We all know the “A” grade distilleries and their famed products.

Every whisky enthusiast knows all about them, they have their favourites and most definitely, these good folks always have a very strong opinion on what they are like.

But when it comes second or third tier producers, the less well known, there is a tendency by the dear aficionado to look down on them, to dismiss them out of hand as either ordinary or just plain dull.

But if we delve into this, dare I say, hidden spirit world there are some stunning gems to found.  So, here’s my top ten picks of drams you may have heard of but could never be bothered to either try them or buy them.  And I suspect you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

And in no particular order, here we go…

Blackadder

Raw Cask Smoking Islay Blended Malt
2019
700ml
60.2%

I start my list with a bottle that really, we know very little about.  And it is a case of trusting your whisky retailer’s judgement.  This example is a cracker: as it’s all about alcohol and smoke.  And it works. But you need to trust me.

Cadenhead

Single Cask Cambus 29yo Grain
1988
700ml
45.4%

Grain whiskies, “yuck” I hear you say. They are different, they are challenging and not to everyone’s liking. But at this extreme age, they are complex, ethereal and very intriguing. And they are cheap.

Cadenhead

Small Batch Dailuaine 10yo
2008
700ml
59.8%

Not often seen on the shelf, only one official bottling but for me, one of the great spirit styles to come out of Scotland: full an, rich and malty.

Cadenhead

Small Batch Ord 10yo
2006
700ml
58%

Has a tendency of being written off as a Glen – Nothing. But it’s fat, oily and honeyed spirit style gets me in time and time again.

Cotswold

Odyssey Barley English Single Malt Whisky
2014
700ml
46%

English! No thanks!! Take another look. An almost perfect balance of creamy malt, buttery oak and crisp spirit.

Firkin Whisky Co

Firkin 49 Tullibardine 8yo Oloroso Amontillado Cask
2012
700ml
48.9%

A distillery that was deliberately built as a rival to Macallan. And you can taste that classy rich spirit.

Hazelburn

10yo
700ml
46%

Triple distilled. “No thanks, too light for me”. Think again, especially when it is made by Springbank Distillers.

Morrison Carn Mor

Longmorn 11yo
2009
700ml
47.5%

You most certainly would be over shadowed, if your brother is Glenlivet. A soft, sweet and again a rich malt that really is succulent.

Spencer Collings

Founders Reserve 10yo Blended Malt Whisky
700ml
54.8%

Another unknown blended single malt whisky. But you need to trust your retailer again, as this a superbly sumptuous, old fashioned sherry monster. A fast disappearing style.

Ardmore

Vintage Malt Whisky Coopers Choice 8yo Sauternes Cask Finish 335
2011
700ml
51.5%

Most of this distillery’s production goes into cheap blended whisky. But when the spirit is peated and spice and honey flavours fill the palate, something good is going on here.