Some people consider single malt scotch to be the ultimate liquor, so what single malt scotch brands should an aspiring scotch affectionado try? Scotch is a type of whisky produced in, you guessed it, Scotland. By and large, there are two main types of scotch: blended and single malt. As their names imply, a single malt scotch is produced by a single distillery using only malted barley (corn and rye are the grains used to make most American whiskeys), whereas blended scotch is a mix of single malt and other grain whiskies. Though there are notable exceptions, single malt scotches are typically aged longer and are of higher quality than blended scotches. Keep reading for the top five single malt whisky brands that you're likely to find in better bars in the Untied States.
- Laphroaig. Located on the Isle of Islay, this distillery is known for producing one of the most strongly flavored single malt scotches, so you might need to work up to this one if you're a new scotch drinker. Try their ten year old offering. This scotch begins with a slightly salty flavor-like sea water-followed by a pleasant peatyness.
- Glenlevit. The Glenlevit distillery is located in the Speyside region, which is located in the northeast corner of Scotland. There are purportedly more distilleries in Speyside than in any other region of Scotland. Their twelve year offering is quite good, but if you can find it, try the fifteen year old French Oak Reserve. The subtle hints of vanilla and cedar make it well worth the price.
- Lagavulin. Another Islay distillery, Lagavulin is notable in that their standard whisky is aged for sixteen years (though they also produce twelve year bottelings on occasion). Lagavulin isn't cheap, but it is delicious, especially if you like smokier scotches. Their sixteen year scotch has a wonderful and well-balance flavor of smoked peat and sweat malt. A scotch you'll either hate or love, every aspiring scotch drinker needs to try Lagavulin.
- Macallan. Macallan is one of the larger Highland distileries, and they offer a wide range of single malt scotches. Try their twelve year sherry cask scotch. This whisky has been aged in sherry casks imported especially from Spain, and these special barrels give the scotch a distinct sweet flavor and an unbelievable smoothness. It is a wonderful sipping whisky, and one well suited for new scotch drinkers.
- Oban. Located on the western coast of Scotland, Oban is one of the smallest distelleries in the country. The quality of their scotch, however, attests to the care with which their product is crafted. Oban's primary offering is aged for fourteen years and, flavor wise, strikes a delightful balance between the smoky style of Islay scotches and the sweeter, maltier style of Highland scotches. If you're ever in a bar that serves Oban, order one up neat. You won't regret it.
A tip on ordering scotch: ordering a scotch "neat" means that your bartender will serve the scotch to you straight up, and asking for it "on the rocks" means that the bartender will serve it with ice cubes. Most serious scotch drinkers order their scotch neat because the ice deadens the subtle flavors that quality scotch acquires during the aging process. If you're new to scotch and find the flavor too strong, try ordering a glass of water with a neat scotch. Adding a drop of water will cut the alcohol a bit but won't kill the flavor.
Now get out there and try some scotch!