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What is Single Malt Scotch You Ask?

A single-malt scotch is one of the most natural of alcoholic spirits, tempered by their environment more so than any other liquor. By definition, they are a type of single malt whisky, distilled by a single distillery in a pot still, using malted barley as the only grain ingredient, in Scotland. As with any Scotch whisky, a Single-Malt Scotch must be distilled in Scotland and matured in oak casks in Scotland for at least three years (most single malts are matured for longer).

single malt whisky

But this definition does not describe the diverse character of the drink, the startling purity of the ingredients and process, and speaks nothing of the history of the spirit. Those who know single-malts know of the distinctive smokiness, earthiness and medicinal malt of the Islay scotches; or the honeyed sweeter, flowery, fuller taste of the Speyside malts. Understand that these diverse qualities are all born out of the same three ingredients: water, barley, and yeast.

It is the environment and the distilling process that gives each malt it's character. The basic process is this: snow melt in the mountains filters through the rock and bubbles out of a spring; it is used to irrigate the barley, germinate the grain, and provide the base liquid of the whisky. The barley, grown on the warm plains, is grown, then harvested and only the grain is used. The grain is partiallly germinated, called malting.  It is then dried and added to the water in the mash tun. The third ingredient, yeast, is added and allowed to ferment. The liquid is then heated in a pot still and vaporized, the condensate is captured, placed in casks, and allowed to mature. This is whisky at it's most basic level.

The individuality of the whisky comes from the many variables in the process along the way. The malted barley flavor is always present to a degree. The source of the water may influence the character of the whisky, along with the vegetation it flows over or through. During the malting process, a smokiness may be imparted to the grain as it is dried over a peat fire. The yeasts used in fermentation can create spicy, fruity flavors. Characteristics such as richness and weight of the whisky can be influenced by the shape and size of the pot stills. And finally, aromas and flavors come from the cask itself, from the wood, the previous contents, and the air that it breathes. Controlling all of the variables in the process is a true combination of art and science, and the malt-masters of the distilleries are true craftsmen to be able to reproduce the flavor and aroma of the brand continuously.

With over 700 single-malt whiskies in the world, and new ones born every day, there is an incredible journey waiting for you to embark upon. Whether you are a casual explorer, a connoisseur, a collector, or an investor, we hope that you will find the information and resources in this website to be an asset, and a constant companion, in your quest for the single-malts of the world.


So where does one begin?


In the SIP menu, you will find a listing of single-malts by flavor and region, with individual tasting notes.  In WHISKY FEATURED ARTICLES we provide tips on nosing and tasting.  If you plan to travel, check our listing of whisky bars before you leave town.  Whether you follow our featured pairings or choose your own  "Welcome to our world and enjoy"!




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