact the final flavor, from cask type and size to climate to warehouse style. Bourbon, for example, requires a new charred oak container, while scotch whisky can be aged in used barrels. This means that bourbon often extracts more flavor from the wood it is being held in, and is at risk of becoming over-oaked if it sits too long, while scotch whisky can continue to climb in age upward of 50 years and beyond. The question of whether bourbon can be too old is a legitimate one, whereas with scotch, extreme aging is only an issue with regard to price.

However, if there is one common sweet spot for both bourbon and scotch, it seems to be at 12 years. Across all styles, in fact, whisky at that age performs well, earning high scores and offered at relatively low costs. The Spring 2022 issue features a number of 12 year old whisky reviews, including some from our piece on the whiskies you forgot you love. Standbys like Glenfiddich 12 year old and Johnnie Walker Black Label; whiskies that you perhaps encountered early on in your whisky journey but have since left behind, are still delivering the same quality as before. A dozen years in the barrel does the trick for these six whiskies, all of which scored 88 points or more in the most recent Buying Guide.

Dive Into A Dozen Years With One of These Whiskies

Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 year old
91 points, 40%, $35

A torchbearer for scotch whisky, this tangles creaminess with peat smoke, mixes toffee with vanilla, tumbles raisin with fig, and integrates smoke with fresh citrus and red apple. Creamy caramels with soft toffee drizzled over marmalade, vanilla sweetness balanced with a little oak, and layers of raisin, Braeburn apple, and sultana, permeated with smoke. It turns out that the liquid inside the world’s most recognizable whisky bottle is exceedingly good.—Jonny McCormick

Bib & Tucker 12 year old Single Barrel Small Batch (No. 102258)
91 points, 49.5%, $100

Honeycomb, vanilla fudge, pancakes with syrup, a hint of coconut, plus new leather and very mature and fragrant oak. On the palate, deep fruit flavors of grape jelly and strawberries, vanilla cream, a sprinkling of coconut, bitter chocolate, and peppery spice. The finish is long, spiced, and filled with chocolate ice cream, chocolate layer cake, cocoa powder, and spiced oak. Full and rich, with pleasant spice on the finish. (9.600 bottles)—David Fleming

Cutty Sark 12 year old
90 points, 40%, $27

Returning this stalwart, the first new Cutty Sark since La Martiniquaise took charge of the ship, seemed a safe bet, but they’ve done it so well. Apricot, golden sultana, caramel, honeydew melon, honey, and vanilla meet cumin, cardamom, Parma violets, and orange jelly bean aromas. Richly flavored but lightly textured, there’s lemon bonbon, sugar-dusted churro, vanilla custard, cinder toffee, hazelnut, and sharp apple acidity. It’s like sunshine rippling on the ocean.—Jonny McCormick

Ugly Dog 12 year old Distiller’s Cache Single Barrel (No. 11)
90 points, 47%, $90

Plentiful citrus on the nose—lemony and bright, showing sweet notes of manuka honey, maple syrup, and custard. The palate is honeyed and smooth, with vanilla and buttered French toast, but it’s also spiced and offers dark-chocolate mint and coffee. A mid-length finish has overtones of orange peel, vanilla milkshake, and spice. Very balanced and delicious overall, perhaps only slightly lacking in length and depth. (3,000 bottles)—David Fleming

Glenfiddich 12 year old
89 points, 40%, $40

From its distinctive triangular bottle, the nose boasts green apple, creamy vanilla, shortbread, fragrant dry spices, zested orange, white florals, and a hint of pear and white grape. The palate is smooth and scrumptious, opening with delicious apple and vanilla sponge sweetness, briefly interrupted by pepper and cloves, with satisfying notes of chocolate, dried fruit, and citrus peel to follow. It’s time to reacquaint your palate with this classic.—Jonny McCormick

Chivas Regal 12 year old
88 points, 40%, $50

Rich, layered, and packed with signature notes from the range, the nose brings forth honey, caramel, sweet apple, poached pear, smoked orange peel, and baked citrus notes. The core flavors riff between citrus, runny caramels, gingersnap, and vanilla, but there are punchy spices, pear, and nutty almond notes too. The finish encircles ginger, orange peel, and hints of chocolate.—Jonny McCormick

More From Whisky List

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.