Tommy Tardie the proprietor of New York’s The Flatiron Room and Fine & Rare, maintains that to be scotch, a single malt must be produced in Scotland. Single malt scotches are manufactured from malted barley, whereas blended scotches may incorporate a variety of grains in the mash bill. But that’s only the beginning. The scotch business is evolving as restless distillers’ experiment with everything from strongly smoke bombs to oloroso spirits.
When it comes to taste characteristics, “there has been a blurring of borders,” says Pedro Shanahan, spirits advisor for Los Angeles bar group Pouring with Heart. When it comes to scotch, it’s an adventure for a rookie who wants to begin discovering the world of Single malt whisky.”
Our top pick, the GlenDronach Revival is an excellent example of a scotch that alters in taste as you drink it. To get you started, we’ve compiled a list of the top Scotch whiskey.
Tardie claims that this 15-year-old scotch has a seemingly endless finish, which he attributes to the scotch’s layered complexity. It has notes of cedar, chocolate-covered cherries, walnuts and honey. Aged in Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso sherry barrels, the nose is “outstanding,” according to Tardie. Sip it neat and pair it with old cheeses and milk chocolate, or try it with ice cubes to see what happens.
Located in the heart of the Central Highlands, Aberfeldy Distillery initially opened its doors to the public in 1898. Located next to the Pitilie Burn, a fast-flowing stream, the distillery is known for its clear, brisk scotch.
A great whiskey to sip on a daily basis because to its cherry cola aromas and mouth-coating, semi sweetness that concludes in bittersweet, woody tannins. With a 40 percent ABV, it’s light enough for a post-work drink yet delicious enough for a lunchtime sip.
Bowmore Darkest 15-Year-Old
Cherrywood-coloured whisky from Bowmore, the oldest distillery on Islay, is crafted from island-grown barley that has been severely peated. To achieve its sherry-like flavour characteristics, it is matured in oloroso casks for the last three years of its life.
“Super inexpensive, super balanced Scotch,” as Glenfarclas distillery owner Shanahan puts it, is produced by the sixth generation of the family-owned Glenfarclas distillery. Glenfarclas, which means “the valley of green grass,” gets its name from a spring that flows through the Speyside heather-covered hills. The spring water used to make their 25-year-old Scotch whiskey is lemony and chocolaty in flavour.
After maturing in oloroso barrels, the spirit takes on a nutty, sherry-like flavour that’s ideal for drinking neat. You can’t beat the pricing at less than $10 each year,” Shanahan says.
Lagavulin Distillers Edition
Wonderful tarry rope and iodine and seaweed and peat,” recalls Shanahan of Lagavulin’s Distillers Edition, an Islay-made Scotch whiskey. “Phenolic dirt and brine.” “You start to see this fantastic, fresh balance established in the arched subtlety of sherry,” explains Shanahan, the master distiller behind this unique edition of Glenmorangie Single Malt Scotch aged in Pedro Ximénez casks. As soon as you take your first taste, you’re blown away by the fruitiness. It’s a challenge for your palate,” he says. “It’s a favourite of mine.”
Everyday tipples are becoming more robust as new cask-strength whiskies join the market. This ten-year-old scotch whiskey from Laphroaig, an Islay distillery, has a strength of roughly 112 because it was left undiluted for added intensity (may vary with each bottle). With a touch more island brine and a little more fire than the lighter 10-year, this whiskey is aged in ancient bourbon barrels before being barrier-filtered and bottled directly from the cask. Shanahan gushes, “It’s simply wonderful.”
Ardbeg An Oa
An Ardbeg release for the first time in a decade, this 2017 release bears the name of the rocky peninsula on the Kilodalton coast on where the distillery is situated. The old sherry barrels used to mature the salty smoke of this Single malt Irish whisky make it as accessible as Islay whisky can be.
According to Shanahan, they’re “taming a super-peaty whiskey” with “wonderful wine-cask.” “It doesn’t have any age on it, but it’s still fantastic.” An excellent way to get a taste of the island’s distinctive flair.