A single malt scotch is a single malt whiskey that comes from Scotland. For a whiskey to be labeled as “Single Malt”, it must be done at a distillery that uses a pot distillation process utilizing malted grain and mash. The only grain allowed in a single malt scotch in Scotland is barley, and an excellent scotch is aged in an oak cask for a minimum of three years and one day.
What Makes a Single Malt Scotch So Special?
As the name implies, a single malt is not a blend. A blended whiskey is the more popular type of whiskey on the market, making for about 90 percent of those available to buy. Single malts are more like an artisanal product, which is why they cost more. Also, single malts are not made in mass production, and the limited batches make them rare and, therefore, more expensive.
How to Find the Best Single Malt Scotch
Single malt scotch rankings can help you find the best whiskey out there. However, it is important to identify what you plan to use your scotch for first. If you want to make a cocktail, you do not need to go with the highest quality whiskey. If, however, you want to sip the whiskey and enjoy the woodsy notes and smoky flavors, then you will want something more expensive and rare.
Some of the highest rated are mentioned by Gayot. These ratings come with single malt scotch reviews from Gayot’s experts, showcasing why they are the most expensive and finest varieties in the world.
What are the Top-Rated Single Malt Scotches on the Market?
- Aberlour A’Bunadh Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky – About $80 for 750ml
- AnCoc Cutter Highland Single Malt Scotch – About $65 for 750ml
- Balvenie DoubleWood 12-Year-Old Scotch – About $50 for 750ml
- Bowmore 25-Year-Old Scotch – About $425 for 750ml
- Bunnahabhain 25-Year-Old Scotch – About $425 for 750ml
How to Tell if a Scotch is Worth the Price: A Scotch Buyer’s Guide
To get the best single malt scotch for the money, you must know the qualities of a superior scotch versus a mediocre one. Some scotches can be under $50, while some are boasting a price tag of $400 or higher.
Reasons Scotch Cost So Much
- There are taxes associated with bringing the scotch from Scotland into the United States. Those taxes are passed oto the consumer in the form of price for the bottle.
- Single malt scotches are aged longer than the average American-based liquor, so the price compensates the maker for the time and maturity of their barrel, the space needed to store the casks, and the liquid lost to storing the scotch long-term.
- The best brands do not blend their scotches until a minimum of three years and one day, with the higher-priced brands waiting five or more years to mix, according to Serious Eats.
The Taste of a Fine Scotch
The flavor of a good scotch comes from its contact with the oak cask. Every scotch brand has its peak maturity, but the younger the whiskey, the more character it will have, while the older whiskeys feature more of a cask influence in the flavor.
Also, where the scotch is made significantly affects the character. The following regions will have various characteristics due to production and ingredient sourcing:
- The Islands: The taste of the scotch from the island regions is salty with peated smoke flavor. The flavor is almost akin to a beach fire.
- Speyside: This region is known for the fruity tastes in their scotch, including spicy and nutty accents to the fruits.
- Highlands: The Highlands produce subtle floral notes in their whiskey along with flavors of honey, peat smoke, and coastal flavors.
- Lowlands: The lowlands, which are notorious for sprawling hills, produce whiskeys that are light, grassy, and earthy in flavor.
There are three ways to taste whiskey and the way a person tastes it will ultimately determine the flavor profiles they pick up. When the whiskey is served pure (also known as “neat”), the scotch is poured into a glass and served as-is. The “Simple” serving is fresh spring water mixed with a single malt scotch. The water surprisingly enhances the cask notes in the whiskey. Just add a drop at a time until the flavors are strong.
The last way to serve whiskey is smooth, which is whiskey over ice. This makes the scotch more refreshing, and chilling can open more notes.