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10 Hidden Scottish Single Malt Whisky Gems

Updated: Mar 5

Where's Waldo hidden whisky single malt gems

Image by The Whisky Ardvark

With more than 130 distilleries in Scotland, choosing your next whisky adventure can be daunting. While everyone knows about the classics like Glenfiddich, Glenmorangie, and Macallan, there are many lesser-known single malts that are worth exploring. We have handpicked 10 such hidden gems that you might want to try out, and who knows, you might even discover your new favourite.

We have come across many lists that claim to recommend "hidden great whiskies" but to our surprise, they often feature well-known brands. There's nothing wrong with that, but if they are supposed to be hidden, they shouldn't be in plain sight. Therefore, we have created our list, which offers a fresh perspective.

Our team has several years of experience in high-end whisky retail shops, and the hidden gems that we have picked are based on our personal experience of tasting and recommending great drams to our customers. Many of our customers have returned to us for more of these lesser-known whiskies.

So, let's take a look at our list.


1. Dailuaine

This exceptional Speyside distillery remains hidden from the public for good reason. It has only been bottled by independent bottlers and its owner, Diageo, as part of their Flora & Fauna series. Although Diageo has done a couple of limited releases, the 16-year-old Dailuaine has been a consistent favourite among the releases.

Dailuaine distillery 16 year old single malt flora and fauna

Image by The Whisky Ardvark

Diageo's Flora & Fauna series is a great way to sample whiskies from their lesser-known distilleries, which are usually used for blending. The Dailuaine single malt is one of the highlights of the series, thanks to its sherry cask ageing that gives it a rich flavour profile with notes of dark chocolate and dried fruits. A truly delightful experience!


2. Blair Athol

Blair Athol is a whisky bottling from the Flora & Fauna series that is definitely worth trying. While some limited releases are available from independent bottlers, the Blair Athol 12-year-old is a good starting point. This whisky has a rich malt flavour, sherry cask influence, and hints of biscuits and dried apricot. If you're a fan of this style of whisky, Blair Athol is definitely a great choice for you.

Blair Athol single malt whisky distillery

Image by The Whisky Ardvark


3. Kilchoman

Kilchoman, established in 2005, is the eighth distillery in Islay, and the first to remain operational since 1881. They specialize in producing excellent peated whiskies, which are typically around seven years old. Kilchoman is often credited with reviving the popularity of young peated whiskies. The Wills family, who are friendly and welcoming, own and founded the distillery and have no plans of leaving anytime soon. They are also planning to build a rum distillery in Barbados in the near future.

Kilchoman single malt whisky distillery

Image by Kilchoman/ The Whisky Ardvark

We have enjoyed Machir Bay's malt, smoke, fudge, and vanilla notes for years. It's a winner.


4. Ballechin

Edradour, which used to be the smallest distillery in Scotland, is famous for its whisky that is aged in sherry casks and not peated. However, many people are unaware that the distillery also produces a heavily peated variation of its whisky called Ballechin. Ballechin is made using sweet Highland peat and is an excellent option for those who enjoy smoky whiskies and want to explore new flavours.

Edradour single malt whisky distillery

Image by Moulin Hotel

The Ballechin 10-year-old whisky has gained a reputation for its rounded character, which includes notes of green apples, smoke, and figs.


5. Inchmoan

Loch Lomond, a rising star in the world of Scottish whisky, has significantly improved its game in the past few years. The distillery's unique approach to making different types of whiskies under one roof has resulted in the introduction of four distinct whiskies to the market: Loch Lomond, which is malty and rich; Loch Lomond Single Grain, which is lighter and fruitier; Inchmurrin, which is biscuity; and Inchmoan, their heavily peated Highland malt. Although we were inclined towards picking Inchmurrin, given our preference for peated whiskies, we ultimately decided to go with Inchmoan.

Loch Lomond whisky distillery

Image by The Whisky Ardvark


6. Imperial

The Imperial distillery was located in a compound which was acquired by Pernod Ricard in 2005. In 2013, the decision was made to demolish the distillery and make way for a new one called Dalmunach. The new distillery was opened in 2015.

