Each week we answer all those burning questions that you've always wanted to know the answer to, but then get too drunk (or shy) and forget to ask. JR asks, "OK, what's the difference between a blended scotch and a single malt scotch?
I'll give you the short answer because the long one is boring and will enrich your life not. First, Scotch whisky is a distilled spirit whose base is grain.
Malt whisky, which many Scotches can and do claim to be, derives flavor from the complex, pastoral process of malting barley over a peat fire. Grain whisky derives its flavor from any number of grains, be it rye, wheat, corn or barley, not necessarily subjected to the same spa treatment before fermentation and distillation.
What you'll see on labels, usually: "Blended Scotch Whisky." This is your Dewars, Famous Grouse, or Johnnie Walker Red. A blended Scotch whisky is a combination of malt whisky and grain whisky. For blended whisky, the distiller must hold in his mind the characteristics of the house style. This is the same idea as non-vintage Champagne.
Like non-vintage Champagne, blended Scotch whisky isn't inferior just because it's blended, even though it most always is an entry level product. Blended Scotch whisky is a more everyday product, something to have on the rocks or with a splash of water. Treat it as a benchmark, an old reliable, a constant.
Single malt whisky, then, is on a par with a single vineyard wine or a cognac, offering a more distinctive (and expensive) product.
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