Whiskey Labels – Malts and Blends
Laws and Locations
Yes, I’ll have your finest single malt bourbon… Please don’t say that ever. I’m not telling you this to make you feel dumb. I’m saying it to save you from an awkward conversation with a pedantic scotch drinker who knows the difference. By the way, if you happen to be the pedantic scotch drinker, knock it off.
Fun fact – the most boring part about whiskey is often the most interesting. Each country has laws about what you can call your whiskey based on how you make it. Some countries are very strict, others (Canada, I’m looking at you) are very laissez faire about it. I used a bit of French there for the Canadians so they’ll get the hint. This series (Whiskey Labels) is going to help you learn what the words on the bottle mean.
Without further ado, let’s learn about what a single malt is!
Single malt is a term scotch makers use. It means that the fermentation was done using an all barley mash and that it’s done at one distillery. It seems too easy, right? That’s it though. Using this method comes with some risks and potentially more variability in flavor from one batch to another. With this method also comes a premium price tag.
It’s important to note that since all barley mash is very much a scotch thing, this definition can vary from country to country. In America, single malt can be an all rye mash instead of all barley. However, bourbon is always at least 50% corn, so it can never be single malt.
This one is going to throw you for a loop after the last one. A double malt is a whiskey that’s been made from all barley and only produced between two distilleries. That was a joke it’s not actually complicated. Why mix between distilleries? Great question. Let’s talk about blended whiskey.
Blended whiskey is exactly what it sounds like. Distillers will take multiple batches of whiskey and mix them together. There are a lot of reasons to blend, but I’m only going to list a few of the ones I see most often.
Blending a whiskey with others of a similar mash, usually made with the same source of grain, yeast, and water, can allow for each bottle to taste more like the next bottle. A single barrel can yield very different flavors, even from one bottle to the next.
Blending a younger batch with an older batch makes it a bit more approachable (easy to drink) while adding the complex flavors of an older whiskey. Many established distilleries do this in order to create a really great entry or mid-range whiskey.
Good luck getting anyone to admit it, but the reality is that this makes your low-end whiskey mid-range whiskey and allows you to get an older flavor without aging everything so long. I’m not complaining, some of my favorite whiskeys are blended.
And… that’s it. It’s a short post this week. I hope you learned something and are able to avoid sounding dumb in front of someone who would try and make you feel that way. If you hate this post go to our Facebook page and send me a message. I get those messages faster than other methods. I’d love to learn if you know something I don’t.
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