Different types of Scotch Whisky

The 5 Different Types of Scotch Whisky

By Timo Torner / Last updated on July 26, 2022 
Scotch is a particular type of Whiskey produced in Scotland. This famous spirit comes in different types from different Whisky regions within the country.

The most common types of Scotch are Single Malt and Blended Scotch. Especially, Single Malt is a well-known term. Still, most would not be able to explain what that actually means.

Besides Single Malt and Blended Scotch, there are other and lesser-known types of Scotch available: Single Grain, Blended Malt, and Blended Grain Scotch.

Also, there are five different regions (plus the islands) in Scotland producing Scotch Whisky. Each of these five regions stands for a specific type of Whisky.

For example, Scotch from Islay is usually heavily peated and has intensely smoky flavors. But before I get into more detail, I quickly want to talk about Scotch in general.

What is Scotch?

Scotch Whisky is a distilled spirit, often made from malted barley but also from other grains. The grains are fermented with the help of yeast before the resulting mash gets distilled.

To be called a Scotch, the distilled spirit must age for at least three years in oak barrels. 

It also needs to be produced in one of the five Whiskey regions in Scotland, namely Speyside, Islay, Highland, Lowland, and Campbelltown.

Tasting set of different Scotch Whisky types

Another requirement is that the spirit, once bottled, must contain at least 40% ABV. 

The Scotch fresh from the barrels usually contains a lot more alcohol and is watered down in most cases until it reaches an alcohol content of 40% to 45%.

Each Scotch can be classified into one of these five different types:

  • Single Malt
  • Blended Malt
  • Single Grain
  • Blended Grain
  • Blended

How is Scotch different from Whiskey?

Scotch is a specific type of Whiskey. Consequently, it is not different but has characteristics that make it unique.

The main aspects of Scotch Whisky are:

  • Grains - Made from malted barley, rye, and wheat.
  • Aging process - Aged for at least three years in oak barrels.
  • Flavor - A smooth spirit with a touch of peated smoke
  • Different Spelling - Whisky instead of Whiskey

Read our other article about Whisky from Scotland for a more detailed view on the characteristics of Scotch Whisky.

Pouring Single Malt Scotch

The Different Types of Scotch

Scotch comes in five different types. The first in this list is the most popular one, the Single Malt Scotch.

Single Malt Scotch

A Single Malt Scotch is a premium product. The term Single Malt refers to the fact that the Scotch is made from malted barley and distilled at one single distillery only.

Single Malt Scotch is considered a high-end Whisky and one of the pricier options available. 

Single Grain Scotch

Single Grain Scotch is not as common as Single Malt. That is mostly because it often is used to produce another type of Scotch, the Blended Scotch.

Single Grain Scotch, as well, is made from malted barley. However, other whole grains, as well as malted and unmalted cereals, are added.

A Single Grain, just like a Single Malt, needs to be distilled at one Single distillery.

Two glasses of Scotch Whisky

Blended Malt Scotch

Blended Malt Scotch is made from malted barley. But instead of coming from only one distillery, the Scotch is made from products coming from at least two different distilleries.

In the past, Blended Malt was known as vatted malt or pure malt

Today, this variation is a rare sight because there's little demand for blended Malt Scotch.

Blended Grain Scotch

A Blended Grain Scotch is another relatively rare type of Whisky.

Just like a Blended Malt, a Blended Grain Scotch is made by combining at least two Single Grain Whiskies from different distilleries.

Blended Scotch

Blended Scotch is made fr oma blend of at least one Single Malt Scotch and one Single Grain Scotch.

This type of Scotch is known for its balanced taste and smoothness.

The flavors of this spirit make it ideal for mixed drinks and cocktails. Honestly, a good Blended Scotch should be in every well-stocked home bar.

The 5 Whisky Regions in Scotland

Scotch is produced in fice different Whisky regions. Speyside is by far the most important one. And besides Speyside, there are Islay, Highland, Lowland, and Campbelltown.

Scotch Whisky is known for its diversity in flavors. These differences are only partly due to the different types. Some of the variety also is yielded by the regional differences.

For example, when looking for a smoky Scotch, suggesting picking a Single Malt or Single Grain won't be helpful. However, recommending a Scotch from Islay will get you what you're after.

Of course, this doesn't apply to all products from this region, but it's a good rule of thumb.

Speyside

Speyside is located in the northeastern part of Scotland. This region accounts for more than 60 Whisky distilleries.

With so many distilleries, the taste of Speyside Whisky widely varies. Nevertheless, there are typical Speyside flavors, like apple, vanilla, oak, and dried fruit.

Speyside is also home to some of the most renowned Scotch brands in the world, such as Glenfiddich, Macallan, Dalwhinnie, Glenlivet, and Glenfiddich.

Highlands

Geographically, the Highlands are the largest Whisky producing area in Scotland. It encompasses 25 distilleries. And because it is such a large area, it is divided into the four sub-areas North, East, South, and West.

Highland Whiskies are famous for flavors like fruit cake, malt, heather, and smoke. The most popular distilleries of the Highlands are Oban, Dalmore, and Glenmorangie.

The latter two brands both produce some excellent and full-bodied Single Malt Whisky.

Lowlands

The Lowlands are the second largest area to produce Scotch Whisky. However, in the whole region, there are only 5 distilleries.

Scotch from the Lowlands is known to be mild in taste with no peaty flavors. Instead, Lowland Whisky contains flavors like toffee, cream, honeysuckle, and cinnamon.

The most popular brands producing Scotch in the Lowlands are Auchentoshan and Glenkinchie.

Campbelltown

Campbelltown once was a thriving Whisky-producing area counting more than 30 (Whisky) distilleries. Today, only five of them are left.

Campbelltown Whisky is known for its dryness and flavors like brine, toffee, vanilla, and dried fruit.

The distilleries in this region are relatively unknown. Glengyle and Springbank are the most recognizable among them.

Map showing Islay Scotch Whisky region

Islay

Scotch from Islay is known for its smoky flavor and hints of saltiness. The region is located just west of the Scottish mainland and is the smallest region to produce Scotch.

However, Islay Scotch is world-renowned and home to brands like Ardbeg, Lagavulin, and Laphroaig.

All the above are known for producing excellent peated Single Malts with a typical Islay touch.

Whisky from the Islands

Besides these five major regions, there are some smaller islands that are home to more Whisky distilleries.

The Islands are enormously diverse and don't belong to an area recognized by the Scotch Whisky Association.

But despite not being officially acknowledged, the islands are home to some famous Scotch brands. Brands like Talisker, Highland Park, and Jura are all located on one of these over 800 small islands.

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