Single malt Scotch is a label used to refer to Scotch entirely made by a single distillery. A single malt whiskey will have a consistent flavor and is often less complex than blends. This is a popular label used by Scottish distilleries since producing single malts allows them to showcase what makes their Scotch unique. Here are a few recommendations if you are wondering what the best single malt Scotch is.
How We Chose Our Ratings
We looked at a few different criteria to choose Scotch bottles and assign ratings:
We gave higher ratings to the bottles with an interesting flavor profile and chose Scotch with profiles that are accessible.
We tried selecting products that represent a good value so you can add them to your collection without having to splurge.
We have higher ratings to the whiskeys that have received excellent reviews.
Top Seven Best Single Malt Scotch
If you want to try a single malt Scotch or are wondering which bottles are worth adding to your collection, here are a few recommendations to consider.
The Singleton of Glendullan
APPEARANCE Old gold. NOSE Toffee, roasted nut and spice aromas. Some soft fragrant notes too; scented leather, sandalwood and vanilla. BODY Light to medium. PALATE Fresh, spicy then soft and pleasantly sweet throughout. Fruity with citrus and raisins, then vanilla and a hint of honey with just a trace of wood. FINISH Creamy smooth and slightly drying with a long peppery fade.
The Singleton is a 12-year old Scotch with a unique and smooth taste. The alcohol by volume of 40 percent is similar to what you will typically find in a Scotch.
This single malt Scotch stands out thanks to its fermentation process. The Glendullan distillery uses American and European oak casks for this process. Using American oak creates nutty and buttery notes that balance the spicy and fruity notes created by the European oak casks.
The combination of these flavors makes this Scotch interesting. The peat smoke that is characteristic of Scotch is present as well. However, the richness and sweetness of this liquor help create a balanced profile that isn’t overpowered by smoke.
You will notice a lot of different subtle flavors when tasting this Scotch. The fruity notes are reminiscent of oranges and cherries.
This Scotch is accessible thanks to its balanced flavor profile and pleasant fruity and sweet aroma, but this whiskey is complex enough to remain interesting if you have been drinking Scotch for years. You will appreciate its full-bodied and balanced profile while being able to identify individual notes.
Highland Park’s Viking Honour collection is inspired by the Viking presence in Scotland. The bottle has a design that evokes the Vikings and will look great among your collection.
This Scotch has received several awards over the years. The Viking influence can be felt through the honey notes you will notice in this Scotch. The Vikings were known for using fermented honey to make alcoholic beverages.
This single malt Scotch mixes notes of honey, heather, oranges, and winter spices. You will also notice the smoky profile you would expect to find in a traditional Scotch.
Heather is usually mixed with other grassy or floral notes. It plays a more central part in this Scotch and creates a flavor profile that is more interesting than the usual balance between sweetness and peat.
This Scotch is an excellent choice because of the mixture of sweetness, saltiness, and smoke. It remains accessible but creates an experience that is memorable.
The Glenlivet 15 Year Old
- Nose: Complexity, rich aromas of orange peel and candied grapefruit.
- Palate: Well rounded, smooth and slightly sweet, with fruit and nutter flavors underlined with the subtle spice of cinnamon.
- Finish: Lingering hints of toasted almonds and hazelnuts.
The Glenlivet distillery is located in the Highlands. It is known for its line of single malt Scotches simply known as The Glenlivet.
The 15-year old Scotch from this line stands out thanks to its fruity and spicy aroma. It has a pleasant and rich golden hue and a delicate flavor. This is a liquor you can serve during a gourmet meal.
This single malt Scotch is aged in French oak casks for fifteen years. Using French oak casks creates almond notes, and brings a rich and buttery element to the flavor profile.
You will also feel fruity and spicy notes. This award-winning Scotch has a dry finish, and some people have compared the taste to oranges and candied fruits.
The Glenlivet is a must-have bottle if you aren’t big on the traditional peaty smoke taste of Scotch. This Scotch manages to create a beautiful balance between the sweetness of the fruity notes and the zest of the spicy notes.
Glenlossie 10 Year Old
The nose is full of cereal and grist. Notes of peels and malt with wood shavings and hay. The palate is of good body with a decent sweetness and plenty of fruit with barley sugar and peppy oak. The finish is long with gristy tannins.
This 10-year old Scotch comes from the Glenlossie distillery in the Speyside region. We think this Scotch is an excellent choice if liquors with a longer maturation process are too complex or too pronounced for your taste.
This 10-year old Scotch allows you to explore the different elements you will usually find in traditional Scotch without drinking liquor with an overpowering peaty taste.
It has a light color compared to other bottles, but the alcohol by volume is slightly higher than average at 43 percent.
The smoke is present, but it creates a subtle aroma thanks to its alliance with fresh and malty notes. This Scotch is well-balanced with grassy notes, and hints of fruits, spices, and grains.
You will also notice some wooden and earthy notes thanks to the relatively short maturation process. You will experience some pleasant butter, vanilla, and honey notes that create a contrast with the saltiness of the liquor. The dry finish prevents these sweet notes from overpowering the flavor profile.
We recommend this Scotch if you want to explore something with a fresh, salty, and sweet taste or discover the unique malty taste of Scotch.
Glenkinchie 12 Year Old
This single malt Scotch comes from a Lowland distillery. The alcohol by volume is slightly higher than what you would typically find in a Scotch with 43 percent.
This Scotch mixes sweetness and grassy flavors. There is a noticeable apple and cereal taste that make the flavor profile very enjoyable.
You will also notice the presence of peat smoke. Lowland distilleries tend to create liquors without using peat smoke but this Scotch is an exception.
