Difference Between Single Malt and Blended Malt Whisky

One of the chief sources of confusion in the world of whisky drinkers, novices or experts, is the indecisiveness and heated debate that comes with having to answer the fundamentally inflammable question;

Single Malt Vs Blended Malt Whisky – Which one is better?

Most people believe that single malt whiskies are better than blended malts whiskies. Before arguments are made, and things are said in support of both, let us first understand the many complexities and differences between single malt and blended whisky. Shall we begin?

What is Single Malt Whisky?

The key aspect that gives birth to confusion when understanding the difference between single malt and blended malt is the broad definition of the word ‘Single’ when it comes to whisky.

Different people have a different assumption as to why a single malt has the word ‘single’ in it. The word ‘Single’ does not necessarily imply that the whisky is a product of a single batch or from a single barrel in which it was aged, or made from a single type of grain. The reason behind it is straightforward, and a lot of readers will be surprised to know that it only means that the finished and bottled spirit was distilled at a ‘single’ distillery. So when you see the words ‘Single Malt Whisky’ on an exquisite bottle, there is a good chance it was produced by blending different malt whiskies produced at the same distillery. What we are trying to convey is that a single malt whisky can be a blend of two or more malt whiskies but the only ones distilled at the same distillery.

So what is Blended Malt Whisky?

As the name suggests, blended malt whisky is a mixture of two or more Single Malt Whiskies along with grain whiskies from different distilleries and aged expressions. At the same time, there are some that brands employ two or just a few more single malt whiskies to produce their finished product. On the contrary, there are other brands that blend single malts and scotch whiskies from different distilleries. It is up to their master blender to select the number and types of whiskies to achieve the perfect blend of spirits they aim for.

Ingredients

When it comes to ingredients, there can be a significant difference between single malt and blended whisky. A single malt has a stringent ingredient list. It mainly takes just three things to make a single malt whisky- water, yeast and malted barley. There is no other grain added in the making. On the other hand, a blended whisky can comprise two or more single malts (made in different distilleries) and/or other grain whiskies.

Taste

When discussing the oft-repeated subject of Single Malt Vs Blended Malt, the most common ground is which one is better? Which one has a superior taste and smoothness that is hard to come by in the other?

While Single Malt Whisky enthusiasts will argue for the smooth flavours that a single distillery adds to single malts, the Blended Malt Whisky experts will vociferously defend the seamless blend of multiple delectable whiskies. But on the grounds of justice, is there truly a difference between the two when it comes to taste?

The truth is, NO. Taste, as a variable, depends on many factors. The tasting notes like smoothness, smokiness, and aroma are acquired by these factors. Some of them are- the age of the whisky, the materials of the barrel it was aged in (like Scotch whiskies have to use Oak barrels, but some also use a second maturation process involving used wine barrels.), use of malted barley or grains, geographical and atmospheric factors and so on. The superiority or inferiority of taste of either is grossly overplayed.
There is a popular misconception that single malts are way finer and better, hence, costlier than blended whiskies. But brands such as Chivas Regal can break this myth because it has been known for decades to produce an iconic and elegant blended whisky selection that is sought after all over the world.

Age

While it is easier to express the age of a Single malt, assigning an age to a bottle of blended malt whisky is slightly tricky. A bottle of blended malt whisky must carry an ‘age statement’ (number of years it was matured) of the youngest source whisky used in the blend.

For a blended malt whisky that contains a sourced whisky with no age statement, the blended whisky also has to carry the no age statement label.

Popular Brands

Some of the finest Single Malt Whisky brands available around the world are, The Glenlivet, Macallan, Laphroaig and Talisker, which are Scotch whiskies, whereas the Hakushu and Yoichi are excellent single malt Japanese whiskies. Bushmills, The Irishman and Dubliner are Irish single malts that are also popular.

Chivas Regal, Ballantine’s, Johnnie Walker, and Monkey Shoulder are some of the most-sought after blended scotch brands, whereas the Hibiki Blender’s Choice and Suntory’s Toki are great blends created in Japan. The Irish produce some exquisite blended ‘Whiskey’ too, like Jameson Irish Whiskey and Powers, among others.

In conclusion, there is not much difference between Single malt and Blended malt whiskies in quality, taste or just plain superiority, but in the method in which they are prepared. So, it’s time to stop classifying the two based on superiority, just get a glass of good whisky and enjoy!

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