Special Report

20 Best Whiskey Brands In the World

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Whether you spell it whisky or whiskey, drink it from the bottle or in a tumbler, or buy it in the dense metropolises of Japan or the rolling green hills of Ireland, you join a long, storied, rich, and deep history when you taste whiskey.

Whiskey veterans and newcomers alike can find something new and exciting by exploring the top whiskeys in the world. You don’t have to be a whiskey expert, either. The great thing about these top whiskeys is that they are often great entry points for newcomers to gain a love and understanding of whiskey. These are the 20 best whiskey brands in the world.

What counts as the best whiskey?

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Irish whiskey served in a traditional whiskey glass

There are many ways to rank alcohol. We could use the number of awards they have won, the opinion of a panel of connoisseurs, the total worldwide sales or highest price, or our own personal taste.

We chose to use the list of the top 50 whiskeys in the world as voted on by Drinks International’s academy of whiskey aficionados. This academy includes buyers, bar owners and operators, reporters, writers, educators, and whiskey specialists. None of them have any affiliation with any existing whiskey brand. They voted on the quality of the whiskey itself, the price-to-quality ratio of the drink, and the brand itself to create a definitive list of The World’s Most Admired Whiskies. We will be looking at just the top 20 from that list, but if you find the list interesting, we encourage you to explore the remainder.

The 20 Best Whiskey Brands in the World

#20 Lagavulin

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Stills in a Scottish whiskey distillery

From: Scotland

Founded in 1816, the Lagavulin Distillery is famous for its single-malt Scotch whiskey. They produce whiskey aged from eight years all the way to 37 years and even produce an Offerman edition which is aged for 11 years, named after film actor Nick Offerman whose love of whiskey was made famous in the television show, Parks and Recreation. Lagavulin was even granted the right to provide the whiskey to the royal family. It is owned by the Diageo (NYSE: DEO) company which merged with Guinness in 1997. It won four consecutive gold medals at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition from 2005 to 2008 and several more since then. Its 16-year whiskey earned a 90–95 score from Wine Enthusiast Magazine and earned a Tier 1 performance category ranking from proof66.

#19 Caol Ila

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Whiskey being poured after being mixed at a bar.

From: Scotland

Caol Ila’s 12-year whiskey is considered to be the perfect starting whiskey for those who want to try peated whiskey. Peated whiskey is a specific type of whiskey that has been infused with the smoke or burnings of peat moss, giving the whiskey a memorable smoky, and distinct flavor.

The distillery was built in 1846 and faced several hardships during operation, including being demolished in the 1970s. It is now also owned by Diageo.

The 12-year Caol Ila whiskey has won two double-gold, three gold, and one silver medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. It generally receives fantastic ratings from reviewers and tasters, including a 90–95 score from Wine Enthusiast.

#18 The Balvenie

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Whiskey with garnish

From: Scotland

The Balvenie distillery was built in 1892 out of a converted 18th-century mansion. The Malt Master of Balvenie distillery, David Stewart MBE, is one of the most renowned whiskey experts in the world. He began working with William Grant & Sons, the owners of the distillery, in 1962 and is known as the inventor of the wood finishing process for aging whiskey. He was awarded the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth in 2016.

Balvenie’s whiskey has won the most gold medals of any brand in one year at the International Spirits Challenge and has won several double golds, golds, and silvers at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

#17 Teeling

Teeling Single Grain Irish Whiskey

From: Ireland

Teeling distillery was only built in 2015, but it comes from a long history of whiskey makers. The founders, Jack, and Stephen Teeling, are sons of Walter Teeling who built a distillery in Dublin in the 1700s, and descendants of John Teeling who founded the Cooley Distillery. The Teeling distillery was the first one built in Dublin in over 125 years, bringing this Irish tradition back home again.

Teeling’s awards include Best Irish Single Malt and Best Irish Single Grain, both awarded at the World Whiskies Awards.

#16 Chichibu

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Whiskey aging in a cellar

From: Japan

The Chichibu distillery was built in 2004 by Ichiro Akuto who won the Master Blender of the Year award in 2019. Chichibu is famous not only for its unique, collectible bottles but also for the fact that it malts its whiskey in England and builds all its own casks used for aging.

#15 Starward

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Whiskey on ice

From: Australia

Starward was founded in 2007 as a tribute and embodiment of everything Australian. David Vitale built Starward distillery in the Docklands precinct of Melbourne, and uses only Australian-built casks, adding to its uniquely Australian taste and style. Starward prides itself on being a new kind of whiskey and is a forerunner in the New Age whiskey scene.

#14 Laphroaig

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An Old Fashioned whiskey drink.

From: Scotland

Laphroaig distillery was built in 1815, over 200 years ago, and is the only distillery to carry the Royal Warrant of the Prince of Wales, meaning they are the only ones who can deliver whiskey to the prince. Laphroaig’s 15-year whiskey is King Charles’ favorite Scotch whiskey.

#13 Redbreast

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View of a typical whiskey distillery

From: Ireland

Redbreast whiskey is the best-selling Irish single-pot still whiskey in the world. The distillery that would eventually become Redbreast was founded in 1857.

Redbreast was named the Irish Whiskey of the Year in 2007 and has won several gold medals. Because it was traditionally too expensive for common people to afford, it was given the nickname “the priests’ bottle” and has become a flagship brand for premium and strong whiskeys in Ireland.

#12 Method & Madness

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Method & Madness has become the “trendy” brand of whiskey.

