10 Best Single-Malt Scotches | Outdoor Life

10 Best Single-Malt Scotches

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Oban
In order to be classified as a 'Scotch' Whisky, the spirit, made from malted barley, must have been matured in an oak cask in Scotland for a minimum of three years and have been bottled at a minimum strength of 40% alcohol by volume.

A "classic malt of Scotland", Oban is a favorite of Editor-in-Chief Todd Smith and other OL staffers. Coming from the West Highland region, it offers a blend of the smokier flavors of the Scottish isles and the lighter tastes found in scotches from the Highlands.

The distillery was built in 1794 and is still one of the smallest in the country. Oban is offered in a 14 year version and a pricier 18 year Distillers Edition that was first released in 1998.

Notes: A classic balance--not too smoky, not too sweet. A great all-around single-malt that is universally loved and infinitely sip-able.

**$69.99 **
Photo: proof66.com

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Dalwhinnie
Another of the classic malts, Dalwhinnie comes from the Highlands and is aged for 15 years. The word means "meeting place" in Gaelic.

Made at the highest elevation distillery in Scotland-where the average temperature is 42 degrees F, and being snowbound for days at a time is not uncommon-Dalwhinnie scotch is subtly smokey, with a lighter taste that builds to a full finish.

Notes: Perfect by itself. Try two fingers neat in a brandy glass, add a dash of ice-water to bring up the bouquet and sip to your heart's content. A favorite after dinner drink because of it's slight sweetness. Lovely!

$59.99
Photo: crownwineandspirits.com

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Laphroaig
Laphroaig is touted as "the world's most richly flavored Scotch whisky" and has a strong smoky quality due to the distillery's location on the Island of Islay off the west coast of the Scottish mainland, which is home to eight active distilleries.

The company's website declares that the fine quality of the single-malt comes from their emphasis on community and that "There are 3 main ingredients for making Laphroaig - Barley, Water, and Yeast, but the secret ingredient is the People."

A ten-year variety is the most common.

Notes: If you like a peatier taste to your single-malt, this is the one. On those cold, rainy nights when you come home tired, hang your dripping Barbour coat by the front door, light a fire and take a long sip of Laphroaig. It will warm you right down to your toes.
**
$33.99**
Photo: laphroaig.com

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The Balvenie
The Balvenie was selected by editors Todd Smith, John Taranto and Andrew McKean, because it's so well balanced and smooth.

Also available is variety called Doublewood, aged 12 years, which takes it's name and flavor from being matured in two woods, (both oak and sherry) to create depth and a warm finish.

Notes: It opens with a sweet nose of fruit, honey and vanilla, and leaves your palette with a long, warm finish. The perfect whisky after a chilly afternoon of bird hunting.

$36.99
Photo: thebalvenie.com

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Ardbeg
If you like your scotch peaty and deep, then you want to pour yourself a glass of Ardbeg.

Made in a distillery that has changed hands, shut down and been reopened numerous times since 1815, Ardbeg has notes of tobacco and coffee and you can sense the malted cereal.

Notes: Phenols are added by peat smoke and contribute to the smokiness of the malt. Ardbeg has a phenol content of 24ppm, one of the highest in the industry. If you like a smoky flavor, you will be happy here.

$54.99
Photo: ardbeg.com

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Macallan
Another popular malt among OL staff, Macallan has been distilled in Scotland since 1824. Originally, it was only matured in Spanish oak sherry casks, but the company introduced a Fine Oak series earlier this decade.

The scotch is the epitome of nurtured, Macallan grows their own barley on their 370-acre estate, uses water drawn from their private springs, and selects only the finest 16% of the spirit for maturation. This creates an enviable full-bodied richness.

Notes: One contributor declared that he would prefer "something other than the 12-year-old if I'm wearing breeks." The fine 18-year variety is silky smooth with hints of leather, licorice and tobacco.

$119
Photo: themacallan.com

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Lagavulin
Another Islay malt, with the typically powerful peat aroma. This is a balanced, smooth choice and fares well in international spirits contests such as the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, where it has received numerous golf medals.

The distillery dates back as far as 1816 and the word Lagavullin translates to "hollow by the mill" in Gaelic.

Notes: Most commonly found in it's 16-year variety, Lagavullin is powerful, stout and smokey.

$79.99
Photo: klwines.com

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The Dalmore
The Dalmore is a Highland malt made from the waters of a river that runs through the village where the distillery sits. The bottles are adorned with a noble 12-point stag's head and the whisky smells of lemongrass and citrus.

In 2005 a bottle of 62-year-old Dalmore made from a blend of casks was auctioned for over $50,000.

Notes: The unique, pure character of Dalmore comes from the unique set up of their stills; a combination of their 'flat-top' wash stills and four spirit stills that are encased in "cooling jackets".

$89.99
Photo: thedalmore.com

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Inchgower
Added to the list by McKean, Inchgower can be difficult to find, but is well worth the search. Only a tiny percent of the production volume is sold as a single malt, the rest is used to make blends.

Notes: The only lower speyside malt on our list, Inchgower comes from the same region as Glenfiddich, one of the best-selling single malts in the world.

$56.99 (at current conversion rate from the British pound)
Photo: maltmadness.com

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Glenmorangie
"Ahh," said another contributor, "Glenmorangie....spoken like a true piper!"

Rounding out our list is this Highland whisky, made in the tallest stills in Scotland. Like other distilleries, Glenmorangie struggled during the early 20th century, when global whisky sales dropped dramatically because of prohibition and the Great Depression in the United States. But the distillery bounced back and the label is currently the best-selling single-malt in Scotland.

Notes: Glenmorangie offers an aroma of citrus and fruit, a taste of vanilla and a lingering finish. A great single-malt for every-day sipping at a price that even a Scotsman can abide.

$34.99 (10-year)
Photo: glenmorangie.com

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Honorable Mention
"Rank amateurs, all of you!" declared editor John Snow.
 "Jura single malt is the king o' the heap, me laddies."

$57.99
Photo: isleofjura.com

For OL's Best Bourbons click here.

Scotland is known for two things: kilts and scotch whiskey. We've compiled a list of our 10 favorite single-malts, brought to you by the editors and staff of Outdoor Life, so pour yourself a wee dram!