Special-Release Malt Whiskies

The Classic Malts of Scotland distillers' collection


Next » 1 of 8
Special-Release Malt Whiskies The Classic Malts of Scotland are a small group of distillers who banded together in 1988 to jointly market their single malt whiskies. The six distilleries included in the collection represent a range of styles, each coming from a unique Scotch-producing region, though the creation of a distinction between Dalwhinnie (Highland) and Oban (West Highland) may seem dubious to Scotch purists.

The raison d’être for the Classic Malts of Scotland collection is to offer consumers a selection of whiskies that represent the range of typicity they can expect from Scotland; an easy-to-understand primer of Scotch whisky. While regional styles do play a role in the style of whisky each distiller produces, there is much more than terroir to every dram. In fact, each distiller has a legacy to protect and a direction they want to take their brands in. The distillers' collection, released each year, is designed to highlight those efforts and represents the height of each distiller’s art.

Mentioned in this article


  • Hi Gregory,
    Thanks for filling us in on these distillers' editions, As a long term collector and man who sports more than 70 single malts i's always interesting hearing about new releases. I especially look forward to trying the Lagavulin. However, as a whisky enthusiast I rebel at your initial picture of a whisky (presumably a blend as no self respecting journalist could ever murder a single malt in such a way) being poured over ice. In addition as anyone in the business should know, whisky is the Scottish variety, WHISKEY is the Irish.

    Dec 17, 2010 at 12:04 AM

  • Yep, would echo David's comments - single malt over ice is a crime, since it completely kills the flavour. I usually add half as much water as there is whisky, since that's the balance I like but there are many who would say even that drowns the whisky. A third as much water as whisky is what I've been told by distillery managers. If you're going to add ice or (heaven forbid) cola to a whisky, buy a decent blend: you'll get just as pleasurable a drink but for much less of your hard earned bucks.

    As the username probably gives away, I am a Scot so claim a little expertise in this area! And yes, it's "whisky" if it's Scottish or Japanese but "whiskey" if it's from virtually anywhere else. It's a bit of a false distinction but then there's bourbon and there's Tennessee malt mash, which is just as ridiculous. It's booze, who says it has to make sense?

    Dec 17, 2010 at 4:14 AM

  • David - just a warning - Lagavulin is VERY peaty

    Dec 17, 2010 at 5:22 AM

  • Snooth User: celticman
    591549 24

    Laugavulin is also VEY nice. I've tried a few and its my favourite. For something different try Penderyn- the only Welsh single malt and its a whisky, no e. Wales made a lot of whisky in the 1800's but the temperence movement shut it all down. I usually drink my malts neat.

    Dec 17, 2010 at 9:01 AM

  • Snooth User: keltraine
    442883 6

    Neat, and almost always cask-strength (when I can get it, which is ~90% of the time). Not a Scot, but a card-carrying member (literally) of the LA Scotch Club; check us out at http://www.lascotchclub.com as I think we are usually dramming the good stuff! Ordering from TWE for example... ;)

    Oh, and even with the cask-strength ones, I never water them down, maybe a drop or two of water to open it up once in a while...

    Dec 17, 2010 at 9:10 AM

  • Snooth User: JAK471
    657596 7

    It is nice to see recommendations and a collection that goes from the very light and delicate to the very peaty. I too shudder at the thought of adding anything that would take away from the very flavour you should be enjoying, and have a special bottle for those visitors who wish to "mix' it with anything. I am partial to The Macallan myself.

    Dec 17, 2010 at 9:14 AM

  • Snooth User: celticman
    591549 24

    As Edward Heath said- if someone asks for a malt and a mixer give em the cheapest stuff you have- they won't know the diff. And oh Yes Penderyn is extra strengh and comes in peaty and non peaty (there's plenty of peat in Brecon!)

    Dec 17, 2010 at 10:08 AM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    You guys would have been horrified by what was proposed for the recipe in the email. I'll just say it included amaretto!

    I hear what you're all saying but I still like an ice cube in my single malt. It seems to me that both wine and spirits at room temperature here in the states are always too damn hot. A well placed ice cube help set things right, and quick consumption helps alleviate any excessive dilution.

