A malt is fermented grain or root which is mashed, then fermented and distilled to form a liquor beverage. The grain or root could be rye, barley, wheat, corn, potato, beets, or other roots. It is malted by soaking the grain or root in water for a period of two to three days, then letting it germinate which produces the enzymes needed to convert starch into fermentable sugars.
Single Malt: A single malt whiskey is simply a whiskey crafted using only one malt from a single distillery. It’s actually toughest to make a good single malt whiskey. If anything goes wrong in the process to damage the taste, the single malt won’t be up to par. Generally, single malts are bottled by the distillery itself, i.e. The Glenlivet or Bushmills. Because so much talent and effort goes into the development of a good single malt, these are the most expensive whiskeys.
Double Malt: A double malt whiskey uses two malts which may be from different distilleries. These malts are blended together to create an appropriate taste. This can salvage a distiller’s lesser malt which was judged inappropriate for bottling as a single malt. Although less expensive than single malts, the double malt runs close in price.
Blended Malt: A blended malt whiskey combines three or more malts which may be from different distilleries to create a single whiskey. You may also see these referred to as vatted malt or pure malt. This is the easiest way for a distiller or bottler to create a good flavored whiskey. Bottlers such as Chivas Regal and Canadian Club create blended whiskeys using malts from various distilleries so they can produce a flavor consistent with their brand. These whiskeys are the least expensive.
Finally, you needn’t worry that a distillery or bottler claim a blended malt is really a single malt. After more than 600 years of whiskey production, the industry has become highly regulated. In fact, many countries have laws governing whiskey labeling. For instance, Scottish law mandates any liquor labeled single malt Scotch (a type of whiskey) must be distilled by a single Scottish distillery in a pot still using malted barley as the only grain ingredient and matured in oak casks in Scotland for at least three years. So, rest assured when you buy your whiskey, you really are getting the malt you paid for. It’s the law.