One of the most popular and admired liquors in the world is the Single Malt Scotch Whisky. A Single Malt Whisky is conceived in the beautiful Scotland (Legally, the term ‘Scotch’ is granted only to the whisky originating in Scotland), where it is born by the process of distillation and then carefully nurtured into maturation in oak barrels and casks for the least of three years and a day.
'Malt' indicates that the whisky is distilled from a ‘malted’ barley. There are several types of grains which can be malted (for example, barley, rye and wheat); however, in the case of single malt Scotch, barley is the only grain used. ‘Single’ indicates that all the spirits in the bottle come from a single distillery. Bottlings containing malt whisky from multiple distilleries are called 'blended malt'.
To be rightfully called the prideful Single Malt Scotch, the whisky has to be distilled at in a single distillery using a copper pot still distillation process, and made from a mash of malted barley, yeast and water. Such is the alchemy through which this liquid gold is created. The oak barrel gives the finishing touch and lends about 60% of the final flavor.
All Single Malt Whisky go through a standard and similar batch production process. Adding water to promote germination, malting, drying in the kiln, fermentation, distillation, dilution before aging, and maturation in oak casks.
Single Malt Scotch has a lengthy history. Distillation of whisky has been done in Scotland for centuries. The earliest written record of whisky production in Scotland from malted barley is an entry on the 1494 Exchequer Rolls, which reads "Eight bolls of malt to Friar John Cor, by order of the King, wherewith to make aqua vitae." Aqua Vitae being ‘water of life’ from medieval Latin.
In 1823, the government of Scotland passed the Excise Act which made commercial distillation possible and profitable (while also punishing illegal distilleries), before which the production of Whisky was heavily taxed. Under the new law, George Smith was the first person to take out a license for a distillery, which led him to found the Glenlivet Distillery in 1824.
There are different factors like flavour, aroma, and finish which differ from one Single Malt to the next. Single Malt Scotch Whiskies are categorized into the following:
Highland single malts are the largest region in Scotland, both in area and in the production of Whisky. Here are some of the Highland distilleries – Aberfeldy, Glen Rod, Edradour, Dalmore, Balblair, and Ben Nevis, to name a few.
The single malt whisky which are produced on the islands around the Scottish mainland perimeter. These islands (excluding Islay) are not recognized as a distinct whisky producing region in the Scotch Whisky Regulations, as a distinct whisky producing region, however they are considered to be part of the Highland region.
These are single malt Scotch whiskies which are produced in Strathspey, the area around the River Spey in Moray; and Badenoch and Strathspey, in northeastern Scotland. The Glenlivet and Glenfidditch, two of the best-selling single malt whiskies in the world, come from Speyside. Speyside also has the greatest number of distilleries of any of the whisky-producing areas of Scotland.
The Scotch whisky made on Islay, one of the southernmost of the Inner Hebridean Islands located off the west coast of Scotland. Considered to be a centre of ‘whisky tourism’, Islay hosts a festival called Fèis Ìle, meaning a ‘Festival of Malt and Music’ annually on the last week of May, celebrating their cultural heritage with events and tastings.
Some other regions like the Lowlands (The southernmost region of Scotland) and Campbeltown currently have five and three distilleries, respectively, which still remain in operation.
Among the Indian Single Malt Whisky Brands, Paul John, which is a single malt and single cask whisky manufactured by John Distilleries (John Distilleries is based in Bangalore, but its single malt distillery resides in Goa). It was launched on 4 October 2012 in London, England. It is made from Indian malted barley and, for some variants, imported Scottish peat, distilled in traditional copper pot stills and then matured in Charred American Oak Casks. Paul John Single Malt Whisky was first launched in the year 2012 in the United Kingdom and then later across European countries including France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Poland & Belgium and Scandinavian country.
In India, Paul John Single Malt Whisky was successfully launched initially in Goa in the year 2013 followed by the launch in Bangalore in the year 2015. And now it is available in many major Indian cities as well like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Pune, Chandigarh, Hyderabad, Daman, and more.