    Thanks for the comments though, they are appreciated!

    David, did you find a whiskey in the article? I looked through and didn't find the mis-spellling.

    Dec 17, 2010 at 10:32 AM

  • Snooth User: jasondma
    548560 13

    I agree with adding 1 cube, usually a small one, and as it melts i don't see how it is different than adding 1/3 water. Maybe my pours are a bit tall :)

    Dec 17, 2010 at 1:26 PM

  • Actually its pretty prominent, see the tags! Further there is a mix of the plural (being pedantic) the plural of scottish whisky is whiskies, and the plural of American and Irish is whiskeys.
    For the record I drink my single malts neat or with a very small amount of warm water, Cask strength editions perhaps deserve a little more to release their volatiles to the nose. Any other spirit gets ice, we have this in common Gregory, but NEVER whisky.

    Dec 17, 2010 at 3:19 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    Yes the tags are fixed but added to the article after I'm done. Not sure if we can fix that but I will try. The plurals I can go in and edit.

    I see you left me an out. I can put ice in my Whiskey then!

    Dec 17, 2010 at 3:37 PM

  • Snooth User: keltraine
    442883 6

    Well just be aware that adding ICE, or even chilling the whisk[e]y is not the same as adding water (cutting). As aforementioned, unless you're only ever drinking cask-strength (which I try to do), you *are* drinking watered-down whisky!

    Though if you're going to water it down, you really want to add neutral water like distilled water if you can get it, so as to not alter the subtle balance of the spirit...unless you're hard-core enough to go the appropriate spring in Scotland and bottle the water appropriate for each distillery and ship it back with you and then keep it around for when you need it... :P But distilled water works fine if you're not doing that.

    But I digress from my main point which is that adding ice or chilling the whisky does change it's essential flavor profile by freezing some of the essential oils/esters/phenols, etc and masking those flavors. There's a bit of chemistry involved, but note that it's the same reason that non or unchill-filtered whiskeys are preferred...

    I can cite some pretty serious studies/articles if anyone is interested; let me know! ;)


    Dec 17, 2010 at 5:21 PM

  • Snooth User: Jaymanice
    477684 35

    it would by nice to know the prices, I think it will be hard to get in Iceland

    Dec 17, 2010 at 11:05 PM

  • Snooth User: keltraine
    442883 6

    Well you could also try and get something like this:


    Not sure how easy it is to find something like this since it didn't readily pop up, but some more googling might yield some good results...good luck!

    Oh, and you can easily google each bottle for prices and figure out delivery...might be cheaper to order from the UK for you since it should be a lot less to ship to Iceland from there than the States! ;)


    Dec 18, 2010 at 5:36 AM

  • Snooth User: 2feathers
    394037 2

    Great discussion. I'll make a few points on what I have read.

    (1) it is also whisky in Canada.

    (2) These malts are a little more expensive than the regular expressions. When we could buy them where I live they ran about 15-20% more than the regular expressions of the single malt in question.

    (3) The comment about ice adversely affecting flavour is something I have read elsewhere and for precisely the reasons stated in this discussion.

    (4) With respect to the original article it should be noted that while these distilleries look and produce spirit like small rural industries they are all owned by one of the world's largest, if not the largest, liquor corporation - Diageo.

    Enjoy your dram.

    PS If you really want to sip in luxury there is a company here in Nova Scotia that makes crystal single malt glasses in a number of patterns. The handcrafted glasses were carefully designed with input from seasoned consumers and are a delight to behold and use.

    You can find them at


    Dec 18, 2010 at 7:59 AM

  • Snooth User: slice
    376804 1

    This looks like a great selection to try. I have tried a quite a few singles, I am partial to Balvanie 21 and Bunnahabhain 18. Can anyone tell be about Cragganmore?

    Dec 18, 2010 at 1:30 PM

  • Snooth User: pman119
    682635 1

    Which single also depends on the season; but no ice, a splash of water to open the flavor and a heavy crystal glass make for a good experience.


