Scotch distilleries roll out major new whiskies to great fanfare all the time. (In fact, we write about them every Friday in Whisky Weekend.) Whisky retirements get less attention, but they do happen. The reasons are numerous: shortages of aged stock, changes in branding or focus, or even the total overhaul of a distillery’s core line. But because of the way that whisky retail works, there’s usually a long lead time between when a product is announced as being discontinued and when it’s actually gone from store shelves.
The single malt whiskies on this list were all discontinued relatively recently, and (as of fall 2017) are still available in limited quantities at stores for roughly their original retail price. A Whisky Advocate editor has spotted every whisky on this list “in the wild” sometime recently. With a little luck, you really can still find these bottles. Visit small, independent shops in up-and-coming neighborhoods or hit up stores in the suburbs for your best shot. For a full guide to how to track down elusive whiskies like these, check out the feature on Whisky Antiquing in the Fall 2017 issue of the magazine.
Macallan Fine Oak 17 year old
Made in a lighter style with some bourbon cask influence, Macallan’s Fine Oak series has always been a bit of an outlier for the very sherry-forward distillery. But these are seriously good whiskies: The Macallan Fine Oak 17 year old scored 94 points in the Whisky Advocate Buying Guide, the highest of any generally available whisky from the famous distillery. Alas, it’s going away: Macallan is releasing a new Fine Oak 18 year old this fall that will replace the 17 year old. Luckily, that means you still have time: this change is the freshest on the list, and if you’re a Macallan fan, seek out the Fine Oak 17 year old, then compare it to its new, slightly older sibling.
Highland Park 15 year old
Earlier this year, Highland Park got a major revamp that focused the Orkney distillery’s branding more closely on the island’s Viking heritage. Highland Park debuted several new whiskies at the same time, but it also phased out three: Highland Park 15 year old, Highland Park Dark Origins, and Highland Park 21 year old. The last was always somewhat hard to find, but the 15 year old and Dark Origins were consistently available, and some stores still have stocks. Both are worth snapping up if you see them, though the 15 year old is the better dram.
Laphroaig 15 year old
Laphroaig launched a whole slew of special edition whiskies and limited releases for its 200th anniversary in 2016. The 15 year old—an intriguing bridge between the fiery peat of young Islay whisky and the more subdued flavors of peat that has mellowed with age—was the most widely available. This whisky has been off the market for a while now and will dry up altogether eventually, but for the moment, you might still get lucky.
Scapa 16 year old
Scapa distillery, located on Orkney half a mile south of Highland Park, has always had a lower profile than its more famous neighbor. For several years, the distillery’s flagship whisky in the U.S. was its 16 year old, but that expression was recently phased out in favor of the non-age-statement Scapa Skiren. But here’s where Scapa’s low profile works in your favor: The whisky isn’t a major collector target, so you should still be able to find the 16 year old on shelves in some areas.
Old Pulteney 17 year old
The easiest way to find Old Pulteney 17 year old, which was only recently discontinued, is to come to WhiskyFest New York on November 16 and try it yourself. But even if you can’t make it or are reading this afterwards, don’t fret: Old Pulteney 17 year old still lingers in the wild. If you feel like hunting whales, keep an eye out for Old Pulteney 21 year old, also freshly discontinued but much less widely available.
Back Vintages of Limited Edition Lines
Many distilleries now offer annual releases of limited-edition whiskies with special finishes or other distinguishing features. In some stores, these whiskies fly off the shelves in just a few days. But in many smaller neighborhood shops, they can last for months, or even long enough to be sold side-by-side with the next year’s edition. If you’re a limited-edition hunter, keep an eye out for older editions like Laphroaig Cairdeas 2016 Madeira Cask, Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2007 or 2009, or Glenmorangie Bacalta and Milsean. This summer and fall’s slate of limited editions, like Ardbeg Kelpie, Laphroaig Cairdeas 2017 Cask Strength Quarter Cask, Balvenie Peated, Glenfiddich Winter Storm, and Glenmorangie Astar aren’t necessarily hard-to-find just yet—but they will be in just a few months, so stock up now. And good luck whisky hunting!