As the weather grows chillier and the holiday season approaches, expect more single malt scotches to fill out store shelves. Although the pandemic had slowed the pace of new releases, it’s likely that more new single malts are on the way, as consumers seek special drams for warming up and giving as gifts. The latest crop of single malts ranges particularly wide.
Some of these new bottles are aimed at attracting new imbibers, such as X by Glenmorangie. The producer is hoping to lure cocktail-loving millennials with a single malt explicitly intended for mixing, territory traditionally dominated by blended scotches.
Elsewhere, a pair of oloroso sherry-finished single malts from the Scottish isles may lure traditionalists. Jura 12 Year Old is described as “likely to appeal to sweet-toothed sippers,” possessing confectionery flavors that suggest banana bread and dark chocolate. Meanwhile, a new 10-year-old Laphroaig keeps the peaty character for which the Islay scotch is known, though the sherry finish layers on a maple-syrup tone.
Collectors also will find special bottles released in small batches to add to wish lists. Bruichladdich has rolled out a limited-edition Port Charlotte aged in French wine casks, which adds dried fruit and spice to the powerfully smoky single malt. Another peat powerhouse, Ardbeg, is releasing the third batch of its 19-year-old Traigh Bhan expression. And for history-minded folks with deep pockets, Talisker is offering a limited-edition 43-year-old single malt that sailed across the Atlantic, referencing a historic 19th-century voyage.
These are six bottles you’ll want to try yourself or give as holiday gifts.
This is the third batch of Ardbeg’s 19-year-old expression, a permanent addition to the portfolio. This spicy dram, named for Islay’s Traigh Bhan (“Singing Sands”) beach, is produced in small batches and released on an annual basis, the latest in September 2021. This ever-changing single malt, bottled at 46.2% ABV, is notably spicier this year; tasting notes from its producer flag bold cayenne pepper and aniseed, alongside more delicate lime and walnut tones and plenty of peat, expressed as smoked brown sugar and soot.
This “intense and vibrant” addition to the Jura line, made on Scotland’s Isle of Jura, is matured in ex-bourbon barrels and finished in oloroso sherry casks. Its producer describes the single malt as “likely to appeal to sweet-toothed sippers, with the promise of warm spice, banana, and freshly ground coffee alongside dark chocolate with soft citrus.” It’s bottled at 43% ABV and joins the 10-year-old and 18-year-old expressions.
The follow-up to last year’s Cask Strength No. 1 rolls out in the U.S. market at the end of October or early November 2021. This expression from Orkney’s Highland Park Distillery represents the single malt “in its purest form,” its producer says. It’s been matured mostly in sherry-seasoned European and American oak casks, plus a small quantity of ex-bourbon casks. Bottled at a whopping 63.9% ABV, its producer says the flavor profile suggests “pear and almond cake, toasted oak, licorice, cracked black pepper, and aromatic peat.” This will be a permanent addition to the Highland Park core range.
This new expression combines the super-smoky scotch with the sweet aromatics derived from 12 to 18 months in an oloroso sherry cask. The end result is rich and full-bodied, with notes of bacon, toffee, and maple syrup alongside the classic smoke, seaweed, and brine that typically define an Islay single malt. Bottled at cask strength (48% ABV), this release debuted in the U.S. in March 2021 and was limited to 4,450 cases globally.
From Bruichladdich Distillery, this bottling is made from two parcels of heavily peated Islay single malt distilled in 2011. The first parcel was aged for six years in ex-American whiskey casks, followed by about two years in ex-Pauillac red wine casks from France’s Bordeaux region. The second parcel aged for seven years in ex-American whiskey casks, then spent the remainder of its life in French red wine casks (also from Pauillac). The bottling is described as aged eight years. It was bottled at 56.1% ABV, released to the U.S. in April 2021. Its producer describes the smoky whiskey as “muscular and round” with “dry, earthy smoke and marine breeze” as well as “an abundance of dried fruit and spice.”
The oldest Talisker bottling to date is finished in casks made with staves that crossed the Atlantic, from La Gomera, Spain to the island of Antigua, over the course of 24 days. Upon completion of the crossing, the staves were carefully returned to Scotland to complete the final maturation of this bottling. Each bottle purchased will be accompanied by a piece of one of these very staves. Bottled at 49.7% ABV, only 1830 bottles of this rare whisky were released in May 2021, in honor of Talisker’s founding year, when the MacAskill brothers undertook their own adventure and rowed from the Isle of Eigg to the shores of the Isle of Skye and established the Talisker Distillery.
Torahabhaig Distillery is the first whisky distillery to be built on the Isle of Skye in 190 years and the second legal distillery ever to operate on the island. This peated single malt, which debuted in July 2021, represents the second of four expressions to be released under the Legacy Series; the inaugural release was in February 2021. It’s named after the stream that flows down the side of the distillery. The release will be bottled in small batches, drawn from no more than 30 casks, and bottled at 46% ABV. These “legacy” batches, its producer says, are a way for the fledgling distillery to develop its style and character while it waits for its 10-year-old expression to mature, which is slated for release in 2028.
Developed specifically as an approachable scotch meant for mixing, intended to lure new whisky drinkers, this “sweeter-style single malt” launched in June 2021. Its producer describes the flavor profile as distinctly dessert-like, suggesting “swirls of orange sherbet to bursts of crème brûlée drizzled with chocolate fudge.”