What’s the difference between a single malt and blended Scotch?
Once upon a time, all Scotch was single malt, made with malted barley as the only grain, in pot stills and as the product of a single distillery. Blending is said to have been introduced as a way to soften the flavour and create some consistency when the English, south of the border, discovered the joys of Scotch. They apparently struggled with different distilleries’ markedly different flavours and qualities.
Blended Scotch whiskey offers a more well-rounded flavour and is the product of different distilleries’ single malts and even other cereal grain whiskies (like wheat or corn) being blended together.
Whereas the goal with single malts is distinct flavour, blended whiskies offer smooth versatility, harmony and even choreography in your glass.
Efforts to legislate (and tax) all Scotch production in the 18th century meant illegal distilleries flourished. Blended Scotch became illegal until the law changed in1860. This is probably where some of the snobbery surrounding single malts comes from. This may also be related to the fact that each distillery has its own flavour and connoisseurs enjoy being able to identify the distillery by their distinct styles.
Despite the legalisation of blended whiskey, there are strict laws governing the labelling of Scotch. Any liquor labelled as Scotch has to have been matured in oak casks, for at least three years, in Scotland.
When to choose a blend
While some whiskey snobs look down on blended Scotch, it accounts for most whiskey sales worldwide. Blended whiskey tastes smoother and its lighter body is great for cocktails. The flavour is also more predictable. A great whiskey to mix with.