American Single Malt Whiskey is on its way to being recognized as an official “type” of whisky/whiskey by the federal government, complete with a set of identifying standards. When approved in the coming months, as reported by The New York Times, American Single Malt Whisky (spelling without the “e”) will join other “types” in the Whiskey Class, including Bourbon Whiskey, Corn Whiskey, Rye Whiskey, Straight Whiskey, and more.
How did we get here? And what are the standards that will identify American Single Malt? We’re glad you asked.
American Single Malt Whisky Designation
In October 2017, a handful of distillers, on behalf of the American Single Malt Whiskey Commission (ASMWC), petitioned the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which is the arm of the U.S. Treasury that regulates alcohol. The distillers requested the establishment of a set of standards (see below) to officially identify “American Single Malt Whisky” for producers/consumers as a distinctive product of the U.S.
- Made from 100% malted barley
- Distilled entirely at one distillery
- Mashed, distilled, and matured in the USA
- Matured in oak casks, not exceeding 700 liters
- Distilled to no more than 160 proof
- Bottled at 80 proof or more
The petitioning distillers noted that the language was distinctive enough to add value to the new designation, while not inhibiting innovation among producers. Sidebar, wondering what “malted barley” is? It is barley that has been dried after it has germinated in water.
The ASMWC’s petition got the ball rolling, so to speak, and by July 2022, the TTB issued the proposed addition of “American Single Malt Whisky to the Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits.” The TTB invited comments from interested members of the public through September 27, 2022. That was the last official mention of the proposal in the TTB newsletter.
Get Your Single Malt
Now, according to the aforementioned Times article, American Single Malt Whisky will soon receive official recognition from the TTB. Steve Haley, co-founder ASMWC, told the Times that more than 200 distilleries are already making the spirit. That figure trumps the number of distilleries in Scotland making Single Malt Scotch.
The ASMWC’s proposed standards are less rigid that Scotland’s designation for Single Malt Scotch, which require, among other things, that the distillation take place in pot stills and age for a minimum of three years. Traditionally, Single Malt Scotch is aged in used bourbon casks. American Single Malt Whisky can be barrelled in new or used oak (charred or un-charred). In addition, pot stills or column stills (or any kind of still) can be used.
The ASMWC’s website lists more than 100 member distilleries producing the spirit, including Balcones Distilling in Texas, Westland Distillery in Washington, Headframe Spirits in Montana, and Virginia Distillery Co. in Virginia, among many others.
In fact, there are plenty of non-member distilleries making American Single Malt Whisky. Jack Daniel’s released its first bottle last year.