Blended or single malt whiskey: which is better to buy?


Our growing wealth has also influenced our choice of alcoholic beverages. On the shelves of shops in a long time ago, in addition to the traditional vodka and wine for us, many interesting and sometimes even exotic options appeared. Whiskey has gained particular popularity. It is no secret that in the West this drink has a whole army of admirers, has developed its own cult and a series of myths corresponding to it.

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Even Haruki Murakami wrote that you first need to look at the whiskey, and only then, when you get tired, take a sip. The use of this strong alcoholic beverage is a whole science that a connoisseur of high-quality alcohol should master. When talking about whiskey, its blend is constantly mentioned. But what is it, how, what and why is the drink blended in general?

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What is Blended Whiskey?

The very word “blend” simply means “mixture”. So blended whiskey is a mixture of different types of whiskey and sometimes neutral grain alcohols, colors and flavors. Typically, it is the product of mixing one or more of the higher quality pure or single malt whiskeys with less expensive spirits and other ingredients. The proportions can be very different. Typically, up to 60% malt barley alcohol can be found in a blend, but increasing this proportion makes the drink more valuable. The rest of the blended drink accounts for grain alcohols, from wheat, corn, rye. It is believed that they cannot provide a quality comparable to that of barley alcohol. But blended whiskey is not necessarily worse than single malt, these are just different types of drink, everyone will find their own connoisseurs.

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Differences between blended whiskey and single malt

The main principle of single malt whiskey is the absence of blends, but for blended whiskey this is just the basis. Single malt whiskey is made from barley malt, there should not be any grain additives, except, perhaps, special exceptions. Such a drink is the standard of whiskey, but it is, of course, not cheap.

Customers should understand that they are paying for the high quality of the drink. For the manufacture of single malt alcohols, selected raw materials are used; a lot of time and attention is paid to the germination of grains and their drying. Manufacturers also carefully control the quality with the condition of the barrels, in which the elite drink will be aged for 10-12 years. There are four varieties of single malt whiskey (indicated on the label):

  • Single malt… The drink is created by one distillery, but it is allowed to mix (blend) whiskeys of different ages.
  • Single cask… Whiskey is poured from one barrel.
  • Quarter cask… The aging is carried out in an American oak barrel. This gives the drink a richer taste, and the strength can reach 50%.
  • Pure malt (vatted malt, blended malt)… It is based on barley malt, but a blend of whiskey of different ages is possible.

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How to blend whiskey correctly?

How to blend whiskey correctly?

You can’t just mix different alcohols. Making a quality blended whiskey is a complex art, no less subtle than making a single malt drink. And the first stage for these two varieties is the same: malting, fermentation and distillation of barley. Other crops are affected by similar processes. Then the finished alcohols are mixed. Taking into account that the quality of liquids does not always coincide, the manufacturer achieves stable taste characteristics that remain unchanged over the years. At the final stage of the production of blended whiskey, the drink is aged in barrels. The Scotch Whiskey Association identifies several types of blended drink:

  • Standard blend… For the production of such whiskey, alcohols with an aging of at least three years are used, and the proportion of malted barley is about 25%. The blend is kept in barrels for a month or more. It is the Standard blend that is most often offered to the mass undemanding consumer.
  • De Luxe Blend… Here the share of single malt spirits already reaches 50%, and their aging is impressive 10-12 years. After mixing, the drink is in barrels for about six months.
  • Premium… This blended whiskey is considered to be the best. It can contain up to 60% single malt alcohols, but the main thing here is that it is aged for 12 years or more in barrels. Blended Premium is very expensive, a bottle may even cost more than one thousand dollars.

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The most famous brands of blended whiskey

Ballantine's Gold Seal

The standard blended whiskey category includes brands such as Johnnie Walker Red Label, Ballantines, Dewars. Johnnie Walker Black Label, Dewar’s Special Reserve, William Lawson, Chivas Regal 12-year-old whiskey, Tullamore Dew and The Antiquary stand out in the De Luxe Blend category. If we talk about premium blends, then we can mention Chivas Regal already 18 years old, Ballantine’s Gold Seal, Famous Grouse (Old Reserve, 15 and 21 years old), Cutty Sark (Discovery, 12 and 18 years old).

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What should you drink blended whiskey with?

Single malt whiskey excludes the use of any additional components, perhaps, perhaps, sparkling water, and even then – served separately. But blended varieties can be mixed with ice, cola, which is generally considered a classic, and ordinary water. You can use lemon or cranberry juice, in a 1 to 2 ratio to whiskey. Cheese will work well as an appetizer, it can be gouda, cheddar, Swiss cheese, as well as dark chocolate and a variety of snacks: chips, nuts. And smoked meats go well with blended whiskey.

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