The Talisker 10 Year is considered a “classic malt.” Founded in 1830, Talisker is made Loch Harport near Cullin range on the Isle of Skye. There is a strong scent of peat as soon the bottle is opened. The whiskey glass nose is a solid peat; less than the Laphroaig 18 but much more than the Macallan 10 and Highland Park 12. The color is a gold, maybe a light red-ish yellow. The taste is a light medium peat, thin malt with a thin dry finish and slow, long burn. The flavor is also delicately sweet, and after being opened up with a few drops of water gets very smooth. Still dry, the finish is easy, complex and warming. The Talisker has a slight peaty flavor but it’s not overdone. It also has some nice undertones including pepper. This is one of Eric’s top 3 single malts along with Lagavulin and Oban, but for the price $50 you can’t go wrong when it feels sooo right. It’s got a lot of flavor but the smokiness is subtle; the scotch whisky makes the statement. The Talisker 10 is an Island Single Malt Scotch Whisky produced on the Isle of Skye, Scotland. Talisker has an above average Peat content and is used in part of Jonnie Walker’s blended Scotch whisky. The Talisker 10 is an excellent single malt, definitely in our top 10 single malts, possibly top 5.
Established in 1824, the Macallan distillery is Speyside in Easter Elchies, Craigellachie, in the Highlands of Scotland. When you first open the bottle there’s a sweet whisky scent, then the scotch whisky scent settles in slightly. The Macallan 12 years old Highland Scotch is much darker in color than its younger counterpart, the Macallan 10 year. The 12 year sherry aged brings a medium brown color with a good red hue. The darker color in the 12 year is probably due to the strict use of sherry casks and the extra 2 years of aging, as opposed to the Macallan 10 year which is triple cask aged in sherry and bourbon oak barrels. There is not much peat in the Macallan 12 year; in fact it can be barely detected at all, contrasting with the 10 year which has more than a touch of smoke. The Macallan 12 year is especially smooth but with a strong, full finish, understated burn and dry aftertaste. A few drops of water, open the single malt up a bit, and the whisky seems to get thicker with a minute peat scent.
In a Double Blind Taste Test: The Balvenie 15 Year Crushes Competition
By Matt Goldstein, Eric Duncan, Dan Shapiro, BJ Smith, and Jesus Burgos
The Single Malt Scotch Trials were a double blind taste test held at the Whiskey Goldmine headquarters. We sampled 7 different single malts that were randomly selected and then served in scotch glasses with the serving sizes just slightly under a dram. There were 7 tasters and 2 servers. The Scotches were scored on the basis of flavor, texture, color, and finish. Each taster was given the option to use a splash of water that many times opens up the single malt for further complexity, however, we did not allow ice. Although we scored and ranked the winners, all of the Scotches actually performed really well. Most of the Scotches that we tasted are distilled and aged on the coast and get much of their character from salt water and ocean air.
The Balvenie 15 Year Single Malt Scotch Whisky:
The Balvenie 15 is aged in a single cask of no more than 350 bottles. With a complete malty scent, the Balvenie 15 year is sweet, with hints of vanilla, cream and citrus fruits. It’s a mellow, rich and full flavored whiskey. Established in 1892, the Balvenie distillery is in Dufftown, Banffshire Scotland. The Balvenie 15 year scored much higher than any other scotch in our single malt taste test. The scores were not even close! The Balvenie 15 year single malt scotch crushed the competition.
The Macallan 10 Year Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky:
The Macallan 10is triple cask matured in European Oak Sherry casks, American Oak Sherry Casks and American Oak Bourbon Casks. The Macallan 10 has a sweet scent, great taste, and is very smooth and light. With a sweet flavor, there is also a subtle peat taste with a light smoke and a soft, malty oak essence. It’s an excellent and complex single malt scotch. Established in 1824, the Macallan distillery is Speyside in Easter Elchies, Craigellachie, Scotland. The Macallan 10 Year finished 2nd in our double blind taste test.
The Laphroaig 18 Year Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky:
The Laphroag 18 is a non chill filtered smokey style single malt. Although the peat hits the nose, it’s not over powering. The Laphroaig 18 year is smooth, very smokey and slightly sweet. This is an excellent peat style single malt scotch and one of the best in class. The Laphroaig distillery was established in 1815 and is made on the isle of Islay, Scotland. The Laphroaig 18 Year Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky finished 3rd in our overall scoring.
The Oban 14 Year West Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky:
The Oban 14 is made in small stills and is a full, rich, malty, medium body single malt with a touch of peat. Light and smooth with a nice burn, the Oban 14 Year is a classic malt. Sweet with a touch of sea salt, the finish is sweet and smooth. Named after the caves used by the first settlers of Scotland in 5,000 B.C. called “An Ob,” Oban is a classic malt. Oban is distilled in the Oban, the capital city of the West Highlands, Scotland and finished 4th in our overall scoring.
