Ask anyone where they think of when whisky is mentioned, and Scotland is the answer. Maybe not the only answer in 2020, however, Scotland and whisky are inseparable. The same as France and fine wine. No other whiskies in the world dominate cultural consciousness quite like Scottish ones. Specifically, single malts.
This isn’t to say a Scotch single malt will always win a blindfold taste test or that other global single malts can’t be fantastic (they certainly can). This is simply a reflection of a longstanding, proven quality, and an unparalleled national brand.
Single malt Scotch whisky prices soaring
In the last few years single malt Scotch whisky prices have increased dramatically. 2018 was an exceptional year, which saw the overall value rise by 40%. This list of the 50 most expensive whiskies in the world, shows most of them to be Scottish. Rare Scottish single malts are extremely sought after.
In 2019 a bottle of 1926 Macallan with a label designed by Irish artist Michael Dillon fetched a record £1.2 million at Christie’s in London. Whiskies from other countries don’t come close in terms of what people are willing to pay.
But why is Scotch single malt so popular?
Single malt isn’t exclusive, but Scotch is
Ireland, England, America, Canada, Japan, Taiwan, Sweden, Spain, Tasmania, India; single malt whiskies of exceptional finesse can be found all over the globe. What single malt really refers to is whether a whisky originates at one distillery and is made using barley (as opposed to grain whiskies). So, in this sense single malt whisky isn’t special.
Scotch single malt whisky on the other hand (no surprises) is something that can only be made in Scotland and has a protected Geographical Indicator (GI) status. It must also be distilled and matured in a certain way. Therefore, for a whisky enthusiast to get the taste of Scotch, it must come from Scotland.
It is this exclusivity, amongst other things, which makes Scottish single malts so desirable.
A distillation environment unique to Scotland
If Scottish single malt whisky were not a protected product, distilleries in other countries could use the same processes and call their whiskies Scotch or Scotch style. There’s no doubt many would taste wonderful. However, would they be authentic replications of the most renowned whiskies on earth? Not at all.
Although there may be replicable distillation processes, the water, geology, and climate of Scotland are unique. There is only one Scotland after all. Each distillery is unique also, owing to the diversity of the landscape within Scotland. Therefore, a wee dram of spicy Macallan, from the Speyside region north east of the Cairngorm Mountains, will taste like itself and nothing else. Likewise, so will a smoky Lagavulin from Islay.
When it comes to Scottish single malts taste and authenticity go hand in hand. It is not possible to achieve the same results outside of Scotland. To imitate Scotch whisky, would not only be illegal, it would deprive the taste buds of a distinctly Scottish experience. This experience is the bedrock of what makes it so special.
Scottish whisky romanticism is unbeatable
Another way Scottish single malts differ from other quality whiskies is the romanticism they evoke. Whilst purists say it’s all in the taste, it isn’t.
An unbranded, generic whisky may taste fine—yet it will not conjure any emotions for the drinker. A premium Scottish single malt, conversely, comes with a deep history and personal geographical stamp. Drinking it will present images of landscape, people, place, and culture. These are one with flavour, elevating the drinking experience to a moment of sublimity.
For a long time, Scotland has been tantamount to the success of Scottish whisky. The Scottish distilleries, over the years, have imbued a vivid sense of place into each bottle. So much so that it is impossible to think of Scotland without whisky and vice versa. When people drink Scottish single malt, the visions they enjoy are more powerful than with other whiskies.
Savouring a Scotch whisky beside a crackling fire, in the frozen heart of winter; thinking of the rise and fall of Scottish mountains; of a lonely stag cresting a bluff and of wind stirring the molten fire of a sunset loch. Scottish whisky is the heart and soul of Scotland—it is perhaps this allegorical significance which has secured its famousness, over and above all others.
Whisky at Kilcamb Lodge
Our luxurious loch side hotel on the wild Ardnamurchan Peninsula is the perfect setting to sample the finest Scottish single malts. Relax for a while with a glass of amber and immerse yourself in the poetic beauty of the Highlands. It’s the right way to do Scotland.