Generally speaking there are two types of Scotch whisky: single malt or blended whisky.
Single Malt is one whisky from a single distiller, whereas blended whisky is a blend of two or more whiskies from two or more distillers.
The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) names the following five styles of Scotch Whisky:
- Single Malt Whisky- is one whisky from one distillery, distilled from 100 percent malted barley.
- Single Grain Whisky– is one whisky from one distillery, distilled from one grain or a mixture of grain, generally up to 20 percent malted barley and up to 80 percent other grains, such as corn or wheat.
- Vatted or blended malt whisky– is the traditional blended whisky, consisting only of single malt whiskies, which may come from more than one distillery.
- Blended grain whisky– is made of a mixture of grain whiskies from more than one distillery.
- Blended Scotch whisky– is a blend of whiskies, generally made of 20 to 40 percent single malt whiskey plus 60 to 80 percent grain whisky, usually from several distilleries.
All Scotch whiskies must be aged for at least three years. Many distillers age their whiskies for longer periods of time to add to the flavor and color while smoothing down the spirit.
Scotch Whisky Regions
Early on the Scots recognized that a whisky made in one area differed in aroma and flavor than a whisky made in a different area. Today we recognize five broad geographic areas and their unique whisky styles:
- The Lowlands- recognized for their mild, pleasing flavor with floral and fruity characteristics. These whiskies are primarily grain whiskies, although there are a few fine single malts to be found. (Auchentoshan)
- The Highlands– this is a very large area with varying styles. These whiskies can range from lighter style and fruity to full bodied and peaty flavor. The single malts of the highlands continue to be popular with connoisseurs. Most whiskies from The Highlands go into blends. (Dalmore, Glenmorangie, Highland Park, Talisker)
- Campbeltown– this style is rather dry and smoky. Only one distillery still makes a single malt, the rest goes into blends. (Springbank)
- Islay– pronounced eye-lay, is the most important of the islands. Islay whiskies are briny with sea breezes and heavily peaty due to the island being one big peat bog. Many Islay whiskies go into blends. (Bowmore, Bunnahabhain, Lagavulin, Laphroaig)
- Speyside– more than half of all the malt whiskies distilled in the world are made in Speyside. Speyside whiskies are among Scotland’s lightest and sweetest single malts. (Aberlour, Cardhu, Dalwhinnie, Glen Grant, Glen Spey, Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Macallan)