Single Malt, Single Barrel, Single Single,Straight,Vatted Malts and Blends – Whiskey Terms

Here are some other terms that can confuse and confound aspiring Whisk(e)y connoisseurs.

Single Malt: Usually applies to Scottish Whisky ( note lack of “e” ) or to whiskies ( again note Scottish spelling) that are trying to emulate the style. It means that the whisky comes from a single distillery and is not blended with whisky form another distillery but is probably the blending of a multiple barrel “dump” as it is called in the industry to create a distillery signature and consistent style.

Straight Whiskey: Whiskey that is made in a single distillery. The term or definition used in the United States ( for the most part) to describe what a Scot would call a single malt in terms of production ( not in taste !)

Single Barrel: This term is most commonly used in the United States to describe a bourbon whiskey (note the “e”) that is from one distillery and bottled from one single barrel . Bourbon Whiskeys (again note spelling) are all single malts using the above definition although their composition and aging requirements set them apart in different ways.

A single barrel bourbon is a further refinement in individual character as again the whiskey comes from a single barrel and is not blended with other barrels. That being said the barrels chosen usually represent a distillery style or signature that while consistent will vary within a certain range to keep peoples interest. Barrels to far outside the style are not selected as single barrels and will be used to blend “Straight” bourbon whiskey from the distillery or sold on the open market.

Single Single or Singleton: The Scottish version of a single barrel, see above. These are rarely done by the distilleries themselves and are usually encountered as merchant or independent bottling. You have to read the labels carefully as a merchant or independent bottling can be either a single malt or single single. If it is a single single it is usually referred to as a single cask bottling or singleton.

Vatted Malt: A blend of single malt whiskies only. No grain alcohol (rectified spirit) or other spirits can be added. It is a type of blend but is specific as to the type of ingredients. Just blended malt is a rather more slippery category as to allowed ingredients or components. That being said there are good blends out there. I am merely trying to distinguish the ingredients and definitions not the quality .

Blended Whisky or Whiskey: This is the most slippery term of the bunch. It usually means it is a blend of whiskey, grain alcohol and can include gods only know what else. Colorants, flavor enhancers, sweeteners, etc., There are some good blends out there that are outstanding examples of the blenders art but usually it means bottom shelf whisky that is cobbled together from various ingredients of doubtful origin.