I recently remembered that earlier this year some new definitions took effect as to the types of Scotch, but since I couldn’t remember them, I thought I’d re-read the regulations and summarize them here. It’s actually not that complicated — there are only five types of Scotch:
- Single Malt Scotch Whisky
(i.e., Single Malt)
- Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
- Single Grain Scotch Whisky
(i.e., Single Grain)
- Blended Grain Scotch Whisky
- Blended Scotch Whisky
There are also older terms that are now specifically banned, like “Pure Malt” but I don’t want to focus on the past at this time. The terms above break down into two categories:
- Whisky made in Scotland from only barley, specifically malted barley
- This combination of ingredients can only be used to make either Single Malt Scotch Whisky or Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
- Whisky made in Scotland from any cereal grain (including un-malted barley!) added to malted barley
- This combination of ingredients results in whisky that must be labelled either Single Grain Scotch Whisky, Blended Grain Scotch Whisky or Blended Scotch Whisky (according to whether the product meets those definitions)
The vast majority of distilleries in Scotland make Single Malt. A relatively small number of distilleries produce grain whisky, which is rarely sold separately as Single Grain. More often than not, grain whisky is blended with malt whisky to make Blended Scotch Whisky.
The Bottom Line
That’s it, kiddies: There are just five types of Scotch. Generally, the ones in bold are the ones that you’ll encounter at your local liquor store.
Terminology: Single vs. Blended
- “Single” means “product of a single distillery.”
- “Blended” means “product of multiple distilleries.”
More Terminology: All Scotch Whisky is Malt Whisky
Thanks to Oliver Klimek, I have to note that all Scotch Whisky is malt whisky. The regulations define Scotch Whisky as follows:
3.—(1) In these Regulations “Scotch Whisky” means a whisky produced in Scotland—
(a) that has been distilled at a distillery in Scotland from water and malted barley (to which only whole grains of other cereals may be added) all of which have been—
(i) processed at that distillery into a mash;
(ii) converted at that distillery into a fermentable substrate only by endogenous enzyme systems; and
(iii) fermented at that distillery only by the addition of yeast;
So to summarize, all “Scotch Whisky” is:
- Produced in Scotland
- Comprised of water and malted barley and yeast
- And possibly other cereal grains…
After defining “Scotch Whisky,” the regulations go on to define the classifications above. Thus, even Single Grain Scotch Whisky and Blended Grain Scotch Whisky, being Scotch Whisky, must include malted barley. They don’t state a minimum requirement, but since those are both Scotch Whisky, they *must* contain malted barley.
You learn something new every day:Thanks, Oliver!!!