For the gift-giving season, single malt Scotch often tops wish lists. Compared to blended Scotch, the single malt category— that is, Scotch made by a single distillery, using only malted barley, yeast and water, in a pot still—is considered more rare and often is regarded as a status symbol.
Indeed, many of the newest single malt releases are limited editions, and with that can come a hefty price tag. These recently reviewed selections also span in age range from five years old, like the Ardbeg Wee Beastie, to five decades, as in a pair of special editions from The Last Drop.
For those who love both whisky and wine, take note: Two top scorers were finished in French wine casks, to very different— but delightful—effect. Aberfeldy finished its 18-year-old single malt in casks that previously held Côte-Rôtie—a Syrah from the Rhône Valley—which lends earthy aromatics to a nutty, spiced whisky core. On the other end of the spectrum, Bruichladdich finished its latest edition of super-peaty Port Charlotte in Pauillac casks. It’s part of an ongoing project to age Islay Scotch in barrels sourced from famous Bordeaux estates. As a result, subtle fruit enlivens the whisky’s dark chocolate and smoked chipotle tones.
Collectors also should keep an eye out for limited editions from independent bottlers, such as The Last Drop and The Perfect Fifth. Of note, these entities don’t distill spirits, but source parcels made by others—including some big-name distilleries. Some might blend casks together before bottling and selling these whiskies under their own label. While independent bottling isn’t a new tradition in Scotland, it’s less well known here in the U.S. It’s yielding some stellar bottles, such as the 28-year-old single cask from Islay’s Bunnahabhain and the 1970 bottling from Speyside’s Glenrothes.
Most likely, there’s a bottle below that’s just right for whoever’s on your gift list this year. Cheers!