Quarter Century Scotches

by Jack Croxford-Scott
24 Mar 2021

Looking to expand your collection or simply try something new? Then these are the 25 Year Old Single Malts to look out for this year.

When we think of whisky, we think of scotch. More specifically, we think of single malts. Unbeknownst to most however, single malts were, until just a few decades ago, a relative obscurity in the whisky business. In the main, brands dispatched their casks to blending houses where spirit from potentially dozens of distilleries would be married with grain whisky to create the leading blended scotches of the day.

For blenders, consistency is everything. Blended scotches are a masterful assemblage of whiskies sourced from a closed list of distilleries, each chosen for their particular flavor profile, or spirit character. Each component whisky must work with the next and each one must deliver exactly what the blender wants it to. An off batch won’t cut it; blends have to taste the same — bottle to bottle, year to year.

Nowadays, though, drinkers seek anything but consistency. They want to know exactly where things come from, how they’re made, and why. They want a story. And that's where single malts come into their own. Each hails from a distillery that does things their own way. Each pair of copper stills is bespoke with hand-hammered dents and pipes angled precisely to achieve a certain style of spirit. Likewise, no two oak casks are the same, each imparting its own aromas and colors to the whisky resting within it.

And bottling that spirit as a single malt — unadulterated by spirit from other distilleries as with a blend — means that the whisky has nowhere to hide. The quality and character has to be there, even more so if you are aging the spirit for decades. Empty the cask too early and you may deprive the spirit of reaching its ‘peak’, the point at which it has extracted maximum flavor from the wood. Leave it too long and the nuances of the liquid are lost and overpowered by the cask. Purely in the interests of maintaining high standards, then, we thought we’d revisit three of our choice 25 Year Old Single Malts that get that balance just right.


Balblair 25

If you conjure up an image of an old distillery, it would probably look just like Balblair. Stone built, dunnage warehouses with earthen floors are overlooked by a towering brick chimney and traditional pagoda roof that tops the old kiln, which would have dried the barley on site in days past.

Here, a rich and weighty style of whisky is produced. Long fermentations in wooden vessels impart the ‘wash’ — a beer-like liquid produced by introducing the sugary waters extracted from the barley — with fruity, flavorful notes.

That profile is certainly discernible in the 25 Year Old, the result of a classic ‘double maturation’ in ex-bourbon casks and then refill sherry casks. The latter imparts that archetypal sherried spiciness, but those notes don’t dominate; those American oak, ex-bourbon casks keep them in check and ensure this is a stunningly well balanced dram.

Available at at $960


Old Pulteney 25

It's no hard task to find a scotch distillery that hails the sea as the elemental force that defines their whisky. Indeed, many smother their branding with images of crashing waves and lay tenuous claims to coastal tales.

Pulteney Distillery, however, commits no such offence. Stood in the old herring fishing town of Wick on the north-eastern Scottish coast, Pulteney’s identity is inextricably linked with that of the sea and the fortunes of the local men who fished her. In Victorian times, Wick grew from a sleepy town to Europe's largest herring port. By the mid 19th century, well over a thousand boats anchored there, cramming its harbor walls with barrels full of herring destined for export. Dozens of taverns opened shop, serving the fishermen with raw, high proof spirit from Pulteney Distillery. They took flagons of it out to sea at nights, no doubt to take the edge off the cutting coastal winds.

The distillery’s single malt — which carries the ‘Old Pulteney’ moniker — is thus very much a whisky of place and one rightly proud of its past. And still today, its porous oak casks breath in a sea-spray salinity from winds blown into Wick Bay, imparting the spirit with a taste that is honest to the town and its story.

But their whisky is not one dimensional by any means. Their 25 Year Old is case in point; it carries that salty note, but marries it with much deeper and richer flavors. The people of Wick may no longer fish herring, but thankfully, they still make the whisky.

Available at for $690


Mortlach 25 - Gordon & MacPhail

A quirk of the Scotch trade is that some of the best whiskies are not sold by the distilleries that crafted them. Independent bottlers, often family owned whisky merchants, scour the length of Scotland to source spirits directly from distilleries, which they mature themselves in casks that they match with the particular character of each distillery’s house style. Then, only when they deem the whisky ready for bottling do they do so under their own name.

Gordon & MacPhail is one such bottler. Four generations of the same family have curated relationships with cult favorite distilleries, which only very rarely sell their stock to others in the trade. Mortlach Distillery is one of them. This Speyside distillery is revered for its rich flavor profile and weightier, almost meatier style of spirit.  The latter results from Mortlach’s idiosyncratic distillation process; six entirely different stills are used, as are traditional condensers which retain heavier flavor compounds in the spirit.

This expression from Gordon & MacPhail’s Distillery Label series is proof that Mortlach’s house style is only accentuated with age; a quarter century of maturation in first fill and refill sherry casks is to thank for classic sherried notes of chocolate and raisins.

Available at for $350