The best scotch whisky brands
Scotch whisky ranks as the most superior whisky in the world and Scotland is probably the best known producer.
Of course, whisky can only be labelled as Scotch whisky if it has been allowed to mature for at least three years and only in Scotland.
Nobody is quite sure who invented whisky (or at least the distillation process to create the spirit). Some scholars say it was the Egyptians and some say the Romans. The first actual documented proof of the distillation and creation of alcohol in Scotland, was an order for eight bolls, from Irish Monks (listed in the Scottish Exchequer Rolls) in 1494.
Today Scotland exports nearly forty bottles a second and creates an income of nearly four billion pounds for the UK economy. That equates to something like 100 million cases a year, of top quality Scotch whisky, being exported around the globe.
This golden liquid has created jobs for over 50,000 people who are directly or indirectly involved in the production and sale of whisky. Currently there are 115 distilleries that are registered to produce Scotch Whisky Brands and they are sitting on over 20 million casks. These casks lie quietly maturing in warehouses, spread throughout Scotland.
As we have seen, the production of Scotch whisky is split into five Scottish regions, Highlands, Lowlands, Campbeltown, Islay and Speyside.
This allows for a wide range of diverse whiskies to be produced, with each region being known for different tasting whisky, due to the water, crops or process that is used.
Blended Scotch whisky is manufactured from numerous single grain or single malts, that have been blended together to form a consistent tasting whisky.
However it is the single grain or malt whiskey, produced by an individual distillery, which is one of the most sought after drinks in the world.
The taste of the finished product depends on a number of different factors. The oak casks used to age the whisky. These are always second hand and have normally been used first to age sherry port, or bourbon. Aging in these types of barrells, creates those familiar sweet, fruity notes, commonly associated with Scotch whisky.
Water used in the distillation process will also affect the final product. Some of the water used has been filtered through limestone, which removes certain elements and leaves the whisky with a fresh taste.
Peat is also commonly used in the distilling process and this gives Scotch Whiskey its familiar Smokey edge. The amount of peat determines whether the Smokey notes are light or a rich Smokey flavour.
Scotch whisky Brands
The Cragganmore Distillery has a long history, being founded by John Smith in 1869. Situated in Speyside and close to the waters of Craggan Burn and with the Strathspey Railway on the doorstep, it was the perfect place to produce Scotch Whisky.
The Distillery was owned by the family until the late 1920s, when it was purchased by White Horse, a subsidiary of Distillers Company Ltd (which eventually became part of Diageo).
Cragganmore whisky is known for it sophisticated fruity and toffee notes. The majority of their whisky is matured in old sherry barrels. The whisky has sweet-fragrant aromas with smoke and a malt finish, ideal with rich meat tastes, scotch pies, Cumberland sausage, pate de campagne, salami, prunes in bacon, roast suckling pig with glazed crackling, shredded beef with oyster sauce.
“One of Speyside’s greats. Elegant and austere. Gradually, almost reluctantly, reveals itself. The most fragrant of whiskies: delicate, herbal, flowery. A palate blossoming with flavours, and a long, lingering, finish.”
Michael Jackson, whisky writer and expert.
The Dalwhinnie Distillery has had a turbulent history. Founded in 1897 by three business partners, it went bankrupt the next year and was sold to A P Blyth who gave it the Dalwhinnie name. It was sold again in 1905 and in 1934 production stopped. The Distillery was reopened in 1947 and production continues to this day.
The site was especially selected for its proximity to spring water from Lochan-Doire-Uaine and the large amount of peat in the surrounding bogs. Dalwhinnie is one of the highest distilleries in Scotland.
This elegant whisky is exceptional smooth and full of flavour. Matured in rich Oloroso casks, you will uncover traces of dried fruit, cinamon, cloves and a warming peat glow.
There were two distilleries built on this site in 1816 by John Jonston and Archibald Campbell. Eventually one of them was taken over by the other to form the Lagavulin Distillery. Lagavulin has a reputation for using a very slow distillation process and the unusal pear shaped pot stills.
