Single malt whiskey is usually a spirit produced by a single distillery, with a single malted grain, typically barley. While single malts are most popular among Scotch whiskey, they can technically be produced pretty much anywhere across the globe.
In the world of whisky, the term “single malt whiskey” can get a little confusing, specifically because of the word “single.” The word doesn’t mean that the whiskey in the bottle was from a single barrel or even batch. Instead, most single malt whiskeys are blended in one way or another.
In fact, single malt scotch is pretty much always a blend of some sort. An excellent example of this is the world-famous Glenvilet 18-year-old single malt scotch, which is a mix of different whiskeys that have aged in various barrels for at least 18 years. Despite all that, they were still made at The Glenlivet Distillery and distilled from malted barley.
That’s where the magic happens. You see, blending is exactly how the distillers can produce a consistent taste in their whiskey year after year. If you were to try one today, there is a very high chance it’s almost identical to the one you had a few years ago.
If the whiskey was indeed relying on a single barrel, or a batch, the overall profile of the spirit would change from time to time, leaving consumers both guessing and disappointed. While some whiskey products still come from a single barrel or batch, those are usually reserved for limited edition or special collection series that only get released in small quantities.
It’s worth mentioning that there is plenty of confusion when it comes to distinguishing single malt and blended whisky. Despite the fact that a single malt whiskey is technically a blend, there is a distinct difference between the two. Blended whiskey spirits can come from various facilities and be made from multiple grains. However, the most significant factor is the number of distilleries who played a role in shaping the whiskey profile.
The word “Malt” on a label essentially completes the definition of single malt whiskey. The grain should be ready for fermentation even before the whiskey distillate even touches a still. What this does is help turn the starches into fermentable sugars that will soon become alcohol.
Malted whiskey starts its life the same way beer does. The raw barley grains are soaked in water to start the germination process and later heated up to stop them from sprouting completely. That’s how they are malted. The only difference is that the whiskey is distilled, so the alcohol content is higher.
A signature move of Scotch single malts is the smoky profile of the spirits, which is acquired due to the use of peated malt. Most producers around the world opt-in for roasted or kiln dried malt instead.
Speaking of the world, Scotland is the biggest and best known producer of single malt whiskey and will likely remain at the top for a very long time. Next up, we have Japanese and American single malts, which are both quite impressive. Lastly, we have a lot of smaller distilleries all across the globe, in Canada, France, Germany, India and even Taiwan.
If you are just getting into whiskey, trying different kinds, blends and distilleries is a must. Remember, prestige pays a huge role, as well as the location. While scotch whisky is usually considered the best, they are often a lot more expensive than their American or Irish counterparts. So try different things and find the ones you like the most. If you are looking to buy single malt whiskey in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, check out our collection and prices in store or online!