With over 120 Scotland distilleries making this kind of whisky, how does one select the best one? That is why we have painstakingly written this article to answer to the question above.
In this article, we will take a look at the top single malt scotch in 2021. We will consider these whiskies under different categories to give you an easier way to pick your choice.
But before we begin, a little bit of explanation is in order…
Single Malt Scotch Explained
A single malt scotch is a whisky distilled at a single distillery in Scotland using 100% malted barley of a mash bill. It is then placed in a wooden cask (preferably oak barrel) to age for at least 3 years. After that, the distillers can then get creative and experiment with different distillations and different types of casks.
How it is made
The first step involves the malting of barley which is then dried. Sometimes, peat is used to heat the grain to give it a sort of smoky flavor. After this, comes milling of the barley before water is added and it is then cooked so that that the sugars can be released. The liquid is then mixed with yeast and is called wash at this point. It is then placed in wash backs to allow it to ferment.
Afterward, they take the wash and distill it for a minimum of two times inside pots stills. This action will cause the alcohol to heat up and become vapor. The vapor is then collected and cooled which takes it back to its liquid form. As a result of this, the AVB becomes much higher.
Lastly, the newly made spirit is placed in oak barrels/casks and kept in a warehouse for at least 3 years, but typically way longer. Water is then used to cut the whisky (this can’t be done if cask strength bottling was used). In some occasions, to ensure consistency, distillers add caramel color.
Single Malt Scotch is best served…
Unlike revenge that is best served cold, you can serve this whisky however best you like it. No matter how you take it, you can’t go wrong.
Still, experts advise that you, first of all, take it neat using some water drops to get the palate open. You can then add ice or include it in your cocktail.
Now, let’s begin our list…
1. Aberlour 16-Year-Old – Best Overall
Made in the Speyside region, this scotch has a 16-year maturation. It has an ABV of 43% with caramel, spice, and oak tasting notes. Click here to learn more about ABV.
This drink is kept to mature in both sherry and bourbon casks for 16 years, after which it is blended and bottled. Hence, it has a taste of both worlds: The bourbon barrels provide an oaky-rich structure with subtle vanilla notes. On the other hand, its time in the sherry barrels provides it with its ripe fruits as well as spices taste.
2. Aberfeldy 12-Year-Old – Best Value
This 12-year-old whisky from the Highlands is made by a distillery that has been in operation since the start of the twentieth century (almost added “fox”). This drink has a 40% ABV and vanilla, baking spice, and almond taste notes. You can get this single malt for about $30 to $40.
3. Ardbeg Uigeadail – Best Peated
If you are searching for the best-peated whiskey then allow us to recommend the Ardbeg. This drink is a cult favorite in Islay and is very appealing to smoky whisky lovers. To get this scotch, burning peat is used in drying the barley during the process of malting which is why it has a smoky taste.
Its ABV is 54% and the taste notes worthy of mention are peat, oak, and spice. Other tastes include smoke, fresh coffee, dark sugars, dried fruits, and yes, some sea salt. (That’s what you get from a distillery that’s literally located on water).
4. Auchentoshan American Oak – Best Cocktail Component
Although it has “American” in its name, it is from the Lowlands of Scotland. With an ABV of 40%, this single malt is a perfect component for cocktails.
The Auchentoshan American Oak scotch is made to mature inside bourbon barrels (first-fill). This gives it a unique note of vanilla fruitiness with a blend of light grassy taste. And because of its similarity to bourbon, it is perfect for cocktails such as Manhattan, Boulevardier, Old Fashioned, etc. Visit https://www.whiskyadvocate.com/why-you-should-be-using-single-malt-scotch-in-your-cocktail/ to find out why single malt scotch should be used in your cocktail.
5. The Balvenie Caribbean Cask – Best Rum Barrel/Cask Finish
Also from the Speyside region, this 14-Year-Old whiskey has an ABV of 43%. It is made by finishing the scotch using a rum barrel/cask. The use of this kind of cask isn’t as popular in making single malt as wine or sherry casks, but you can’t deny the benefits.
As a result of its cask finish, this drink from the Balvenie has new flavors such as caramel, brown sugar, spice, cocoa, and banana as its taste notes.
6. Lagavulin 16-Year-Old – Best Splurge
This Islay-distilled whiskey is perfect if you are looking to splurge on expensive but quality scotch. It has a 43% ABV and is aged for 16 years using former-bourbon barrels (second-fill). This gives it its smoke, spice, vanilla, black tea, and soft wood notes.
7. The Macallan Sherry Oak – Best Aged
The term “aged as fine wine” aptly applies to this whiskey from Speyside. It is aged for 25 years in an oak barrel that has been sherry-seasoned and hand-selected from Jerez in Spain. Aging a whisky that long can be dangerous in the sense that the flavor can get ruined, but the Macallan Sherry Oak is an exception.
With every sip, you can taste notes of sherry, vanilla, cinnamon, spice, ripened fig, chocolate, and cherry syrup. It has a 43% ABV. You can get macallan whisky in Hong Kong, New York, London, Sao Paulo, Dubai, Lagos, or in any major cities in the world due to their effective distribution
Now you know which single malt scotch is the best in each of the 7 categories we have looked at. Which of these have you tasted? You must want to taste all seven to really thrill your palate.