The term “whisky” is an anglicised form of the Gaelic “uisge beatha”, which means “water of life”. Whisky that originates from Scotland is spelt without the ‘e’, with the plural form “whiskies”. The term “Scotch” is internationally protected and can only be used to refer to whisky that is produced in Scotland and has been matured for at least three years in oak casks. The age statement on a bottle of Scotch refers to the age of the youngest whisky blended in the product.
Single Malt versus Blended Scotch
Blended whiskies are the predominant whisky produced in Scotland, accounting for more than 90 per cent of the country’s whisky production.
When the trend of drinking single malts came into the picture in the 1960s and 1970s, master blenders scoffed at it and dismissed it as a passing fad. Today, however, they will be the first to acknowledge that the single malt category saved the Scotch industry in the 1970s, when white spirits such as vodka and gin started grabbing its market share.
Now, single malts and blended Scotch stand side by side, which has sparked debate as to which is superior – something that is, quite frankly, impossible to prove because it’s just like arguing about whether apples are better than oranges .
A blended Scotch is simply a mixture of various whiskies from various distilleries in Scotland that are bottled and sold as one whisky. What this does is give drinkers a depth and complexity of flavours.
The “single” in single malt refers to one whisky producer or distillery. What’s in the bottle, in other words, is the result of one production process and not a blend of many. It is that “one-ness” (one distillery, one type of barley variety, one process and one cask) that give single malt a genuine distinction between regions of Scotland. It almost gives drinkers an insight and taste of the “geography” of the spirit.
The Glenlivet – The Definitive Speyside Single Malt
Highland single malt Scotch whiskies come from the Highlands of Scotland and within this region is the area situated along the River Spey. The malt whiskies from Speyside are celebrated for their elegance and full, balanced range of flavours. The originator of the famous Speyside style, and the definitive Speyside single malt is The Glenlivet.
Whisky production in the 1800s was marked by chaos, whereby as many as 200 small stills were at work in the Glenlivet, with their owners refusing to pay excise duty on the whisky they made. This resulted in illegal trade and violent skirmishes between Excise collectors and smugglers. This changed in 1823 when an Act of Parliament was passed, permitting the distillation of whisky in small stills and reducing Excise duty in a bid to encourage Highlanders to set up legal whisky distilleries.
The first to take up this challenge was George Smith and soon, he was producing 100 gallons of the finest Glenlivet whisky each week. His style of whisky-making set the standard for the region, to the extent that other whiskies started calling themselves Glenlivet as well. Eventually, illicit whisky-making in and around the Glenlivet was stamped out, making George Smith’s distillery the only one in the glen – the original and only The Glenlivet.
The Glenlivet has operated almost continuously since then, surviving the World Wars and Great Depression. Today, the distillery produces about six million bottles per annum and has grown to become the biggest-selling single malt whisky in the United States and the second biggest selling single malt brand globally.
It has expanded its classic range of 12-, 15-, 18-, 21- and 25-year-old expressions to include the Nàdurra range with the non-chill filter element, as well as other limited editions such as the Cellar Collection and the recently released The Glenlivet Winchester Collection 50-Year-Old.
This post was brought to you by The Glenlivet.