American Single Malt is the Next Big Thing

Jan. 24, 2019


Whiskey values the grain, but Americans tend to go against it.

From bourbon to Tennessee whiskey, Americans have lent their unconventional nature to the caramel-colored spirit, testing its limits and creating new ones altogether.

The latest in American innovation is American Single Malt, a dark horse trying to make a name for itself. The sector is still in its infancy, but its growing popularity has called for a Standard of Identity

For a whiskey to be categorized as American Single Malt, it must follow the guidelines set by the American Single Malt Whiskey Commission (ASMWC):

  • • Made from 100% malted barley
  • • Distilled entirely at one distillery
  • • Mashed, distilled and matured in the United States of America
  • • Matured in oak casks of a capacity not exceeding 700 liters
  • • Distilled to no more than 160 (U.S.) proof (80% alcohol by volume)
  • • Bottled at 80 (U.S.) proof or ore (40% alcohol by volume)


American Single Malt is still so new, it isn’t yet recognized by the federal government as an official whiskey category. But the establishment of the ASMWC is working to change that.

“It’s exciting,” Breakthru Beverage Channel Manager Paul Leddy said. “It’s rare to be around for the launch of an entirely new category.”

But with a definition still so novel, it’s difficult to navigate where American Single Malt lies on the whiskey spectrum. Leddy helps break it down.


Taste & Terroir

American Single Malt is made from 100% malted barley, which gives whiskey a roasted, grainy and sweet taste that goes together with the flavor profiles of biscuits and vanilla bean.

But there’s a reason Kentucky and Tennessee are famous for bourbon. Different grains do well in different areas, Leddy said.

Regionalization is what makes ASM unique. American whiskey distillers are gathering their grains and other raw materials from local sources. The terroir of the barley adds nuanced flavors to the spirit.

“These distillers are capturing the best flavors from their environment,” Leddy said. “They’re capturing what is local. There’s farm to table, but this is grain to bottle.”


Category & Cocktails

Both on-premise and off-premise establishments are still unsure where to place American Single Malt. They tend to sort it under “American Whiskeys,” along with bourbons and ryes. While ASM is decidedly American, to set it under the umbrella term of “American Whiskeys” would be remiss.

“American Single Malt is a whole new classification,” Leddy said. “It should be treated that way.”

Leddy suggests giving American Single Malt its own section on menus and shelves. A separate category reflects how different ASM is from other American whiskeys.

To enjoy American Single Malt, Leddy recommends a simple highball (whiskey and soda) cocktail.

“It’s a really great way to show the unique flavors that come from these distilleries,” Leddy said.


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