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 Whisky Vs Blended Malt Whisky – Which one is better?
Before arguments are made, and things are said in support of both, let us first understand the many complexities and difference 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 and blended malt is the broad definition of the word ‘Single’ when it comes to whisky.
The word ‘Single’ does not necessarily imply that the whisky is a product of a single batch, or from a single barrel. It only means that the finished and bottled product 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 whiskies, produced at the same distillery, and blending them together.
So what is Blended Malt Whisky?
A blend or mixture of two or more Single Malt Whiskies from different distilleries and aged expressions to produce a finished product. While some brands employ two or just a few more single malt whiskies to produce their finished product.
For Scotch Whisky, there is no difference between single and blended malt whisky with regards to ingredients and they are both prepared using malted barley and some amount of whole grains such as rye or wheat.
The difference in categorization is simply brought about by mixing finished products and where these products were created. There are no specific distinctions when it comes to the ingredients involved in the making of a single malt whisky and a blended malt whisky except the variations from one brand/distillery to another.
The most common misconception when discussing the oft repeated subject of Single Malt Vs Blended Malt – which one is better; is that one has a superior taste and smoothness that is hard to come by in the other.
While Single Malt Whisky enthusiasts will argue for their choice, Blended Malt Whisky experts will vociferously defend their choice. But is there truly a difference between the two when it comes to taste?
The truth is, NO. Taste, as a variable, depends on the age of the whisky, the materials of the barrel it was aged in (Scotch whiskies have to use Oak barrels but some also use a second maturation process involving used wine barrels.)
Tasting notes differ from brand to brand, age to age, and the smoothness, smokiness, and aroma too vary but the superiority or inferiority of either is grossly overplayed.
Brands such as Chivas Regal have been known for decades to produce an iconic and elegant blended whisky selection that is sought after all over the world.
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 source whisky with no age statement, the blended whisky also has to carry the no age statement label.
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 malt 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.