by Eugen Beduhn
What are the most legendary Scotch Single Malts Whiskies? This is the question we at Elegant-Lifestyle decided to research for this month’s Special Feature. A Scottish single malt whisky (spelled whiskey in the US) is the older, rarer and often more expensive relative to a blended whisky. Blended whiskies are not produced and matured from one single malt (and grain) only, but are blended from a number of different whiskies, hence the name ‘blended’. On the market blended whiskies are sold at quantities 20 times as much as the more exclusive single malt whiskies. Single malt whiskies originate in Scotland and there is the additional differentiation between Lowland, Highland and Island Whiskies. So single malt whiskies are produced in all regions in Scotland - from North to South. Regional origin also indicates the peatiness of a whisky. How is highly peated whisky produced? The peated taste of the whisky is a direct result of grain being roasted over peat. Peated whiskies are usually produced on the islands in the North of Scotland. Due to their peatiness, there is a burning sensation when drinking them.
At least this is the case
with all peated whiskies that are younger than 17 years. The more a peated
whisky matures the softer the taste. Scotch whisky needs to be matured
for at least 3 years before it is legally allowed to called itself a ‘Scotch
Whisky’. Single malt Scotch whiskies are normally matured for a minimum
of 7 to 12 years - in wooden casks of various origin. However, the age
of a single malt can easily be 20, 30, 40 years or more. The process of
maturing does of course reduced the liquid. The part which evaporates over
the years is called ‘the Angels' Share’ and this can be up to more than
half of a very old vintage Scotch. The casks, which are made out of wood,
give the whisky the taste of the wood they are made of. Some whisky producers
also use old Sherry, Port or Madeira casks to give their single malts special
taste and character. Elegant-Lifestyle will give you an overview of the
most legendary Scotch single malt whiskies, that are still available these
The Balvenie Distillery lies in the very heart of Scotch whisky country in Speyside, in the Scottish Highlands. In 1892, Balvenie New House, an eighteenth century Adams style mansion, was converted into a distillery. On 1st May 1893, the first distillation took place at The Balvenie Distillery. Little has altered over the years and the Balvenie Distillery is still firmly rooted in its past. The exceptional quality of the Balvenie Single Malt is due to the fact that the Balvenie Distillery still grows its own barley, malts on its own traditional floor maltings and employs coopers to tend to the casks and a coppersmith to maintain the stills. Successive generations of skill on the malting floor, in the turn room and the still house, in the cooperage and the warehouses have preserved the consistency and remarkably high quality of the Balvenie over the years. Barley is malted in order to convert the starch inside the grain into soluble sugar - essential in the creation of whisky. The Balvenie Distillery has the last traditional malt floor in use in the Scottish Highlands today.
The Balvenie is a unique
range of single malts created by David Stewart, the Balvenie Malt Master
for over 20 years. His expertise in maturation has enabled him to use different
types of oak cask, and the Balvenie Single Malt at different ages, to create
the Balvenie range of single malts. Each expression of the Balvenie has
a distinctively individual taste, but each is underpinned by a rich honeyed
character. The casks used to mature the Balvenie range of single malts
come from various parts of the world: bourbon barrels of American oak;
butts made of European oak brought from the bodegas of Spain, in which
rich Oloroso sherries have matured. Also port pipes originating from Portugal
are used, where they have spent years storing fine port wines. The Balvenie
Founder's Reserve Single Malt Scotch Whisky is a classic 10 Year Old single
malt which results from a marriage of the Balvenie matured in American
bourbon casks with that matured in Spanish sherry casks.
Glenfiddich, which means ‘valley of the deer’, is the single malt whisky that not only rules Britannia but also the world. It is the best selling Scotch single malt whisky and there is a reason for it. However, let us first start with the history. In 1886, William Grant purchased some land in the valley of the River Fiddich, Speyside, deep in the heart of the Scottish Highlands. On Christmas Day 1887, the very first Glenfiddich spirit ran from the stills. Nowadays, in the warehouses, the Scotch whisky slumbers through long years of maturation. Imperceptibly it ages and develops, breathing in air through the porous oak and exhaling alcohol. The moist fragrances of the pure Highland air work wonders on the fiery spirit, rendering it smoother, deeper in taste and more complex. At the Glenfiddich Distillery the casks are left undisturbed for at least 12 years before their contents are considered to have reached prime condition.
Reserve 12 Year Old is the world's most popular single malt. The quality
of Glenfiddich Special Reserve has been sustained by never compromising
the traditional standards of production. Glenfiddich is the only Highland
single malt to be distilled, matured and bottled at its own distillery.
In comparison, Glenfiddich 30 Year Old is a luxurious and rare single malt.
