xxx

Here, you should be able to find everything you need
to know to ‘properly’ enjoy a single malt Scotch whisky.
In fact, I imagine that many of the whisk(e)y tasting tips
in this guide might help with other types of whisky as well.
But we won’t get to that until the second part of this guide.

Are you a 'novice' in the world of (single) malt (Scotch) whisky - or whiskey? (*)
Have you recently tried your first ‘drams’ of malt whisky and you’re curious?
Or maybe you wonder if and why you should try single malt whisky at all?
Well, with some luck you will feel a lot smarter once you’ve worked your
way through the ten chapters of this Beginner’s Guide to malt whisky.

Macallan malt whiskey
Single malt basicsSingle malt whiskey vocabularyDistillation of whiskeyBottlingShopping for whiskeyWhisky TastingConclusion

Before we get to the practical points like the best type
of glassware or how much water you should use, it’s worth
taking a look at some whisky history & technology along the way.
And some ‘lingo’ to help you impress others while you’re dramming.

So, if you would classify yourself as a ‘nitwit’ when it comes to malt
whisky, I suggest you simply browse onwards to chapter one about
the whisky basics and start reading. If you already know a thing or
two, you can also jump directly to a particular topic in the the list
of chapters at the right (and the top of each page).

The rest of this page deals with the contents of the 10 chapters
of this Beginner’s Guide, while the Guide To The Guide goes into
more detail. If you think you already know all there is to know about
malt whisky, think again and check the Advanced Beginners Guide.

Beginner's Guide to Malt Whisky
fffAdvanced Beginners Guide

Do you consider yourself a whisky expert? Congratulations; then you can move along.
The Advanced Guide is for those who realise that there’s more to learn about whisky...
Always - the phrase ‘whisky expert’ might be thrown around a little lightly these days...

>>> THE ADVANCED BEGINNERS GUIDE

xxxThe Debunker BunkerThe Debunker Bunker

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.

>>> THE DEBUNKER BUNKER

So, I’ve now added a ‘Debunker Bunker’ to the guide where we’ll have room to
expand a bit on some of the main myths and misconceptions of the whisky world.
However, at the moment the bunker is still ‘under construction’...

Be that as it may, it
never hurts to learn a
little more about whiskey.

Meanwhile, before we even get to the contents
of the ten chapters, I’d like to start with the most
important piece of advice: don’t drink & drive!
It’s unethical to risk others for your pleasure...

Malt Whisky for Beginners

The Advanced Beginners Guide will never be
completely finished, but it provides more room
to look at topics from a broader perspective.
For now, the Whisky Label Inspector might
help novices avoid some costly mistakes.

Chapter 3: Geography - The malt whisky regions of Scotland

Chapter one deals with the spelling of whisky (or whiskey) and the difference between whisky and whiskey.
It also looks at the origins of whisk(e)y in Scotland and/or Ireland - and what makes Scotch whisky so special.
And you’ll understand how a Phylloxera (wine louse) infection in France helped Scotch whisky to spread globally.
The chapter about whisky basics should provide answers to all these ‘basic’ whisky questions.  >>>>>

Chapter 1: Basics - What is Scotch malt whisky?

Chapter 2: Vocabulary - Terminology & pronunciation

Do you know your hogshead from your butt? Or a 'pure malt' from a 'vatted malt' - or 'blended malt' even?
What is the difference between malt whisky and grain whisky - and what other whisky 'types' are available?
Why are blended whisky and blended malt whisky different - and why is blending not the same as ‘vatting’?
What do abbreviations like OB, ABV & WIP mean? And what about the pronunciation of names like Auchroisk?
The second chapter on whisky vocabulary should help you prevent unnecessary embarrassments.  >>>>>

Chapter 1: Basics - What is Scotch whisky?
Chapter 2: Vocabulary - Terminology & pronunciation
Chapter 3: Geography - Whisky regions of Scotland (and the world)

Whisk(e)y distillation was discovered in Scotland (or Ireland), but nowadays whisky is produced all over the world.
Most malt whisky distilleries are still Scotch, but you can find (malt) whisky distilleries in dozens of countries now.
The influence of whisky regions or 'terroirs' within Scotland is not nearly as important as it once was, but it gives
us a useful ‘handle’ on the whisky world. The chapter on whisky geography looks at these issues and more.  >>>>>