This is a dramatic, robust and feisty whisky, just like the surrounding area of Lagavulin itself. Intense peat smoke combined with rich cereal under-note that rounds the whole experience off.
Situated in the town of Oban and probably one of the smallest in Scotland with only two pot stills. Founded in 1794 by the Stevenson Brothers and operated by them until 1883. It was completely rebuilt in 1898. Today it is owned and operated by Diageo.
This distillery produces a whisky that has been described as having a “West Highland” flavour that is somewhere in between the dry, smoky style of the Scottish islands and the lighter, sweeter malts of the Highlands.
Founded in 1830 by the brothers MacAskill, it has enjoyed various owners before being completely destroyed and fully rebuilt by a fire in 1960. It is the only distillery on the Isle of Skye.
The water used in the manufacturing process is drawn directly from a spring next to the distillery. The water flows over peat and gives the whisky a warm intense peaty flavour, combined with a rich dried-fruit sweetness with clouds of smoke and strong barley-malt flavours.
This distillery was built in 1798 by John Steward and Robert Robertson. The distillery was called Aldour, which is after the Allt Dour burn, where the spring water is taken to be used in the production process. The distillery based in Pitlochry has been brought and sold numerous times throughout its history, until it closed in 1932. It was reopened by Messr’s Bell and Sons (some of the produce is used in the famous bells whisky).
The premium Barley and fresh springwater contribute to complex, sweet and fruity whisky.
Caol Ila is the gaelic word for sound of Islay. This must be a reference to the position of the distillery situated on the Isle of Islay and overlooking the Islay strait.
Built in 1846 by Hector Henderson, the distillery has had a bit of a rough life. In 1972, Caol Ila was completely rebuilt with a much larger version and is still in production.
Caol Ila is one of the lighter Islay whiskies, pale in colour, with peaty, floral and peppery notes.
Relatively modern by distillery standards, the clynelish distillery was built in 1968. Situated in the coastal holiday town of Brora, Sutherland, around an hour north of Inverness. With stunning vistas of the North Sea and the hills to the north. The Clynemilton burn used in the manufacture of Clynelish whisky, runs over seams of gold in the rock. With this water, the Clynelish distillery produces a fruity, waxy, slightly smoky single malt.
A colourful history is behind the Cardhu Distillery, as it was founded by a whiskey smuggler called John Cumming in 1824. Although the distillery was actually run by his wife. It continued to be run by the female line of the cumming family until 1893 when it was sold to Johnnie Walker and Sons. This was on the condition that the cumming family continued the day to day management.
Cardhu whiskey is known for its silky smooth taste. Very light and smooth, a hint of pear drops, sweet and malty – you can definitely taste the ladies touch!
This distillery is situated on the Black Isle in the west of scotland. Founded in 1838 and known as the Ord Distillery Company. The company produces 48 different bottles of whisky and produces over 5 million litres a year.
The water comes from Loch nam-Bannach and Loch nam Euan and unusually the distillery still operates its own on site malting. The lack of peat used in the malting process and the use of sherry casks, means the whisky is fruity and sweet with background notes of malt and spices.
The distillery is in the Lowland region of Scotland, specifically in the glen of Kinchie Burn in East Lothian (hence the name).
Founded by the Rate brothers in the late 1820’s. In 1969 the distillery stopped malting it’s own grain and the malting warehouse turned into a museum.
The local Lammermuir Hills provide the water for distillation, which produces the characteristic lowland light, fruity and dry tasting whisky.
Royal Lochnagar sits close to Balmoral Castle, Scottish home to her Majesty the Queen. After being burnt to the ground twice in suspicious fires in 1824 and 1841, it was completely rebuilt once again by John Begg in 1845.
The name Lochnagar is taken from the mountain range which overlooks the distillery. Water is taken from the River Dee which runs close by.
This water combined with the highest quality barley, creates whisky that is known for its sweet toffee, malt and vanilla taste. The palate is smooth and sweet with flavours of fudge, honeycomb, and green apples.