Blended Whiskey: An Approachable Whiskey For All Palates
If youre looking for a smooth but memorable sipping option, blended whiskey is a popular choice. Blends are generally less harsh and softer than other whiskeys, so theyre great for new whiskey drinkers. The best blends are full of unique complexity and character, but each distillery and blend has its own signature style. Lets take a look at how blended whiskeys came to be, what types of blends are available, and even a few curated selections weve featured in our Clubs.
Canadian Rye Vs American Rye
America isnt the only country with a love for rye whiskey. Rye is also produced in Canada, but it differs from American rye whiskey. Instead of using a mash made primarily from rye, Canadian rye whiskey is made from other grains with just a small amount of rye added for flavor.
- What Does Rye Whiskey Taste Like? Assertive, dry, earthy, spicy
- Rye Whiskey Brands: Whistlepig, Pikesville Rye, Wild Turkey
- Rye Whiskey Cocktails: Rye Old Fashioned, Sazerac, Manhattan
What Is A Blended Whiskey
Blended whiskey is a type of whiskey made by combining whiskies from different malt and grain distilleries. A blended Scotch is a blended whisky thats a combination of a barrel-aged malt whisky and some other grain whisky . American whiskey is blended with at least 20% whiskey, but the rest can be made up of colorings, flavorings, and neutral grain spirits. Higher quality brands dont add neutral spirits or colorings, meaning their blends are made up of 100% whiskey. These bottles tend to be labeled with a blend of bourbons, Scotch, or whiskey on the bottle, rather than stating blended.
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What Exactly Is A Blended Whiskey
Blended whiskey is a mixture that contains at least 20% whiskey but can contain as much as 100%. In order to differentiate these bottles, they tend to come with a label that says a blend of bourbons, scotches or whiskies, rather than just blended.. The remaining d the other 80%? Spirits that are neutral in color and taste.
Which Is The Best Blended Whisky
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Is Blended Or Single Malt Better
Although single malt whiskey is exclusively made from barley, blended whiskey can also be made from corn, rye, or even wheat. A distiller can produce blended whiskey more quickly and more cheaply by doing this. Due to this, blended whiskey is in higher demand, even though single malts are better in taste.
Single Malts Vs Blends Understanding Whisky
If there is one persistent meme that seems to have firmly inserted itself into the minds of everyone with even a passing awareness of scotch-style whiskies, it is that single malts are of perceived higher quality than blends.
Many will certainly agree that the greatest diversity of flavour comes the traditional, single pot-distilled, malted barley form of whisky, aged for extended periods in oak barrels . So it may therefore surprise you to learn that almost all single malt scotch you will find in your local liquor store is in fact a blend of many different individual whiskies.
Blending vs Vatting
This is our first lesson in how the marketing machine that barrels over the whisky world has distorted peoples understanding of this product. In an effort to provide a cachet , single malt whisky has undergone several decades of extensive higher quality branding. Most people naturally assume that single malt means just that a single whisky from a single barrel. In fact, what a Scottish single malt actually means is that it is only malt whisky, prepared in the traditional way, and produced by a single distillery in Scotland. Note the distinctions inherent in that qualification.
Typically, the individual malt whiskies that get vatted together have been aged for varying amounts of time, in barrels that previously contained different types of spirits to start with .
Single Malt vs Blended Whiskies
Price Points and Consumer Choice
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What Does Blended Scotch Taste Like
The taste of Blended Scotch is harder to generalize. This is because its not based on any one region or any one distillery. The combination of different distilleries obviously takes away that location consistency. And since blended scotches can even combine grains, you have an even wider range of options beyond malt!
Most blended whiskies are made to focus on a few flavor notes that combine well. Generally, they are smooth with many complex notes and full-flavor profiles.
The downside of a blend is some of the funkier notes in specific single malts get cut out in a blend in an effort to create a smooth, balanced bottle. But the flip side is by playing around with quantities, blenders can achieve really unique and complex flavor combinations!
Blended gets a bad reputation, since many younger versions tend to mix something good with lots of low quality whisky. But the older you go, the more likely you are to find really excellent bottles.
The only advice I can really give you here is to go out and try a few. Some of them give you an obvious clue on the bottle. Others youll just have to give a shot.
If youre wary, you can always go to a bar and try a glass or two of a selection that interests you before you buy a whole bottle!
Glenfiddich Single Malt Scotch Whisky
One of the oldest and most renowned distributors of single malt Scotch Whisky is the Glenfiddich Distillery. Established in 1886, Glenfiddich started out as a small distillery that relied on second-hand equipment for production. Founder William Grant ran a small family run business, which faced fierce competition from larger companies. This competition intensified after World War II, when tastes turned towards the less sophisticated whiskey blends.
