Today, we are going to talk about scotch and explain the types of scotch whisky you can find out there. An important distinction of scotch is its geographical characteristics and ingredients that require it to be made, and in can be nowhere else but Scotland.
Before going into greater detail about the different types of scotch, you may find it interesting to learn about the major ingredients used. Malt whiskey is made from fermented mash, primarily produced from malted grain, typically either barley and in some cases rye. Grain whisky is produced from any other grain used in malt such as corn or wheat. These ingredients are then stored in barrels to sit and ferment typically for a minimum of 3 years with finer blends known to sit around for 100 years!
The five types of scotch whisky explained in this article will give a wider range for understanding and appreciating their intricacy and complexity.
Single Grain Scotch Whisky
Perhaps the most specialized form of scotch, this blend is the product of a single distillery and is made from unmalted barley. Typically these would be corn, maize, water and barley, but many brewers have been known to use even the most unconventional ingredients like rice. The production process is rather tedious and as a result they are often harder to find and expensive. On a supply basis most grain whisky are used for blended scotch leaving only a small amount to be used in single grain Scotch whisky. Distilleries keep production on a continuous process to achieve higher volumes. There are only seven grain distilleries in Scotland who are able to meet these high volume requirements.
Blended Scotch Whisky
The most popularly consumed Scotch worldwide accounting for the majority of Scotch whisky. Blends used typically contain around 80% grain and 20% malt with a range of 15-20 different types of malt. The reason behind blended Scotch whisky’s popularity is due to its customizable and differentiable capabilities. We all have our preferences whether that is Johnny Walker or Peter Dawson, the fact is that there is a truly appreciable art behind their production. Skilled brewers will introduce different grains in their whisky to customize a certain characteristic, while others will try to mix the right blend for a specific ‘bite.’
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Similar to single grain, single malt Scotch whisky is a type of scotch that is made from single distilleries with an emphasis on not having any residue of other whiskies in its copper pot stills. They are named after the area they originate from and are concentrated mostly in Speyside, Highland, Lowland and Islay. These different geographical concentrations account for the differences in taste of malt grains used catering towards more sophisticated consumers. Only malt barley is used without any other grain or fermentable product, and is fermented in pot stills. At the Loch Lomond distillery a specialized “swan neck” is used to give a range of eight unique single highland malt whiskies.
Single Cask Malt
Made from a single cask, with a typical volume of around 200 liters, only 400 bottles can be made from a single cask. Because of the longer time it needs to sit in its cask, bottling quantity may vary due as a result of evaporation referred to as ‘angel’s share.’ Production is extremely meticulous since the concentration cannot be kept consistent by mixing malts from different casks. A specialized method of “single, single” malts do not include water meaning a 50% alcohol content or above. These types of whisky need to be consumed with 2 parts water to avoid alcohol poisoning, on the flip side however this may dilute the taste.
Pure malt is a type of malt whisky from different distilleries that are combined to form a blended whisky. The name was given to make this blend sound exclusive, although it just means that the bottle contains no grain whisky. Taken into consideration, nearly all Scotch malt are by definition pure malt or 100% malt. However, this blend does not have an effect on the quality or inferiority of the whisky. Skilled brewers are known to masterfully craft together various quantities of malt to produce a distinctive characteristic of Scotch whisky.
We hope that this overview of scotch types gives a clearer understanding of how differentiation exists among different brewers and brand. Being able to discern these fine distinctions will be a valuable asset to your pallet in making the next choice at a restaurant, family setting or personal purchase.