What Is Single Malt Scotch Whisky – Discover the amazing Infos!

Before we start to answer the question “What is single malt scotch whisky?”, we have to take on the definition of Scotch Whisky. Every whisky produced in Scottland is called Scotch Whisky.

That means that only scotch whisky is allowed to be produced in Scotland and it is forbidden to blend or mature whiskies other than the Scotch Whisky. So all kinds of Scotch Whiskies from Scottland are pure Scottish.

Definition of the Scotch Whisky

Single Malt Scotch Whisky Regions
The only regions recognized by the Scotch Whisky Association are Campbeltown, Highland, Islay, Lowland, and Speyside


Single malt scotch whisky is produced in one of the five main whisky regions in Scotland with each one having its own characteristics.

The Scotch Whisky Association had set up the “The Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009” (SWR) that came into force on 23 November 2009. In this document they describe the regulations for the production of Scotch Whisky:

  • Must be produced at a
    distillery in Scotland from water and malted barley (to which only whole
    grains of other cereals may be added) all of which have been:

    • Processed at that distillery into a mash
    • Converted at that distillery to a fermentable substrate only by endogenous enzyme systems
    • Fermented at that distillery only by adding yeast
    • Distilled at an alcoholic strength by volume of less than 94.8%
    • Wholly
      matured in an excise warehouse in Scotland in oak casks of a capacity
      not exceeding 700 liters for at least three
  • Scotch whisky must retain the color, aroma, and taste of the raw materials used in, and the method of, its production and maturation.
  • It may not contain any added substances, aside from water and plain (E150A) caramel coloring.
  • It must comprise a minimum alcoholic strength by volume of 40% (80 US proof).

Different categories of Scotch Whisky

There are several categories and subcategories of Scotch Whisky. There are two basic types of Scotch Whisky. Those are the Single Malt Scotch Whisky and the Single Grain Scotch Whisky. All blends are made of those two basic types.

What Is Single Malt Scotch Whisky - Categories of Scotch Whisky
  • Single Malt Scotch Whisky
    is a Scotch Whisky produced from only water and malted barley at a single distillery by batch distillation in pot stills.
  • Single Grain Scotch Whisky
    is a Scotch Whisky distilled at a single distillery but which, in addition to water and malted barley, may also be produced from whole grains of other malted or unmalted cereals.
  • Blended Scotch Whisky
    is a combination of one or more Single Malt Scotch Whiskies with one or more Single Grain Scotch Whiskies, which accords with traditional practice.
  • Blended Grain Scotch Whisky
    is a blend of two or more Single Malt Scotch Whiskies from different distilleries.
  • Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
    is a blend of two or more Single Malt Scotch Whiskies from different distilleries.

What is Single Malt Scotch Whisky?

At first, it has to be from Scotland.  See the definition of Scotch whisky. A single malt whisky must essentially fulfill two conditions. And these two conditions are derived from the name of the single malt.
: The single in the name derives from the fact that the bottled whisky may only come from a single distillery, but not necessarily from a single cask. Bottlings from a single cask are called Single Cask.
: The malt stands for the fact that only malted barley may be used as grain for the production. However, since the barley used has little influence on the taste of the whisky, it does not have to come from the immediate vicinity of the distillery.

Single Malt as a quality designation

The term single malt is usually used as a quality feature of whisky. The use of casks from only one distillery and the strict production processes are intended to achieve a particularly high quality of the whisky. After all, the taste and character of the distillery is much more evident in single malt whiskies than in blended whiskies.

Unlike blends, just whisky from one distillery is included and no grain whisky may be added. Therefore Single Malts are more distinctive and individual in taste than the often relatively straight blended whiskies. In addition to this, Single Malt Whiskys have a particularly long storage time. For whisky, a statutory storage period of at least three years is generally prescribed. Single Malt Whiskys, on the other hand, are often stored for ten years or even significantly longer in oak casks before they are finally bottled.

Special finish for an intense taste

For the storage of single malt whisky, often used American oak casks from the production of Bourbon whisky are used. For American Bourbon Whiskey only fresh, burnt-out casks are allowed for storage. So that the barrels are not simply thrown away, the barrels are sold to Scotland. For Scotch Whisky, the use of already used casks is also permitted.

Big advantage: By storing the Bourbon, the strong oak wood aromas are already somewhat degraded, which would make the Scotch much too strong over the long storage time in the cask. In addition, the cask also passes on characteristics of the previously stored Bourbon to the Scotch Whisky, thus extending the range of flavors.

However, casks in which sherry, rum, port or wine were previously-stored are also popular. The whisky continues to mature during the long storage period and can also absorb a variety of aromas from the wood, develop and gain character. Find out more on the production of whisky here: How to make whisky

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