    Dec 18, 2010 at 2:52 PM

  • Snooth User: keltraine
    442883 6

    2feathers, excellent link-I had no idea about the crystal glasses, and might just have to pick myself up a pair, along with the mini water thimble. Thank you for that!

    For those that don't want to drop the coin on crystal, the Glencairn glass is pretty much the "official" whisky glass nowadays (any tasting by anyone worth their salt uses these and they're a damn sight better than the normal rocks glasses/tumblers): http://www.glencairn.co.uk/glass/

    They work pretty great, and I've picked up a bunch for friends when I pour them any of my scotch, and we use them exclusively for all club tastings.

    These are the ones that the LA Scotch Club originally recommended (I got 2) and they're also great: http://www.celticmalts.com/ (site seems to be temporarily down to). A bit taller, but more tulip shaped with the flared lip, they are harder to transport and store, which is why we just use the Glencairn for tastings, etc, though they're great at home.

    What's interesting is that the NovaScotian Crystal glasses seem be a marriage of the two (the NS has a flared lip like the Celtic Malts glass, but the NS is shorter and has a wider base like the Glencairn!). Very cool...


    Dec 18, 2010 at 5:33 PM

  • Snooth User: Katonah
    254709 1

    Gregory, you asked David where whisky was misspelled. In the synopsis of Glenkinchie, the last sentence has whisky spelled as whiskey.

    Dec 19, 2010 at 6:16 PM

  • Snooth User: 2feathers
    394037 2


    The glencairn glass is my "go to" glass whenever I don't want to risk breaking the crystal pieces. Novascotiancrystal has five or six patterns - I have a fairly traditional one named Margaree after a famous salmon fishing river in out part of the world.


    I have a bottle of Bunnahabhain 18 and I agree that it is an excellent dram. Anything that Balvenie produces is delightful - I have only sampled the 21 once but it was grand. We used to be able to get Balvenie 10 - I think it was labelled Founder's Reserve - and I always recommended it to those trying single malts for the first time - good value and not overly demanding of those acquiring the taste.

    I would always recommend Highland Park at any age but their 18 is as good as it gets. One noted whisky writer has named it the best single malt. I also like Glenfarclas; I have had several expressions but the 21 is my favourite. Their 105 Cask Strength is certain to separate the men from the boys! It might warrant a little more than a drop of water.

    Dec 20, 2010 at 4:31 PM

  • Snooth User: keltraine
    442883 6

    2 feathers, fwiw my recs from the Scotch 101 article on this site at http://www.thespir.it/articles/scot...

    Some great, easy to get scotches:

    Aberlour A'bunadh (already mentioned here many times; batches 20/24 and especially good-every 4 yrs seem like a hit!)
    Glenfarclas 105 (one of my faves)
    Macallan Cask Strength (only one worth the $$ and it's not expensive at all)
    Lagavulin 16
    Laphroaig Quarter Cask (getting hard to find)
    Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist (aka "The Beast!)

    Some rarer but awesome stuff; usually have to order it from the UK from TWE (The Whiskey Exchange)
    Classic of Islay series (Ar1/2, Lp1, Ci1, Lg1, Br1, Pe1-3)
    Scott's Selection Longmorn-Glenlivet 33yr 1971-2004 (not many left)
    Single Malts of Scotland Caol Ila 24yr 1984/2008

    Just some examples that folks at the LA Scotch Club like at http://www.lascotchclub.com

    You'll notice my rec for the 105; and I usually like it as straight as it's poured from the bottle, but that's just me! ;)'

    Dec 21, 2010 at 5:41 AM

  • Snooth User: Bellmont
    574406 5

    This is all well and good, but to introduce the Classic Malts as "a small group of distillers" is more than poetic licence. They are owned by Diageo, the largest drinks company in the world. At least they were the last time I checked...

    Dec 21, 2010 at 3:55 PM

  • Anyone for a dram or two of Ardbeg Super Nova II? I'm just starting on my whisky appreciation and would like to try the Islay malts as this is a fascinating location - any other recommendations?

    Jan 05, 2011 at 11:32 PM

Add a Comment

Search Articles

Best Wine Deals

See More Deals

Snooth Media Network