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The Secrets of The Teaspoon Malts

Updated: Mar 5

For some, the term 'Teaspoon malt' might be a strange concept. What does it mean, and why is it done? Here are some key points about the blending method and its trickery.


swirling whisky with glass and spoon

Image by The Whisky Ardvark



 

Teaspoon for protection


There are currently 137 whisky distilleries in Scotland. Most of the whisky distilled is destined to be part of blends, with only a fraction of the spirit produced being bottled as single malts. Some distilleries like Kilchoman concentrate on only making and distilling single malts and don't sell their whisky to be bottled by independent bottlers (not counting Elements of Islay's Kh1). But more often than not, distilleries will also rely on cask brokers and intermediaries to sell extra casks unsuitable for their own or blender needs.


Not all casks are matured equally. The location in the warehouse, cask style, and evaporation are just some of the things affecting the maturation process. The casks sold to independent bottlers, supermarkets, and individuals vary greatly, but it doesn't mean that there's something wrong with the whisky itself - it just does not fit in the distillery style that they have already established.


Enter teaspoon malts. The name comes from the actual addition of a small amount of malt whisky - a teaspoon - distilled at a different distillery to the casks. This way, it can not be legally sold as a single malt since single malt has to come from only one distillery. The result is a blended malt. This ensures that the company that distilled and sold the whisky can keep its carefully built identity.

Valinch and mallet

Image by Valinch & Mallet


There are a couple of different ways that whisky distilleries can demand their whiskies to be sold:


  1. Adding a teaspoon of another single malt to their cask makes it a blended malt - usually bottled under a set pseudo name by the seller. These names are inspired by names linked to the distillery or perhaps a closed distillery name no longer in use. We will get into more detail shortly.

  2. They sell casks to independent bottlers that are known to the producer, and therefore, they are allowed to use the real name of the originating distillery. By law, the name of the bottling company has to be spelt in a bigger font than the distillery name.

  3. Some independent bottlers use names that can be associated with the originated distillery with only a little effort. For example, Murray McDavid has previously bottled Laphroaig as Leapfrog and Talisker as Tactical.

  4. Supermarkets and other outlets with their own lines of whiskies can be required under a non-disclosure agreement to come up with their own name for the spirits sold. These whiskies are sometimes referred to as 'bastards' because the parent distillery is unknown, although these bottles usually state the region that the malt came from.


 

The effect of the Teaspoon


whisky barrel warehouse

Image by Fine+Rare


As you can imagine, adding a spoonful (6ml) to a hogshead cask of 250 litres will not affect the taste of the whisky. Let's say that the cask has been filled with 175 litres of whisky. After 10 years of cask aging with the yearly evaporation of 2%, what's left at the end is roughly 146 litres. The 6ml added after 10 years counts for only 0.00004% of the whisky in the cask. Not to mention that many times, these whiskies are diluted to a preferred ABV with water before bottling.


Adding a teaspoonful of whisky to a cask is only a physical practice that ensures that the whisky can't be sold as a single malt that can be traced back to the distillery that made it. Such a small gesture allows the distillery to keep control of what can be associated with their product line and the whisky they want to be known for. It's all about protecting their name.


 

Known Teaspoon Malt Names


On some occasions, both the original distillery and the added malt whisky are known, and the owners are known to use the same concoction regularly. On other occasions, distilleries like Glenglassaugh are thought to use different whiskies as the secondary malt, and it might vary even though the name used stays the same.


We have seen some of these bottled as single malts, which makes us wonder if they have been mislabelled. Most likely, these names also serve as aliases to distilleries and have been authorised to be used as a name for an independently bottled single malt.


Aldunie - Kininvie with Glenfiddich or Balvenie

Auchinderrom - Peated Glenglassaugh

Blairfindy - Glenfarclas

Burnside - Balvenie with a teaspoonful of Glenfiddich

Craigmills - Glenglassaugh

Duich - Tamdhu

Glenisla - Glen Keith

Glen Mosset - Benromach

Glenshiel - Glenrothes

Kildalton - Ardbeg

Kintail - Macallan

Margadale - Bunnahahbain

Placemill - Glendronach

Staoisha - Peated Bunnahabhain

Stronachie - Benrinnes

Wardhead - Glenfiddich with a teaspoonful of Balvenie

Westport - Glenmorangie with a teaspoon Glen Moray

Whitlaw - Highland Park

Williamson - named after a former female distillery manager at Laphroaig


Teaspoon malt whiskies

Image by The Whisky Ardvark

 

Thank you for reading! #thewhiskyardvark #whiskyardvark



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