Time for another quick lingo lesson.

You hear the term “single malt” bandied about all the time. But what does that mean? What is the difference between a single malt scotch and a double malt scotch?

Single malt scotches are made exclusively of malted barley at one distillery. They are not blended with anything else.

So does that mean a double malt scotch is the combination of two products from two different distilleries? Nope. There’s actually no such thing as a double malt. You might make a buck or two on this one next time you play bar trivia with your friends.

There are, however, vatted malts, which are sometimes referred to as pure malts. This describes a blend of single malts, not necessarily from the same distillery.

There are blended scotches. These are a blend of malt whiskies and grain whiskies. Distilleries that make malt whisky don’t usually do both malt and grain (such as rye, corn, etc.), but some do. Usually, though, they are from a variety of distilleries.

Single malts are more unique than vatted or blended. And every year can taste noticeably different than another. A lot of the higher end single malts will not only state how many years aged, but also the year in which it was made.

Some guy named “Trid” on yahoo.answers.com gives this sound advice when selecting a scotch for, say, Father’s Day: “Something in the neighborhood of 18-25 years old might go over really well. Macallan (or, The Macallan) is always a good safe bet. If you want to show you care, avoid Glenlivet or Glenfiddich (neither are “bad,” just common and unremarkable in comparison). Bowmore and Ardbeg are both very good.

For a blended whisky, Johnny Walker is very commonly known, but they make a variety of blends that range in quality. Red is the common, everyday style. Black is a little better. Gold is good…. Blue is their top of the line blend.

Thanks, “Trid.”

Please note: This article was originally posted on 6/17/11 and updated on 2/13/23.