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Singlemalting 194# – Keeper Time

G’day everyone,

It has been an extremely eventful year thus far and overdue for me to ket the fingers flying on the keyboard for another Singlemalting Blog. Earlier this year I had the absolute honour to travel to Scotland and attend the Spring induction of the Keepers of the Quaich. If you are unfamiliar with this organization for Scotch Whisky you can read all about them on their website here.

After living my whisky passion that has been for the most part a Scotch Whisky Journey for the past 15 years it was thrilling to be included alongside so many incredible people. Everything from the walk up the red carpet surrounded by an honor guard and pipers to the swearing in ceremony, epic banquet and opportunity to talk whisky together was nothing short of mind blowing.

Even the whiskies on the table paired with dinner were extra special including a Single Cask bottling of Talisker especially for the Keepers of the Quaich that had me more than a few drams in by the end of the night.

My gorgeous wife Cindy has been a big part of my inspiration and journey into this fantastic world of whisky and I was so glad to have her alongside me for such a special moment.

Red Carpet Arrival

There are roughly only 2500 Keepers in the world and there are only 60 to 70 added each year shared between two ceremonies in the Spring and Fall. In this elite company of Scotch Whisky lovers are some absolute industry legends. As I sat listening to the achievements of the other Masters and new Keeper inductees I had to pinch myself that I was becoming part of it all.

From across the globe the 38 new keepers at my induction all had amazing stories to tell. Some working tirelessly for big brands, some breaking new markets, some like myself working with independents but all living and breathing the world of Scotch Whisky.

To my knowledge there are very few Keepers that are Canadian and even less that are Australian. I could probably safely bet that I might be the only Keeper that is both.

I have to say a massive thankyou to my nominator Stuart Nickerson of the Malt Whisky Company. Many of you have read my reviews of his whiskies over the years and having the chance to stay with Stuart and Wilma at their home was hospitality of the highest order. A special thankyou to Wilma who somehow even with a 30 minute roadblock managed to get us to the ball on time. The other industry legend that I must thank is Tim Morrison of A.D. Rattray and Clydeside Distillery who backed up Stuarts nomination by seconding it and endorsing my membership. I have been working with A.D. Rattray for over 15 years now and so it was very special for me to have Mr Morrison as part of this milestone.

Grinning Keeper

Thanks to everyone who has supported Cindy and I and Secret Spirits as we work to bring you amazing whiskies and our labor of love the Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar. Without you this would not have been possible.

Slainte

Jonathan

Singlemalting # 193 – It’s fun to say Schnapps

Welcome back to the as promised review of something very interesting from the Yukon. While there last September I received a bottle of Concept 7 from Yukon Spirits and have been waiting till the deep of Winter to crack it open.

Yukon Spirits has been in operation since 2009 when a still was added to the Yukon Brewing facility that had been making outstanding beer since 1997. Their first whisky was launched under the Two Brewers label as a classic Single Malt.

Yukon Schnapps

The Concept 7 began as the Lead Dog Ale that is a rich malty beer that I have downed with vigor on my trips to the Yukon. Deciding to distill the Lead Dog and then age it in fresh oak barrels they came up with Concept 7. Classified as Schnapps here in Canada they could if they had been distilling in the US called this a whiskey as it is 42%.

Yukon Spirits Concept 7 Barrel Aged Schnapps – 42% and bottle 40 of 525 – tasted in a good old shot glass as most Schnapps is

Nose:  One could be forgiven if tasting this blind that they had a light rye whiskey in their glass. Some nutty spice and sweetness with treacle toffee notes.

Palate:   Warming spice (Winter special this one) that makes me wish I was on the hill skiing with this in my hip flask. Brief thought of rye whiskey does not follow through here with the spice taking a much sweeter turn. A real freshness about this that throws some lively stewed apple note complete with a sprinkling of fresh ground cinnamon.

Finish:   Surprisingly long and warming right to my core. The malty Ale really hits on the finish doffing it’s cap to the Lead Dog origins and I wish I had one here right now so I could do a cleansing chaser.

Delicious stuff this and was I surprised? Not even a little. When you start with good ingredients and keep that attention to detail then the result is bound to be awesome.

