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Top 5 Single Malts

A good scotch helps to make any occasion special, and when it comes to the holidays, it takes a very special whiskey to make a very special time of the year even more meaningful. Whether you’re trying to impress the in-laws, sharing a bottle with friends and family, or treating yourself to a bottle of golden amber, I’m here to give you a few suggestions to help make that dire decision a bit more ho-ho-wholesome. Here are The Fearrington House Restaurant’s Top 5 Single Malts for the holiday season. Each of these are available at The Fearrington House bar for your enjoyment — chalk it up to shopping around.

5. Defiant, North Carolinian American Single Malt
Even in the booming craft distillery industry across the States, the folks at Blue Ridge Distilling Co., in Bostic, North Carolina have managed to create a whiskey that stands out and tastes great, free of any gimmicky nonsense. Aged in toasted American white oak, this single malt offers the best of the American southeast in a glassful; notes of golden grain and honey on the nose, with those trailing right behind the caramel and malt on the palette. And at $40 from the store, it’s a decent single malt that won’t break the bank.

4. Lagavulin, 200th Anniversary, Aged 8 Years; Islay Scotch
This young buck comes from the prestigious Lagavulin distillery, and marks the 200th anniversary of its founding by John Johnson in 1816. Younger than any of its predecessors, the oak gives way to the smoke and nuances that would otherwise be overpowered. Black pepper and tobacco enter the stage in this bold scotch, with hints of orange and lemon mingling on the finish. $60 is what you’ll pay for the bottle, which is a steal considering the quality of this scotch and the price tag on its brothers.

3. Oban, Little Bay; Highland Scotch
If you speak Gaelic, you might think this scotch sounds redundant; “Oban” means “little bay” in the ancient language. However, there is nothing redundant about it, and the history behind the distillery and the scotch in each bottle remains incredibly unique. The Little Bay line of scotch is crafted by maturing one batch of the 100% barley whiskey in American oak hogsheads and another in sherry casks, before finally marrying and finishing them in small casks made of new oak. This complex maturation process creates a deep, smooth and rich flavor profile, boasting coffee beans, brown sugar and dried fruit resting on rich oak tannin, topped with a touch of smoke. At roughly $63 a bottle, this is an adventure worth being uncorked and enjoyed.

2. The Macallan, Edition No. 3; Speyside Scotch
The Edition No. 3 is the latest in the Macallan’s annual series of whiskies made using an extra pinch of innovative and exploratory thinking. In a collaborative effort between the Macallan’s Master Whisky Maker Bob Dalgarno and Master Perfumer Roja Dove, the Edition No. 3 was distilled and matured with the combined knowledge of the minds behind one of the most prolific whiskies and a master of sensory interpretation. After the nosing and subsequent tasting of many samples, the end result was a whisky drawn from a combination of European and American oak casks, presenting a sweet, floral, fruity character complementary to the bold base of the Macallan, with light notes of vanilla, citrus and oak. This collector’s prize is $100, and is an excellent addition to the scotch connoisseur’s trophy shelf.

1. Yamazaki, Aged 12 Years; Japanese Single Malt
This flagship whiskey is one of the most prestigious Japanese spirits, and is all too often overlooked by people shopping for single malts because of its country of origin. First marketed in 1984, the Yamazaki was the first widely marketed Japanese single malt whiskey, and today holds several awards from many illustrious organizations, including several gold and double-gold medals. Many people have named this particular single malt their all-time favorite, nodding towards its exceptional quality and agreeability. Coming out of Osaka, Japan, the Yamazaki is uniquely aged in different stages of Spanish, Mizunara, and American ex-bourbon oak barrels. This aging process lends the whiskey a one-of-a-kind character that underlines the inspired expertise of the distillers involved in its creation. Fruit, malt and graham cracker sit on a bed of hay and florality, which all mingle nicely on the palette. At $85 a bottle, it’s a steal for anyone wishing to diversify their collection or enlighten their view on single malt whiskey — if you can find it. Unfortunately, this one is difficult to find on the shelves, so snap it up if you see it. And if you can’t, the bartender at The Fearrington House Restaurant will be glad to show it to you at the bar.

– Watson, Fearrington House Restaurant Bartender