The Highland Park 12 Year Single Malt Scotch Whisky:
The Highland 12uses malted barley hand made on a stone floor. The peat and heather are also hand cut and the scotch whisky is aged in Sherry oak casks from Spain. Almost at the end of maturity, the best casks are selected, then combined and aged together for just a little longer. The Highland Park 12 year is smoky, soft, smooth but with a good burn. It’s a rich, full flavor with an exceptional finish. The Highland Park distillery was established in 1798 and is made in Kirkwall, Scotland in the Highlands. The Highland Park 12 Year Single Malt Scotch finished 5th in our overall scoring.
The Glenlivet 12 Year Single Malt Scotch Whisky:
The Glenlivet 12 is called “the single malt that started it all.” This Speyside scotch is made from the mineral rich water in Josie’s Well. The Glenlivet 12 Year is smooth and rich with a burn but light at the same time. With slight notes of fruit, The Glenlivet by far was the lightest of all the single malts we tasted. Established in 1824, Glenlivet is distilled in the Speyside town of Banfshire, Scotland and is perhaps the most famous single malt Scotch whisky in the world. The Glenlivet finished 6th in our overall scoring.
The Glenmorangie Lasanta 12 Year Single Malt Scotch Whisky:
The Lasanta is made in the tallest stills in Scotland and aged in bourbon casks and then finished in Spanish Oloroso Sherry casks. The Lasanta is a smooth, light non chill filtered single malt with notes of rich notes of cream and maple. A complex, medium body single malt, the Lasanta a is unique from the 10 year Glenmorangie. In Gaelic Glenmorangie means valley of tranquility and Lasanta means warmth and passion. The Glenmorangie distillery was established in 1843 in the North of Scotland and sits beside the ancient royal Burgh of Tain on the banks of the Dornoch Firth.
The Dalwhinnie 15 year single malt scotch is a subtle, yet distinct scotch from the Highland region and considered to be a “classic malt.” Founded in 1897, Dalwhinnie also has a 20 year old, 29 year old and 36 year old single malt, but the 15 year is much more widely available for obvious reasons. The Dalwhinnie 15 year has a light nose and tastes of floral, caramel, honey, with a touch of smoke. There is a little biscuit, light bite, and the finish is very smooth. First, we tasted the Dalwhinnie straight, then our bartender added two drops of water which opened the whisky up immensely. Dalwhinnie had a beautiful yet subtle burn. What a classic scotch! Then, Tom insisted that we add two ice cubes. I began to tell Tom that it was against Whiskey Goldmine rules to add ice to a single malt. He asked why. I replied that those were the ground rules laid down in our first scotch article by master distiller extraordinaire Eric Duncan. Tom and I began arguing violently and almost came to blows. “Just one cube” he insisted. Finally, I agreed and we added a cube. Excellent! The cube did open the Dalwhinnie up even more. The Dalwhinnie 15 year is a perfect scotch and can be sipped straight, with water or with 1-2 cubes. We would not recommend using more that 2 cubes as this would destroy the complexity of the malt. The Dalwhinnie 15 year might be our favorite single malt scotch.
We highly recommend Dalwhinnie 15 year single malt scotch.
Rules to Live by for the Aspiring Scotch Connoisseur; Single Malt Scotch Whisky vs. Blended Scotch Whisky
This is only meant to serve as a brief introduction and overview of the differences between Single Malt Scotch Whisky and Blended Scotch Whisky. There is also Bourbon Whiskey, Irish Whiskey, Canadian Whiskey, Rye Whiskey, etc.
Single Malt Scotch and Blended Scotch Whisky are similar spirits but are often incorrectly assumed to be interchangeable. A single malt scotch is distilled of only malted barley and water at one distillery. Where as Blended Scotch Whisky is typically 60-80% grain whiskey mixed with several single malt scotch’s.
Blended Scotch Whisky uses the grain whisky to cut the “harshness” of the pure single malts. It is typically distilled in the “low lands” and has a more mellow flavor then a single malt scotch. Every major Blended Scotch Whisky producer has a “Master blender” who creates combinations of several single malts and grain whisky’s to produce a flavor unique to their brand. They not only need to know mixture of the current single malt’s they utilize but they need to know what other single malts they can substitute if the quality or availability of a certain single malt changes. They are also responsible to sample every batch to ensure consistency in their product. Examples of Blended Scotch Whisky are; Dewar’s, JohhnieWalker, J&B, The Famous Grouse and Chivas Regal.
Single Malt Scotch has a wide array of tastes, which vary depending on; the malt and water used, where it is produced, if peat is used in the drying process, how it is stored and for how long it is stored. The scotch must be matured for at least 3 years to be considered a Single Malt Scotch. As a Scotch matures it continues to change in character and begins to mellow. The older Scotch is often more expensive due to further evaporation during the maturation process as well as the prolonged marketing.
