Single malt whisky is the purest expression of Scotch you can get. Malted barley, yeast and water - that’s it! These key ingredients are fermented in copper pot stills and the resultant spirit is then matured in Oak barrels. This batch process is a legal perquisite that has to be adhered to in order for the product to be called a Scotch whisky. The other stipulations are that it must be matured for at least 3 years inside the cask, be bottled at no less than 40% ABV and the distillery that produces it must be in Scotland!
To be classed as single malt, the whisky must be made wholly from malted barley; no other grain is allowed at all. It must also be the product of a single distillery. There are around 100 working distilleries in Scotland, although some may not be in operation for periods of time in order for stock levels to recoup. There used to be at least double this number but, unfortunately, many have closed their doors permanently due to adverse economical conditions and low demand. The majority of these closures occurred around the final years of the Second World War. Single malt expressions from these ‘lost distilleries’ are very desirable to whisky enthusiasts and have a price tag that reflects their increasing rarity.
The popularity of single malt has gone from zero to hero over the course of the last 25 years or so. It’s hard to believe that it was rarely consumed outside of its native borders and accounted for an extremely small percentage of sales, with blended whisky being the most popular style by far. That was until the end of the 80’s when it skyrocketed into the public domain and was recognised as the elegant and sophisticated tipple we all know and love. With the public embracing the authenticity of single malt Scotch, the distilleries responded by upping production. The success story has not faltered once since that time and the popularity of the traditional single malt shows no sign of waning.