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Single Malt Scotch

All You Ever Wanted to Know About the Classic Single Malt Scotch

Single malt Scotch can be made only in the country whose obvious name it bears. The flavors coming from the snow-capped mountains, the peaty, heathery moorlands, and briny shores and every sip of Scotch, perfectly well, conjures up the imagery of the whole of Scotland's landscape.
Madhura Panse
Last Updated: Jan 27, 2018
Then let us toast John Barleycorn,
Each man a glass in hand,
And may his great prosperity
Ne'er fail in old, Scotland.
Two things, out of many that, are associated with the crisp air and lush leas of Scotland: Bagpipes and Scotch! The blusterous, windy spells of rains that come in gusty torrents o'er the greens at once brings to mind sitting inside cozily, by a warm fireplace, with a pipe or cigar, and a glass of single malt Scotch.
When it comes to know a bit about this drink, two things are the essentials: the region and the label. This scotch is made out of malted grain, which is usually barley. It was the Irish who invented whisky, and the Scots perfected it further. The name 'whisky' (spelled only in Scotland without the 'e') evolved from the English mispronunciation of the Gaelic uisge (usky). Do the Scots think that more vowels waste good drinking time? Not everybody in the world has been quite as successful in perfecting or reaching at par with the excellence that the Scots have in producing the aqua vitae.
How is it Made
Distillation is the process of boiling liquid, collecting the steam produced and condensing it back into liquid without the impurities or other materials present in the original liquid. A single malt Scotch is always distilled in Scotland and matured in oak wood casks for a minimum of three years, and comes from only one distillery. With the ancient alchemy of the elements of air, fire, and pure water - the distillation process begins and makes every bottle of scotch with its own unique flavors.
The first process in making is malting the barley to make it germinate so that it will be rich in soluble sugars, to which the yeast is added later to produce alcohol. Malting involves soaking barley in water, and then, after being dried over a peat furnace in a kiln, it is ground to a grist and added to very hot water, so the germination process comes to a stop. The enzymes are activated thus, and the starches are converted to fermented sugars. It now becomes a sweet liquid called wort and goes into gigantic stainless-steel or copper drums of 48,000 liters. Here, seven bags each filled with 25 kg of yeast are tipped in, and after two days, it turns to wash, containing 8 percent alcohol. The proportion of proteins and carbohydrates that are broken down by the enzymes affect the flavor of the scotch.
The wash goes into big copper stills and is heated, and eventually, the alcohol-rich vapors rise and run into a condenser. It is a two-part process, the first turning the wash into 'low wines': alcohol of 25 per cent by volume. The second turns these low wines into three parts, the head, the heart, and the tail of the spirit. These vary in alcoholic content, from 60 to 72 per cent. The "heart" will be drawn off. The strength of the alcohol is reduced to 63.5 per cent by adding more water. Scotch must be matured for at least three years in oak casks in Scotland, though many single malts are matured for a longer time.
The Regions
Single malts are chosen and valued for their robust flavors and their maturity. Where it is produced and who produces it adds definition to the character of every bottle of scotch. There are 4 major regions in Scotland producing single malts:
  1. Islands (Islay and Skye): Here, the Scotch has mainly peaty and maritime flavors.
  2. Highlands: The flavors here are mainly smooth and floral.
  3. Speyside: Here, the flavors are fruity and delicate.
  4. Lowlands: Here, the flavors are light and fresh.
Getting into the Spirit
There is no right or wrong way to enjoy this drink. It is important to enjoy it in a way that you would know how to truly appreciate the flavors and aromas.
  1. With Water: Adding water changes the composition, and unlocks more flavors and aromas.
    If you want to enjoy your single malt outside Scotland, it is best to add still Scottish spring water, or soft, pure, tap water. Add a little water at a time, taking it slow and easy, until you find the balance that suits your palate.
  2. With Ice: Adding ice to a Scotch can certainly make it refreshingly cold. However, if you want to appreciate the more subtle attributes, you must know that the coldness of the ice can sometimes reduce the aromas and flavors.
  3. With a Mixer: Adding soda, ginger ale or lemonade, or any type of mixer, can be a refreshing way of enjoying the drink.

Single malt Scotch is made in dedicated distilleries and blends are a little poorer compared to these. The flavors of single malts are much more complex; so ignorantly and casually adding Coke to single malts can be quite a bore and it doesn't necessarily mean you're a snob. So do it justice by taking in the richness of its peaty aroma and flavor without covering it up; and don't leave it unappreciated!