Since 2016, we have chronicled select developments across single malts (and even blended whiskies) in an annual story series known as September Scotch. We’ve long found that it’s toward the end of this month, with the onset of autumnal reflection, that our preferences begins to reorient around the oaken warmth of certain Speyside whiskies, the spicy sweetness of sherry cask-finished single malts or the complex peat smoke found in expressions from Islay. Thanks to an ever-expanding industry commitment to quality, flavor and finesse, it’s never been a better time to savor single malt scotch whisky. Among the myriad releases thus far this year, and shelf staples like Aberlour A’bunadh, Jura 10 and Mortlach 20, the following ten debuts captured our attention and continue to please our palates.
Laphroaig Càirdeas 2023 White Port & Madeira Casks
Created exclusively for the Friends of Laphroaig community, the limited release Laphroaig Càirdeas 2023 White Port & Madeira Casks ($99) taps into the nuanced flavors of liquid matured in white port and madeira casks. The result is a 52.3% ABV spirit with baking spice notes on the nose that develop into hazelnut and dark chocolate on the palate. As expected from Laphroaig, the scrumptious spirit finishes with a saline peatiness.
The GlenDronach Cask Strength Batch 12
This year’s follow-up to The GlenDronach’s critically acclaimed Cask Strength Batch 11, the appropriately titled Cask Strength Batch 12 ($105) taps into the majesty of sherry cask maturation. The vision of the beloved highland brand’s master blender, Rachel Barrie, Cask Strength Batch 12 pairs liquids slowly aged in Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso sherry casks. Weighing in at a mighty 58.2% ABV, the deep bronze sipper noses of mocha and cherries and tastes of tiramisu and orange peel.
The Macallan Colour Collection
This season from CH favorite The Macallan comes not one new liquid but an entire range of age statement releases entitled The Colour Collection designed in collaboration with American graphic designer David Carson. A global travel exclusive, the series incorporates The Macallan Colour Collection 12 Years Old ($80), The Macallan Colour Collection 15 Years Old ($165), The Macallan Colour Collection 18 Years Old ($350), The Macallan Colour Collection 21 Years Old ($1,100) and The Macallan Colour Collection 30 Years Old ($4,455). As the collection’s name implies, it has been released by The Macallan to highlight the range of natural tones that arise in sherry oak cask maturation. Color deepens with age—and flavor follows suit. Thought collectors may dream of the higher age statements, the delectable 12 Years is simply superb, as well.
Benriach The Sixteen
Another noteworthy release from master blender Rachel Barrie, Benriach The Sixteen ($115) benefits from sixteen years of maturation—in a combination of bourbon, sherry and virgin oak barrels. At 43% ABV, the layered Speyside liquid noses of ginger, honey and almonds, but tastes of stone fruit, apples and candied peel.
The Balvenie Stories Range: A Revelation of Cask and Character
A new limited edition expression from The Balvenie, the magnificent A Revelation of Cask and Character ($504) has been aged for 19 years entirely in Oloroso Sherry casks. Also higher proof, at 47.5% ABV, the latest entry into the coveted Stories Range provides a bouquet of aromas—commencing with cherry and raisin and yielding to fig and chocolate.
Bowmore Single Malt Scotch Whisky Ultimate Rare Collection
Another headline-making range release, the Bowmore Single Malt Scotch Whisky Ultimate Rare Collection debuted this summer with the Bowmore 1969 50 Year Old ($42,000), Bowmore 40 Year Old ($9,000) and Bowmore 30 Year Old ($2,650). A pinnacle product for the most elite enthusiasts, The Bowmore 1969 50 Year Old is limited to 339 bottles worldwide; matured in ex-bourbon barrels and hogsheads, it bundles floral, citric and sweet notes and measures a hearty 46.9% ABV.
Ardbeg Anthology: The Harpy’s Tale
The inaugural release in Ardbeg’s new Anthology Collection of experimental single malts, the Ardbeg Anthology: The Harpy’s Tale ($165) is a luscious, sweet and smoky spirit born from a marriage of liquids aged in ex-bourbon and Sauternes wine casks. Bearing a 13-year age statement, the complex whisky noses of herbs and citrus and first tastes of apricots and oak—flavors that soon yield to smokier notes.
Glenmorangie A Tale of Tokyo
The latest limited edition expression from the pioneering single malt producer Glenmorangie, A Tale of Tokyo ($110) has been aged in rare Mizunara oak casks sourced from Japan by the luxury brand’s director of whisky creation, Dr Bill Lumsden. At 46% ABV, it noses of toffee and cedar; on the palate, sweet oak and orange zest are complemented by coconut and cherry.
Aberfeldy 18 Year Old Limited Edition
The brand new Aberfeldy 18 Year Old Limited Edition ($130) (a follow-up to an award-winning 18 Year Old release from 2021) finds the famed Speyside single malt finished in ex-Cabernet Sauvignon wine casks from the Napa Valley. This process softens the whisky’s spice, complements its smoothness and deepens aromas of red berry, green apple, and honey. It measures a considered 43% ABV.
Diageo’s Prima & Ultima Collection Fourth Edition
A fourth edition of Diageo’s extremely rare Prima & Ultima Collection is limited to only 413 full sets ($44,000). The liquids within were hand-selected by Diageo’s master blender, Dr Emma Walker, for their exceptional merit and the list alone is enough to require reflection. The fourth edition features the oldest whisky ever to be bottled by Talisker Distillery, a Talisker 46-Year-Old, as well as an experimental single malt from Clynelish, a 1997 Lagavulin and the debut of Oban Distillery to the collection, with its last casks from 1996. It’s as elevated a collection as possible, with a price to match.