It has a complexity of fragrances and flavour. A refined pleasure, ideal
for celebrations and treating appreciative friends, it is best enjoyed
later in the evening. Glenfiddich Thirty Year Old appeals to malt whisky
drinkers who appreciate excellent quality and the finer things in life.
One of the most prestigious and expensive whiskies, it is only available
in limited quantities.
Founded in 1833, Glengoyne distillery has been working continuously. Its traditional methods have been handed down from generation to generation to produce a distinctive malt whisky enjoyed by a growing number of connoisseurs. Glengoyne is bases in the Southern Highlands, in fact the Highland Line, which divides the Highlands from the Lowlands runs through the distillery grounds. As far as peatiness is concerned, Glengoyne is a Lowland Scotch whisky as it malt is not peated at all.
Glengoyne dries its barley using only air as opposed to a pungent peat smoke like all other single malt whiskies. This results in a subtle, complex whisky in which all the delicate flavours are freely allowed to express themselves. Glengoyne is a clear bright, exceptionally smooth malt whisky characterized by hints of oak and apple with a long, clean finish. One third of the production is matured in sherry casks. There are the Glengoyne 10 Years Old (medium golden tones, clear and bright colour, a nose of rich malt aroma with hints of oak, apple and sherry), the Glengoyne 12 Years Old for export only and the Glengoyne 21 Years Old (dark golden colour and mature oak with rich apple fruitiness nose).
Whenever George IV was in Scotland, he insisted on calling for the Glenlivet whisky from the Lowlands. The kings preference brought high approval of the Glenlivet whisky, already established as the most treasured of all Highland whiskies. After 8122, the Duke of Gordon’s first licence was granted to George Smith for the Glenlivet - the only whisky entitled to call itself The Glenlivet. By 1834, the Government troops had cleared the illegal distillers out of the Glenlivet and Smith was the only distiller left in the glen most renowned for whisky production, for many the the benchmark of fine malt whisky. The pioneering spirit runs through the history of the Glenlivet and is as true today as it was then, epitomized by the recent introductions of the unique French Oak Finish, the award winning the Glenlivet 18 year old and the Glenlivet Cellar Collection.
The Glenlivet 12 Year Old exhibits the delicacy and softness that typifies the region's whiskies. A perfectly rich balance of sweetness, floral fragrance and fruitiness that the Glenlivet develops through more than 12 years of patient ageing in oak casks. The essential ingredients - pure soft, natural water from Josies's Well and the finest barley and yeast is all you'll find in the Glenlivet. The Glenlivet Archive Aged 21 years is the distilleries most exceptional casks are set aside over the years by each Distillery manager in the 'Archive'. There the chosen casks mature to perfection, achieving an elegance that only a privileged few have the opportunity to appreciate. All aged for a minimum 21 years, some for many more.
The earliest documented reference to distillation on this site of Glenmorangie is to be found in 1703. But the History of the distillery stretches back into the mists of the Celtic dawn. Many of the buildings at the Glen of Tranquillity date back to the time when the distillery was licensed in 1843. The stills are made of 99.9% pure copper - with each narrow, arching swan neck individually hand beaten into shape by skilled coppersmiths - and why they have always been, and always will be, precisely sixteen foot ten and a quarter inches tall. So it is no understatement to say that 1843 was the year in which Glenmorangie first started to develop its own, quite unique character.
In all that time, despite the occasional temptation to shed age-old customs in favour of fashionable or more cost-effective practices, the processes used to create Glenmorangie have altered hardly at all. Glenmorangie Ten Years Old is matured for ten years in oak barrels in the warehouses of the distillery up at Tain this malt gives you an overall impression that's both refined and fresh. The fragrance light and delicate, the flavour well balanced with traces of honeywood and nuts. Glenmorangie 18 Years Old is a superb after dinner dram and the feel is smooth and silky. The taste is fine, fully flavoured and subtle. There are different varieties of Glenmorangies matured in old Sherry, Port or Madeira casks.
Glenturret Distillery was established in 1775, but dates back to 1717 and is the oldest Highland single malt distillery in Scotland. There were numerous bothies in Glenturret and it is believed that there were as many as five on the distillery site -all had illicit stills and drew their water from the Turret Burn. The distillery itself was dismantled in the 1920s and revived in 1957 by James Fairlie, an outspoken whisky enthusiast who also was one of the first to establish a facilities to show visitors the craft tradition of malt distilling and developing an appreciation for the labour which goes into the making of a single malt whisky. The limited edition of Glenturret 10 Year Old whisky is only available here.
