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The Best New Single Malt Scotch Whisky Releases Of 2019

Finding the best bottle of scotch is a fun endeavor. There’s just so much of the good stuff that even a mediocre bottle will still be drinkable — or, at the very least, passably drinkable. Still, like all whisk(e)y expressions, scotch isn’t a monolith. There’s a lot variance at play and that means there are a lot of ways to enjoy it.

The two main avenues of scotch are “blended scotch” and “single malt.” There are a few other categories but they’re small. For quick clarification, “single malt” is a whisky that’s distilled from malted barley only (hence “single”) in a pot still and aged for at least three years in oak at one distillery. Like with almost all aged spirits, that doesn’t mean multiple barrels of the same distillate aren’t blended to make a final product. (There are other very specific requirements for barrel size and ABV at certain stages but we don’t need to get into that minutiae right now.) Blended scotch, on the other hand, is a mix of whisky from different distilleries and with different grain distillates involved which are all blended into a single expression.

Today, we’re going to be talking about the best single malts that dropped over the past year. These are the whiskies that have been waiting, aging, and perfecting in rickhouses across Scotland until each barrel and cask was just right and ready to make a beautiful bottle of single malt whisky.

The ten expressions below are some of our favorite bottles of scotch that hit shelves this year. These bottles are a chance to be ahead of a curve and drink something truly special right now. Just a word of warning though, some of these bottles are going to be hard(ish) to find in the U.S. and, honestly, some are going to be expensive with a capital “E.”

But, hey, we can all dream about drinking that special bottle of scotch that few others will ever get to enjoy, right?

LAGAVULIN OFFERMAN EDITION AGED 11 YEARS

Story:

Most whisky lovers dream of having their own expression. Well, Nick Offerman is living that freaking dream. The actor-writer-craftsman has been working with Lagavulin for years now and the fruit of that effort is upon us. Offerman Edition is Offerman and Lagavulin’s distillery manager Colin Gordon’s dream whisky. It’s an eleven-year-old, high-ABV juice that’s branded with Offerman’s own mug.

If Ron Swanson himself is willing to put his visage on the bottle, you know it has to be good.

Tasting notes:

The sip greets you with ripe pears in a bowl sitting next to whole nuts of nutmeg and baked apples. Cinnamon and fresh tobacco follow with a good dose of peaty smoke that fades into a taste of brandied cherries and caramel laden vanilla. Old charred oak comes into play with notes of meaty dried apricots and a hint of tart berry. Finally, there’s a peppery finish that feels more dusty than sharp.

OBAN DISTILLER’S EDITION 2005/2019

Story:

The small seaside burg of Oban is home to one of Scotland’s oldest and coolest distilleries, also called Oban. Each year, the distillery releases a Distiller’s Edition that celebrates the fine work the distillers, barrel-masters, and blenders do every single year. This year’s single malt edition was distilled in 2005, aged in oak, and then finished in a Montilla fino cask (similar to sherry).

Tasting notes:

The sea with grains of salt sprinkled over crushed grapes and orange zest open this sip up. A wisp of smoke leads towards creamy malts with an underpinning of that seaside brine. There’s a clear fruity nature as the light peat leads to a dry, vinous finish with a hint of espresso bitterness.

KILCHOMAN 2010 VINTAGE

Story:

Islay distillery Kilchoman released their first “age statement” expression this year, Kilchoman 10 Vintage. The single malt juice went into 42 ex-bourbon barrels and three oloroso sherry casks back in 2010. Then, after nine long years, the whisky was combined into a masterful blend of the good stuff.

Tasting notes:

Peat comes through with hints of salt and bourbon vanilla. Rich dried fruits with good heft and sweetness drive the sip towards light notes of florals with a mildly spicy edge. The echoes of smoke lead towards a finish with hints of lemon zest, more vanilla, and ripe pears.

MORTLACH 15 YEAR OLD SIX KINGDOMS

Story:

Last year, Diageo started their Game Of Thrones series of whiskies with expressions from their long list of distilleries around Scotland matched to GoT houses. This December, they’re dropping the last of the series with Mortlach. The ode to the six kingdoms is a 15-year-old single malt that first aged in sherry casks before going into ex-bourbon barrels. The bottle is embossed with the Three-Eyed Raven to celebrate the ascension of the new king.

Tasting notes:

An apple orchard in full bloom on a summer’s day opens the sip with clear notes of sweet malts. Stewed fruits with a Christmas spice edge burst forth and an almost maple syrup texture and sweetness emerge. Toasted oak, bourbon vanilla, and dare we say rye spiciness comes into play as the whisky finds a rich and mellow-yet-warming finish.

