When one goes to purchase scotch, it is imperative that they not only know what scotch is but the different kinds of scotch out there. These different kinds can determine the price of each bottle, flavor, and overall finish – which are highly significant. Scotch labeling is heavily regulated in Scotland; therefore, if a bottle is labeled as a particular type, it is done so in accordance with UK regulations.
The Types of Scotch Whiskey Under the 2009 Regulations
The Scotch Whiskey Regulations of 2009 dictate the five distinct categories of Scotch Whiskey. These groups must appear on the bottle along with a description to be in compliance with the regulations.
- Single Malt Scotch Whiskey
Single malt scotch whiskey is the most popular and highly sought after type. It also can cost several hundred to several thousand per bottle for some rare and vintage varieties.
To be a single malt, it must be distilled at one distillery using one source of water and malted barley. There are no additional grains added, and the batch is distilled in a pot still. To be a single malt, it must be made in Scotland, per the regulations.
Some examples of single malt scotch whiskey include Glenkinchie 1991 Distillers Edition, Highland Park 18 Year Old, Cragganmore, Glenmorangie, Highland Park, and Macallan.
- Single Grain Scotch Whiskey
A single grain is also made from a single water source and malted barley; however, it may include other malted or unmalted cereals. This does not comply with the definition of single malt; therefore, it must be listed as a single grain.
- Blended Scotch Whiskey
A traditional blended scotch whiskey is one that combines a single malt with one or more single grain varieties. Blended scotch is the most popular in the United States, and it is one of Scotland’s most popular selling spirits.
Some examples of classic blended scotch whiskey include Johnnie Walker Blue Label, Famous Grouse Blended, Haig Gold Label, Grant’s Family Reserve, Teacher’s Highland Cream, Whyte and Mackay Special Blend, and Caskstrength and Carry On.
- Blended Malt Scotch Whiskey
The blended malt is just as the name implies; it takes a blend of single malts that have been distilled at more than one location and are then blended together.
- Blended Grain Scotch Whiskey
The blended grain variety includes whiskeys that have been distilled at multiple distilleries and include various grains.
What are the Different Types of Single Malt Scotch Out There?
Single malt scotch whiskey is the most popular type out there. Most of the single malts in the world come from Scotland, but they are also produced elsewhere, including France, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan and more.
Some single malt scotches rate better than others. In fact, Gayot created a list of their top 10 single malt scotches on the market, which includes:
- Aberlour A’Bunadh Cask Strength Single Malt Whiskey
- AnCnoc Cutter Highland Single Malt Scotch Whiskey
- The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Old Scotch Whiskey
- Bowmore 25 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whiskey
- Bunnahabhain 25 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whiskey
- The Glenlivet Nadurra Peated Single Malt
- Jura 30 Year Old Camas an Staca Single Malt
- The Macallan Cask Strength Single Malt
- Old Pulteney Navigator Single Malt
- Speyburn Arranta Casks Single Malt
Understanding Single Malt versus Blended Whiskey
It is confusing to figure out what a blended whiskey and single malt truly are because some single malt whiskeys are blends. There is a common misconception that a single malt is not mixed, but a single malt is, in fact, a blend. However, it is very particular.
A blended whiskey, in the legal sense, consists of a mixture of two or more whiskeys that are bottled and sold as one.
The single malt comes from a single distillery but can include several batches or barrels in the single malt. For example, at Lagavulin Distillery, their single malt contains whiskeys from several barrels made at the same location at the same time.
A single barrel scotch, on the other hand, is the product of just one barrel. It is not mixed with another barrel, and this is a highly unique product. Single-barrel releases are very inconsistent, and each batch takes on the unique characteristics of the cask. These are rare, and often very expensive to purchase.