Single Malt Whisky Primer

If you’re interested in learning the basics of Scotland’s national drink, the whisky, let’s start with this primer on single-malt whiskies. As the most loved whisky type in the land, the single-malt scotch whisky has misconceptions around it, and we’re here to give the facts about this whisky wonder.

Definition of Single-Malt Scotch Whisky

The ‘single’ in ‘single-malt whisky’ can deceive people from the real definition. Some may believe that single-malt whiskies are made from a single barrel; others may think that this type of whisky is made from a single grain or batch of whisky. But let’s set the record straight once and for all: A single-malt whisky is a combination of whiskies from barrels in a single distillery that are made of 100% malted grain. The ‘single’ part is derived from the fact that all the whisky comes from a single distillery.

Going a step further, what’s “Single Malt Scotch Whisky”? In order to be identified as Scotch, a whisky must be distilled, aged and bottled in Scotland. Aging must be for a minimum of 3 years, although most single malt distilleries far surpass this threshold.

Single-malt whiskies can be confused with other types of scotch. Here’s a quick bonus lesson on whisky lingo:

  • Single-Malt Whisky – A scotch that’s made entirely of malted barley originating from the same distillery. The whisky is blended from different casks, but all of the casks are from the same distillery.
  • Single-Grain Whisky – A scotch that uses other grains in addition to or instead of barley. The ‘single’ part of this term refers to the fact that the grain whisky is made in a single distillery. This term can often be confused with single-malt whisky. Both, however, are made in one distillery.
  • Single-Barrel Whisky / Single-Cask Whisky – Whiskies bottled from a single barrel. Each barrel has its own unique flavor and aroma, which makes them appealing in their own way.
  • Blended Malt Whisky – Whisky made from blending two or more single-malt whiskies created in multiple distilleries.
  • Blended Grain Whisky – Whisky mixed with at least two single-grain whiskies that were made in different distilleries.
  • Blended Scotch Whisky – A combination of grain and malt whiskies that were produced in various distilleries.
  • Cask Strength Whisky – A definition given to whisky which has been bottled without dilution. Each of the categories above can be bottled at cask strength.

Fun Facts About Single-Malt Whisky

To give you more information about single-malt whiskies, here’s a handful of fun facts for you to learn more about this famous whisky type:

1. The Glenlivet is officially named the original creator of the popular single-malt scotch.
George Smith, the founder of Glenlivet, formulated a smooth, addicting single-malt whisky that became renowned across Scotland. However, many people copied Glenlivet’s whisky and called it their own. But, after years of legal battle, Glenlivet was able to obtain the rights to their sacred liquor, ultimately giving them the reputation of being the one that started it all.

2. The age of your single-malt whisky may be the minimum age of a barrel of whisky.
A single-malt scotch is a blend of whiskies from barrels in one distillery, and each barrel can vary in age. That means that the number of years placed on the label of the whisky bottle can simply be the youngest whisky used in the blend.

3. Single-malt whiskies are made from a single grain: barley.
During the malting process, which is the typical first step of making scotch, the barley grain grows and multiplies after soaking in water for a few days. It is then milled, fermented, and distilled to create the single-malt scotch whisky that’s in such high demand today.

4. Speyside is the main whisky region that produces single-malt whiskies.
Though small, Speyside, a subdivision of the Highlands region, is responsible for cultivating and supplying more than 60 percent of Scotland’s single-malt whiskies. It’s no wonder, too, since some of the most distinguished single-malt whisky distilleries are established in this region including Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, and Macallan.

Learn more about whisky can help make your whisky experience more enjoyable. The more facts you know about it, the more you’ll be able to appreciate this liquor and distinguish between scotch whiskies produced. Be sure to check out our collection of high-end whiskies from Scotland and add to your own collection!

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