The Classic Malts campaign was launched by United Distillers, now known as Diageo, in 1988 to promote their range of single malt whiskies. At the time, blended whiskies were more popular than single malts, and United Distillers aimed to raise awareness of the distinct flavors and character of their single malts.
The campaign focused on the following six classic malts of Scotland:
TALISKER 10 Years Old (Islands Region) - 45.8% ABV
Talisker 10 reflects the rugged and wild landscape of the Isle of Skye with its bold and robust flavor, characterized by a strong smoky, peaty, and maritime taste. This is a good choice for those who enjoy a strong, peaty whisky with a spicy kick.
OBAN 14 Years Old (West Highland Region) - 43% ABV
With its rich and complex aroma, OBAN 14 is a well-balanced whisky with a mix of sweet, smoky, and salty flavors. The light touch of smoke in OBAN 14 makes it a great starting point for anyone interested in exploring smokier malts.
GLENKINCHIE 10 Years Old (Lowlands Region) - 43% ABV
Glenkinchie 10 is a light and delicate whisky with a subtle mix of flavors. It's a good example of the style of whisky produced in the Lowland region, known for its light, floral character. This is a good choice for those who enjoy a milder, less peaty whisky.
DALWHINNIE 15 Years Old (Highland Region) - 43% ABV
Dalwhinnie 15 is a delicate and well-balanced whisky with a mix of sweet, floral, and spicy flavors. The distillery, located on the border of the Highland and Speyside regions, reflects characters from both regions, but it is still considered a Highland whisky. This is an excellent choice for beginners and those who appreciate delicate but yet a complex whisky.
LAGAVULIN 16 Years Old (Islay Region) - 43% ABV
Lagavulin 16 is a bold and powerful whisky with a deep, dry, and exceptionally peaty character, making it an ideal representative of the Islay region. The whisky has a lot of fanatical followers and is a good choice for those who enjoy a full-bodied, smoky whisky with a complex mix of flavors.
CRAGGANMORE 12 Years Old (Speyside Region) - 40% ABV
Cragganmore 12 is a smooth and elegant whisky with a balanced mix of fruity, spicy, and floral flavors. It's a good example of the style of whisky produced in the Speyside region, known for its lighter, fruitier character. This is a good choice for those who enjoy a polite, smooth, and pleasant whisky.
Before the 1980s, single malt whisky was only a curiosity outside of Scotland. However, the Classic Malts Campaign and continued promotion by Glenfiddich, Glen Grant, Glenlivet, The Macallan, and Glenmorangie have helped increase awareness of single malt whisky globally. This has encouraged all other distilleries to promote their single malts.
With the exception of Glenkinchie 10, which has been discontinued and replaced with a 12 year old expression, all six of these classic malts, including Glenkinchie 12, are widely available in the US and priced between USD 65 and USD 100 at most stores.