THE MACALLAN EDITION NO. 5

Story:

The Macallan Edition No. 5 celebrates the whisky distillery’s unique coloration with a tiny tinge of purple. The juice is aged in a wide array of casks, barrels, and hogsheads of ex-bourbon American oak that’s been seasoned with sherry, giving the wood extra depth. The varying sizes of vessels for aging adds a deeper dimension to the final product that makes this one of the year’s most unique bottles.

Tasting notes:

Familiar pear leads the way towards vanilla, lemon, fresh basil, sharp ginger, and a dash of nutmeg. Roasted peaches mingle with creamy caramel and stewed pears. Toffee and oak come together as spicy fresh ginger leads to a finish that draws itself out towards a candied ginger end.

GLENALLACHIE 2001

Story:

This is a truly special bottle of whisky. The single malt is hand-selected by GlenAllachie’s master distiller Billy Walker from an 18-year-old sherry cask. This single barrel expression is bottled at cask strength and there are only 307 bottles on the market. Once those are snagged, that’s it for this expression … forever.

Tasting notes:

Bitter dark chocolate, orange zest, and cinnamon-stewed apples draw you in. Barley crackers infused with fresh honeycomb sit next to more orange zest and rich sweetness bordering on corn syrup. The spice kicks back in and leads towards a long finish with a hint of that dark chocolate bitter coming back for one last moment.

TALISKER 15 YEAR OLD 2019 SPECIAL RELEASE

Story:

As far as agings go, 15 years is a rare breed amongst the 12, 18, and 25-year-olds. This special edition of Talisker — part of the Diageo Rare By Nature collection — was aged in specially charred new American oak hogsheads (basically a barrel and a half in size). After 15 long years in the Talisker rickhouse, which is literally across the street from a small briny bay, the whisky was bottled and sent out into the world as a one-off expression.

Tasting notes:

This is a big whisky with a lot to ponder. Sea brine with roasted cashews, mild cinnamon, dustings of nutmeg, glazed cornflakes, and wisps of peat smoke open your senses on the first whiff. Billows of smoke are laced with red cherry, salty raisins, ripe peaches, freshly cracked allspice, dashes of black pepper, and a sweetness from the malts that leans rich without being heavy.

The light touch of spice leads you into a long finish as the sea brine and smoke slowly fades away.

THE GLENLIVET 14 YEAR COGNAC CASK SELECTION

Story:

Speyside’s The Glenlivet released a special bottle this year exclusively for the U.S. market, The Glenlivet 14 Year Cognac Cask Select. This expression starts off by aging for 14 years in both ex-bourbon and sherry casks before going into high-end Cognac casks for six months of fine finishing. The result is a sweet whisky that’ll leave you asking for more.

Tasting notes:

You’re greeted by pots of rich apricot jam and fresh honey, cinnamon toast, and a nuance of licorice. Dark chocolate, spicy raisins, cinnamon-stewed pear, and candied orange strike a balance throughout the taste. A small modicum of the herbal licorice and bitter chocolate make way for the cinnamon spice as the finish lingers on the tongue for a good spell.

BRUICHLADDICH BLACK ART 7

Story:

Bruichladdich shuttered its distillery back in 1994 — the same year this whisky was distilled. Luckily, the distillery would reopen in 2001, giving us a chance to sample this 25-year-old juice this year. The exact cask this expression spent those 25 years in is a bit of rickhouse secret. Regardless of the casks, the end result is a shining example of the distillery’s comeback story.

Tasting notes:

The nuttiness is the first thing that comes to mind. A blend of rich marzipan topped with walnuts leads towards wildflowers and red berries swimming in honey. That honey gives way to fresh coconut, caramel corn, apples, butterscotch, and a small note of spice. Toffee and butterscotch lead towards a finish that bursts with ripe fruits and a longlasting sweet edge.

FIRST EDITIONS BEN NEVIS 1996

Story:

Hunter Laing’s First Editions series finds some of the absolute best casks hidden away in Scottish rickhouses and bottles them in tiny batches. This year’s Ben Nevis 1996 (the year of distillation) is a prime example of how unique and delightful this series can be. The whisky was aged for over 20 years in sherry casks and then bottled straight from the cask — in some cases, only 30 bottles were produced from a single barrel. This is a once-in-a-lifetime sort of bottle worth tracking down.

Tasting notes:

Ripe fruits, tart red berries, pancake syrup, raisins, and rich English toffee greet your senses. Malted barley crackers soaked in honey drive through the palate with a feel of ripe strawberries baking in the summer sun. A rush of peppery spice comes into play and barrels towards a finish with hints of grass, bitterness, and tobacco smoke as the syrup-sweetness fades away.

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