A single grain scotch whisky, as the name suggests, may sound like a whisky made from one particular type of grain. The ‘single’ rather refers to the single distillery process that is used to make this kind of whisky. The single grain whisky is prepared in a single distillery but in addition to the malted barley and water that is used in making it, the whisky may also include certain grains of other cereals. These cereals can be malted or unmalted.
A single grain scotch whisky differs from a normal scotch whisky with its ingredient being made of a grain other than the primary malted barley. Corn, wheat or rye is used in making this type of whiskey. The otherwise famous ‘malt whiskey’ or the ‘scotch whiskey’ has to have malted barley as it remains the main ingredient that enhances its flavor and fineness. The grain whiskey is however, a little lighter.
Single grain whisky was made in Scotland since very old times. Their main intention was to use up the cereals that could not be consumed as food but still not waste its nutrition value and instead convert it as food for sheep. This whiskey was made in pot stills. In the 1820s, Robert Stein, an Inspector in Dublin devised a still capable of producing large amounts of spirit that was pure and highly powerful.
Since then, the still was used to operate continuously rather than in batches like in pot stills, which proved to be much cheaper. These stills were called Coffey or patent stills. However, the whisky that is made in a patent still is lightly flavored than that made in a pot still. This characteristic made it very desirable for blending with the heavily sweetened malts. Single grain Scotch whisky is never peated and is lighter than the malt whisky and possesses an oaky flavor.
The single grain whisky was typically made of wheat in the beginning and sometimes tried with oats and rye. Today, corn has widely replaced them. The corn or the wheat grain is powdered and mixed in hot water and placed away in a tank. A small amount of malted barley is added to the grains. This acts as a catalyst and provides the necessary enzymes which later convert the starch inside the grains into sugar. The spirit formed after fermentation is continuously distilled in Coffey and patents, as against pot stills which are used for malt whiskeys.
The quiet nature of single grain whisky, to some extent, has made the drink less valued nowadays. However, the latest growth in the manufacture of single grain whiskies, mostly from some independently functioning bottlers, has begun to put their production in limelight, though many of these whiskies are still sought after by people on various review and whisky comparison sites like Whisky Marketplace.
Sadly, there are just about 7 distilleries that are actively functioning in Scotland today. Some other popular single grain distilleries are the Girvan distillery known for its Black Barrel Grain Whisky and Carsebridge Grain Whisky. The Cameron Bridge Single Grain Whisky is also another popular whisky around the world that almost everyone is familiar with. The grain whisky from the Port Dundas distillery located in Glasgow is also known for its unique flavor.