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Whisky Advocate: American Single Malt Whisky Takes Flight

December 7, 2020

American single malt whiskies are a relatively new category, but they’ve grown into a full-blown movement among craft distillers. The American Single Malt Whiskey Commission, a group of about 160 craft distillers, is rallying behind a formal petition to define the style—made from 100% malted barley, distilled at a single distillery, and made and aged in the U.S.—and their proposal has been under review by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) for over a year. This proposal embraces some of the most important tenets of single malt Scotch, while leaving room for creativity by omitting requirements like minimum aging times or cask types, other than that the whiskey be matured in oak casks no larger than 700 liters.

“We’re trying to make it our own,” says master distiller Lance Winters of Alameda, California’s St. George Spirits, one of American single malt’s earliest pioneers. “One of the things for me that defines America is being able to do something that’s a little different. There hasn’t been a single malt tradition in the United States, so it was an opportunity to create our own tradition for an American single malt.”

“Single malt whisky is inherently interesting because of its diversity,” says American Single Malt Whiskey Commission president Steve Hawley. “There’s a wide range of climates and styles that are emerging. We’re also living in a country that’s largely free from the chains of tradition and convention. That allows us to explore single malts in a different way.” Whisky Advocate has a full report.—Zak Kostro

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