Chapter 6: Bottling in whisky bottles

Together with geography and maturation, distillation is one of the three main 'ingredients' of Scotch malt whisky.
Whisky production begins with malted barley and ends with fresh ‘new make spirit'. Chapter 4 deals with all stages
of the distillation process. That includes the growing of barley grains, malting, germination, mashing, fermentation,
various pot still types (mostly wash stills & spirits stills, but Lomond stills too) and, last but not least, the actual
distillation of the malt whisky in copper pot stills. It’s not whisky yet at this point, but we’re getting there...  >>>>>

Chapter 4: Distillation of Scotch whisky

Chapter 5: Maturation - Ageing of whisky and spirits

After at least 3 years of maturation in oak casks the freshly distilled spirit has transformed into whisky.
The pedigree and history of the wood and casks is perhaps the most significant factor in shaping the final product.
There are major differences between malt whiskies that were aged in ex-bourbon barrels and those that were
matured in ex-sherry casks. Nobody can predict the precise effect that a particular shape, size and type of cask
will have on the freshly distilled spirit that it will be filled with, so there’s an element of alchemy to maturation.  >>>>>

Chapter 4: Distillation - Production of whisky & spirits
Chapter 5: Maturation - All the spirit needs to evolve into whisky is time
Chapter 6: Bottling - All about bottles and bottling

Thanks to the invention of the bottle we don’t have to drink our whisky straight from the cask anymore.
The sixth chapter deals with the bottling of the (Scotch malt) whisky once it has been matured for at least 3 years.
It also covers related topics like the difference between official bottlings, independent bottlings and ‘bastards’
single casks, cask strength bottlings, batch variation, chill filtration, artificial whisky colouring with caramel, etc.
Chapter six explains why whisky bottles were such a great invention - and why labels improved upon it...  >>>>>

Chapter 10: Conclusion - Some final observations and reflections

Chapter 9: Practice - Organise your own little tasting party

So, now it’s time to spend some actual money on (malt) whisky. There are many different whiskies available via
different whisky shopping channels but a bottle of decent whisky can still be obtained for as little as 25 Euro's
if you know what to look for. But it's not always easy to seek out the bargains - especially for relative 'beginners' in
the confusing whisky world. Chapter 7 help you make sensible choices when it comes to buying your bottles.  >>>>>

Chapter 7: Shopping - The ways of getting your whisky

Chapter 8: Enjoyment - About nosing and tasting single malt whisky

Everybody enjoys a whisky in his or her own way, and that’s just fine with me. However, if you want to get the most
from a single malt, it helps to consider topics like the type of glassware that is suitable for serious whisky analysis,
the temperature at which malt whisky is best served, if diluting a whisky (with water, not ice cubes!) and how we
can make the most of our senses whilst seriously tasting (and enjoying) a glass of malt whisky.  >>>>>

Chapter 7: Shopping - The ways of getting your whisky
Chapter 8: Tasting - About tasting whisky like you mean it
Chapter 9: Practice - Organise your own little tasting party

Practice makes perfect. The huge variation in character and style between whiskies from various distilleries, stills,
ingredients and countries means that you’ll have some serious ‘dramming’ ahead of you. As you go along, you will
develop a 'frame of reference' and soon you will be able to organise a ‘social’ whisky tasting with a few friends.
But wouldn't it be a shame if they all showed up with the same bottle? Yes it would - but chapter 9 can help.  >>>>>

Chapter 10: Conclusion - Some final observations and reflections

The last chapter wraps up the first part of the Beginner’s Guide. Apart from some reflections on whisky it contains
a Reading List with some suggestions for whisky books. Because your whisky education is just beginning...   >>>>>

After working your way through these ten chapters you should at least have learned enough to be able to avoid
embarrassing yourself in public and/or making some costly mistakes when you are shopping for your whiskey.
Another useful tool for novices could be the WHISKY LABEL INSPECTOR which provides some background
information about the ‘essential credentials’ that can be found on a whisky label, like age, vintage, proof, etc.
If you want to learn even more about whisky, check out the sitemap for other whisky information on this website. .

SitemapFrequently Asked QuestionsMalt Maniacs - Malt Whisky Archives
Beginner's Guide to Scotch whiskeyDistillery DataDistillery Map of Scotch Whisky
Whisky basicsSingle malt whiskey vocabularyGeography of Scotch and world whiskyDistillation of whiskeyBottlingShopping for whiskeyTasting Whisky
Send an e-mail