What you need to know: Single malt, Single cask and Blended Scotch
You have stepped into the exciting world of whisky, ready to experience all the different flavours, only to realise you don’t speak the language. The different whisky classifications like single malt, single cask, and blended scotch can be intimidating and confusing. But, becoming fluent in any language has to start with understanding the basics. Here is an explanation of what the basic classifications mean.
Before we get into the details of what blended scotch is it is crucial that you understand why blending is important in the first place. When whisky is aged in an oak barrel, a number of variables can affect the final character. Quality of the oak, climate, and even where a barrel ages within its warehouse all affect the final product. However, consumers will be expecting a certain flavour from brands they know. Therefore, barrels are mixed so that a product has a consistent character from one release to the next. Getting this right is the job of the Master Blender at the distillery.
Blended scotch is the product of different single malt and grain whiskies sourced from different distilleries mixed together. This mixture is then bottled and sold as one product. The age given on the bottle of a blended scotch refers to the youngest whisky used in the blend.
Blended scotch is the most common basic blend, but there are others. Blended malt whiskies are the product of a mixture of only single malts, from multiple distilleries. Likewise, blended grain scotch is a mixture of single grain whiskies, again from multiple distilleries. Briefly, blend means a mixture of whiskies from a mixture of distilleries. Easy.
What is a single-malt?
Single-malt whiskies are made using a blend of lots of different whiskies, but – and here is what makes the different from a blended scotch – they are from one distillery. The reason why some people find this term confusing is that they mistake ‘single’ as indication that the whisky is a product of a single batch or barrel. No, single distillery, that’s it.
Unlike single malt, single cask does refer to the product of a single barrel of whisky unmixed with whisky from anywhere else. Single cask whiskies are special because they are individual as each barrel is different from the next. Their colour, flavour and aromas are unique to their barrel, because of this buying a single cask bottle can be both exciting and risky.
Done. It seemed confusing at first but you got through it. Time for a celebratory glass of whisky I think.