Scotch whisky derives its reputation from centuries of tradition and refined practice. Many of its brands carry a reputation for excellence that is sought by discerning drinkers the world over.
Novice consumers of Scotch may face confusion over the terms “single malt,” single grain,” and “blended.” Each of these terms reflects a different process undertaken by the distiller in crafting the final product to be sent to market. Consumers themselves can discuss and determine whether they prefer single malt versus blended whisky or single grain varieties.
What Do All Scotch Whiskies Have In Common
All Scotch whiskies use barley as their chief grain. Most use a malting process, steeping the grain in water until it germinates. Another defining attribute of Scotch whisky lies in the grains’ drying process. Scotch whiskies smoke the grains with locally-sourced peat.
What Is Single Malt
Single malt whisky sets the highest standard for Scotch whiskies, and usually commands the highest price. The term may mislead many newer consumers of Scotch, however.
Single malt refers to whisky produced using malted grains from a single source, usually barley. Whisky bearing the single malt description must also come from the same distillery facility.
It does not, however, need to come from the same batch. Distilleries often combine whiskies from different barrels at different stages in the ageing process, to produce their desired flavour. Single malt Scotch has an intense and raw flavor that appeals to many, but not everyone.
What Is Single Grain
Single grain whiskies often get confused with single malt varieties. The similarity lies in the term "single", which, again, refers to the fact that the whisky was distilled at one location. The "grain" component creates confusion, however. Despite what the term would seem to indicate, single grain whiskies include spirits derived from one of a number grains, including wheat, corn, or rye.
Additionally, the distilling processes use different equipment. Single malt whisky comes from traditional pot stills, while single grain is crafted in column shaped stills, such as those used for vodka and other spirits. Pot stills are used to create a single batch and develop a stronger flavoured product. Single grain varieties of Scotch appeal to those who love Scotch, but in a less powerful form than single malt.
What Is Blended Whisky?
This represents the most common form of Scotch whisky sold worldwide. Blended Scotch whisky can come from multiple distilleries, but must by law include one single malt and one single grain Scotch as significant ingredients Blended spirits also encompasses two sub categories of blended single malt and blended single grain varieties. These combine exclusively single malt or exclusively single grain whiskies from multiple distilleries.
Blended Scotch whiskies are crafted to appeal to a broader range of consumers, and generally come at a lower cost, both of which contribute to their dominance of the global market.
Drinking Scotch whisky provides a true taste of distilling tradition from one of the spirit’s original source countries. These whiskies serve as great complements to food or to socialising with close friends or family.