Beyond the world of Glenlivet, Macallan, Highland Park and all the other famous producers there are many Scottish single malt distilleries whose role in life is to quietly supply malt whisky to be blended in with grain whisky then bottled and shipped as 'Blended Scotch' to the four corners of the globe. However in recent years the increased demand for quality Single Malt Scotch Whisky has prompted many of these often obscure distilleries to release greater amounts of their own unadulterated product to the retail market.
Here are four to try out. If you are lucky to see any one of these at your local liquor store, buy it.
On the eastern shoreline of Islay, and owned by Diageo, this distillery (‘Kull-Ela)’ has traditionally supplied its malt whisky for Johnny Walker and other blends but releases limited quantities of several 'single malt' versions. The classic twelve year is light, soft yet provides a generous amount of smokey peat.
A little south of the Speyside town of Elgin sits this distillery dating back to 1893, and founded by the legendary John Duff. A 'single malt' supplier to its owner Chivas Regal (Pernod Group) it occasionally releases a core 16 yr. old expression that is complex and spicy, with fruit, caramel, nut, and some tobacco notes.
A mile or so away from Longmorn and also founded by John Duff, this distillery is currently owned by the USA company Brown Forman Group (think Jack Daniels). Historically a producer of malt whisky for blending, it has recently put a growing emphasis on its single malts, including the classic ‘Original Ten’. A light, laid back, slightly sweet whisky with orchard fruits, honey, and a touch of smoke. (One of my earliest favorites)
Situated a little south of Glenlivet, this ‘modern’ (1966) distillery produces mostly malt whisky for the Whyte and Mackay whisky blends. However, it does release several single malts such as the Double Cask version, a smooth and gentle sherry cask finish version as well as some other more exotic wood finishes.