Single Malt Scotch is single malt whisky made in Scotland. To be a Single Malt Scotch, the whisky must have been distilled at a single distillery using a pot still distillation process and made from a mash of malted grain. In Scotland, the only grain allowed to be used in a Single Malt Scotch is barley. As with any Scotch whisky, a Single Malt Scotch must be distilled in Scotland and matured in oak casks in Scotland for at least three years and one day. (Most single malts are matured longer.)
Flavor, aroma, and finish differ widely from one single malt to the next. Single Malt Scotch whiskies are categorized into the following whisky-producing regions.
The Highlands is by far the largest region in Scotland both in area and in whisky production. This massive area has over 30 distilleries on the mainland. Region characteristics: "fruity, sweet, spicy, malty". When the Islands sub-region is included, the total number of distilleries is 47. Some Highland distilleries: Aberfeldy, Edradour, Balblair, Ben Nevis, Dalmore, Glen Ord, Glenmorangie, Oban, Glendronach, Old Pulteney, Tullibardineand Tomatin. The Islands, an unrecognised sub-region of the Highlands, includes all of the whisky-producing islands other than Islay: Arran, Jura, Mull, Orkney, and Skye: with their respective distilleries: Arran, Jura, Tobermory, Highland Park and Scapa, and Talisker.
Speyside gets its name from the River Spey, which cuts through this region and provides water to many of the distilleries. Encompassing the area surrounding the River Spey in north-east Scotland, once considered part of the Highlands, the region has approximately 50 distilleries within its geographic boundaries and has officially been recognised as a region, distinct from the Highlands, since 2014. Region characteristics in general, "sweet, "caramel", "fruity" and "spicy". The best single malts from Speyside are known for their smokiness and complexity. Speyside has the largest number of distilleries of any region, which includes: Aberlour, Balvenie, Cardhu, Cragganmore, Dalwhinnie, Glenfarclas, Glenglassaugh, Glenfiddich, Speyburn, The Macallan, The Glenlivet, and The Glenrothes.
Islay has nine distilleries: Ardbeg, Ardnahoe (the most recent), Bowmore (the oldest, having opened in 1779), Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Kilchoman, Lagavulin, and Laphroaig. Distilleries in the south make whisky which is "medium-bodied and saturated with peat-smoke, brine and iodine" because they use malt that is heavy with peat as well as peaty water. Whisky from the northern area is milder because it is made using spring water for a "lighter flavoured, mossy (rather than peaty), with some seaweed, some nuts..." flavor.
This district covers much of the Central Belt and the South of Scotland including Edinburgh & The Lothians". There were 18 Lowlands distilleries in the region as of 2019, including Auchentoshan, Bladnoch, Glenkinchie, Annandale and Ailsa Bay from the Girvan Distillery as well as Daftmill, Eden Mill, Kingsbarns and Rosebank. Characteristics are soft and smooth, consisting of a floral nose with a sweet finish. Single malts from this area tend to be "lighter, sweet with floral tones".
This small western coastal town was once home to over 30 distilleries but now has only three in operation: Glen Scotia, Glengyle, and Springbank. Characteristics vary, but in general, the whiskies are described as "fruity, peaty, sweet, smoky with wet wool".