Like many whisk(e)y styles, single malt Scotch is dominated by a few big names. Even though there are more than 140 distilleries in Scotland, the market is still saturated with the likes of Glenlivet, The Macallan, Glenfiddich, Lagavulin, and a handful of others. But, while these are great brands that each have a portfolio of noteworthy whiskies, myriad other, smaller, lesser-known distilleries deserve your attention as well.
Think about it like this. In the United States, there are over 9,000 breweries. Now, that’s an absurd number and there are definitely plenty of breweries that aren’t really worth your time, but there are also a crazy number of breweries cranking out noteworthy beers that don’t get the acclaim of some of the bigger brands. It’s the same in Scotland with distilleries (albeit at a much smaller number).
Many of these Scottish brands that are a little more offbeat to the average American drinker have won acclaim and awards in Scotland, but just don’t have the name recognition in the States yet except among single malt aficionados. That’s okay. Who wouldn’t want to try something amazing, complex, and rich that none of your friends have even heard of?
Tamdhu 12 Year Old Single Malt Whisky
If you’re a fan of GlenDronach and The Macallan’s sherry-finished expressions, you’ll want to check out Tamdhu 12. This 86-proof juice was matured completely in sherry oak for a minimum of twelve years. On the nose, you’ll find aromas of cinnamon sugar, dried fruits, rich oak, and a light herbal scent. The palate is dried cherries, vanilla beans, candied orange peels, oak, and sweet sherry. The finish is a memorable mix of spice and sherry sweetness. This is absolutely the type of whisky you’ll want to sip neat very slowly.
anCnoc 12 Year Old Single Malt Whisky
A few years ago, Knockdhu decided to label its whiskies as anCnoc in an effort to avoid confusion with Knockando distillery. This is the brand’s flagship expression. Matured for a minimum of twelve years in oak barrels, this Highland whisky is known for its sweet, herbal, floral aroma that leads to a palate of wintry spices, fruit esters, raisins, vanilla beans, orange peels, barley, and rich oak. It’s a robust, rich, classic Highland sipper that you’ll go back to again and again.
Glen Fohdry Caribbean Cask Single Malt Whisky
There are a ton of distilleries with the word “Glen” in the title and you’ve likely heard of most of them. Glen Fohdry probably isn’t one of them. But if you’re a fan of other brands who’ve produced “Caribbean Cask” expressions (like The Balvenie), you’ll probably want to remember this Glen. Its Glen Fohdry Caribbean Cask is matured in a combination of American oak barrels as well as casks the once held Caribbean rum. The result is complex whisky with notes of dried fruits, vanilla beans, oak, and sweet rum.
Aultmore Foggie Moss 12 Year Old Single Malt Whisky
Aultmore was one of the “Last Great Malts” released by Dewar’s in 2014. Along with Craigellachie, The Deveron, Aberfeldy, and Royal Brackla, it’s one of the distilleries that previously was used mostly only for Dewar’s blends. This 12-year-old expression is known for its balanced, complex flavor well-suited for gateway single malt fans and seasoned veterans alike. It carries flavors of candied orange peels, honey, vanilla beans, and gentle wintry spices that you’ll crave immediately after your last sip.
Kilkerran 12 Year Old Single Malt Whisky
If you know anything about the various Scotch whiskey regions, you probably know that by far the smallest region is Campbeltown. Once an area loaded with whisky distilleries, it’s now home to only three: Springbank, Glen Scotia, and Glengyle. The latter produces Kilkerran 12-Year, a lightly peat-smoked, non-chill filtered single malt whisky that spent a minimum of twelve years in a combination of ex-bourbon and sherry casks. The result is multi-dimensional whisky with notes of candied orange peel, sweet honey, dried fruits, vanilla, and salted caramel.
Benromach 10 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
When it comes to single malt whisky, sure you can age it for decades and end up with a delicious dram. But the sweet spot in terms of value and flavor is ten years (just like bourbon). Benromach’s 10-year-old expression was matured for at least a decade in a mixture of sherry cask and ex-bourbon barrels. This double cask maturation creates a unique, nuanced whisky with flavors of raisins, candied orange peels, sweet sherry, toasted vanilla beans, and just a wisp of smoke at the very end to bring all the flavors together nicely.
Arran 10 Year Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Located on the Isle featuring its name, Arran 10-Year is the distillery’s flagship expression. This award-winning whisky was matured for at least ten years in oak barrels. It’s well-known for its nose of clover honey, toasted coconut, and herbal, earthy aromas. While that draws you in, the palate is filled with hints of candied apples, orange peels, vanilla, and light spices. Even if you’re not on an island yourself, overlooking the ocean, you can at least sit on a back deck or front stoop and pretend you are.
Shieldaig Oloroso Cask Finish Single Malt Whisky
With a name like Shieldaig Oloroso Cask, you should have a pretty good idea about what you’re in for with this dram. While there’s no age statement, this single malt whisky was matured solely in casks that once held Oloroso sherry. The result is a sweet, fruity whisky with notes of dried cherries, sweet sherry, vanilla beans, raisins, oak, and just a hint of smoke at the finish. A truly exceptional whisky.