All about Malts

Single Malt Scotch Whisky


Single malt Scotch whisky is so called because it consists strictly of malt whiskies from a single distillery. These must not contain any whiskies from other distilleries and it must be distilled in copper pot stills.


Single malts are produced in many areas of Scotland. Perhaps the best known (and the area with the highest concentration) is Speyside. Malt whiskies tend to be classified by there area of origin. There are five distinct areas, namely Speyside, Highland, Lowland, Campbeltown and Islay, but it is not true to say that all whiskies from one area are the same, they may share certain characteristics, but no more than that.

It is worth noting that only about 5% of the today’s malt whisky is bottled. The rest goes into blends.


In malt whisky distilling only malted barley may be used. Distillers may not use any other grains or fermentable products. Malt whiskies are produced in pot stills. The pot stills used here at the Loch Lomond Distillery are quite unusual. Four of these have rectifying heads and two have traditional “swan necks”. This range of stills allows us to produce a total of eight different single highland malt whiskies.


Single Cask Malt

A single cask malt is one which is a bottling from a single cask. Since most of the American Bourbon casks that are used are 200 litres, and by the time the angels have taken their share, this means that not much more than 400 bottles will be available from each cask (depending on the age and type of cask used).


The angel’s share is what evaporates during the maturation stage so it will be dependent on the time in storage.


While single cask malts are very exclusive their consistency cannot be controlled by mixing the malts from different cask so don’t always expect them to taste the same as other whiskies from the same distillery. Some of these “single, single” malts are also bottled at cask strength, with no water at all being added. This means that they often have 50% alcohol content or more, with some being as high as 60%. Most distillers would recommend that whisky be consumed at approximately 28 to 30%, typically 3 parts whisky to 2 parts water. This allows all of the flavours (some of which are dissolved in the alcohol) to be fully appreciated.


Pure Malt


Pure malt whisky or vatted malt is a blend of malt whiskies from different distilleries. The term “Pure Malt” was coined to suggest exclusivity but it really just means that the bottle contains no grain whiskies. Clearly all Scotch malt whiskies are by definition pure malts or 100% Scotch malts. This is not to say that pure malts are inferior. Once again the master blender can marry together a number of malts in various quantities to produce a distinctive whisky with its own character and traits.