Debunking the Myth of Blended Whisky

The worst sort of person I meet on a regular basis the sort who looks down their nose at blended whisky. The stigma blended whisky bears is unfair and wholly undeserved. Connoisseurs know better.

Jim Murray, writer of the annual Whisky Bible, is king of connoisseurs and has been championing blends for years. The man knows what he’s talking about: the Whiskey Bible has tasting notes for over four thousand whiskies. Last year, Murray named a blend his whisky of the year. He said, “Blends are seen by many as the poor relations to single malts. Ballantine’s 17 proves, quite spectacularly, what many of us have known for a great many years: it isn’t. A blender has the chance to create something unique and quite beautiful by putting together many whisky styles.”

What is the difference between single malt whisky and blended whisky?
Simply put, a single malt is made in a pot still, at a single distillery, using malted barley as the only grain ingredient. A blended whisky is a combination of multiple whiskies; a master distiller puts together whiskies in the same way one might put together ingredients.

Which is better?
Neither. Put your prejudices aside and enjoy both.

Why are blends less expensive?
This isn’t always true. Once you cut away the truly cheap bottles, price is not a reliable indicator of quality. More importantly, price does not dictate what tastes best to you. If you know anyone who needs their drink to be expensive in order to taste good, send them my way and I’ll sell them the best Scotch in the world.

But is age a good indicator of quality?
No. Sometimes older Scotches don’t turn out well and, again, you should drink what you like. At a Chivas tasting last week, Frank Biskupek, a brand ambassador for The Glenlivet, said that giving a 25-year-old blend to a Scotch newbie is like giving a Guinness to someone new to beer.

Why do blends have ages, anyway?
Blends that have their ages right on the bottle (and all good blends do) are indicating the age of the youngest Scotch added; Chivas 18 has nothing younger than 18 years in it.

How do I drink it?
Anyway you like.

How do you drink it?
I like a touch of cold water.

So that’s the correct way?
There is no ‘correct’ or ‘proper’ way to drink Scotch. Drink it the way you enjoy it the most. Drink your Scotch on the rocks and it’ll be cold, but a cold drink loses flavour and ice dilutes the drink. Drink your Scotch neat, and you’ll get all the flavours in a sharp edge, but that’s too forceful for some. Drink your Scotch with a touch of water, and it’ll unlock the bouquet but lose a bit of the edge. Try everything and see what you like.

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