Single MaltScotch Whisky
Malt whisky is the ‘original’ whisky of Scotland. Although other grains were used, barley was grown specifically for making beer and whisky. However, with the success of blended whisky in the late 19th century, little was drunk as single malt outside the Highlands until the 1980s, when ‘the vintages of the North’ were rediscovered by an enthusiastic public and began to be made available by distillery owners.
Currently there are around 90 operating malt whisky distilleries in Scotland – it is difficult to be precise, since sometimes distilleries go out of production for periods, in order to balance stock levels. Single malts from a further 30-odd now closed distilleries may still be found.
Although made from very simple materials – malted barley, water and yeast – the make of each distillery has an individual character, owing to a variety of factors, such as the length of fermentation time, the style and size of the stills, and how they are operated, the type of condensers used and amount of spirit saved (called ‘the cut’).
By law, Scotch (both malt and grain whiskies) must be matured in oak casks in Scotland, and the casks themselves can make a huge contribution to the flavour of the finished product, according to a) how long the whisky has been left to mature, b) how often the individual cask has been used to mature Scotch and c) whether the cask is made from European oak or American oak. This makes it difficult to identify the mature products of individual distilleries.
Since at least the 1880s, blenders have identified different styles of whisky coming from different parts of Scotland. The original division, dating from the 1780s, was between ‘Lowland’ whisky and ‘Highland’ whisky. Then the whiskies made in Campbeltown and Islay were discerned to be different, and the whiskies of Speyside were added to the list.
With the dramatic growth of interest in single malt whiskies since the 1980s, the ‘Highland’ region has been sub-divided into Northern, Western, Eastern, Southern and Islands.
In truth, regional differences in the style and flavour of malt whiskies has more to do with tradition (how a malt is made in one place or another) than terroir, and although it is not possible to make a malt with identical character to another in a different distillery, it is possible to imitate a regional style out-with the region in question.
Did you know?
- more than one billion bottles of Scotch are exported every year, with France the biggest market
- the first reference to Scotch whisky was in 1495
- the first single malt to be marketed outside Scotland was by Glenfiddich in 1963
Typical Character and Style of Single Malt
- Dried Fruit
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Black Friday 2022
(£135.64 per litre)
Imperial 199626 Year Old The Whisky Show 2022
(£535.71 per litre)
Personalised Highland Special Reserve Single MaltSherry Cask
(£85.64 per litre)
Caol Ila 20139 Year Old The Whisky Show 2022
(£99.93 per litre)
Edradour 201210 Year Old Cask #403 Signatory
(£83.21 per litre)
Linkwood 15 Year OldG&M Distillery Label
(£99.93 per litre)
Glen Elgin 200812 Year Old The Whisky Exchange
(£91.36 per litre)
Personalised 10 Year Old Islay Scotch Whisky
(£114.21 per litre)
Linkwood 200616 Year Old The Whisky Show 2022
(£125.64 per litre)
Ledaig 200615 Year Old Sherry Cask The Whisky Show 2022
(£284.29 per litre)
Caol Ila 20147 Year Old The Whisky Exchange
(£89.93 per litre)
Glenlivet 200616 Year Old Signatory
(£151.43 per litre)
Caol Ila 13 Year OldSmoky G&M Discovery Range
(£68.50 per litre)
Cask IslaySmall Batch
(£47.07 per litre)
A Speyside Whisky 200120 Year Old Sherry Cask The Whisky Show 2021
(£192.86 per litre)
Port Askaig 100° Proof
(£73.93 per litre)
Caol Ila 201011 Year Old Sherry Cask The Whisky Exchange Exclusive
(£171.43 per litre)
Mortlach 200715 Year Old Signatory
(£191.43 per litre)
Bunnahabhain Staoisha 20147 Year Old Signatory
(£59.64 per litre)
Teaninich 2007Bot.2022 Berry Bros & Rudd Christmas Edition
(£142.79 per litre)
(£41.36 per litre)
Finlaggan Cask Strength Islay Malt
(£72.50 per litre)
Smokehead High Voltage
(£82.79 per litre)
Mortlach 200714 Year Old First Editions
(£118.21 per litre)
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