It’s hard to imagine, but not that long ago, the only kind of Scotch you could find easily was of the blended variety, like Johnnie Walker and Chivas Regal. Back then, almost all of the single malt went to blenders and a few odd casks were sold to independent bottlers.
While it’s no longer a problem to buy a fine malt, a number of boutique firms continue to sell exceptional whiskies from across Scotland in very limited quantities. Here are some of our favorites.
Name just about any Scottish distillery—still-operating or long-shuttered—and Duncan Taylor probably has at least some of its whisky. In addition to selling whole barrels, the company also offers a range of bottled spirits, such as the extremely rare 20-year-old Glenesk ($170).
For more than a hundred years, the Speyside-based Gordon & MacPhail has been in the Scotch business. (It actually now owns the Benromach distillery.) Choose from among its dozens and dozens of tantalizing bottlings, including a special 21-year-old Glenlivet ($135), which was aged in former sherry butts.
A great thing about these independents is that they’re often willing to experiment with maturing spirits in different types of wood, which creates truly unique drams. Murray McDavid’s 11-year-old Laphroaig ($80), which was finished in a Château Lafite Rothschild wine barrel, is a perfect example. Just be sure to enjoy it while it lasts!
You can find the Duncan Taylor 20-year-old Glenesk at Park Avenue Liquor Shop and both the Gordon & MacPhail 21-year-old Glenlivet and the Murray McDavid 11-year-old Laphroaig at Cask.