Deconstructing Single Malt Scotch Whisky: A Comprehensive Analysis

Because it is typically used to give body and texture to blends, single grain scotch whiskey was not a bottled and sold product until recently. But, the market for single-grain bottlings, particularly those sold under the labels of independent bottlers, is expanding.

Some people appear to think that single grain scotch whisky is somehow inferior to single malt. Of course there are distinctions between the two, but dissimilarity is not necessarily a bad thing.

So, what's the dissimilarity, then?

The use of malted barley in the production of single malts is what sets them apart from their single grain counterparts. Malted or unmalted cereal grains, such as barley, rye, wheat, or corn, are used to create single grain scotch whiskey, which is produced by a single distillery. Hence, the number of grains utilized is irrelevant; the single refers to the distillery.

Continuous distillation (sometimes called patent still distillation) is used to create most spirits, while a pot still is required to create single malt. Nonetheless, there are, as always, a few outliers. For instance, copper pot stills are used to produce Arbikie Highland Rye.

Single-grain sweetness

Single grain whiskies are typically mild and fruity, making them an excellent choice for those who have never tried whisky before. In my experience, they have a wonderful, gentle texture in the mouth.

You could spend hours indulging your sense of smell in these whiskies since they smell like butterscotch, whipped cream, vanilla custard, marshmallows, salted butter, caramel, and icing-covered pastries. Certain spices, including ginger, black pepper, nutmeg, and cinnamon, take on these aromas and convey them to the palate as well (whipped cream over a waffle, anyone?). The aftertaste is typically shorter than that of a single malt.

Due to the usage of refill barrels, the color is typically quite pale. With a few notable exceptions—new oak and refill sherry butts—most single grain whiskies have been aged in refill ex-bourbon casks.

Drinking Instructions

It's up to you how you take it. You can drink it neat, with a splash of water, or over ice. Several people, in contrast to others who enjoy single malts neat, prefer to dilute their single grain whiskies with a few ice cubes. The ice is warranted because the liquor's flavor profile more closely resembles that of bourbon than of single malt. Whisky can be enjoyed to its fullest potential by simply placing the bottle in the freezer and serving it at an ice cold temperature.

Highballs can also be made with single-grain scotch. Substitute ginger ale for the soda if you want.


Make an effort with these

The Whisky Cellar, Cambus 33 Year Old, 42.5% ABV

This is a closed distillery's single grain scotch. The Whisky Cellar's extremely limited release. If you like excellent single grains, I suggest you keep a watch out for his upcoming series.

There are two refill ex-bourbon hogsheads that went into making this Cambus. Vanilla custard smells are upfront, followed by ginger, green apple, whipped cream over a waffle, and a hint of spice.

Douglas Laing Invergordon 2002, 19 Years Old, 48.8 Percent Alcohol by Volume

This grain whisky was aged in a single cask at Scotland's Invergordon Distillery. The flavor is smooth and rich, with hints of vanilla, buttery fudge, oak, and citrus.

Aged in oak barrels since 1794, Arbikie Highland Rye is bottled at 48% alcohol by volume.

New charred American oak casks were used in the aging process for this 2020 release. Flavors of biscuit dough, honeyed cereal, chocolate cake, and candied ginger can be anticipated, along with scents of jam, fudge, and cinnamon.

This is one that I tried a while back and thought was delicious.

Arbikie Four Year Highland Rye, 46% Alcohol by Volume

Another bottle of Arbikie Highland Rye can be purchased through The Whisky Exchange. It is aged in a combination of charred American oak casks and ex-Armagnac barrels after being distilled from a blend of Aranted Scottish rye, Viscount wheat, and Odyssey malted barley. On the tongue, you'll find flavors reminiscent of sticky dates and dried apricot, with a hint of white pepper heat.

Whisky Works 29 Year Old Single Grain Scotch Whisky, Scotland, 54.2%

A single grain distilled at a now-defunct grain distillery in Glasgow. This whisky, which was aged for 29 years in American white oak casks, is mild and sweet, with hints of butterscotch, vanilla, and tropical fruits.

1991 North British, 30 Year Old Sherry Cask, Signatory Vintage, 54.7% Alcohol by Volume

This is yet another independent bottler's single-grain offering. Cameronbridge, Cambus, Carsebridge, and Caledonian are just a handful of the single grain scotch whiskies that have been released by Signatory Vintage.

This North British was born in 1991 and aged in a single sherry butt until it was bottled in January of 2022.

62.2% Strathclyde Grain 2006, Chivas Brothers' 12-Year-Old Distillery Edition

Chivas Brothers includes this in their Distillery Reserve Collection. Vanilla, cinnamon, and apricot are three of the most traditional sweet flavors.

460 proof, single-grain peated Loch Lomond

This single-grain whisky has hints of berry jam, smoke, and baking spices from being peated. Expect flavors of heather, fragrant peat, and orchard fruits.

When was the last time you sampled a single-grain scotch whisky? Your thoughts?