The Differences Between Single Malt & Blended Scotch Whisky

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The Differences Between Single Malt & Blended Scotch Whisky

Postby koimaster » July 23rd 2016, 11:16am

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Trying to navigate the world of Scotch can make you feel like you’re treading through centuries of history like some kind of uppity teenager walking into a haunted castle. But Scotch doesn’t have to be so intimidating. Beyond understanding your basic Scotch geography (basically knowing what kinds of flavor profiles come from the different Scotch-producing regions), there are just a few other questions to answer. Among them: single malt or blended?

Terminology in spirits can get complicated, especially within the whiskey category. For instance, whiskey is always spelled with an “e” unless it’s Scotch whisky, in which case that “e” is presumably left behind somewhere in the Scottish Highlands to think about what it’s done. And then of course there’s the fact that your Scotch might be labelled “Cask Aged,” “Sherry Finished,” or be part of some special series released by an independent bottler (who might buy a bulk of Scotch from the distiller at a non-traditional bottling age, let’s say, 17 years, and release it under a special name). Confusion is inevitable. But it’s worth it.

So, to clarify at least one aspect of Scotch: a blended whisky is actually a combination of a barrel-aged malt whisky (as in all barley) and some quantity of grain whisky (a whisky made with barley as well as other grains). The person who does the combining has a super important job—making sure a branded blended Scotch whisky tastes consistent from year to year—which is probably why he or she is called the Master Blender. Given the ability to produce consistent bottlings, and use slightly cheaper grain whisky as a filler, blended Scotch whisky is unsurprisingly the most common Scotch on the market.

On the other hand, single malt whisky is simply the product of one distillery. No, it’s not made from one particular barley harvest, or in one barrel, or by one old, wise Scottish guy. Single malt Scotch whisky is simply a “malt whisky” (again, as in “all barley”) that’s the product of a single distillery. Let’s say you get a bottle of Glenmorangie’s Single Malt 12-Year (Sherry cask finished, ahem). Let’s say you absolutely love it. That means any and all thank you letters should be sent to the Glenmorangie distillery. Same goes if you hate it—all hate mail should be sent to the Master Blender at Glenmorangie, who’s responsible for making it (though don’t really send mail, any kind of mail, at all). The same holds true for the less common single grain Scotch whisky, which is also the product of one distillery, just made with barley and other grains.

As for the all-important question, what’s the difference in taste? Actually, that depends on several other really important variables. For one, where the Scotch was made—as different Scotch-producing regions tend to produce different flavor profiles. There’s the question of how it was aged—both how long and in what (many Scotches are aged in used Bourbon barrels, but was it finished, or briefly aged, in any special wine or spirit casks?). And then there’s the question of how the brand is “supposed” to taste historically; the Master Blender will blend barrels to make sure a single malt or blended whisky tastes true to form.

Of course, since nothing can be too simple in Scotch, there are also blended malt Scotch whiskies, which blend single malts from multiple distilleries, and blended grain Scotch whiskies, which blend single grain whiskies from multiple distilleries. But again, the most common Scotch whisky on the market is your basic blended, which is whisky made from single malt and grain whisky sourced from different distilleries. Single malt, meanwhile, is often more prized, but not necessarily of higher quality. Single barrel whiskies (as in whisky made from one particular barrel) exist, with more inconsistencies due to the idiosyncrasies from barrel to barrel. Balvenie recently replaced their 15-Year single barrel American oak (bourbon cask) with a single barrel Sherry cask. But single barrel generally is more common in Bourbon, and usually far less expensive.

Confusing, yes. But at least we have one thing clear—we know that blended whiskies, however long they’re aged or finished, always combine single malt and grain whiskies. And we know that single malt whiskies are always the product of one distillery. And we know that we could probably use a tumbler of either one right about now…
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Re: The Differences Between Single Malt & Blended Scotch Whi

Postby jaw » July 23rd 2016, 12:53pm

Dalwhinnie (photo), is my go-to if Balvenie Double Wood isn't available.
But lately, Dewar's White Label works just fine - cheaper too.
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Re: The Differences Between Single Malt & Blended Scotch Whi

Postby eddiea » July 23rd 2016, 1:48pm

jaw wrote:Dalwhinnie (photo), is my go-to if Balvenie Double Wood isn't available.
But lately, Dewar's White Label works just fine - cheaper too.