Everyone say Schnapps

I’ll be heading out and grabbing a 6 pack of Lead Dog and trying the chaser theory very soon.

Thank guys for sharing a rare bottle of this delicious dram with me. Looking forward to checking out whats happening at Yukon Spirits later this year on my next trip up North.

Concept 7 is not available in Alberta but I’m sure that Yukon Spirits would be happy to ship you a bottle if you dropped them a line.

For my next rant I’ll be off to Scotland for the annual pick the whisky tour. This time it’s culminating in a very prestigious honor that I have worked and waited a long time for.

Until then when all will be revealed have a good one and dram on.

Cheers

 

Jonathan

Singlemalting # 192 – Big Brand Jazz

G’day everyone and welcome back to a brand New Year. After spending Christmas in Ontario I was back at another wonderful whisky festival week in Edmonton, Calgary and Victoria. You can read about how amazing these festivals are in one of my previous blogs. As promised today I am sharing a rareish bottle of whisky from the largest producing brand of Single Malt in the world.

Shadow oversees the blog writing

Glenfiddich is mopst likely extremely well known to everyone reading this blog. As an imbiber of all things independent bottling it is a scarcity for me to reach out and grab a big brand bottle. I literally stared at this particular packaging for almost the entire month of December while promoting our Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar at Costco in San Francisco. As a branding and packaging piece, the team at Glenfiddich did an amazing job. Everything from the box to the bottle is full of little details that make it exceptionally well thought out.

Seems like I might have had a wee dram or two

This is the Glenfiddich 21 year old Reserva Rum Cask Finish. The rich orange colouring of the box with the double opening doors allows for light to play on the whisky bottle and to say that it beckoned me to open the bottle is an understatement. Like most everyone I am also swayed by beautiful packaging and well thought out design. After tucking it under my arm and transporting it back to Canada I could hardly wait to see if what was inside the bottle would live up to the eye candy.

Glenfiddich 21 Year Old Reserva Rum Cask Finish – Bottled at 40%. With the Rum cask no doubt giving it a rouch of extra colour I would hope that it does not have any caramel added but I expect with the worldwide distribution and number of bottles that it is. Also sadly chill filtered.

Nose:   Tropical fruit influence taking me to ripe banana split with vanilla bean ice cream and hot caramel fudge drizzled all over it.

Palate:   Light delivery that leaves me needing another sip as it was all gone rather quickly. There are some light sweet spices… a touch of ginger, vanilla, and a hint of the tropics like the smell of the fruit bowl when its across the other side of your resort hotel room.

Finish:  Drying and trying to hang on but fading quickly. There is some citrus poking through at the death but little else.

Was really hoping for a lot more and if it had been 46% and non-chill filtered I know that I would have been rewarded handsomly. However the bottle yield would have been much less and alas that is not the way Glenfiddich plays.

I went in search of some reviews to compare and found a few lucky souls that had received barrel samples of this whisky and lets just say that their experience was much improved over the final version.

So this bottle was selling for around $ 180 US. For a packaging analysis and big brand experience blog experience I would do it again. If I were a consumer I might be a touch dissapointed that the whisky could have delivered so much more. Why dress the whisky up in the finest of formal evening wear only to strip it of all the nuance and complexity that would have made it shine.

Great experiment and fun to do. Would be nice to really see the big boys let it be all about the whisky sometimes even allowing for spectacular packaging. My suggestion would be to save your $$$’s for something a little more epic but by all means grab it off the shelf and check out the packaging.

Next blog as promised quite a while ago I am going to be tasting a small batch bottle of something crazy from the boys at Two Brewers in the Yukon. Stay tuned.

Slainte

Singlemalting.

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Singlemalting #191 – Day 25 – 4th Edition Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar – Samaroli 30 Year Old Invergordon

Welcome to day 25 and Merry Christmas.

So at last the quartet is complete. We have had in this order on Christmas day – 1st edition “Blended Malt 33yo”, 2nd edition “Single Malt 30yo”, 3rd edition “Blended Scotch 34yo” and now 4th edition “Single Grain 30yo”. All previous day 25 whiskies have been amazing expressions from Samaroli. Lets check out this old Invergordon from Samaroli as we relax by the fire. Snowing heavily in both Alberta and here in Ontario where I am spending Christmas with Cindy’s Family. A far cry from the gorgeous blue skies and warm weather I had last Christmas in Australia.