The Grant family persisted however, and made the decision in 1963 to market its product outside of Scotland as a strict single malt. While some considered this foolish, the move turned out to be a wise one. Today, Glenfiddich is the largest producer of single malt whiskey in the world, and one of only a handful of distillers that is still being run by a family operation.
Most single malt connoisseurs will admit that it was image that first drew them to the spirit, and taste that kept them there. There is no denying that single malts have a distinct robust flavor that is meant to be savored, not downed and chased. For some this is an acquired taste, building slowly by drinking only high quality single malts with nothing more than a splash of water.
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What Is Vatting Versus Blending
Whiskey companies try very hard to hide the fact that vatting is just a fancier way of saying blending. Most single malt drinkers are under the assumption that they are drinking one single whiskey that comes from one barrel. The reality is that the whiskey is coming from one single distillery, where various barrels are married together to make the final blend.
These may have been aged for different lengths of time, and even come from barrels that previously held a different type of spirit, but since they are derived from the same source the producer calls it a single malt that has been vatted.
The term blended whiskey refers to the type of grains being used to produce it. While single malts exclusively use barley, blended whiskey can contain corn, rye and even wheat as their base. Mixing these together in various proportions is how you get such diversity in whiskey flavor.
Blending whiskey allows for the use of cheaper grains, and does not require the same amount of time to age. This allows a distiller to produce a blended whiskey faster, and for less money. As a result, the demand for blended whiskey is higher, despite the fact that the single malts have an obvious flavor advantage.
What Is Corn Mash
Corn mash is the signature ingredient of bourbon. Its made from crushed corn kernels, malted barley, water, and yeast. After these ingredients are combined, the mash is heated to start the fermentation process. Mash can be made from a variety of grains or even fruits, but bourbon is strictly made with 51% corn mash.
- What Does Bourbon Taste Like? Sweet and woodsy with notes of oak, caramel, and vanilla
- Bourbon Whiskey Brands: Woodford Reserve, Knob Creek, Maker’s Mark
- Bourbon Whiskey Cocktails: Old Fashioned, Mint Julep, Manhattan
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How Does A Blended Whiskey Taste
Flavors vary, just like in any other whiskey category. Because the environment impacts whiskeys characteristics, no two individual malts will ever be the same. By blending several together, a distillery can keep a brands flavors consistent. Master blenders start with their general recipe, but its the precisely-skilled tasters who help achieve a flavor closest to what each product is known for. That being said, blended whiskeys taste sweet with flavors of vanilla, cherry, candied fruit, or chocolate. They can also taste smokey or ashy, with hints of leather and dried fruits. Theyre generally more mild and approachable than single malts.
What Is Single Pot Still Whiskey
Single pot still whiskey is a type of Irish whiskey made with at least 30% malted barley and 30% unmalted barley. The unmalted barley, also called green barley, adds a strong cereal flavor to the whiskey. To be labeled single pot still, the whiskey must also come from a single distillery.
- What Does Irish Whiskey Taste Like? Smooth and slightly sweet with notes of oak, honey, and toasted grains
- Irish Whiskey Brands: Jameson, Tullamore Dew, Bushmills
- Irish Whiskey Cocktails: Irish Slammer, Irish Coffee, Pickleback
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A Crash Course In Single Malt Versus Blended Whiskey
Single malt whiskey has grown a reputation for being a higher quality spirit than blends. This has led to a misconception that they are also smoother and more flavorful. Yet before you dismiss Dewars as being beneath you, you should at least give blended whiskey a chance to defend itself.
There is no denying that the greatest diversity in flavors does come from the traditional, single pot distilling process. That malted barley form of whiskey, aged for years in an oak barrel, produces that classic Scottish single malt scotch. Yet what you are buying is almost always a blend of several different whiskey types.
Single Malt Vs Blended
Blended Scotch whisky is different from single malt because its a combination of single malt and grain whiskies. Grain whisky is simply whisky made from other grains besides barley, like corn or wheat. The purpose of making blended scotch is to create a more consistent product with a controlled flavor profile. Master blenders use a variety of single malts and/or grain malts to create the perfect ratio.
Because blended whiskies are often made with cheaper grains that dont require the same maturation time as malted barley, they can be produced more quickly for less money. This adds to the perception that blended whisky is inferior to single malts, but its not true in all cases. Today, there are blended whiskies that have been carefully produced with very high standards.
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What Is The Difference Between Blended Whiskey And Bourbon
Oak barrels are used to age bourbon for two years or longer. This alcohol has been aged in oak barrels after being distilled from grain or corn. Even though some people find the flavors of blended whiskey similar to bourbon, blended whiskey is generally perceived as being inferior to this spirit.
