Single malt whisky v blended whisky


Single malt whisky

This is whisky that is entirely the product of one distillery, and is made of malt whisky only (whisky produced using malted barley). It is usually blended by a master blender at the distillery who will combine a particular recipe of the distillery’s cask stock to create a particular expression. This is how distilleries produce a variety of single malts.

Where age is noted on the bottle, that is the age of the youngest whisky inside although there may be older ones in there too.

Because producing malt whisky is a slow process, and because many distilleries supply the lion’s share of their production to blended whiskies, single malt is a far rarer form of whisky, which is why it costs more.

Blended whisky

This is where cheaper grain whisky (whisky made from any grain other than malted barley) is blended with assorted single malt whiskies, usually young ones to keep costs down, to produce a consistent, and cheaper, whisky. The ratio of grain to single malts in an average blend is around 60:40, and there can be as many as 40 single malts used.

Being cheaper blends lend themselves readily to mixing, but plenty are also very drinkable on their own – the original purpose of blends was to make whisky more palatable in the early days of legitimate production during the last century when the single malt product was invariably pretty rough. Anything under 40% alcohol is likely to be paint stripper however.

‘Premium’ blends are increasingly springing up, but most of the expensive ones are a triumph of marketing over substance. Paying £50-plus for something that’s still 60% grain seems pretty bad value to us. If you’re splashing that sort of cash, take a leap into the single malt world where you’ll get a lot more interest for your money.