I drink Bourbon or Jack Daniels mostly .....regardless, after two glasses of either Jonny Walker Blue or Glenlivet 18? the Single vs Blend scotch whisky shit dissipates quite rapidly in a haze.
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Re: The Differences Between Single Malt & Blended Scotch Whi

Postby foghorn » July 23rd 2016, 4:44pm

eddiea wrote:I drink Bourbon or Jack Daniels mostly .....regardless, after two glasses of either Jonny Walker Blue or Glenlivet 18? the Single vs Blend scotch whisky shit dissipates quite rapidly in a haze.



Quoted for absolute truth!!
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Re: The Differences Between Single Malt & Blended Scotch Whi

Postby Mark1 » July 23rd 2016, 8:25pm

I cracked a bottle of single malt when the Admiral was visiting. It was pretty good but I'm not much of a whiskey drinker, the tax stamp on the bottle was from 1999. It's gone now, may have to pick up another-but no real hurry.

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Re: The Differences Between Single Malt & Blended Scotch Whi

Postby conjurer » July 23rd 2016, 11:18pm

Mark1 wrote:I cracked a bottle of single malt when the Admiral was visiting. It was pretty good but I'm not much of a whiskey drinker, the tax stamp on the bottle was from 1999. It's gone now, may have to pick up another-but no real hurry.

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Re: The Differences Between Single Malt & Blended Scotch Whi

Postby gerdson » July 24th 2016, 12:32am

Anyone drinking Single Malt with ice should be nuked, verdammt. At least it was only Glenfiddich. Please reserve this shit for Your Bourbons, the Canadian Crap or a cheap Irish Whiskey!
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Re: The Differences Between Single Malt & Blended Scotch Whi

Postby bedlam » July 24th 2016, 12:55am

gerdson wrote:Anyone drinking Single Malt with ice should be nuked, verdammt. At least it was only Glenfiddich. Please reserve this shit for Your Bourbons, the Canadian Crap or a cheap Irish Whiskey!

Yeah, I was thinking the exactly same :shock:

Ice in a single malt is like wearing a perlon strap on a Patek. Either go for something better and have it neat or, preferably, drink something else all together as Scotch might not be your drink 8-)

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Re: The Differences Between Single Malt & Blended Scotch Whi

Postby Mark1 » July 24th 2016, 7:17am

The rug is one I bought in Turkey. As for the ice I like any type of hard liquor cold, perhaps with a little forethought I could have put the bottle in the fridge or freezer. Or is that sacrilege also?
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Re: The Differences Between Single Malt & Blended Scotch Whi

Postby conjurer » July 24th 2016, 10:19am

Taking drinking advice from a German or an Australian is not in my wheelhouse. Germans, while great at making fine machine tools and making the trains run on time, swill schnapps and smoke cigars stuck in meersham pipes. And Australians, apart from having very large penises, will drink, well, pretty much anything. At least they're better than the fucking mongoloid Russians, who will drink brake fluid to get their jake on.
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Re: The Differences Between Single Malt & Blended Scotch Whi

Postby gerdson » July 24th 2016, 1:00pm

:lol:
Mark, I do apologize, I am quite a snob when it comes to Malt.

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Re: The Differences Between Single Malt & Blended Scotch Whi

Postby tiktok » July 24th 2016, 1:04pm

One can put a single ice cube in single malt.
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Re: The Differences Between Single Malt & Blended Scotch Whi

Postby bedlam » July 25th 2016, 2:59am

tiktok wrote:One can put a single ice cube in single malt.

One can put a tow-ball on a Ferrari...but you just wouldn't
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Re: The Differences Between Single Malt & Blended Scotch Whi

Postby Tzimisces » July 25th 2016, 5:40am

bedlam wrote:
tiktok wrote:One can put a single ice cube in single malt.

One can put a tow-ball on a Ferrari...but you just wouldn't

Agreed. Ice in a fine whiskey is an abomination.
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Re: The Differences Between Single Malt & Blended Scotch Whi

Postby tiktok » July 25th 2016, 8:41pm

I don't imbibe but I have seen people pour a little flat water on single malt or a single cube of ice. I realize that the ice technically is a sin because lowering the temp will impact the olfactory experience but I doubt a single cube would do that. I used to love me that smoky shit. Talisker was my fave.
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Re: The Differences Between Single Malt & Blended Scotch Whi

Postby Bigjimzlll » July 25th 2016, 9:29pm

I used to prefer mine very neat....no water....no ice... no glass....
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Re: The Differences Between Single Malt & Blended Scotch Whi

Postby conjurer » July 25th 2016, 11:08pm

Bigjimzlll wrote:I used to prefer mine very neat....no water....no ice... no glass....