The beauty of single malt scotch is that there are a multitude of variables that alter the taste, color and aroma. In the end it comes down to a personal preference of the taster and what characteristics they enjoy. A peaty scotch has a discernable smoky flavor to it because the peat is added to the fire that is used to dry the malt after the germination process. The type of cask a scotch is matured in changes the flavor as well. Bourbon and Sherry casks are the most commonly used, but Bordeaux wine, port and Cognac are some other commonly utilized casks. Single Malt’s such as Balvenie are often available in a double cask addition where they are transferred to a second cask towards the end of the maturation process to pick up additional characteristics. Single Malts that are matured by the ocean often pick up a slight trace of the salty ocean air in their flavor. A few examples of Single Malt Scotch include; Talisker, Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Oban, Balvenie, Singleton of Glendullan, Jura, Caol Ila, Ardbeg, and Bruichladdich.
One of the most important differences between Blended Scotch Whisky and Single Malt Scotch is in the way they should be served. Blended Scotch Whisky is typically served in a glass tumbler. On the other hand, Single Malt should be served in a tulip glass. The tulip glass has a bulb shaped bottom and narrows out toward the top. The wide bottom allows the flavor to mature in the glass while the narrow top helps to keep the aroma locked in, similar to a snifter.
It is common place to hear Blended Scotch Whisky ordered on the rocks or with a finger or two of water added. Since Blended Scotch Whisky is already diluted at least 60% by the grain whiskey this is an acceptable way to drink this spirit. Single Malt should be served with only a couple drops of distilled water added. This serves to break the surface tension which opens up the flavor of the single malt. Adding more water or putting it on the rocks simply dilutes the taste and compromises the integrity of the single malt.
Attending a wedding between our dear friends and family a few weeks ago, the Bushmills 21 was a gift for the groomsmen. The father of the groom, a native Irishman, and now NYC bartender, bought the very rare bottle of Bushmills 21 years aged so we could all have a taste in the suite prior to the ceremony. The bottle was opened at 1 pm but I was a bit to hung over from the now legendary rehearsal dinner. I needed a few more waters and a nap first or I wasn’t going to make the wedding.
Eric Duncan: The Bushmills 21 was smooth for an Irish whiskey, but a little too sweet. I can’t cheat on my Tullamore Dew, but I was the only one with key to the suite so had to take everyone from wedding party up there who wanted a shot. So 7 shots later, Kevin got married!!
Matt Goldstein: Bushmills 21 – After a 30 minute nap and 4 bottles of water I was ready to go. The Bushmills 21 was actually very smooth. For some reason I am used to the more aged whiskeys and scotches to have a bit more bite. This was excellent. It did have a little sweetness but also a great whiskey flavor. Smooth, sweet and flavorful… Bushmills 21 year is aged in American Bourbon casks and Spanish Sherry casks for the first 19 years and then in Madeira Casks for the final 2 years.
Eric Duncan: Powers 12 – It wasn’t bad, but it’s more of a shot drinking whiskey than a sipping whiskey. Also, I may just not like flavor of aged Irish whiskey. I had a $150 bottle of aged Jamison and would have been fine with the regular version. I don’t think an aged whiskey changes the flavor as much as an aged scotch. The whiskeys do actually get a little sweeter.
Matt Goldstein: Powers 12 – The John Powers Gold Label Irish Whiskey is without a doubt my favorite shot drinking whiskey in the world. Yes, I love Jack, Jameson and Tullamore but the Powers isn’t the most popular whiskey in Ireland for nothing. I drink powers in a shot, straight and on the rocks. The Powers 12 is actually a smooth whiskey. It doesn’t have as much flavor as the regular Powers Gold Label but it’s certainly smooth enough for a straight sipping whiskey. Powers Special Reserve 12 years aged is crafted from the finest Irish Barley and water, triple distilled and matured in American Oak casks.
Eric Duncan: Talisker 10 – We actually were drinking Oban at the bar for the rehearsal dinner, but I love some Talisker, especially at a bachelor party. It has a slight peaty flavor but it’s not overdone. It also has some nice undertones including pepper. This is one of my top 3 single malts along with Lagavulin and Oban, but for the price $50 you can’t go wrong when it feels sooo right.
Matt Goldstein: Talisker 10 – I completely agree with Eric here when he says this is his top 3 single malt scotches. For me, this is #2 behind the Bowmor Islay single malt which is smoky but not too smoky. Bowmor is a little less smoky than Jonnie Walker black I would say. The Talisker 10 is the same. It’s got a lot of flavor but the smokiness is subtle; the scotch makes the statement. The Talisker 10 is an Island Single Malt Scotch Whisky produced on the Isle of Skye, Scotland. Talisker has an above average Peat content and is actually used in part of Jonnie Walker’s blended Scotch whisky.