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What Is Single Malt Whisky? Answered (2022 Updated)

Last Updated on October 30, 2022 by Lydia Martin

“What is single malt whisky?” is a common question we always encounter in the whisky world.

Whisky terms can sometimes be confusing, especially if you are new to the whisky industry. Don’t worry because we’ve got your back. 

In this post, we will discuss the meaning of single malt whisky and some interesting facts about it. Read on. 

Understanding Single Malt Whisky 

man holding glass of whisky

Single malt is a type of liquor produced by a single distillery using one type of malted grain.

The most famous single malt is the single malt Scotch whisky, but there are other single malts worldwide. 

Single malt producers can be found in Japan, Canada, Ireland, America, and other countries worldwide. It costs more than a typical whisky because single malt signifies the essence of a distillery. 

It is usually made from malted barley or other types of grains. The “single” terminology pertains to how many distilleries should be involved in whisky production.

Single malt whiskies are aged for at least three years, and their alcohol content ranges from 40-65%.

Read: Popular Single Malt Whiskies Below $100 

Interesting Facts 

How It’s Made

Single malt is made like other whiskies. However, it should be made using one malted grain by one distillery. 

The grains are fermented with yeast to produce alcohol. It is then distilled using pot stills, aged in an old or new oak barrel, and blended. It can come from a single barrel or different barrels with varying ages as long as it is made by one distillery.   

One of the misconceptions about it is that it is not blended. However, it can be blended or come from a single barrel as long as it is made by a similar distillery and uses the same grain (malted).   

Main Ingredients

sack of malt grains

Single malt whiskies are made from one type of grain (malted). Malted barley is usually the main ingredient in making outstanding single malts.

It should not be combined with unmalted barley or other grains and should be made by one distillery. 

If a bottle of whisky contains malt whiskies produced by different distilleries, it should not be considered a single malt. 

When a malt and grain whiskies are combined, it should be legally called a blended whisky (vatted malt). Blended whiskies are made by multiple distilleries using different grains.    

Alcohol Content

Single malts are bottled at 80 proof or 40% alcohol by volume or higher. Some distilleries made single malt whiskies under 50% or 100 proof, though a few reached up to 130 proof (65%). American single malt should be bottled with not less than 80 proof [1]. 

What Does Single Malt Whisky Taste Like? 

old man smelling whisky

Generally, it tastes oaky, malty, and woody, with rich notes of vanilla, caramel, nut, and fruit.

Single malts amplify and mellow the flavor profile to make it superiorly smooth. 

Single malt scotch whisky is smoky and tastes better than blended malt scotch whisky.

Blended Scotch like Chivas Regal and Johnnie Walker tastes good, but since single malts came from a single origin, it has a more uniform taste. But how should you drink single malt whisky?

Different Single Malt Whisky Types 

Scottish Single Malt

It is a type of liquor that distillers should make in Scotland only [2]. Aside from the geographical requirement, it should be aged in oak barrels for at least three years by a lone distiller.

The age of the youngest whisky in the blend should reflect on the bottle of the spirit. 

Japanese Single Malt

It is a type of whisky made from barley (malted), and like Scotch, it has its geographic requirement.

Japanese single malts should be made in Japan and should be aged in wooden casks for at least three years by a lone distiller. But how do you drink Japanese whisky like a pro?

Canadian Single Malt Whisky

Canadian single malt whisky should be made using one type of grain (malted) and must be made by a lone distiller. 

In addition to this, to be qualified as Canadian whisky, it should be produced inside Canada.

Unlike bourbon producers, Canadian producers can add caramel and flavoring to their whiskies. 

FAQs 

What is special about single malt whisky?

Single malt is special because it should be made by a single distillery using single grain (malted). The single origin makes the spirit more exclusive, premium, and special.

Distillers can make it in a single batch or single cask as long as it comes from a lone distiller. 

Is single malt whisky better than double malt?

Yes, single malt is better than double malt. It has a unique fruity taste that is softer on the palate and has more flavor advantage over double malt and single grain whiskies. 

Is single malt good for your health?

Yes, single malt is good for your health. Based on a study at Harvard University, moderate consumption of whisky can reduce the risk of heart disease because it contains high antioxidants. 

Final Thoughts

Single malt is a type of whisky made by a single distillery using one type of grain (malted).

It is more expensive than a typical distilled spirit because it is exclusively made by the distiller and not blended with other types of grain. 

References:

  1. https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2022/07/29/2022-16244/proposed-addition-of-american-single-malt-whisky-to-the-standards-of-identity-for-distilled-spirits 
  2. https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1988/22/enacted 

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