You often see people drinking whisky in the movies in a small tumbler with cubes of ice. While this may be a movie gimmick, it’s actually one of the most authentic ways to drink this alcoholic beverage. Whisky is sometimes termed as “the water of life” and this is because in Scotland, whisky was called Uisge Beath, which translates to “water of life.” There are many blends, distillations, flavours and aging techniques for whisky, that have led to many different kinds. And two of the most popular are the blended and single malt varietals. If you’re interested in learning the differences between blended and single malt whisky, then you’re in the right place. We’re covering how its all produced, some production history and a whole lot more. So read on.
Whisky originated in Scotland back in the 15th century. Early whisky production was often done on a small scale, with distillers using pot stills to produce small batches of whisky. It was typically aged in wooden barrels for several years before being sold. Fast forward to the 21st century, and whisky is a thriving industry with distilleries located all over the world.
When it comes to appreciating whisky, you need to understand the different types and tastes. There is a blended whisky and then a single malt whisky. A single malt whisky is produced from a single distillery whereas a blended whisky is combination of different single malts and grains to make a rich and complex concoction.
Understanding Blended Whisky
Blended whisky is a popular type of whisky that is created by combining two or more different types of malts and grains together. This can include whiskies from different distilleries and those that have been aged for different lengths of time or in different barrel types.
The process of making blended whisky isn’t as complex as it seems. There is a master blender who is responsible for selecting and blending different whiskies together. They will taste the individual whiskies to determine their flavour profile and then create a blend that is balanced and consistent in flavour, one that is irresistible to the palate.
Many can enjoy a glass of blended whisky as it’s much smoother to taste than single malt whisky. It has a balanced and consistent flavour profile and can offer a wide range of flavours and aromas. This is what makes blended whisky so enjoyable; you can have it on the rocks or in a cocktail – the limits are endless.
Some popular blended whiskies include:
• Johnnie Walker is one of the most popular blended whisky brands in the world and includes a variety of blends.
• Jameson is an Irish blended whiskey known for its smooth flavour profile with tasting notes of honey, caramel, and toasted oak.
• Ballantines is another popular blended whisky, known for its smooth and well-balanced flavour profiles and notes of vanilla and heather.
Understanding Single Malt Whisky
Single malt whisky is made entirely from malted barley and is produced from a single distillery. It’s considered by many to be the highest-quality form of whisky, allowing the unique flavours and characteristics of each distillery to shine bright.
The production process of single malt whisky is quite complex and involves many steps to crafting that bold flavour many people love. Key production steps include malting, mashing, fermentation, distillation, and aging. A brief overview of the process can be found below:
1. Malting is the first step in the production of single malt whisky. This involves soaking the barley in water, which in turn encourages the barley to germinate. During this process, enzymes are activated and converts the barley starches into fermentable sugars.
2. Mashing is when the malted barley is grounded or mashed into a coarse flour, mixed with hot water in a mash tun. During this process, sugars are extracted from the barley and forms a sweet liquid called wort, which is transferred to another barrel.
3. Fermentation occurs when yeast is added to the wort, and alcohol is produced. This liquid is low in alcohol and has almost a beer-like flavour.
4. Distillation occurs twice before it can be aged in barrels. The first distillation produces a 25% alcohol liquid content and the second distillation is what creates the whisky's distinct flavour profile.
5. Aging is where the fun begins. The distilled whisky is aged in barrels for 3 years or more and allows the whisky to interact with the wood, adding to the flavour and aroma. The longer the whisky is aged, the more complex its flavour profile becomes.
Single malt whisky is made from 100% malted barley and can have a variety of flavours. This all depends on the type of barley used, the yeast, the type of oak barrel and how long it’s been aged for. Some popular flavour notes include peat smoke, fruit, honey, and spices.
Some popular single malt whiskies include:
• Scotch single malt whisky.
• Irish single malt whisky.
• American single malt whisky.
Comparing the Differences Between Blended and Single Malt Whisky
Single malt whisky is made only from 100% malted barley and blended whisky is made from a blend of different grains, including malted barley, corn, wheat, and rye. Their production processes vary between the two, with blended whiskies having a simpler process and single malt whisky having a number of steps.
When it comes to flavour, single malt whisky has a more distinct flavour profile that is unique to the distillery where it was produced. Blended whisky, on the other hand, can have a more consistent flavour profile because it is made by blending whiskies from different distilleries.
The price of single malt whisky is more expensive than blended whisky as its produced in smaller batches. Blended whisky is more affordable as its produced in larger batches.
Both single malt and blended whiskies can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, mixed in cocktails, or used in cooking.
How to Choose Between Blended and Single Malt Whisky
If you're looking for a whisky that has a more complex flavour profile and have a higher budget, single malt whisky is the best option for you. If you prefer a more consistent flavour profile and have a limited budget, blended whisky is a whisky you should give a try. Of course, it’s about trial and error and opening your mind to exploring the different flavour profiles and notes of each whisky. It all comes down to personal preference and experimenting with how you choose to drink it.
Occasion may also play a role in your choice of whisky. If you're looking for a whisky to serve at a party or to mix in cocktails, blended whisky might be a better choice due to its consistent flavour profile. On the other hand, if you're looking for a whisky to savour and enjoy slowly, single malt whisky might be the better choice.
There is no right or wrong version of whisky, it boils down to personal taste. Simply though, The world of whisky is yours to explore and experiment in, responsibly. Find your perfect blend or malt now - to shop our comprehensive range of delicious blended and single malt whiskies, click here