Invergordon is a Single Grain Distillery that was founded in 1960. It is located in the Northern Highlands much farther away from the other Single Grain distilleries that are found in and around the Lowlands of Scotland. Using Coffey stills Invergordon produces a staggering amount of Single Grain Scotch Whisky every year, somewhere in the vicinity of 40 million liters. Invergordon is owned by Whyte and Mackay as the backbone of their blends. Rarely seen under its own label it is independent bottlers that get this out to whisky geeks worldwide.

Barrels at Invergordon Distillery

Samaroli 30 year old Invergordon Single Grain Scotch Whisky – bottled at the abv of 45% aged in a Sherry Hogshead cask number 901551.

Colour:     As with most Samaroli bottlings this is very pale indeed for a sherry hogshead after 30 years and tells me this must have been a refill cask.

Nose:    Rich and heady on the nose like wandering through a Moroccan Spice Bazaar. Still a large alcohol presence at only 45% promising some lively flavors I’m hoping.

Palate:    Initially tropical with some coconut milk creaminess that immediately launches into sweet passionfruit pulp spooned over caramel flan.

Finish:    Just deliciously consistent with everything that has gone before. Love the rolling soft sweetness with a finishing dusting of spice.

Samaroli Invergordon 30 Year Old

One of the most interesting Single Grains I have tried and certainly to date by far the best Invergordon. Thanks Samaroli for doing it again. Can you guys back up next year to hold the 25 spot for 5 years in a row? We will have to see.

It has been amazing yet again to have all of you join us here at Secret Spirits for this 4th rendition of our journey through Scotland. We hope you have enjoyed the experience of exploration and found it rewarding and entertaining.

If you love our calendar it would be amazing if you could post some comments or join us at our various Social Medial pages. All the links can be found at www.secretspirits.com.

Please give a ton of comments and a big round of applause for the amazing work done by Scotch Trooper for this 4th (force) edition. His photos and tasting notes were fantastic. Thanks Scotch Trooper for being part of our journey.

On this day in the 3rd edition we had Samaroli give us the oldest whisky bottled in any edition with the 34 Year Old First Fill Sherry Blended Scotch.

May you have amazing love, friendship and family around you at this time of year and throughout your life.

I will be writing again shortly about a rare aquisition from a major brand (very unlike me to make such a purchase). Looking forward to doing it all again next year and bringing about our half decade milestone.

Thanks again

Jonathan and Cindy

Secret Spirits

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Singlemalting #190 – Day 24 – 4th Edition Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar – A.D. Rattray Tamnavulin 29 Year Old

Welcome to Christmas Eve and a chance to welcome a new distillery to the Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar list. This cask from A.D. Rattray was just shy of 30 years old so could have qualified for the Christmas Day dram with a few more months. Settling for Christmas Eve however is no small feat.

Tamnavulin is a distillery in Speyside that opened in 1966. A relative newcomer to the Scotch Whisky Landscape. It operated until 1995 was closed for over a decade reopening in 2007. Owned by Whyte and Mackay there is limited availability of Single Malt under the Tamnavulin label and so it is up to us independent bottlers to source these rare casks and give you a taste of what could be.

Tamnavulin Distillery

A.D. Rattray Tamnavulin 29 Year Old Single Malt aged in a Bourbon Hogshead # 10026 and bottled at the cask strength of 49.4%.

Colour:    Even after 29 years all it can muster is medium gold.

Nose:   Herbal tea infused with Chamomile, Apple, Pear and just a touch of grapefruit.

Palate:    Wow really palate coating and the ABV seems perfect as is. The pear really shows strongly and the pink grapefruit is there sitting right next store.

Finish:   Custard apple, fragrant, sweet and creamy.

This is a delicious older dram and I can hardly get over the mountain of fruity goodness after 29 years in cask. This is what I look for in an older dram and this is also my first time with a Tamnavulin in my glass. I will definitely be looking for more in the future.

