Only three natural ingredients are used in the production Single Malt Scotch Whisky: malted barley, water and yeast. These ingredients, coupled with the distillation and maturation in oak casks, create the wonderfully complex flavours formed in the spirit.
The classification of Scotch Whisky is protected by UK law, and the spirit must have been wholly distilled and matured in Scotland in oak casks for a minimum of three years.
The different categories of Scotch Whisky are outlined below. But even within these categories a dizzying array of whiskies, with varied and mouth-watering characteristics, is produced.
SINGLE CASK, SINGLE MALT SCOTCH WHISKY
Whisky in its most original form – Single Cask Single Malt Scotch Whiskies have been distilled from malted barley in a single distillery and bottled from one individual oak cask. Oak casks are much like people, they all have many things in common, but no two are exactly the same. In just the same way, every oak cask imparts its own unique flavour, and by bottling whisky straight from the cask, this flavour or ‘personality’ is preserved. At Claxton’s, single cask whisky is our passion.
SINGLE MALT SCOTCH WHISKY
Single Malt Scotch Whisky has been produced from malted barley at a single distillery. For many people’s taste, malted barley produces the most flavoursome and complex Scotch Whisky. Unless otherwise specified as Single Cask, Single Malt Scotch Whisky is usually from a combination of numerous casks, to produce a large batch with a consistent flavour.
BLENDED MALT SCOTCH WHISKY
A Blended Malt is the combination and marriage of two or more Single Malt Scotch Whiskies from more than one distillery. Similar to blended whisky, except malted barley is the only grain used in the production.
SINGLE GRAIN SCOTCH WHISKY
Grain Whisky is produced using a combination of malted barley and other grains. Grain Whisky can be produced in large volumes more easily than Single Malt Whisky and typically has a much lighter character profile. A Single Grain Whisky is simply a Grain Whisky produced in one distillery.
Blended Whisky is by far the largest category of whisky in terms of volume. It is a blend of Malt Whisky and Grain Whisky from a multitude of distilleries married together to produce large volumes with consistent and specific flavour profiles.
Before a whisky is bottled, it is filtered to remove any large particles that may be left in the liquid from the oak cask or distillation process. There are two main methods of filtration: chill-filtration and barrier filtration. Chill filtration removes not only any loose particles from the whisky but also some components which produce a haze or ‘Scotch Mist’ when water or ice is added. However, many of these components add flavour to the whisky and their removal means some of the taste is lost. Therefore, some whisky bottlers, including Claxton’s, only barrier filter (non-chill filter) the whisky, to ensure all the taste is preserved. Many whisky connoisseurs see Scotch Mist as a good sign that a whisky has been preserved in its natural state.
Some whiskies have spirit caramel colouring added to alter their appearance. The natural appearance of a whisky can vary significantly, depending on the type of cask and the length of time it has been matured (anything from the yellow of a pale white wine to dark mahogany brown). Many artisan bottlers, including Claxton’s, and connoisseurs feel the addition of caramel colouring can influence the flavour of a whisky negatively and prefer to see the natural colour created by the maturation of the spirit in oak casks.