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A Sucker for a Single Malt

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Jun 26, 2007 6:00PM

2007_06_Murray.jpgThere was a time when a perfect night out for Chicagoist consisted of last call at the Green Mill, a cigar, and a dram of good single malt scotch. We don't get to the Green Mill as near as we'd like - because we don't stay out until sunrise anymore - and we stopped smoking cigars years ago. Thankfully, we can still enjoy a good single malt without the other two.

There's a single malt scotch for every taste. Some of us love the "peat monsters" of Islay. Others prefer the more subtle flavors found in Highland malts or the spicy beasts of the Island single malts. If it's elegance you're looking for in a single malt, a Speyside malt usually does the trick. Then there are those of us blasphemers who often disregard Scotland altogether and look to the Land of the Rising Sun for a complex single malt. Yup, you don't have to stick to Scotland to find a good single malt. Single malt scotches are produced all over the world.

Of course, we have our favorites, which we've listed after the jump.

Isle of Jura 16-Year-Old Island Single Malt: Island malts usually fall under a subcategory of Highland malts. They're often known for their bright spice and hints of citrus and honey. Isle of Jura's 16-year-old single malt benefits from aging. The 10 and 12-year-old versions of this Island malt will set your mouth on fire. The spice on the 16-year-old version is refined, palatable, and intended for slow sipping, possibly over a cognac dipped cigarillo.

Old Pulteney 17-Year-Old: One of the worst-kept secrets about single malt distilling is that sometimes caramel is added to give the scotch a darker appearance. This is largely due to the fact that the barrels the distilleries are using come from bourbon, sherry, and cognac distilleries. After a couple of go-rounds, the scotch has absorbed all the color that it can from the wood. Old Pulteney 17-year-old single malt, another Highland malt, has a straw color, which indicates that most fo the color is coming from the malt. Old Pulteney has a thick flavor reminiscent of honey. this is a very upfront malt on the palate. It's probably one of our favorite summer single malts.

Yamazaki 18-Year-Old Single Malt: The Japanese have been making quality single malt scotch for over eighty years. Suntory's Yamazaki single malts are aged in three different types of oak - American, Spanish, and Japanese. each lends a different quality to the scotch. Yamazaki 18-year-old single malt has a prominent toffee flavor, with a hint of butterscotch and black cherry, along with a spice that casual scotch fans might mistake for peat. The dry finish of this scotch makes for an ideal apéritif.

Glenrothes Select Reserve: If you want a classic Speyside single malt, you cannot go wrong with Glenrothes. Their Select Reserve line is rich in vanilla, orange, and dark plum flavors. It's almost a dessert in itself.

"Lost in Translation" photo via