On the 24th day of the 3rd edition Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar we had the Single Cask Nation 28 Year Old Bunnahabhain.

Please head on over and support our Star Wars loving blogger Scotch Trooper.

Tomorrow being Christmas day we head into the realm of 30 Year Old Scotch Whisky. We have covered pretty much every category of Scotch Whisky over the past 4 editions for our final dram except one. Read closely and you will be able to guess the style of tomorrow’s dram. As in all past years the boys at Samaroli continue to hold the coveted spot.

Hope that everyone has some family and friends surrounding them and can share in the love and fun that this time of year brings.

Looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow on Christmas Day.

Have a wonderful Christmas Eve and happy dramming.

Cheers

Singlemalting

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Singlemalting #189 – Day 23 – 4th Edition Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar – Single Cask Nation – Tormore 21yo

Right down to the very end of our journey now with only 3 drams to go. Today we have the lone expression from our mates at Single Cask Nation. Love the casks that these two guys choose and was excited nonetheless to at least get one special dram from them for out 4th edition.

Today we visit a distillery that is seldom seen outside of independent bottling circles. Tormore is in Speyside as are much of Scotland’s distilleries. We have had some amazing expressions in the past including the magical Tormore from Samaroli way back in the 1st edition.

Tormore Distillery

 

Tormore sees much of it’s production included in Teacher’s Blended Scotch. There is a 12 year old expression under the Tormore distillery label but only in a few select markets. A relatively young distillery in Scottish terms Tormore has only been operating since 1960.

Single Cask Nation Tormore 21 Year Old Single Malt – Aged in a 2nd fill Bourbon cask number 14211G and bottled at the Cask Strength of 49% exactly.

Colour: Light gold as you would expect from a 2nd fill American Oak Cask.

Nose:    Could it be that the usually heavy hitting Single Cask Nation expressions are leaning towards the Samaroli model? This is a lovely delicate nose of peach blossom, oatmeal and honey.

Palate:   Ahhh here it is the Single Cask Nation signature oily palate coating dram. Wow much bigger and bursting with intense flavor than I thought after that delicate nose. Citrus infusion there for sure with a lightly peppered flourish. The porridge and honey is there with a curl or two of shaved lemon zest garnished on top.

Finish:   Lingers long for 49% and to me feels even weightier than that. All of the above seem to swirl around the tingly ongoing cask strength effect. Started out thinking this could be a small diversion from Single Cask Nations regular MO but it is right in their wheelhouse.

Fantastic dram and any time I have the opportunity to include a Tormore in an edition I will jump at it. Such a rarity to find and such a shame that so much of it just goes into big brand blends.

On day 23 in the 3rd edition we had the Samaroli Peaty 20 Year Old that was our first time having a mostly Highland Park included in the calendar.

Please head over and check out Scotch Troop if you have not already. It has been amazing having him follow along with us for this edition. Can’t wait to see what he has lined up for Christmas Day.

Tomorrow being Christmas Eve we always have something a little special and the folks at A.D. Rattray provided the cask. Let’s just say that with a touch more age it could have been Christmas Day instead.

Looking forward to seeing you all on Christmas Eve

Until then Merry Christmas

Cheers

Singlemalting

 

Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar Day 22

Singlemalting #188 – Day 22 – 4th Edition Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar – Samaroli Spey 1995 – Tormore and Alt a Bhainne

Saaaamarolllllliii.. (sung with stage worthy hand gestures and deep bass vocals). Got to love these Italians and their take on Scotch Whisky. Silvano was widely praised as having one of the best palates on earth and with some of their offerings being the best examples of Scotch Whisky I have ever had I would tend to agree.

Today we are getting into a combination of two distilleries.Tormore and Alt A Bhainne We have had Single Malt Expressions of both of these distilleries in previous editions that were both big time favorites with a lot of you. Lets see what happens when Samaroli puts them together. Keeping in mind of course that the Alt A Bhainne in the 3rd edition was only 8 years old and this expression is 21 years.

Samaroli Spey 1995 – 21 year old Blended Malt Scotch Whisky bottled at 45% and non-chill filtered with no added colour.