From: Ireland

Brewed at the Midleton Distillery, Method & Madness has earned quick fame by pairing experienced master blenders and younger apprentices to create new, forward-thinking, and bold whiskeys. As such a new brand, it is impressive that Method & Madness has already won the World’s Most Admired Irish Whiskey award.

#11 The Macallan

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A bottle of The Macallan’s 60-year whiskey

From: Scotland

The Macallan state-of-the-art distillery was built in 2018 in Speyside, Scotland, and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the entire area. Even though it is new, it replaced an older distillery on the location and boasts an impressive range of incredibly old whiskey, including an 81-year whiskey that was distilled during World War II.

Macallan’s 10-year whiskey is the official Scotch whiskey of the Speaker of the House of Commons. Macallan has earned repeated Guinness World Records for the most expensive bottle of whiskey ever sold, beginning in 2007 with a bottle sold for $54,000, and finally in 2023 when a bottle of Macallan’s 1926 sold for over $2.6 million.                                                                                                

#10 Hibiki

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A bottle of the world-famous Hibiki whiskey.

From: Japan

Hibiki was founded in 1989 by Suntory. It was created as a showcase of its owner’s brewing skills. Allegedly, the chief blender at Suntory tasted over a million casks of whiskey to create the recipe for the Hibiki brand. The result is one of the most famous and beloved whiskeys in the entire world and a tasking treat you can find at all the best bars.

#9 Glenmorangie

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View of a Scottish whiskey distillery.

From: Scotland

The brewery that would eventually become the Glenmorangie distillery was built in the 1730s. Their whiskey is so well-liked that their 12-year and 18-year malts have never received anything less than silver at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, with the 12-year placing in the top 10th percentile of all whiskeys in the world by Proof66. Glenmorangie has won more gold medals than any other single malt over the last five years from the International Wine and Spirits Competition.

#8 Johnnie Walker

Johnnie Walker’s Black Label bottles are among its most popular.

From: Scotland

If you’re not a whiskey buff, or much of an alcohol drinker at all, this might be the only brand you recognize, and it’s for good reason. Founded in 1820, Johnnie Walker is the highest-selling Scotch whiskey in the world. In 2016 alone, there were over 41 million gallons of Jonnie Walker sold. Using the considerable resources of its owners, Diageo, Jonnie Walker is able to create world-famous and award-winning blends of whiskey, sometimes using over 40 different whiskeys to create a final mix.

#7 Nikka

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Japan has quickly become a powerhouse in the whiskey scene.

From: Japan

Nikka was founded in 1935 by Masataka Taketsuru who studied Scotch whiskey distilling in Scotland where he participated in three different whiskey brewing apprenticeships. Nikka uses over 100 samples of other whiskies in its blended whiskey recipe. IN 2008, Nikka’s Yoichi 20-year whiskey won the best single malt award at the World Whiskies Awards.

#6 Springbank

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Scotland: the home of Scotch whiskey.

From: Scotland

Springbank is one of the few distilleries on this list that is still owned by the original family, in this case, the Mitchell Clan. It was founded in 1828. Springbank has placed at the top of this list in years past but has consistently placed in the top ten. It is the most prominent distillery in the Campbeltown area, which is famous for its whiskey production. It is the only Scottish distillery that completes every stop of whiskey production on-site and even uses its own malting floor.

#5 Compass Box

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Whiskey in a tasting glass.

From: Scotland

Compass Box was founded in 2000, but for such a short history, it has made a powerful impression on the whiskey community. It doesn’t have its own distillery but instead selects distillates from existing Scottish distilleries which they mix together to create their own brand. Each release of Compass Box is highly anticipated due to its unique flavor and diverse background. Every bottle is different and more exciting than the last.

#4 Bruichladdich

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The skyline of Edinburgh, Scotland

From: Scotland

The Bruichladdich distillery was built in 1881 by a family of experienced and talented whiskey brewers. A majority of the equipment used on this island distillery is the original equipment used during the Victorian era, including one of the only open 7-ton mashtuns that exist in the world. 

#3 Ardbeg

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A flight of Scottish whisky tasting glasses with variety of single malts or blended whiskey spirits on a distillery tour in Scotland.

From: Scotland

The Ardbeg distillery has been producing whiskey ever since 1798. It has won several Whiskey of the Year and Best Whiskey awards. This is the best-rated Scotch whiskey on this list. In 2011, samples of Ardbert Whiskey and wood were sent to the International Space Station to test how it would age and mature in zero gravity.

#2 Yamazaki

Like Edo period architecture, Yamazaki whiskey has become iconic of Japan.

From: Japan

Japanese whiskey has become one of the icons of good taste, wealth, and prestige, and Yamazaki whiskey is the reason why. The Yamazaki distillery opened in 1923 as Japan’s very first commercial whiskey distillery, and it boasts a Whiskey Library with over seven thousand bottles on display. The Yamazaki distillery was founded by Taketsuru Masataka, the same man who founded the Nikka distillery. The fact that two of Masataka’s creations are on this list shows how talented he was and how well-loved his whiskeys have become.

#1 Michter’s

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Kentucky: home of Michter’s world-famous distillery.

From: United States

The only entry from the United States on this list, and an icon of the Kentucky whiskey industry, Michter’s was originally known as Bomberger’s Distillery when it began production in 1753 in Pennsylvania. It is believed that George Washington bought whiskey from this distillery to give to his soldiers during their winter campaigns. The brand mark was subsequently sold and moved to Kentucky. While the original distillery is severely dilapidated due to lack of care and maintenance, the facilities under the Michter’s label continue the brewing tradition. At one point, the original Michter’s whiskey went out of business because nobody wanted to drink American whiskey, today it is the most sought-after brand in the world.

 

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