Celebrate National Scotch Day 2021 With These Fine Whiskies
Every year the world turns its eyes towards Scotland on July 27. That’s when people pour themselves a dram of their favorite Scotch and celebrate National Scotch Day.
As one of the world’s oldest spirits, Scotch whisky can trace its roots back to 1495 when it was entered into the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland. A friar named John Cor was listed as the distiller at the Lindores Abbey in the Kingdom of Fife. But, local lore in Scotland places the birth of the iconic spirit earlier in the twelfth century when monks started distilling it from techniques learned from their Irish neighbors.
Whatever its origins, the whisky spread throughout the windswept highlands of its birthplace, quickly becoming something of an art form as each region and island of Scotland created its own distinct flavors and tastes. More significant distilling operations were born alongside numerous backyard ones, each making their own version of the spirit. In 1782 more than 1,000 illegal stills were seized in the Highlands, a fraction of those thought to have been in operation. The love of the spirit’s taste crossed over the Atlantic Ocean. It helped lead to the birth of the distinctive American spirit, Bourbon.
To be called a Scotch, it must be produced in Scotland, made from malted barley, wheat, and rye, aged in oak barrels for at least three years, and be at least 40% alcohol by volume. One other requirement is that it is called whisky, not and more common spelling whiskey.
Nowadays, there are 134 Scotch whisky distillers operating inside the borders of Scotland, many of them inside legendary buildings that have been in operation for centuries. To properly celebrate National Scotch Day, we offer up these four recommendations culled from hours of research and tastings.
Winner of the 2021 World’s Best Single Malt at the World Whiskey Awards, The GlenAllachie 10 Years Old is a bottle every Scotch lover should have. Made in Speyside, it is from a relatively new distillery built in 1967. At the helm of it is one of the legends of the distilling world and a member of Whisky Magazine’s Hall of Fame, Billy Walker. A limited-edition product that highlights a single batch, it is released in only 4,500 cases worldwide. The tasting notes accompanying its award were as follows. “The nose opens up initially in a soft way, with light toasted notes and some oak and honey. The palate gets a little punchier with dried apricots, white pepper, and cloves, all of which is balanced by soft caramel, pineapple and coffee notes leading to the finish.”
One of the beautiful things about whisky is that each batch can slightly change due to its distilling and aging factors. Still, once a distiller knows a recipe, they can bring it back too. Such is the case for The GlenDronach Revival 15-year-old Scotch. It’s based on an older recipe for a batch of whisky so popular that the GlenDronach distillery, an almost 200-year-old Highland distillery, sold out several years ago. They decided to bring it back and aged this one in Pedro Ximénez and oloroso sherry casks to build robust flavor. There are cherry, chocolate, and honey notes that blend into layers of flavors that stick to drinkers’ palettes.
Named for an infamous whirlpool that lies north of the island of Islay, the Ardbeg Corryvrekan is a single malt scotch with impressive accolades to its name. It was named the World’s Best Single Malt Scotch in 2010 by the World Whiskey Awards. That accolade is almost overshadowed by the fact that this quiet distillery sitting waterside has made the top Scotch four out of the last seven years. Founded in 1815, it takes advantage of the abundant soft water and acres of peat to create a whisky known for its robust peaty and peppery taste and intense nose.
Chances are, many people know the name Lagavulin but have never tried the famous spirit. It is known as the drink of choice for the character Ron Swanson of the television show Parks and Recreation. As a manly jack-of-all-trades, Swanson waxed poetic about the drink, one that the actor who portrayed him, Nick Offerman, loves also. Their 16 Year Old is another Islay scotch, one that was first distilled in 1816. A crowd-pleaser has won numerous accolades over the years, including winning multiple gold medals from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and high ratings from Wine Enthusiast Magazine. A thick and rich scotch, it has sherry flavors that merge with a slightly smoky spiciness.