Colour:   Grassy Gold

Nose:    As per usual with Samaroli it takes time to get into everything that’s going on. Warm up that Spey glass and get your shnoz in there. Floral honeysuckle and lavender blossom with notes of sweet barley and vanilla cream wafers.

Palate:   Spine tingling and a touch tongue tingling as well. “After 8” dark chocolate mints complete with the creamy texture and sweetness. Some baking spices like the tiniest dash of cinnamon and nutmeg.

Finish:   Keeps evolving with the bed time pillow mint and dark chocolate thread whirling around the continuing spice.

This is a very nice dram especially for those that love a little mystery in their glass and love to spend time unraveling. I found that this one needed even a touch longer than the normal “Samaroli contemplation” which was cool. This is why the vast majority of you do not work through our calendar in just 25 days but prefer to take your time.

This will be available for those lucky few that want it. Just email me as usual and we can sort you out.

On Day 22 in the 3rd edition we had the incredible Adelphi Cambus closed distillery 27 year old Single Grain. Wish I could have had a bottle of that but alas there just wasn’t enough.

Remember to get your Star wars geek on today at Scotch Trooper.

So for tomorrow we are showcasing the single lonely dram in this 4th edition from those naughty boys at Single Cask Nation. They promised me this would be a dram to remember so I cant wait to get stuck in.

Thanks for taking the journey with us so far as we get closer to a special time for many. It is such a pleasure and privilege to be able to share my passion with you.

See you tomorrow

Cheers

Singlemalting

 

 

Whisky Advent

Singlemalting # 187 – Day 21 – 4th Edition Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar Old Malt Cask Glen Keith 20yo

As promised we are back to Hunter Laing and their Old Malt Cask series with a cask from the Glen Keith distillery. Glen Keith was the first distillery to open in Speyside after the great crash in 1898, opening its doors in 1958. Always owned by Chivas Bros it was mothballed in 1999 and then reopened in 2012. Almost all of its production goes into blends for export markets but a few casks escape that fate and wind up in the hands of independent bottlers like Hunter Laing.

Glen Keith Distillery

This is the first time we have seen an expression from this distillery in any edition so it is exciting to add another name to the ever growing list.

Old Malt Cask –

20 Year Old Single Malt – Bottled at 50% and aged in a refill sherry butt HL13359.

Colour:   Rich gold

Nose:   Rose petals and English Toffee. Turkish delight.

Palate:    Chewier than I thought it would be with robust flavors of bitter dark chocolate, pomegranate and quince.

Finish:    The fruit rolls on with a burst of dry sherry jumping in at the death. Its the pomegranate that seems to be the heavy lifter here for me all the way through.

A very interesting dram from Old Malt Cask. Loving the sherry refill after 20 years as I had to mull it over for sometime to get to the bottom of everything that was going on. Even now as I sit here there are some other flavors still trying to push their way to the top.

If you really like this dram it is available for Canadians (sorry Southern cousins). Just email me and we will get it sorted for you.

On day 21 in the 3rd edition we had the Wemyss Malts Marmalade Appeal Glenrothes 27 year old.

Please head over to Scotch Trooper as we head towards Christmas I have it on good authority that there will be some awesome climactic shots to look at.

Tomorrow we have another amazing Single Malt Combo from Samaroli. These 20+ year old Samaroli blended malts are always incredible so I am thinking this will be something special.

Looking forward to your company tomorrow

Until then dram safe and dram often

Cheers

Singlemalting

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Singlemalting #186 – Day 20 – 4th Edition SWAC – Exclusive Malts Cameronbridge Single Grain 25yo

Welcome to a brand new independent bottler in this 4th edition. Exclusive Malts is one of the brands released by the Creative Whisky Company. Owned by David Stirk this indie has been putting out delicious casks for quite some time. It is a pleasure to have him on board and I’m sure we will be seeing a lot more casks from him in future editions. Today we head to the Lowlands of Scotland and the Single Grain Cameronbridge Distillery.