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Re: The Differences Between Single Malt & Blended Scotch Whi

Postby Falstaff » July 26th 2016, 6:57am

tiktok wrote:I don't imbibe but I have seen people pour a little flat water on single malt or a single cube of ice. I realize that the ice technically is a sin because lowering the temp will impact the olfactory experience but I doubt a single cube would do that. I used to love me that smoky shit. Talisker was my fave.



Most of the master distillers of Scotland will add a drop or two of water (or even a bit more) to their single malt whiskeys before tasting. I can personally attest to this, having seen it at 5 different distilleries. They say it "opens up" the malt and that you get a truer picture of the flavors. Although I typically drink whiskeys neat, who am I to dispute the practice of those whose business it is to taste the smallest nuances of their product. I'd say if you want to add a bit of branch (or byrne) water - or even an ice cube, go for it - you're in good company.
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Re: The Differences Between Single Malt & Blended Scotch Whi

Postby Tzimisces » July 26th 2016, 7:05am

Watered down whiskey tastes like shit to me, hence no ice or (shudder) water. Has nothing to do with detecting the subtle bouquet or any other fancy-pants nonsense.
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Re: The Differences Between Single Malt & Blended Scotch Whi

Postby foghorn » July 26th 2016, 7:17am

Tzimisces wrote:Watered down whiskey tastes like shit to me, hence no ice or (shudder) water. Has nothing to do with detecting the subtle bouquet or any other fancy-pants nonsense.



Yes. It destroys any semblance of bespokedness and totally fucks up the barrel brown colorway.
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Re: The Differences Between Single Malt & Blended Scotch Whi

Postby bedlam » July 26th 2016, 8:18am

Falstaff wrote:
tiktok wrote:I don't imbibe but I have seen people pour a little flat water on single malt or a single cube of ice. I realize that the ice technically is a sin because lowering the temp will impact the olfactory experience but I doubt a single cube would do that. I used to love me that smoky shit. Talisker was my fave.



Most of the master distillers of Scotland will add a drop or two of water (or even a bit more) to their single malt whiskeys before tasting. I can personally attest to this, having seen it at 5 different distilleries. They say it "opens up" the malt and that you get a truer picture of the flavors. Although I typically drink whiskeys neat, who am I to dispute the practice of those whose business it is to taste the smallest nuances of their product. I'd say if you want to add a bit of branch (or byrne) water - or even an ice cube, go for it - you're in good company.

Its only a few drops though...not an entire iceblock
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Re: The Differences Between Single Malt & Blended Scotch Whi

Postby Tzimisces » July 26th 2016, 9:12am

foghorn wrote:
Tzimisces wrote:Watered down whiskey tastes like shit to me, hence no ice or (shudder) water. Has nothing to do with detecting the subtle bouquet or any other fancy-pants nonsense.



Yes. It destroys any semblance of bespokedness and totally fucks up the barrel brown colorway.

Well said.
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Re: The Differences Between Single Malt & Blended Scotch Whi

Postby 3Flushes » July 26th 2016, 3:05pm

Falstaff wrote:
tiktok wrote:I don't imbibe but I have seen people pour a little flat water on single malt or a single cube of ice. I realize that the ice technically is a sin because lowering the temp will impact the olfactory experience but I doubt a single cube would do that. I used to love me that smoky shit. Talisker was my fave.



Most of the master distillers of Scotland will add a drop or two of water (or even a bit more) to their single malt whiskeys before tasting. I can personally attest to this, having seen it at 5 different distilleries. They say it "opens up" the malt and that you get a truer picture of the flavors. Although I typically drink whiskeys neat, who am I to dispute the practice of those whose business it is to taste the smallest nuances of their product. I'd say if you want to add a bit of branch (or byrne) water - or even an ice cube, go for it - you're in good company.

I have lost my taste for Scotch and prefer Bourbon, JD, and Jameson. Scoth just wasn't the same when I had to give up ceegars.
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Re: The Differences Between Single Malt & Blended Scotch Whi

Postby Britboy » August 3rd 2016, 7:23am

You know, if you go into an old style pub in Scotland they will have small water taps fitted into the bar counter itself so you can put a drop of water with your nip.
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Re: The Differences Between Single Malt & Blended Scotch Whi

Postby eddiea » August 3rd 2016, 8:47am

Britboy wrote:You know, if you go into an old style pub in Scotland they will have small water taps fitted into the bar counter itself so you can put a drop of water with your nip.

Yep.....
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