The bitterness of the peat smoke and sweet and grassy notes create an interesting contrast. The apple and cereal notes make this Scotch an amazing liquor to enjoy in the fall.
We think this Scotch is a great introduction to peat smoke since there are no other bitter notes, and the malt and fruity notes will help you appreciate the smoke.
Ardbeg 10 Year Old Whisky
- Nose: A ridge of vanilla leads to mountain of peat capped with citrus fruits and circled by clouds of sea spray.
- Palate: Sweet vanilla counterbalanced with lemon and lime followed by that surging Ardbeg smoke that we all know and love.
- Finish: Long and glorious; sea salted caramel and beach bonfire smoke.
- Overall: Precise balance, big smoke and non-chill filtered. This is why this is such a famous dram.
This is one of the strongest liquors we recommended with this alcohol by volume of 46 percent. This full-bodied Scotch stands out with its smoky flavor profile
It is made on the island of Islay, where distilleries are known for their distinctive use of peat in the manufacturing process of Scotch.
This single malt Scotch is truly outstanding with its complex profile but might not be accessible if you are new to drinking whiskey. The ten-year-old maturation process allows the peat smoke notes to truly come to fruition and develop hints of citrus, saltiness, and crispness.
This Scotch is stronger than what you will typically find in other regions but is a must-have if you enjoy peat smoke.
Lagavulin 16 Year Old
- Nose: More like Lapsang Souchong tea than Lapsang Souchong! One of the smokiest noses from Islay. It's big, very, very concentrated, and redolent of iodine, sweet spices, good, mature Sherry and creamy vanilla. Stunning.
- Palate: Very thick and rich. A massive mouthful of malt and Sherry with good fruity sweetness, but also a wonderful sweetness. Big, powerful peat and oak.
- Finish: Long, spicy finish, figs, dates, peat smoke, vanilla.
This is the best single malt Scotch if you are looking for something intense. This award-winning Scotch has a smoky and iodine profile that expertly mixes some vanilla and fruit notes. You will be reminded of dates, figs, and delicate spices after experiencing the intensity of the peat smoke flavor.
This is an elegant and complex liquor that is aged in Sherry oak casks. The iodine environment of the Lagavulin distillery plays a part in the creation of this liquor.
We recommend this Scotch if you have been enjoying this type of liquor for a while and appreciate peat smoke.
A Guide To Selecting Single Malt Scotch
If you are new to drinking Scotch, there are a few things you should know about the different Scottish distilleries and how single malt Scotch is made.
What Is A Single Malt Scotch?
Scotch is a label used to refer to whiskey made in Scotland. Distilleries traditionally use malted barley and peat smoke to create the distinctive taste of Scotch, but these ingredients aren’t officially required.
In order to use the Scotch label, distilleries have to produce a liquor with an alcohol per volume that is between 40 and 94.8 percent, use oak barrels for the aging process, and let the liquor age for at least three years.
The term single malt refers to Scotch that is made by a single distillery. These liquors can be the product of different batches or different barrels. The term single grain is sometimes used to refer to single malt, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the Scotch only contains barley.
Choosing a single malt Scotch allows you to experience what makes each distillery unique. If you are a whiskey lover, you will appreciate how the different Scottish distilleries create unique liquors.
Some create a unique flavor by using peat smoke, Sherry barrels, or another type of oak barrels. Some remove the peat smoke from the production process to create a sweet and fruity flavor.
The unique characteristics of each distillery are somewhat lost in a blended whiskey. These liquors can have interesting flavor profiles and be very enjoyable, but you need to keep a few bottles of single malt liquors in your collection if you want to experience the traditional taste of Scotch.
Choosing A Single Malt Scotch
The best single malt Scotch depends on your tastes and preferences. We recommend that you choose an unpeated liquor with a sweet and fruity flavor profile if you are new to drinking Scotch since peat smoke is somewhat of an acquired taste.
Don’t limit yourself to a single distillery. Exploring what the different regions of Scotland have to offer is what makes drinking Scotch such a fascinating experience. Besides, you might want to keep different bottles for different moods.
Aging is another thing to look at when choosing Scotch. A ten-year-old Scotch is typically not as complex as a bottle that has been aged for 16 years.
Discover The Different Regions Of Scotland
Each region has unique characteristics. Distilleries have developed unique products over the years, but some regional traditions remain.
Exploring what the different distilleries have to offer and how their products are tied to the history and tradition to each region is an interesting way to learn more about Scotch.
The Highland region is the northern part of Scotland and the largest region. You will find a lot of variety due to the size of the Highlands. This is where you will find distilleries such as Glen Ord, Highland Park, or Lochnagar.
Speyside is a smaller area inside of the Highland region. The river Spey runs through it and many distilleries of the area still use water from this river. Scotch from the Speyside region is typically sweet, peaty, and has a dry finish but you will find variety due to the high concentration of distilleries. Speyside is home to the Glenlivet, Glen Moray, and Glenlossie distilleries.
The Lowland region is where you will find distilleries such as Glenkinchie or Bladnoch. These distilleries are known for making Scotch with a light body. Peat smoke is present without overpowering the liquor, and you will probably find notes of sweetness and vanilla. A Scotch from the Lowland region is a great choice if you are new to drinking this liquor.
Islay is a small island located West of Scotland. It has a rich tradition and some old distilleries. Peat smoke and iodine profiles are what set these products apart. Expect a dry finish, some salt and marine flavor, and an intense peaty taste. Ardbeg, Laphroaig, and Lagavulin are some of the most well-known distilleries on the island.
The seven products we recommended above are a great place to start if you want to try a single malt Scotch. You can also find out more about the different distilleries and determine which Scotch would be a good match for your taste and preferences.