But this Advanced Beginners Guide isn’t ready for you yet.
The massive site crash of December 2014 has delayed
proceedings - and then I received some disturbing news
from Google in the spring of 2015. The search algorithm
was changed so that “responsive” websites (which can be
viewed on smart phones) are much easier to find than the
old-fashioned “static” websites like Malt Madness.

The Beginner’s Guide to Malt Whiskey answers some fairly basic whisky
questions like ‘Which ingredients are used in whisky?’, ‘Does my butt
look bigger than your hogshead?’
and ‘Is it possible to taste the
difference between whisky and whiskey?’.
If you already know
the answers to those questions, you’re ready for the ABG.

Follow me on Twitter for updates as they come in...


This means fewer people will find these pages.
As you can imagine, it’s hard to keep motivated
when you are working on a website that very few
people get to actually see - and maybe benefit from.

Part of my motivation to keep working on this old
site for 20 years has been the fact that I received
regular questions and feedback from visitors.

So, I’ve decided to take a break from the Advanced Beginner’s Guide...

Instead, I will be focusing on the Whisky Lexicon for a while - a fresh addition to Malt Madness.
In due time, the lexicon should provide an overview off all relevant words and phrases that
are used in the whisky world. Some whisky books offer a few ‘dictionary’ pages with explanations,
but these are often added as an afterthought.

If the repairs and expansions to Malt Madness
don’t happen fast enough for you, don’t hesitate
and let me know how the site can be improved.


The next three chapters focus on the production process of malt whisky; the DISTILLATION of
the fresh spirit from malted barley, the MATURATION that turns the spirit into whisky and finally
the BOTTLING that puts the liquid into a user friendly package. (Fun fact: until the production of
glass bottles was mechanised in the 1820s, most whisky was sold by the dram or by the barrel.)

The last four chapters deal with the practical implications of dramming; SHOPPING for bottles,
the ENJOYMENT of malt whisky, the actual PRACTICE of dramming (in larger quantities) and
finally a CONCLUSION that wraps things up.

batch variation of OB's (the phenomenon that today's Ardbeg 10yo can taste very different from last year's)

All this may seem like a lot of boring theory at first, but it will become very useful later on...

(combined with ‘sample swaps’ is by far the better option. )

The production process begins with malted barley and ends (eventually) with 'fresh spirit'.
Chapter 4 deals with all the steps involved in the distillation process; the growing of the barley (varieties like Optic, Chariot and Golden Promise are used), malting, germination, mashing, fermentation, various still types, feints & foreshots and, last but not least, the actual distillation of the malt whisky. Together with geography and maturation, distillation is one of the three main 'ingredients' of single malt Scotch whisky. I have to admit that this may seem like a slightly (or not so slightly ;-) boring 'theoretical' topic for those eager to take their first sips, but when you understand the essence of distillation you'll enjoy those whiskies so much more...  >>>>>

Chapter 4: Distillation - And so it begins...

After six chapters filled with 'theory', you should now be able to spend some actual money on malts.
There are many different single malt whiskies available at liquor stores around the world. Some bottles can be obtained for as little as 25 Euro's (or the equivalent in your own currency) while others (mostly older and overproof whiskies) will cost you a small fortune. There are still affordable single malts available, but it's not always easy to seek them out - especially for the relative 'beginners' in the confusing world of whisky. This is especially true because liquor stores are not the only venues where you can acquire bottles of whisky. Especially older bottlings are sold at auctions and on eBay and in some countries they're even sold in supermarkets. Chapter seven contains a few suggestions to help you make sensible choices when it comes to buying your next bottle(s).  >>>>>

Chapter 7: Shopping - How to spend your money sensibly on malt whisky

Practice makes perfect. The more malt whiskies you try, the more you'll learn to recognise and appreciate the variation in character and style between single malts from various distilleries - and the differences with other types of whisk(e)y and whiskies from other countries. You have some serious dramming ahead of you if you want to build a useful 'frame of reference'. One of the best (and definitely the funniest) ways to explore the whisky world is a social tasting session with a few friends. But wouldn't it be a shame if they all showed up with the same bottle, or you made a 'faux pas' by enthusiastically throwing some ice cubes in their tumblers before filling them up?
Chapter 9 contains useful tips & pointers to help you avoid shame & humiliation amongst your peers.  >>>>>

Chapter 9: Practice - Organise your own little tasting party

Before I made the 'final' update of this Beginner's Guide in 2009 (the Advanced Beginner's Guide in PDF will be updated continuously), I tried to tie up some loose ends in this last chapter of the guide. I'd like to think that the current guide contains a lot of useful information for absolute beginners, but the more you learn about whisky, the more new questions pop up. That meant that I had to update and expand all 10 HTML pages of this guide regularly in the past, which made the list of 'loose ends' grow longer and longer. That worked for a while, but it wasn't the most efective way of distributing information. So, I had been playing with thoughts about writing an expansion to this guide. The eBook Review in the last chapter explains where I found inspiration for a new guide.  >>>>> 

Chapter 10: Conclusion - Some final observations and reflections

The first version of the Beginner’s Guide ...

(Fun fact: until the production of glass bottles was mechanised in the 1820s, most whisky was sold by the dram or by the barrel.)

The sixth chapter of this guide also includes a list with some of the main independent bottlers of whisky.

MIKE: On a side note, I think Ben Nevis at one time had pot stills AND a column still. Do you know if the term ‘single blend’ was ever recognized by the SWA? (Als verdieping van hoofdstuk 2)

MIKE: The pronunciation section is really good, I sometimes don’t remember the pronunciations of these. One other minuscule thing that some beginners find of interest (as a possibility to add) is the geographical meanings of common Gaelic terms in the distillery names, ex. Glens (glenfiddich – valley of the deer) and Bens (ben nevis – well, at the base of a mountain called ben nevis). Just a side thought. Also related to that (kind of) but perhaps not to this section, it would be interesting to see a blurb on a lot of the speysiders that used to append ‘glenlivet’ to the end of their distillery name. Why they did it, why they changed it, etc.

Hs and auctions are perhaps not the most obvious choices for (relative) beginners, so th - provides more details on these shopping options. Whether or not travel retail is an attractive option for you depends on your lifestyle.

I wrote the very first version of the Beginner’s Guide in the 1990s, before I learned
a lot more about whisky than I did at the time. Thanks to the questions and feedback
of many readers and ‘foreign correspondents’ (not to mention whisky books and the
malt maniacs collective), I could improve the guide, but the available space is limited.

Advanced Beginner's Guide to Whiskey
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Meanwhile, the Scotch Whisky Lexicon already covers 650 whisky phrases, expressions and brands.

Alcohol warning - Do not drink (too much) and drive
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