10 best single malt scotch whiskies
Grab an antidote to the winter chill with a warming bottle from north of the border
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We are rapidly approaching the 31 of October, on an express train of spookiness and laments for summer nights; the advent of the end of October means one thing: Christmas is around the corner. You have completed an hours of circuit training in Lush shopping for mum, you picked up Nana’s favourite brandy, Dad has his new universal remote – now it’s time to make sure Grandad isn’t left out.
A scotch single malt has been a failsafe Grandad present for generations, let’s not rock the boat. But he's not the only one that can enjoy this tipple. For those not familiar with the ancient art of scotch whisky, we have compiled a list of this year’s best buys, covering everything from Speyside on a budget to Islay with a blank cheque.
Talisker 18 Year Old, 45.8%: £89, The Whisky Shop
An iconic whisky from an iconic brand – the Talisker 18 took home the title of Best in the World at the 2007 World Whisky Awards. The nose is complete with a perfect balance of fruit, spices and smoke. The palate is full and intimidating, rounded by smoke and spice but peppered with citrus to maintain balance. The finish is satisfying, lingering and gives way to a full bodied oak.
Glen Marnoch Speyside, 40%: £17.49, Aldi
This gold medal winning offering by Aldi is the most accessible whisky to make the list this year. The nose is packed full of fruit, cream and the aromas of fairground confectionery, the palate follows through with this, dominated by toffee and vanilla with subtle barley notes. The finish is sharp and punchy with a suggestion of spice.
Lagavulin 16 Year Old, 43%: £49, Amazon
The only whisky to reappear from our 2017 Single Malt Scotch roundup is the colossal Lagavulin 16. This Islay whisky has a loyal following around the world, actor Nick Offerman is such a fan that his love for the bottle became a trait of his character Ron Swanson in the TV show Parks and Recreation.
The nose is at once creamy and rich whilst also packed with punchy baking spices and bonfire. The palate plays up to the peat content with a smokiness sitting atop a basket of fruit. The finish is long, satisfying and dominated by a peaty smokiness. This is best enjoyed with a drop of water to open up the complex flavours.
Glen Scotia 18 Year Old, 46%: £85.95, Amazon
This Campbeltown bottle is courtesy of revered distillery Glen Scotia. This pour spends 18 years in bourbon casks and comes out all the better for it. The nose is peppery and packed with fruit, the palate runs away with the sweetness promised by the nose, foregrounding citrus and cinnamon notes which are kept in check by a sharp, spiced oak finish.
Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban 12 Year Old, 46%: £47.95, Master of Malt
This decadent expression from Glenmorangie spends 10 years in American white oak casks before spending two years in handpicked Portuguese port casks. The nose is smooth and fronted by dark fruits and wood with port notes lingering behind. The palate is dense, sweet with caramel and fruit cake notes, the finish does not shy away from this and is long and satisfying, thick with berries and sugar. This is a perfect after dinner whisky, expertly treading the line between indulgent and saccharine.
Ardbeg An Oa, 46.6%: £50, Amazon
Another inclusion for the mighty Islay region, this Ardbeg is complex and satisfying. The nose is led by liquorice and caramel with a smooth blend of candied fruit and leather in the background. The palate is dominated by smoke, a suggestion of mint and a gloopy sweetness that gives way to a long syrupy finish. This is an impressively balanced and accessible whisky given its complexity.
The Balvenie 12 Year Old Triple Cask, 40%: £71.90, The Whisky World
This expression is part of The Balvenie’s travel retail range and has proved extremely popular since its launch. The nose is sweet and approachable with a vanilla presence. The palate is light and appley and features shadows of mint. The finish follows through with the garden fruits and introduces a nuttiness for balance.
Aerstone Land Cask 10 Year Old, 40%: £30, Tesco
This Tesco exclusive whisky is a rich and smoky twin to the much sweeter Sea Cask edition from Aerstone. The nose is fruit forward and rounded by vanilla. The palate is a sumptuous marriage of peat, citrus and liquorice. The finish is made up of delicate citrus notes over a bed of oak.
Glenfiddich Experimental Series - IPA Cask Finish, 43%: £40, Amazon
An incredibly interesting inclusion comes courtesy of rulebreakers Glenfiddich. The Speyside distillery had an IPA specially brewed and then finished this whisky in the IPA casks. The nose isn’t shy about the IPA influence with ground given to hops and malty notes, joined by notions of garden fruits. The hops follow through to the palate along with citrus and vanilla notes, with a sweet and hoppy finish.
Loch Lomond 12 Year Old, 46%: £38.49, Amazon
The Loch Lomond 12 won double gold in the 2018 San Francisco World Spirits Competition and was one of only nine to pick up the accolade in its category. This nose is full of home baking aromas, with a palate built of fruits and spices, underpinned by an inescapable sugariness. The finish is crisp and full of vanilla.
The Verdict: Best single malt scotch whiskies
Who are we to argue with the experts? The Talisker 18 is a fantastically balanced whisky, at once complex and accessible – it would make a fantastic gift for a seasoned connoisseur or a budding enthusiast. As with all Islay whiskies, this is a tipple that demands to be tested both with and without water. The Glen Marnoch Speyside expression is a formidable alternative for a fraction of the price.