The Difference Between Single- and Double-Malt Scotch

By Leigh Kramer

To understand the difference between a single-malt scotch and a double-malt scotch, some whiskey terms must be explained. However, the simple explanation is that a single-malt scotch comes from only one distillery and often refers to scotch that comes from one batch. A double-malt scotch is less common -- it is what is referred to as a vatted malt whiskey. This means that it is a blend of two batches from two distilleries (although many vatted whiskeys will use more than two).

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Single-malt scotch comes from one batch; double-malt comes from two or more.

'Scotch' and 'Malt'

Scotch has Scottish origins. Whiskey itself originates in the British Isles, and it was one of the few liquors that a person could legally buy during the Great Depression, for medical purposes. Malted whiskey or scotch refers to a whiskey that has been made from a malted, or fermented, barley.

Single

A single-malt scotch or whiskey comes from one distillery. It tends to be more expensive, and it's associated with quality brands of scotch and whiskey. There are further specialized whiskeys -- a single-cask single-malt is a malt whiskey that has all come from one single cask. This makes a whiskey with a taste limited in nature -- a distillery will sometimes mix different batches and casks to achieve a more consistent flavor.

Vatted

Vatted malt whiskey is a made from a mix of whiskeys that come from more than one distillery -- two at the minimum, or more. This is done to achieve a consistent product that can always be relied upon to taste approximately the same, which cannot always be said of the more expensive single-malts. It also can be a less expensive whiskey option.

Double

Double is a term that some vendors are using to refer to a vatted malt scotch that has been blended from only two distilleries. Double scotch malt companies will generally tell you which distilleries they used and why they blended the whiskeys together.