What Does Single Malt Mean
Single malt is a term used to describe Scotch whisky made in a single Scottish distillery from 100% malted barley. A common misconception is that single malt Scotch comes from one batch and is never blended. Single malts can be blended from single malts of varying maturation, as long as they are produced in the same distillery.
Single malt scotch has the reputation for being superior to blended whiskies, and this perception has developed for a few different reasons. In the world of whisky, a single malt scotch represents the distillery and location where it was made. Its flavor profile is specific to the natural elements of the region, which includes the peat used for smoking the barley and the wood used to make the whisky barrels. This adds to the mystique and artisan-like feel of single malts.
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Rye Vs Bourbon Old Fashioned
The Old Fashioned is a famous whiskey cocktail that can be made with bourbon or rye. It all comes down to the customers preference in whiskey. Rye will produce an Old Fashioned that is spicy and dry, which is balanced by the sweetener used in the drink, usually a sugar cube. On the other hand, bourbon has a sweet flavor already, so less sugar can be used and sometimes the bitters are increased. The Manhattan cocktail is another mixed drink that can be made with either bourbon or rye to create a different flavor profile.
How Is A Consistent Flavor Maintained
Every barrel of whiskey has a unique flavor that was affected by the barrel itself. Vatting hundreds of those barrels together actually gives the distiller more control over how the final product will taste. By following their basic recipe for the types of barrels, and how long each one has aged, they are able to make subtle adjustments to ensure a consistent quality.
As with wine, the environment can have an impact on the way a whiskey tastes. By blending several together, the distiller is able to avoid a change in their products flavor. This is more difficult for single malt producers, who must craft their distinct spirits using multiple independent sources.
As a result, no two individual single malts will ever be exactly the same. Master blenders start with their general recipe, but must rely on highly skilled tasters to achieve a flavor that is as close as possible to the desired result.
After the batch has been completed, tasters are blindly given two glasses of the previous batch, and one of the new. If they are able to discern which one is the new batch, the distiller has not achieved consistency and must try again. Only after the tasters are unable to identify the new blend consistently will the distiller go forward with bottling the final product.
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What Is The Process Of Marrying
It is not uncommon for up to 30-40 different whiskies to be included in a blend and once this process is complete and the blender is happy with the final result the whisky will go back into a cask to continue maturation this time as a blend. This process is known as marrying and normally runs at a minimum of 4 to 6 months.
The video below is a worthwhile watch and explains more about the art of blending whisky from Compass Box.
Here are some of the most prolific brands of blended whisky on sale today. Most of them came from a modest beginning and have grown into massive global brands over the last 150 or so years.
There are, of course, many other brands built on the production of blended whisky. There are also different types of blended whisky available, lets take a look at some of them.
Where To Buy Single Malt Whiskey
Single malt whiskey has a prestigious reputation, and the average liquor store should have at least a few options. For the best selection, seek out a store with a more extensive selection of high-end spirits or one that specializes in whiskey. Depending on the shipping regulations where you live, shopping online offers a nearly endless supply of single malts to explore.
In general, you can expect to pay more for a bottle of single malt whiskey than you will for a blended whiskey. The reputation of a distillery and the age of that particular bottle also play into the price. A 50-year old single malt Scotch whisky from a famous distillery will cost more than a 15-year-old single malt American craft whiskey, for instance.
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The Best Classic Single Malt Scotches
I firmly believe every human on the planet should try a single malt once before they die. There is something so richly superb in a distillerys pure expression of their malt. Below are some of my top choices of classic single malt scotches you can find nearly anywhere!
This was the second scotch I tried. The peat was a little much for me on my first go, Ill admit. But a year or so later Lagavulin 16 surpassed Balvenie as my favorite!
The Lagavulin 16 has such an excellent depth of flavor it was impossible for me to leave off this list. Another Islay, the notes of driftwood, leather, and strong peat reach you first. But they are quickly followed by sweet apples and toasted bread. Theres a hint of salt in keeping with the storm-swept island. Save this one for your favorite guests!
What Is A Single
Content: Whiskies from a single distillery.
The root of all confusion lies in the simple word single. A single-malt scotch whisky is nothing more or less than the product of a single distillery. Not the product of a single batch or a single barrel, but a single distillery. A single-malt Lagavulin may contain whiskies from many barrels produced at the Lagavulin distillery, but it will contain only whiskies produced at Lagavulin.
A single-grain scotch whisky varies only in that it contains barley and one or more other cereal grains, usually wheat or corn. Again, single is misleading here: It refers not to a product made from a single grain, but a product made at a single distillery.
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