A single bottle of Single Malt
By Ray O’Hanlon
There are numerous words and phrases that daily pass before our eyes that are at once familiar, but upon a second thought, puzzling too.
“Single Malt” fits into this category. Whiskey imbibers know the term well. But do they all know precisely what it means?
Well here’s the, well, short version.
Single Malt is whiskey (or whisky if it’s Scotch) that is sourced from a single distillery and derived from malted barley.
In the U.S., malted rye is allowed but Ireland’s landscape boasts a lot of barley fields.
So Single Malt is not slap dash. It has rules and requirements and takes time, at least three years, before being marketed.
This is not an age that tolerates the expenditure of a lot of time. We want things in a hurry, so sellers, all too frequently, want to produce in a hurry.
But good whiskey has to take its time.
According to Morgan Foley, a spokesman for Bushmills, single malts are becoming increasingly rare, and for different reasons.
“Single Malt is a very complex term that definitely washes over people,” says Foley.
“Distillation is how Bushmills purifies the liquid through a process of evaporation followed by condensation. The more liquid is distilled naturally the purer it is.
“The Bushmills 16 Year Old is an increasingly rare single malt due to the use of three different casks in the maturation process. First, the whiskey is triple distilled. By distilling the whiskey three times as opposed to one to two times, we produce a liquid that's smoother, lighter in color but rich in flavor. The maturation process that follows gives it a tremendous depth of flavor and aroma, unlike any other single malt available.”
Another brand that Foley speaks for is a relatively new one, “The Sexton.”
The Sexton Single Malt Irish Whiskey, he says, “stands out from the rest being crafted by using hundred percent malted barley which helps produce a supremely smooth single malt. It is laid to rest for four years to achieve a fresh, unexpected single malt that is deep and memorable in character.”
“The Sexton, unlike its Bushmills cousin, doesn’t invoke geographic location in its name.
But it presents itself in a somewhat untypical vessel, one that looks more like something Captain Jack Sparrow might be waving about in “Pirates of the Caribbean” than a more traditional Irish whiskey bottle.
The bottle tells you it’s a Single Malt Irish Whiskey and also carries, in very small lettering, the Irish word “dubh,” meaning black.
Which suggests the possibility of a future “dearg,” or red.
“The Sexton,” according to its advertising pitch, is “triple distilled in copper pot stills and aged in former Oloroso sherry casks.”
“Triple” leads to “single.” And “aged” for sure signals that nothing is hurried.
With the temptation to rush things so prevalent it is encouraging that some products still take time and care to properly produce.
The same goes for drinking Single Malt. Take time and care, over Christmas and beyond.
And enjoy. Sláinte.