Most people don’t reach for a bottle of whiskey and think, “Gee, I hope this is saltier and brinier than the seas themselves!” But whiskey enthusiasts aren’t like most people, and for some, those salty and umami notes are exactly what they are looking for in their dram.
Just as the earthy, smokey, peaty flavors of Islay can be quite polarizing, today’s top 10 list will likely fall in the same boat. However, if you like a little salty sea breeze in your glass, we got you covered with our Top 10 Best Salty Whiskeys.
10. Longrow 18 Year Old
Kicking off our list, we start with the Longrow 18 Year old produced by Springbank Distillery in Campbeltown, Scotland. It is a part of the Longrow range, known for its peated expressions that offer a rich and smoky character.
A lot of the salty notes come through from the peated malt, particularly in the finish. Described as ash, soot, and maritime, this bottle is pretty exemplary of peated Campbeltown malts.
9. Laphroaig Original Cask Strength
Heading to Islay for another heavily peated single malt, we amp up the flavor with a cask strength Laphroaig. Described by one user as “a peat kick in the tastebuds” this is Laphroaig at its finest.
While an obvious strong peat flavor is balanced with some sweetness, in between is where the briny, medicinal iodine, and salty notes come through.
If a rounder, more extended peat and salt experience is what you are looking for, see if you can get your hands on the Ardbog release from Ardbeg. Released to celebrate Ardbeg Day in 2013, Ardbog pays homage to the peat bogs that surround the distillery and contribute to the unique character of their whiskies.
On the nose, it offers an earthy aroma with hints of smoldering peat, rich dark chocolate, and a touch of brine. The palate delivers a full-bodied experience, with layers of smoky bacon, black pepper, espresso, and a subtle sweetness reminiscent of toffee and dried fruits.
7. Talisker Dark Storm
Talisker Dark Storm is a bold and distinctive expression from the Talisker distillery, located on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. This bottling is renowned for its intense and robust character, reflecting the rugged and stormy nature of its island home.
Dark Storm is crafted using heavily charred oak casks, imparting deep and rich flavors to the Scotch. It is non-age-stated, which allows the distillery to focus on delivering a unique taste experience rather than a specific age statement.
6. Bowmore 25 Year Old Small Batch Release
Toffee, almond, dark fruits, oranges, and salted nuts are all notes in play in this quarter-century old expression from Bowmore. As evidence by the breadth of flavor notes observed by Abov drinkers, this dram is quite complex, and salt is just one flavor present among many.
5. Bruichladdich 21 Year Old
Number 5 on the list of Top 10 Best Salty Whiskeys is Islay’s Bruichladdich 21 Year Old. Matured for 21 years, this single malt showcases the result of time and careful maturation.
On the nose, you can expect a captivating bouquet of rich oak, tropical fruits, and a subtle coastal influence. The palate offers a complex and harmonious combination of flavors, including honeyed malt, ripe orchard fruits, vanilla, and a delicate hint of spice.
4. Oban 21 Year Old
This 21 Year Old release from the Oban Distillery in the Highlands is full of maritime character and smoke. From nose to finish, sea air dances through waves of citrus, honey, vanilla, and spice.
Oban is a coastal distillery in the west Highlands, and many of it’s drams incorporate the same sea salt smokey flavor found in the 21 year old.
One of the more peat-forward and intensely smokey bottlings on the list comes in the form of the limited release Supernova from Ardbeg.
Ardbeg is no stranger to powerfully peated flavors, but the ashen salt really comes through in this particular release. This one (which has been re-released on a few occasions) is truly for the peat-heads among us.
2. Lagavulin 1990 Distillers Edition
Each year, Lagavulin (as well as the other Diageo-owned distilleries) release special “Distillers Edition” bottlings. These small batches are hand selected by the master distillers and undergo additional aging or unique finishing to make them truly unique from the brands’ core offerings.
This particular release really leaned into the salty sea air aromas and flavor, especially for Lagavulin, which generally features a more traditional peated profile.
1. Talisker 25 Year Natural Cask Strength
Number 1 on the list of Top 10 Best Salty Whiskeys is another from Talisker, the 25 Year Old Natural Cask Strength release. Well aged, powerful ABV, and a lot flavor all make this a must have dram.
With its extended aging, this Talisker bottling presents a velvety and luxurious mouthfeel. The finish is long and satisfying, leaving a lingering warmth along with gentle hints of oak, spice, and a touch of coastal brininess.
What we love most about the overall whiskey category is that there is such a wide breadth of flavors to try. A few tweaks to the mash, age, and barreling can create flavors from sweet to smokey to even salty.
While everyone has their preference, the options to explore are quite endless. Notes of sea salt, maritime flavors, and briny are unique, but more common to coastal distilleries of Scotland and provide a new experience for even the most seasoned whiskey drinker. Have you tried any of the above, or other whiskeys with a particularly salty character? Let us know which ones you’ve enjoyed in the comments below.