What? A spirit distilled from a beer made of malted barley, and originating from a single distillery. Malting is a flavour-improving process where the barley is left to germinate/sprout and then toasted (and sometimes smoked over peat).
Where? Scotland has the most distilleries, and many of the most famous, but good single malt whisky can be made almost anywhere if you have good ingredients, equipment and knowledge. Japan has a mature industry with some excellent distilleries, but a new wave of craft distilling is upon us and we await their innovation with great interest.
When? The oldest whisky distilleries still in production are as follows...
Scotland - Glenturret 1775, Bowmore 1779, Balblair 1785, and Strathisla 1786 (all are disputed)
Ireland - Bushmills 1784
Japan - Yamazaki 1924
Germany - Blaue Maus 1983
France - Armorik 1987
India - Amrut 1987
USA - St Georges 1989
Czech Republic - Pradlo 1989
Australia - Lark 1992
Sweden - Mackmyra 2002
England - Healeys Cyder Farm 2003
Belgium - The Belgium Owl 2004
Wales - Penderyn 2004
Taiwan - Kavalan 2006
How? Mostly drunk neat or cut with a small amount of water to reduce the impact of the alcohol and allow the nose and flavour to be fully appreciated. We have absolutely nothing against drinking whisky with ice, soda, or in a cocktail. And never, ever neglect the beauty of a hot toddy.
Where To Start? When exploring single malt think about peating (ie smokiness) of the barley and cask type used to mature it before you think about regions. Both these factors have far more importance than geography of flavour. Here are some great single malts that typify our favourite styles...