With the vast variety of whisky available out there, it can be difficult to keep track of all the kinds. From a good ol’ Scotch to a Japanese classic, it can be hard for anyone who isn’t an expert to tell one apart from the other. Not only are these varying whiskies similar in colour, it’s also almost impossible to tell the slight differences in taste unless you’re a seasoned expert. Today, we’re breaking down the main differences between a single malt whisky and a blended whisky. Is there really a difference, and what are the common misconceptions?
Similarities between the two
Before diving into the differences between single malt whisky and blended whisky, let’s take a look at how they’re similar to each other.
These two types of whisky are both scotch whiskies, meaning they’re produced in Scotland, aged for at least three years in oak barrels, and made of whole grains or barley or a combination of both. So, all single malts and blended whiskies are scotch, but not all scotch are single malt or blended.
Depending on the distillery’s choice, each scotch is aged for a different period of time. A bottle can be as young as three years and as old as 25, sometimes even older!
However, the age noted on the bottle isn’t exactly accurate. It denotes the age of the youngest whisky used in the mix, meaning you may pick up a bottle that says it’s ten years old, but it may actually be older than that.
What constitutes as “single” malt?
Single malt is a scotch whisky consisting of exclusively barley. Two of the most common misconceptions about single malts is that they are made of almost a singular ingredient, and that they come from a single barrel. In truth, it’s simply named after the fact that it’s distilled in a single distillery.
A single malt can be considered the distillery’s specialty. Unlike what many may think, single malts actually contain a mix of different malts from different barrels within the same distillery.
What constitutes as “blended” whisky?
Following from the misconceptions over single malts, many are of the opinion that blended whisky is made of a blend of whiskies from different casks. However, this type of whisky is actually made by blending whiskies from different distilleries!
The whiskies used in one blend can greatly differ and depends on the distiller’s choice. Brands like Chivas Regal use a combination of grain whiskies and malt whiskies to create their blend. Others like Monkey Shoulder used three different barley malts in their original blend.
The base ingredient of blended whiskies can range from rye, corn, barley, and other grains. They can be further divided into two categories: blended grain and blended malt. The first is made by blending two or more types of grain whiskies, and the second is made by two or more types of single malt whiskies.
Is there a difference in taste between single malt and blended whisky?
You may be thinking that blended whisky will be much tastier than single malts because it contains more than one type of whisky made of different grains. However, it isn’t that simple.
Contrary to popular misconceptions, single malts are actually of higher quality. This is because the marketing tactics have always painted this type of whisky as such. Flavour-wise, both kinds of whisky carry their own distinct characteristics. It all depends greatly on the type of oak casks they have been aged in.
Because single malts only contain barley, the flavors that it obtains from the wood throughout the aging process is consistent. Flavour intensity rises at the same level overtime.
Meanwhile, because blended whiskies involve multiple types of grains, these grains react to the wood barrels differently. Each grain ages in its own way as time passes, and some grains may be more intensely-flavored than others by the end of the process.