SINGLE MALT WHISKIES OF SCOTLAND
Starting 1975, the blended Scotch whisky category gradually lost, well-established, and lucrative markets due to negligence and continued marketing errors.
The situation became so desperate that large distilling and marketing companies decided to vigorously market single-malt high-end whiskies in an attempt to make up, at least to some extent, for lost sales and profits.
Marketing specialists have been tapped and given the task to reposition Scotch whisky in general, but to create a large market for high-end single-malt whiskies. They have been able, at great expense, to capture the imagination of well-educated, young executives and well-heeled businessmen to make single-malt whisky their preferred tipple.
Some have become such aficionados that they actually travel to Scotland and do “the whisky trail“ by visiting distilleries to small-batch, rare and old whiskies.
The “whisky trail“ has been a boon to distillers and many set up elaborately designed tasting rooms adjacent to their sales boutiques.
The single-malt marketing strategy has been so successful that large distilling organization can afford to buy small, specialized distillers and/or buy their old whisky inventories. Even if a small distillery becomes part of a conglomerate, executives continue to market the brand and often let “ old management “ make production decisions.
Single-malt whiskies reflect the environment in which they were created and display an individuality their blended counterparts cannot. In fact, blended whisky was created to deliver a consistent product for brand-loyal customers.
Single-malt whiskies are not for the faint of heart. They are powerful, possess individuality, and reflect the “terroir“ (soil and climate). They are the result of 100 percent malted barley, fermented by the distillery-specific yeast strains, and double distilled in small batches in old-fashioned copper stills. They are aged in a variety of oak casks ranging from old oloroso sherry butts. To Bourbon American white oak barrels, to Madeira pipes ands even old Port casks. All display taste nuances that connoisseurs appreciate and are prepared to pay for.
Practically all distilleries create single-malt whiskies aged from a minimum of 3 to 5, 8, 10, 12, 15, 18, 20 and up to 35 years. The age of the whisky on the label reflects the age of the youngest whisky in the blend. (Single-malt whiskies may be blended to improve their taste, smell, texture). If you have only limited time in Scotland but are interested in single-malt whiskies, visit Gordon and McPhail in Elgin or Cadenhead’s in Campbelltown. Of course department stores in Edinburgh and Harrod’s in London carry large selections.
The following distilleries are reliable and offer a range of whiskies well worth trying:
Macallan ( Founded 1825 ). Recommended brands 12, 18 and 25 year old.
Grand Reserves 18 years aged in old oloroso casks are outstanding
Glenfarclas ( Founded 1836 ). Range of 10-30 year old whiskies. 17 year old particularly flavourful.
Longmorn ( Founded 1894 ) 15 year old and Gordon and McPhail bottling of 12 year old Longmorn-Glenlivet particularly successful.
Linkwood ( Founded 1825 ) 12, 15 and 21 year old brands.
Aberlour ( Founded 1879 ) 10,15 and 18 year old
Mortlach ( Founded 1823 ) 15, 16 and 21 year old brands
Glenfiddich ( Founded 1887 ) 15 and 18 year old brands
Balvenie ( Founded 1892 ) 12 year old aged in Port casks and 21 year old
Glenrothes ( Founded 1879 ) 1979 and 1982 vintage
Cragganmore ( Founded 1869 ) 12 year old
Glendronach Founded 1826 ) 15 year old
Glenlivet ( Founded 1824 ) 12 and 18 year old
Islays are pungent, complex whiskies used to go into blends and today still a lot go into blends, but some are marketed as single malts
Lagavulin ( Founded 1816 ) 16 years old
Bowmore ( Founded 1779 ) 17, 21 and 25 year old
Laphroaig ( Founded 1820’s ) 10 and 15 year old
Ardbeg ( Founded 1815 ) 12 and 16 year old
Highland single malts are firm with strong malt aromas and flavour
Highland Park ( Founded 1798 ) 12, 18 and 25 year old
Clynelish ( Founded 1819 ) 14 year old
Oban ( Founded 1794 ) 14 year old
Talisker ( Founded 1830 ) 10 year old
Glenmorangie ( Founded 1843 ) 10 and 12 year old aged in sherry casks
12 year old aged in Port casks and 18 year old
Dalmore ( Founded 1839 ) 12 and 15 year old
Cambelltown whiskies show a lot of depth, are peaty and very aromatic.
Springbank ( Founded 1828 ) 15 and 21 year old
Lowlands whiskies are light, clean, floral and mellow. Presently there are only two distillers
Auchentoshan ( Founded 1823 ) 21 year old
LCBO’ s Vintages division offers selected single malt whiskies frequently. Those interested in obtaining their monthly catalogue should write to
55 Lakeshore Boulevard East, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
or contact www.lcbo.com
The catalogue is free of charge and mailed before the release date.
Article contributed by Hrayr Berberoglu, a Professor Emeritus of Hospitality and Tourism Management specializing in Food and Beverage. Books by H. Berberoglu