Does American single malt need to broken down into subcategories? And how would you do this - by region, like Scotch; by ingredient; wood used in aging? Wayne Curtis explores where American single malt might be headed in The Emerging Styles of American Single Malt, (Daily.sevenfifty.com, May 23, 2019). He discusses the question with several notable distillers (Colin Keegan among them), but the answer hasn’t yet emerged:
“While ideas for categorizing American single malts vary—whether that means distinguishing whiskeys by regions or by motivations, by terroir or smoke or wood—one point producers seem to agree on is that history offers little guidance for the future. Ultimately, American single malt whiskey production lacks the history, regionality, and traditional techniques of Old World whiskey. And so what will emerge may well be wholly unexpected.
Keegan likes the idea of engineering terroir and creating a sense of place in a bottle, even if it’s done with ingredients that aren’t strictly local. ”It’s a place to start—and then let time and consumers sort it out on their own,” he says. “Discard what confuses or fails to clarify. Then double down on classifications that seem to work.””
There’s no one who would argue that American single malts aren’t here to stay, and that we’ll be seeing more of them in the nest several years.