Posted: October 21, 2019
One of the worlds most common drinks, from one of the worlds smaller regions… Whiskey can come from anywhere in the world, with American bourbon having a solid drinking audience, and Japanese & Australian brands gaining more and more popularity. But “Scotch” can only be made in Scotland, and to be legally called Scotch Whiskey, it has to be aged for a minimum of 3 years in oak! And although many don’t understand the actual difference, Single Malt Scotch Whiskey is consider the more prestigious (often more expensive) option. So let us enlighten you on why Single Malt demands a higher price & has a more coveted reputation than blended Scotch.
In essence: If a bottle contains only Malt whiskey from only one distillery… it is “Single Malt”. If a bottle has Malt and Grain whiskeys from different distilleries… it is a blend. That’s the simple explanation.
What is Malt Whiskey?
Made from 100% barley, Malt Whiskey is distilled twice. The first distillation is old fashioned boiling, of the liquid to remove impurities and results in a liquid with 20% alcohol. The second distillation occurs in a spirits still to ensure the product is of premium quality. The alcohol content at the completion of this process is 60-75%. (Yes, it is then diluted, but taking the alcohol content to this level is the reason Malt Whiskey’s are superior).
What is Grain Whiskey?
Made from any combination and mix of barley, wheat and rye, Grain Whiskey is a less pure product, distilled only once. Skipping the old fashioned boiling method, it is distilled in a spirits still, and only taken to a point of achieving the desired alcohol content.
So as you can tell, Malt Whiskey is pure, refined and superior – made from only one type of grain & distilled twice. While Grain Whiskey is made from a combination of grains & its single distillation creates less complexity and intensity of flavour.
Which is better?
Although Single Malt is probably a more pure & premium Scotch, it commonly has stronger flavours from the Malt Whiskey (like tobacco, smoke, sour cherries, wood, leather, citrus) that are not exactly “easy-drinking”… Whereas a Blended Scotch brings the rounded, smoother flavours of a Grain Whiskey to the palate (honey, vanilla, lighter oak, raisins) making them a more consumable drink. Blended Scotch can also vary more dramatically with flavours from different growing regions, different grains and different blenders.