Top 10 Best Single Malt Scotch Whisky Brands
Single malt Scotch whisky is probably the most complex, subtle and flavorsome drink on the planet. The drink is usually made from malted barley and distilled using a traditional pot still, before being aged in oak casks for at least three years.
Single malt whisky is most commonly associated with Scotland, but it is also produced in Ireland and a handful of other places. Whisky distillation has been going on for centuries, with records in Ireland mentioning it as far back as 1405.
For hundreds of years, beginning in the 15th Century, Scottish whisky was heavily taxed, resulting in most of the production of single malts becoming illicit. However, after the introduction of an act of parliament in 1823, which allowed licensed distillers in Scotland to become profitable, the production of whisky came back out into the open.
Nowadays there are many distilleries exporting single malts all over the world. Here is my list of what I believe to be the top 10 best single malt Scotch whisky brands.
Whisky vs Whiskey?
It's an umbrella term for a type of spirit distilled from a mash of fermented grains, but what is the correct way of spelling it?
The answer is not straightforward and varies from country to country:
- American and Irish liquor producers usually spell it: "Whiskey"
- Canadian, Scottish, and Japanese producers usually spell it: "Whisky"
As we are dealing with Scotch in this case, I have chosen to spell it without an "e"!
Laphroaig: Strongly flavored and distinctive
A strongly flavored and distinctive single malt, Laphroaig whisky's name comes from Loch Laphroaig, which is on the southern coast of the Isle of Islay.
The Laphroaig distillery has been in operation since 1815.
The Prince of Wales gave the distillery a Royal Warrant in 1994 and it is believed to be his favourite single malt Scotch whisky.
Laphroaig is definitely one of the most distinctive Scotch whiskies.
Oban: Classic and balanced!
The Oban distillery, built in 1794, is one of Scotland's smallest, but the whisky it produces is one of the best and one of my personal favorites.
A classic and balanced single malt, this whisky manages to be tasty without being too smoky or sweet.
Ardbeg: Regular international award winner!
The Ardbeg distillery produces probably the peatiest Islay single malt Scotch whisky.
Their whisky has won multiple international awards including titles from Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible and medals from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
The Ardbeg distillery sources its water from Loch Uigeadail and its malted barley from Port Ellen.
Dalwhinnie: Ideal as an after dinner drink
Aged for 15 years, Dalwhinnie has a subtle, smokey taste with a slight sweetness, generally a lighter taste than some of the other single malts.
The name: 'Dalwhinnie' comes from the Gaelic name for "meeting place".
Highland Park: A great all-rounder!
Highland Park was founded in 1798 and is the most northerly Scottish distillery, operating from Kirkwall in Orkney. Unlike most distilleries,
Highland Park actually malts its own barley.
In 2007 and 2009, this distinguished brand was awarded gold medals for its 25 year single malt Scotch whisky by the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
In 1984, whisky expert, Michael Jackson described Highland Park as "The greatest all-rounder in the world of malt whisky."
The Balvenie: Smooth and mellow!
The Balvenie is produced by a Speyside distillery in Dufftown.
A smooth and mellow single malt that is great to relax with after a long day.
Work on building the Balvenie Distillery began in 1892 and was completed the following year.
The first distillation took place at the Balvenie Distillery on 1 May 1893.
Springbank: An unmistakable taste!
Springbank is a family-owned, independent distillery which produces three varieties of Campbeltown single malt, out of which, Springbank is the most famous brand.
It performs every step in the production of its whisky, from malting the barley right through to bottling.
Springbank single malt is normally distilled two and a half times, which is unusual for a Scotch whisky, but a process which provides it with an unmistakable taste.
Macallan: Full-bodied luxury!
The Macallan distillery was originally matured in oak sherry casks, but since 2004 they have also been mellowing their whisky in bourbon oak casks.
This whisky is rich in taste with hints of licorice and leather. It is also the third largest selling single malt in the world.
Bowmore: Peaty smokiness to savor!
Bowmore is another Islay distillery, founded in 1779.
During World War II it stopped producing whisky and instead hosted RAF Coastal Command, who flew anti-submarine missions from Loch Indaal.
Another fascinating fact concerning Bowmore is that surplus heat from the distillery is used to warm a local public swimming pool nearby.
In 2007 an 1850 Bowmore single malt was sold at auction for £29,400.
Glenmorangie: Fruity aroma with a lingering finish!
The best-selling single-malt in Scotland, Glenmorangie whisky is distilled in Tain, Ross-shire.
The distillery sources its water from the Tarlogie Springs, sited in the Tarlogie Hills above the distillery.
It is thought that alcohol production began at the Morangie Farm as far back as 1738, but the brewery wasn't converted to a distillery until William Matheson acquired the farm in 1843.