It puzzles me why we compare them at all. To me, it’s the soft drink equivalent of the fruity tea versus orange juice debate: different drinks, served differently, for different tastes. But everyone and their granny are talking about the differences between single malts and blends (I like this one), so instead of focussing on how they are different, let me give you some commonalities to fuel this fireside debate.
So what do they actually have in common?
1. Single malt is, strictly speaking, mixed.
In our romantic single-malt whisky minds, a beautiful oak cask containing our favourite malt is handpicked from the warehouse, emptied slowly, watered down with pure spring water from source, bottled and beautifully presented in the shops. In reality, hundreds of casks from a variety of warehouses are selected at any one time and MIXED together before water is added. Why? Because every single cask of single malt whisky from the same distillery tastes different; yes, even casks from the same warehouse that have sat beside each other for many years. Our beloved Master Distillers are responsible for selecting and marrying the whisky from these casks to reflect and maintain the key characteristics of the malt in question. Single malts are widely known to change in flavour with the years but the Master Blender has to make sure the whisky is consistent to a degree and stays true to its character. In that sense, the only difference between a blend and single malt here is that all the casks in a single-malt whisky come from the same distillery.
2. The quality differs.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that there are superb single-malt whiskies and pretty average ones too. There are also superb blended whiskies and pretty average ones too; to suggest that all blends are inferior is to miss out on some wonderful experiences. Never mind, all the more for us.
The Speyside region produces an awful lot of ingredients for blended whisky. There is an abundance of distilleries whose entire produce goes into blending: take Inchgower, Strathisla, Miltonduff, to name a few. But don’t be fooled! If you think (wrongly) that blends are inferior you may also be led to believe (falsely) that these single malts will be inferior too! Blended whisky makes up 95% of the scotch whisky market and the profit to be made from these single malts as part of a blend is much, much higher. That’s the only reason.
3. Come to Speyside, we have superb examples of both.
If you’re interested in this whisky debate, or any whisky debate, let us show you around the real Speyside and take you to some of the finest whisky establishments and specialist shops that, we believe, Scotland has to offer. You’ll be greeted by experts who’ll only be too happy to guide you through the enormous variety of single malts and blends on offer, and delight you with samples of both to suit just your palate.
Ace Tours would love to hear from you; contact us to find out more about our personal whisky tours. And most importantly, keep debating. Slainte!