The Scotch Whisky world is much, much bigger than one might think, especially if they are a beginner in scotch tasting.
There are Scotch made with only malted barley, with a blend of grains or a blend of whisky expressions. And, no, not all nomenclature and labelling are that specific. So, if you are a newbie to this world, we understand that it can be overwhelming. However, there is no need to panic. We have this simple guide to help you out.
In this article, you’ll discover the four types of Scotch Whisky regarding the grains and mix of grains and discover some great expressions from each one of them.
Table of Contents – Sip this Article!
- How Many Types of Scotch Whisky are There?
- Five Types of Scotch Whisky and Their Expressions
- Final Thoughts
Answering this question might not be as simple as it looks. When talking about the different types of scotch whisky, we must consider that there are kinds of scotch related only to the regions of Scotland and other kinds of scotch related to the grains used for the mash. Altogether there are around 10 types of scotch whisky – 5 regions and 5 different production processes. A whisky expression usually combines the type of grain and the region on the labelling.
The region and the types of grain have great influence on the flavour of an expression. For instance, there are regions closer to the sea that use more peat and the flavour of the scotch become smokier and even saltier. And a scotch made with no malted barley will have a much soft and nutty flavours.
So, here’s the ultimate question. If there are around 10 types of scotch, what are they?
There are 5 Types of Scotch Whisky Regarding the Region where the whisky is made:
Regarding the production process, they are:
- Single Malt
- Single Grain
- Blended Malt
- Blended Grain
- Blended Scotch
There is also an old label named “Pure Malt”, it is not applicable to Scotch anymore, but it is possible that you still find this label in some whiskies, especially on Japanese expressions. It means that these expressions are a mix of different single malt whiskies from different distilleries. Confused? Better keep reading, then!
As previously stated, there are 5 categories of scotch regarding the production process. The most basic feature you have to remember about the label is the “single” and “blended” words. Contrarily of one might think, this is not related to the grains used for the mash. Instead, they are related to the number of distilleries needed to make the whisky.
Therefore, when the word “single” comes in a label, it refers that the whisky is produced in only one distillery. On the other hand, the word “blended” means that that expression is a mix of other expressions from different distilleries.
As said before, the word “single” indicates that the expression is produced in a single distillery. The label single malt also indicates that an expression’s major grain is malted barley.
Don’t be fooled, though. A single malt can be made by mixing several expressions. As long as they are from the same distillery and all of them are made from at least 51% malted barley, it is considered to be a Single Malt Scotch Whisky.
The world of these types of whisky is large and quite unique. It’s just not possible to create a flavour profile for the Single Malts, as it depends a lot on the region where it is made and the age of the whisky.
Best Single Malt Expressions for Begginers
If you’re looking for single malt expressions to taste, we advise you to begin with the Highlands Scotch with 12-years old whiskies. Most of them will be quite smooth and a great entry to this world. Some way-to-go expressions may be:
- Glenffidich 12-Years Old
- GlenDronach 12-Years Old
- Tomatin 12-Years
- Dalmore 12-Years
If you want to take a step outside of the box, you might want to try a Peated Single Malt Whisky. In that case, we advise you to taste:
- Highland Park 12-Years Old
- Ardbeg 12-Years Old
- Balvenie 14-Years Old Week of Peat
- Peat’s Beast (If you want a bonfire on your whisky glass)
A simpler Scotch for simpler moments! Don’t let it fool you, though. A Single Grain Scotch Whisky may be great dram drink and a mandatory type of whisky on your collection.
The labelling means almost the same as the Single Malt. Being that “Single” means that it comes from a single distillery. The “Grain” part is where the differences rely: this kind of scotch is not made from barley. Instead, it is used other kinds of grains such as corn, wheat or rye – or a blend of those grains. In adittion, they may or may not be malted.
These category of scotch whisky is usually sold to make blended Scotch whisky. However, they are making their entry into the market like no other.
In terms of flavour, Single Grain whisky expressions are usually light and sweeter, without having smoky flavours as it happens with some Single Malt and Blended Scotch Whisky.
Best Single Grain Expressions for Begginers
- Haig Club Scotch Whisky
- Compass Box Hedonism
- Loch Lomond Single Grain
- The Tweeddale Grain of Truth
Did you know… Compass Box Hedonism and Loch Lomond are two expressions we sent our costumers in previous Whisky Tasting Boxes!
The Blended Scotch Whisky is the most consumed of the types of scotch whisky in the world, since it is a more affordable and most expressions are smoother than single malts! Again, the combination of words of the label means a lot, since “blended” doesn’t mean that it’s just a mixture of whisky expressions, but rather that it is a combination of expressions from different distilleries.
A blended scotch is produced by combining two or more single grain and single malt scotch whisky expressions. Although, this may seem like cheating in terms of whisky production, blending an expression is true alchemy. It takes a lot of work to maitain the flavour profile of a whisky over the years, when some of the single malts and single grains used may not be produced any longer.
Best Blended Scotch Expressions for Begginers
- Johnnie Walker Black
- Monkey Shoulder
- Chivas Regal 12 Years
- Douglas Laing’s Rock Oyster
Within the world of blended scotch whisky, there is two other types of blends. The Blended Malt Scotch is, of course, one of them.
As said before, the word “blended” means that that scotch whisky expression is created from a combination of expressions from different distilleries. If a blended scotch is produced by mixing single malt and single grain whiskies from 2 or more distilleries, a Single Malt Scotch Whisky is, thus, an expression made from only single malt scotch whiskies from distinct distilleries.
In terms of flavour and aroma notes, blended malt whiskies tend to be bolder and to have more character than the usual blended scotch whiskies or blended grain whiskies.
Best Blended Malt Scotch Whisky for Beginners:
- Compass Box Oak Cross
- Sheep Dip Islay Blended Malt
- Johnnie Walker Green Label
Last, but not least, a blended grain scotch whisky is, basically, the same as a blended malt, but created only with single grain whisky expressions from different distilleries.
Being that single grain whiskies are somewhat rare to find, this is one of the types of scotch whisky that is a blessing to find and have in your collection. With a ABV higher than blended malts or the standard blended scotch whiskies, the flavour profile of this category can be quite smooth and soft, depending on the grains used.
Best Blended Grain Scotch Whisky for Beginners:
- Grant’s Elementary 8 Year Old – Oxygen Grain Whisky
- Compass Box Experimental Grain Whisky Blended Grain
- The Famous Grouse The Snow Grouse Blended Grain Scotch Whisky
The world of Scotch Whisky is truly endless! From Single Malt Scotch to Blended Grain, there are no categories that don’t deserve a place on your collection.
But, before buying a whole bottle of any of these types of Scotch Whisky, you might want to taste a few expressions first. One way to do it is to have whisky miniatures and taste the most whiskies you can. And you can easily do that with our Whisky Tasting Box, since you’ll receive 4 whisky expressions every month. Sign up and taste more: https://www.whiskyflavour.com/shop/whisky-subscription-tasting-box/