At it's simplist, Malt whisky (or Malt Whiskey) HAS A STARTLING PURITY.
The snow melts on the Scottish mountains, filters through rock for decades, bubbles out of springs, and then flows down hill until it reaches the land flat enough for barley to be grown on it.
The water irrigates the barley in the field, pursuades it to germinate in the maltings, infuses it's natural sugarsin the mash tun, becomes beer when the yeast is added, vaporises in the still, becomes a liquid once more in the condenser, enters the cask as spirit and finally leaves it as that special Whisky.
Malted barley is always present. Clean and sweet, but with lots of other elements. The rock from which the water rises will influence the character of the whisky.
The vegetation over which it flows can also be a huge influence.
During the malting process, the partially germinated grain is dried, sometimes over a peat fire, and this will give a smokiness taste.
The different yeasts used in the fermentation stage can create fuity, spicy flavours. Similar characteristics can be influenced by the size and shape of the still, which also affect the richness and weight of the spirit.
Even more characteristics are given during maturation in the cask, from the wood used, its previous contents, and the atmosphere it breathes.
Malt Whiskey in its purist sense is a spirit with real flavour.
Malts are seen in every way, individual, and so it's the opportunity to drink them which makes these just a pleasure.
Every Malt you try is different. A malt from the islands such as the classic Lagavulin is likely to be smoky, earthy and a bit medicinal.
A Speyside Malt may be a little "sherryish, honeyed or flowery. Lowland Malts are grassy and herbal.
Once hooked, you are on the trail of the next distillery.
They enjoy comparing malt whisky from different regions, and oftenthe start of this journey is by reading a book on Whisky, or by spending time on web sites like this.
The Distilleries I will talk more about in another page, but they are often in beautiful locations.
They are often quite distinct, quite unique and quite small. It's because they are small that visiters are welcomed and the viewings can be a tremendous experience.
Malt Whisky in Scotland was re born in the 1990's.
Scotland's 100 plus distilleries turn out some fantastic, unique drinks of differing character, different ages all showing what a massively diverse and changing subject this is.
Interstingly however, the bulk of the Whisky market, in terms of volume, is still made up of largely Blended Whisky.
Again, as the market, and tasted develop, so has the skills of the blender. Some examples of highly acclaimed Whiskey blends are all testament to the skill of the blender.