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a guide to single malt scotch whisky

What is Single Malt Scotch Whisky?

Single malt Scotch whisky is one of the fastest growing categories not just in the world of whisky, but in the entire booze industry. From discerning drinkers becoming better at knowing how they like their whisky tasting, to collectors forking out exorbitant figures to get their hands on coveted rarities, single malt Scotch whisky, though ancient in its roots, has become a phenomenally successful product in the past decade.

The Scottish have given the world some of the most famous and groundbreaking inventions (roads, canals, the bicycle, the telephone, the US Navy… the entire list is absurdly comprehensive) not to mention Sean Connery, though the invention of whisky is often wrongly attributed to their innovative nation. Whisk(e)y as we know it now was first distilled in Ireland, though it wasn’t long before the Scots got their hands on the recipe and did what they do best (including removing the “e”).

Single malt Scotch whisky is, arguably, the most famous and preferred style of dram in the world of whisky. Though other categories have enjoyed improved market share, the single malt Scotch whisky category is growing exponentially, and is still king of whisky mountain, if you will. Here, we’re going to break down everything there is to know about the elusive spirit.

The difference between a single malt and every other style of whisky is not so vast, yet the final product is celebrated with good reason.

Answer: Single malts are those which have been made entirely from malt (no grain content), and made within the same distillery. Different ages of whisky can be used in the final package, but the youngest whisky is the one that must be displayed on the label (it is not uncommon for, say, a 12-year-old expression to have a small amount of older whiskies added to give colour, richness and texture).

Another big difference that comes with a beautifully aged single malt Scotch whisky is the naturally rich colour. While it can vary between straw, and golden hues to rich woody brown and even ruby red as the light passes through it, single malt whisky seldom displays one colour which is common in blends: yellow.

The yellow colour in many blended whiskies comes from de-flavoured spirit caramel, which is added to some whiskies to give a darker tone and guarantee consistency. With more age and longer time to rest, this is not a necessity in single malt Scotch whisky and is hence not prevalent. This means that the whisky in your glass is as it should be: unadulterated in colour.

Joe Cutcliffe

Joe Cutcliffe

Joe Cutcliffe is a Sydney-based writer and editor with over five years of experience in the digital media industry. Formerly the editor of Man of Many, Joe is an accomplished copywriter and reporter, whose work has been featured in Penthouse.