Glenturret has a broad range of year to offer from 8, 12, 15, 21, 25 years old as well as many vintage bottling, most of which you can directly order on their website. The 12 Years Old Glenturret has got a pale, slightly green tinge appearance and a dry, malty aroma, which has hints of wood. The flavour is malty with a hinge of nuts and vanilla and has a dry finish. This is opposed to the 25 Years Old Glenturret, which has a much more golden and amber colour, from the two and a half decades of maturing. This also lead to a much more richer and scented, with a hint of sherry in the aftertaste from the maturation in sherry casks.
In 1798, Magnus Eunson started to produce whisky known as High Park, which is the world’s most northern whisky distillery. Unlike the name might suggest, Highland Park is actually an Island Malt, coming from Kirkwall, above Orkney Island's capital. This means it is near to a source of fresh water and not far from a plentiful source of peat. By 1826, when the distillery became legal the site had already become known as Highland Park. To make single malt Scotch Whisky, first the barley is 'malted' by steeping and drying, then ground and mashed to extract the soluble sugars. The outcome is called wort to which yeast is added and left to ferment and turn to a wash of 7% alcohol. This proceeds to distillation in copper pot stills. On the second distillation the cut is made and the spirit is casked and laid down for maturation.
Highland Park continues to
malt its own barley using the traditional floor malting method and to kiln
dry the 'green' malt using peat cut from its own moorlands. That's why,
at Highland Park, you can still see and smell smoke wafting from its pagoda-style
chimneys. Highland Park 25 Years Old is an outstanding cask strength malt
whisky: here, the very essence of Orkney is distilled - the peat, the sea
breezes, the heather-honey. These are allowed to mature until it has reached
an unqualified perfection. There's an exceptional finesse to the 25 year
old with additional dimensions of malty toffee, fudge and chocolate enriching
the heather-honey sweetness and aromatic smoky peatiness.
Laphroaig origins goes back to around 1800 and by 1815, Laphroaig's reputation had spread and the tax man was getting suspicious so they 'officially' established 'Johnston & Johnston. Distilled on the South West corner of this remote Scottish Isle, Laphroaig is the most richly flavoured of all Scotch Whiskies It has a pungent, earthy aroma of the blue peat smoke, the sweet nuttiness of the barley and the delicate, heathery perfume of Islay's streams. Like the islanders it may seem a little aloof at first, but make the effort, broach acquaintance and you might have a warm and genuine friend for life. But for some, the peaty and oily taste might be something they might not find has the right balance. To cut it short, Laphroaig polarizes: either you love it or you do not, however, take your time to decide.
The award winning family of Laphroaig Whiskies ranges from the rich, pungent 10 Years Old to the smooth and exceptionally rare 30 Years Old. You can sense 200 years of loving care distilled into every bottle, for at Laphroaig there are no half measures. And there is the Laphroaig 40 Years Old, made on the 14th March 1960, this piece of Laphroaig history was then laid to rest in the No 1 Warehouse for its 40 year sleep and it remained there, undisturbed, until now. Generally, Laphroaig has a smoky, seaweady and peaty nose, an medium and oily body and a dry and lingering finish – it is said to be nothing for the faint-hearted, but for people who can stand rough waters, such as the people living on Laphroaig.
Dating from 1700, Easter Elchies House, high on a hill overlooking the River Spey in the Highlands, is the spiritual home of the Macallan, the same house that is depicted on The Macallan's packaging. There was a farm and a mill on the Easter Elchies Estate and it would have been on the farm that whisky making first started on this site and it became licensed in 1824. Golden Promise Barley, one of the vital ingredients in the creation of the spirit, continues to be grown on Macallan land to this day. Here you can discover the extraordinary lengths Macallan goes to create their single malt Scotch whisky. The unique characteristic of The Macallan is that it is only matured in Sherry casks, which are produced by Macallan shipped to Spain and then come back after a couple of years to give the Macallan is unrivalled amber colour and sherry taste.
The Macallan 7 Years Old is widely available in Italy and is typically consumed as a mixed drink. The preference in Italy is for younger, fragrant and vibrant malts for regular consumption. For the rest of the continent and Britain the 12 Years old is the best bet to start to get to know the Macallan, which has a deep amber colour and a nose of sherry and butterscotch. The taste is fruits and sherry with a hint of wood. Quintessentially of classic Macallan pedigree, The Macallan 30 Years Old reveals hints of citrus orange and aromatic resin drawn from the enveloping depths of The Macallan's bespoke oak sherry casks from Spain. In these casks the luscious spirit has quietly matured, sheltered from the tumultuous events of the passing decades. It has a deep mahogany colour and a nose of sherry with aromatic cloves, hints of orange, nutmeg and subtle wood.
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