A great way to start with an older Single Grain that is the first such expression in this edition. Cameronbridge is also a brand new distillery so we are getting a double bonus round with this Scotch. For those unaware a Single Grain can be distilled from a number of different grains but at the one distillery and still has to be aged for a minimum of 3 years in oak to be whisky. Single Grain makes up the bulk of the Blended Scotch category. When aged however Single Grain takes on some very special complexities and have proven to be some of my favorite drams from past editions.

Cameronbridge was opened in 1824 and produced both Single Malt and Single Grain right up until 1929 when they changed to Single Grain only. Owned by Diageo, Cameronbridge is a workhorse for all of Diageo’s big name blended Scotch Whiskies including Johnnie Walker.

Cameronbridge Distillery

Exclusive Malts Cameronbridge 25 Year Old Single Grain Scotch Whisky – Aged in a refill Sherry Cask number 93574 and bottled at 52.9%.

Colour:   Easy to see only a refill influence on the colour here. Just the tiniest tinge of red after 25 long years.

Nose:  Plenty to get excited about. Loads of up front sweetness that could be part sherry cask and part corn content in the mashbill. Single Grain distilleries do not generally reveal their mashbill recipes but there is no doubt that corn plays a big part in most. Some cereal notes as well kind of like a bowl of “Honey Smacks” complete with a creamy pouring of fresh milk.

Palate:   Some tropical notes here that remind me of the St Nicholas Abbey Barbados Rum. Toasted coconut and papaya. Palate filling goodness all round.

Finish:   That creamy milk comes back into play with the honey notes and tropical connection still rolling. Really soft finish for almost 53%.

This is why older Single Grain Scotch Whisky is so cool. If this is your first time trying Single Grain “you’re welcome”.

Thanks Dave for offering us this fine dram.

On this day in the 3rd edition we had only the second ever bottling from Secret Spirits. The 26 Year Old Speyside Single Malt.

Head on over to Scotch Trooper. I am told by a reliable source that there may be a ramp up of new photos for this last week.

Tomorrow we head North to Speyside for another delicious dram from Hunter Laing and their Old Malt Cask brand.

Until then

Cheers

Singlemalting

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Singlemalting #185 – Day 19 – 4th Edition SWAC – A.D. Rattray Williamson (Laphroaig) 5yo

So before we slip into some comfy slippers & contemplate the days before Christmas I felt it was time for something young, sultry and smokin from our friends at A.D. Rattray.

Williamson is the industry term for casks of Laphroaig that are not supposed to be disclosed. It is such common knowledge however that posting this here is by no means in violation of any secrecy. Like many Islay whiskies young Laphroaig can be amazing. Actually Islay distilleries in general tend to show the best of all Scotch whisky regions at a younger age.

Laphroaig is a distillery that was established in 1815 and was owned by the Johnstone family. After Ian Hunter the last surviving family member of that line passed away in 1954 he willed Laphroaig to one of his managers Bessie Williamson (at last the connection). After being acquired by Beam it then became part of the Suntory holdings when Beam was purchased in 2014.

Laphroaig Distillery

So for all of us Islay fans lets have at er.

A.D. Rattray Williamson (Laphroaig) 5 Year Old Single Malt aged in a sherry cask number 130 at the cask strength of 61% without colour or chill filtration.

Colour:   Very light for a sherry cask so probably a 2nd fill even after only 5 years.

Nose:    Go carefully at this one people the Spey glass gives this nose a real focus so ease into it softly. Salty cured Prosciutto, soft blue cheese and chutney.

Palate:    Ok any thought I had that this was going to be a relaxing before dinner charcuterie plate went up in smoke. Heavy medicinal peat but with some sherry notes kicking it up a notch.

Finish:    There is a lot to like about how this unfolds. Finish is softer than I thought it would be and warming to boot. I still get that sweet chutney character and the medicine is sure nice going down.

This is a humdinger of a young Islay. Just enough influence on that sherry Butt after 5 years to add some delicious complexity to this Laphroaig.

On day 19 in the 3rd edition we had the Samaroli Miltonduff/Tormore 20 year old combo malt.

So tomorrow is the start of nothing but at least 20 year old’s from here till Christmas. I’m sure that we’ll be seeing you tomorrow. In the meantime check out Scotch Trooper again. I might have to make a scrap book out of these shots.

Until the morrow

Cheers

Singlemalting