The 5 Different Types of Scotch Whisky

By Timo Torner / Last updated on March 31, 2023

Scotch basically comes in five different kinds, categorized by production, mash bill, and blending type. Read everything there is to know about these types.
Different types of Scotch Whisky

The type of Scotch defines how the spirit has to be distilled, which grains producers must use, and how they can blend their product. 

The most common types of Scotch Whisky are:

  • Single Malt
  • and Blended Scotch

Especially, Single Malt is very well-known. Further, there are three lesser-known sorts of Scotch: 

  • Single Grain
  • Blended Malt
  • and Blended Grain Scotch.

Don't confuse Scotch types with the different Scotch regions, which also significantly impact the taste. -However, every type can be produced in every region. 

The Different Kinds of Scotch

Now, let's look into the five different types of Scotch. The first is the most popular one, the Single Malt Scotch.

Single Malt Scotch

A Single Malt Scotch Whisky is a premium product. The term Single Malt means that this Scotch is made from 100% malted barley and distilled in pot stills at one single distillery. It can be blended with Whiskies from other casks, but -again- all have to come from the same distillery.

Single Malt is considered premium whisky, and people perceive it as superior to blends. That is also reinforced by the fact that bottles of this type are usually pricier than other options. As a consequence people new to Scotch will often buy Single Malt by default- although, when asked, they rarely know why.

In fact, Single Malt Scotch is not automatically smoother, richer, or better than other types. It comes entirely down to personal taste, which you like best.

Single Grain Scotch Whisky

Single Grain Scotch is not as widespread as Single Malt, and only a few distilleries specialize in producing it. Single Grain is often lighter and not as complex as malt whiskies and typically used to lend body to Blended Scotch.

Single Grain Scotch is made from various grains, including barley, wheat, rye, and corn. Just like a Single Malt, it needs to be distilled at one distillery - hence Single. Yet, instead of pot stills, producers usually use column stills for making Single Grain.

Renowned brands that produce Single Grain Scotch are, for instance, Glendalough and Loch Lomond.

Tasting set of different Scotch Whisky types

Blended Malt Scotch

Like Single Malt, Blended Malt Scotch is made from 100% malted barley - hence the term malt. But instead of coming from only one distillery, this Scotch is made from products from at least two different distilleries.

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

These days, it is a rare sight because there's so little demand for blended Malt Scotch.

Blended Grain Scotch

Analogous to Blended Malt, Blended Grain Scotch is made by combining at least two Single Grain Whiskies from different distilleries. Since Single Grain is already a rare sight, Blended Grain is even rarer.

If you're curious and want to try some out, try the whiskies from The Famous Grouse. This Scotch producer specializes in making excellent blended Scotch products, including Blended Grain, Blended Malt, and Blended Scotch.

Blended Scotch Whisky

Blended Scotch has the loosest regulations of all five variations and is made from a blend of at least one Single Malt Scotch and one Single Grain Scotch from different distilleries.

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

The flavors of this spirit make it ideal for mixed drinks and Scotch cocktails

Frankly, a good Blended Scotch should be in every well-stocked home bar. You can get affordable options from famous brands like Johnny Walker, Dewar's, and the Famous Grouse.

Pouring Single Malt Scotch

How do these types taste?

Scotch Whisky is known for its diversity in flavors, and you cannot define the taste by the type. Especially because these differences are only partly due to the production processes. A lot of the variety also is yielded by these 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 likely 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. 

However, to give you an idea of the taste of the different types, here are a few guidelines:

  • Single Malt: Like all aged spirits, Single Malt has distinct notes of oak and vanilla. It's rich in flavor, and due to its malted barley base, you can also detect s subtle malty notes.
  • Single Grain: This is much lighter and generally not as flavorful as their malt-based peers.
  • Blended Malt: Blended Malt whisky is more complex than Single Malt as it's typically made from a selection of Scotch with different flavor profiles.
  • Blended Grain: This style is still quite light, but with a more complex and richer flavor profile.
  • Blended Scotch: tends to be gentler and better balanced in taste compared to other Scotch styles.

How is Scotch different from other Whiskey?

Since Scotch is a specific whiskey, it is not actually 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
  • The Spelling whisky instead of whiskey
  • Origin - must come from one of the five Whiskey regions in Scotland: Speyside, Islay, Highland, Lowland, and Campbeltown.

If you want more details on the popular spirit, read our Scotch Whisky Guide.

Another requirement is that the spirit, once bottled, must contain at least 40% ABV. Scotch fresh from the barrels usually holds a lot more alcohol and is watered down in most cases until it reaches an alcohol content of 40% to 45%.

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