If you’re a fan of fine whisky, you ought to know all about The Whisky Exchange. Widely regarded as the foremost specialist retailer of malt and grain spirit globally, the site leverages 50 years worth of acumen—and liquid—accumulated by its iconic founder Sukhinder Singh. To celebrate that half century tenure, he just launched a special series of whiskies spanning five decades. They’re quite impressive, indeed. But we’ll get to them later.
Firstly, we must talk about what his company has declared the best whisky of the year. For just shy of a decade, The Whisky Exchange has called on employees, members and supporters to vote on a liquid they feel triumphs above the rest. The tasting is held blindly before the end of each year. In 2023 the honor was bestowed upon Ledaig 18 Year Old.
The heavily peated scotch from the Isle of Mull is something of a dark horse here in the States, where even ardent whisky enthusiasts have a hard time pronouncing the producer’s name (it sounds like Led-jick). So let’s demystify Ledaig a bit, shall we? The juice is actually squeezed at Tobermory, the island’s only distillery, and the brand consists of just two permanent expressions: the award-winning 18 and a spry 10-year-old variant.
Both are bottled at an exacting 46.3% ABV, but the former possesses a uniquely pleasing sort of dark fruit which tempers a wave of salinity that initially slides across the tongue. It’s this dynamic contrast from front palate to back which undoubtedly won over those discerning voters over at The Whisky Exchange. What wins us over is the fact that you should have no problems finding this expression on American shelves for around $100. That’s not a terribly outsized investment for an 18-year-old malt that a distinguished assembly of drinkers dubbed the best in the world!
And it’s downright pocket change compared to some of the offerings that Singh has unveiled thus far this year through his independent bottling line, Elixir Distillers. In February he teamed up with acclaimed whisky writer Dave Broom and designer Lexi Burgess to introduce the first nine bottlings in an ongoing series inspired by Macbeth. Each whisky is named after specific characters from the Shakespearean tragedy, brandishing bespoke artwork by the legendary Sir Quentin Blake.
Broom, meanwhile, was tasked with ensuring the tasting notes from beach bottle honors and evokes the characteristics of its respective namesake. The elder statesman of Act One, King Duncan, is assigned to a robust 56-year-old Glen Grant malt which is already near-impossible to procure at a mere £10,000.00 per bottle. Thankfully an eminently drinkable—though far lighter—31-year-old grain whisky from the series is available at a relatively modest £299.
As for that aforementioned Sukhinder Singh 50-year compendium, it consists of five whiskies in total, one bottle from each of the five decades since he started working in his family’s former battleship in West London. For the stately sum of £3,750 you’ll receive the following: a 10-year-old Linkwood 2011, a 22-year-old Ardbeg 2000, a Clynelish 1995 vintage bottled at 26 years of age, Caol Ila 1982 bottled at 40 years old, and a 50-year-old blended malt, distilled in 1971.
You can also opt to buy any of them individually. If you’re going to go that route, be advised that the top score most certainly goes to the 40-year Caol Ila; a sensationally subtle masterstroke of the house style, painted in lime zest and leather upon a wax canvas. It’s currently fetching £1,700 per bottle over at The Whisky Exchange, where that precious Ledaig 18 still sits at under £84.95. The wide range in pricing underscores the point that regardless of what you’re willing to shell out for whisky, Singh has stockpiled something sensational just for you.