Reaching the age of 18 is a big deal for both people and whisky. In both cases, there has been a long period of growing up and sometimes struggle, as different forces (puberty, casks) shaped and molded the individual. Hopefully by the time a person reaches 18, they’ve achieved a decent level of maturity. For whisky, that should definitely be the case.
Certain whisky styles are better able to reach this level than others. Scotland’s climate is cool and steady, and whisky there is typically aged in used casks, which are slower to impart their influence; hence the proliferation of 18-year-old scotches. In Kentucky, however, the winters are cold and the summers are hot, and whiskey ages in highly expressive new charred oak barrels. Getting a bourbon or rye to 18 years old without tasting like splinters is no mean feat, which explains the paucity of American whiskey at this age.
In many countries, 18 is the legal drinking age, so bottles like these make for quite a special birthday gift. Even though here in the U.S. you have to wait until 21, sipping a barely legal whisky would still be an incredible way to celebrate. Check out the list below for some of our top recommendations for 18-year-old scotch, bourbon, rye, Japanese, Canadian, and Irish whiskey.
1. Old Pulteney 18-Year-Old
The Pulteney Distillery sits on the northeast corner of Scotland, leaning into the bracing winds of the North Sea. Consequently, its whisky takes on a distinct salinity that enhances the flavors created in the still and through the long years of aging: honey, chocolate orange, and a sprinkling of spices and dried fruits from partial maturation in oloroso sherry casks. While most 18-year-old single malts are best sipped neat from a nice glass, Old Pulteney takes nicely to swigging from a flask, especially if you’re reeling in a catch.
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