Words by: Simon Difford
The term ‘Single Malt Scotch’ refers to a whisky that fulfils all three elements of the term:
SINGLE – the whisky must be from only one distillery.
MALT – the raw material used must be malted barley and no other grain or fermentable material may be used.
SCOTCH – the whisky must be distilled and matured in Scotland.
In addition to the above, to be termed a single malt scotch whisky:
1. The natural enzymes within the barley must also be the only enzymes used. No enzymes are permitted to be added to aid fermentation.
2. Distillation must be in a copper pot still.
3. The distillate (known as 'new make spirit') must be aged a minimum of three years in an oak cask with a capacity no larger than 700 litres.
4. The only ingredients permitted are malted barley, water and yeast with spirit caramel used in small quantities for colour correction the only permitted additive.
Surprisingly perhaps, there is no specified minimum or maximum still size. The maximum strength the distillate comes off the still is also not specified.
How Single Malt Scotch Whisky is made...
Scotch Whisky Regions ...
This new make (unaged spirit straight from the stills) is the first release from the new Kingsbarns distillery. Bready with spirituous white pepper and delicate orchard fruit with faint saltiness. Pear skin emerges with water.
An independent bottling of Aberfeldy, hogshead matured, this release of 379 bottles was bottled in 2014. Honeysuckle and red apple with light cinnamon and clove. More fruity with water. And indeed waxy snuffed candle.
A heavily sherried 1988 vintage bottling of Bunnahabhain by independent bottler Wemyss. Sherry butt matured, this non chill-filtered release of 442 bottles was bottled in 2014. Blackened fruit cake, sherry and struck match with mocha coffee. Faint orange zest with water.
Launched in June 2016 and resplendent with new contemporary packaging, this whisky’s premium positioning affirmed by the intertwined letters of the Grant family monogram, ‘J’ ‘R’ and ‘G’ proudly mounted just below the bottles shoulder. Pear, apple, cut grass, toasty brazil nuts, biscuit and creamy vanilla. Water amplifies green apple and pear drops.
Released in June 2016, Tobermory 42 year old is made and aged on the Isle of Mull for 42 years before bottling at cask strength without chill-filtration or added colouring. Targeted at global travel retail, only 650 bottles were made, each presented in a bespoke presentation box featuring an… Intense sultana, burnt fruit cake and sherry with black cherry, liquorice and soot. Water amplifies cherry and sherry.
This new sherry cask finished addition to the Glen Moray Classic range was released in June 2016. Creamy toffee fudge, dried fruit, vanilla and mild cinnamon with faint coal dust, dried apricot and almond paste.
A release of 5,922 bottles in May 2016, this blended malt comprises 48.2% Clynelish malt aged in first fill American oak, 36.7% Glentauchers malt aged in first fill American oak, 10.8% Balblair malt aged in first fill American oak, and 4.3% Mortlack malt aged in rejuvenated American oak barrels. Green apple skin and ripe pear with creamy fruitcake, pear drops, dried strawberry and mild black pepper. Water harmonises, amplifying mild pencil shavings.
Released in March 2016 to celebrate Lagavulin Distillery’s 200th anniversary. The choice of an eight-year old whisky was inspired by whisky writer Alfred Barnard, who after visiting Lagavulin in the 1880s described an eight-year old whisky he’d sampled during his visit as “exceptionally fine”. Bonfire smoke, antiseptic soaked bandage and cracked black pepper with faint green apple. More smoked antiseptic bandage with water.
Set to launch on Ardbeg Day, 28th May 2016, Ardbeg Dark Cove is a blend of Ardbeg matured in sherry casks and ex-bourbon casks. Earthy coal dust, smoky bacon, oak and liquorice with light pepper spice and faint vanilla fudge. Water reveals powerful creosote.
This long awaited elderly distillery bottling from Craigellachie was released in April 2016. Crème anglaise, leather, toasty oak, tobacco leaf, roasted brasil nuts and spice (cinnamon and nutmeg). More buttery, pasty and vanilla with water.
A non-chill filtered bottling of peaty Islay malt by independent bottlers Speciality Drinks. (We must disclose that the shareholders of Speciality Drinks also have a minority interest in Difford’s Guide.) Earthy smoky peat, fresh ripe pear, pear drops, barley water and zesty lemon with faint salty seaweed. Pear drops and mouldering charcoal with water.
Released in January 2016, this no-age-statement speyside malt is matured in three types of cask: hogsheads, oloroso sherry seasoned casks and ex-bourbon barrels. Pungent and fruity. Red apple, banoffee pie, cream-of-soda vanilla, caramelised pears, fragrant peach and spiced toasty oak with cracked black pepper spice. More biscuity/bready, Creamy cream-of-soda with water.