Since the closure of the Imperial distillery, it has become famous for its fruity taste and many of its bottlings are in high demand, selling out quickly. Despite being a closed distillery, Imperial Single Malt is still relatively affordable. However, there aren't many barrels left in the world. Therefore, if you are interested in tasting history, we recommend getting a bottle to share with friends. We have never regretted any expressions we have tasted and purchased so far.

It is important to note that Imperial Single Malt is not the same as Imperial Scottish Blend, which is also owned by Pernod Ricard. Since there are no official bottlings of Imperial, most of them are done by independent bottlers such as Gordon & McPhail and Signatory.

Closed Imperial single malt whisky distillery Scotland


7. Knockando

Knockando is a whisky that often goes unnoticed on the shop shelves, despite being a great option for those who love malty and rich whiskies. Hailing from Speyside, it is often overshadowed by its more popular neighbours, such as Cardhu and Glenfarclas.

Unfortunately, Diageo, the owner of Knockando, has been focusing on promoting its other 27 single malt distilleries, leaving Knockando without any major advertising investment, which is why it is not as well-known as it should be.

If you're a fan of malty and rich whiskies, we highly recommend trying Knockando. Their 18-year-old expressions (released with vintages) are particularly enjoyable, with notes of dried fruit, cinnamon, and nutmeg. It is definitely worth a try, and it's reasonably priced too.

Knockando single malt whisky distillery

Image by The Whisky Ardvark


8. Aultmore

Aultmore is a Speyside whisky that has gained a following without much fanfare. It has a lighter style and is crispier, full of fresh fruit and vanilla. The 25-year-old version is one of our favourites, but it can cost a couple hundred pounds. It's like heaven on earth!

Aultmore single malt whisky distillery

Image by The Whisky Ardvark


9. Ledaig

The Isle of Mull has only one distillery - Tobermory. However, it produces two different types of whisky. Their Tobermory whisky has a fresh and briny taste, while their heavily peated Ledaig is the real treat. Over the years, we have seen several fantastic indie bottlings of Ledaig, including heavily sherried expressions. Nonetheless, their 10-year-old official bottling always wins us over.

Many people believe that all heavily peated whiskies come from Islay. However, as we have shown in this list, other regions also produce smoky whiskies. If you want to explore peated whiskies, Ledaig is the perfect dram to move away from the well-known Islay distilleries and embark on a new adventure.

Tobermory single malt whisky distillery Ledaig whisky

Image by The Whisky Ardvark


10. Kilkerran

Finding a distillery called Kilkerran on the map might be difficult, but that's because the distillery is actually named Glengyle. It is situated in Campbeltown, and managed by their neighbours Springbank. The original Glengyle distillery operated from 1872 to 1925, but in 2004, it was reconstructed and given a new lease of life.

A few years ago, Glengyle released their Kilkerran 12yo, which turned out to be an excellent addition to the world of Scottish whisky. It has a subtle amount of smoke, combined with fresh fruits and butterscotch, and is reasonably priced. If you're a fan of whiskies with a subtle sea influence, Kilkerran 12yo is definitely worth trying.

Due to the small production sizes, like Springbank, the whisky may be hard to find year-round, but this only adds to its appeal.

Glengyle whisky distillery Kilkerran single malt

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Bonus: Nc'nean

We wanted to add a new whisky distillery to our list, as we believe that Nc'nean Distillery has great potential based on the quality of its releases.

Annabel Thomas founded the distillery in 2017 on the Morvern peninsula. Nc'nean produces an organic and light whisky with a core expression that is well-made, featuring fruity notes of peaches and lemon. Unlike many other distilleries, Nc'nean does not try to mask the young spirit with too much sherry or smoke, which sets it apart. It is definitely worth a try, and we can only imagine how the promising Nc'nean will continue to mature and develop further complexity over time.

Nc'Nean single malt whisky distillery

Image by Forbes/ The Whisky Ardvark


Have you tried any of the whiskies mentioned above? Let us know by leaving a comment below or by using the hashtag #whiskyardvark #thewhiskyardvark

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