Whisky is one of the most popular drinks in the world. From Australia to Japan, people love to take time out and enjoy a glass of whiskey with their friends and family. Although most people believe whisky to be as simple as vodka, there is more than meets the eye. There are two broad categories of whisky - single malt and double malt.
First of all, what is whisky?
The word whisky comes from the Gaelic uisge beatha, which means "water of life." The origin of this spirit goes back to the early 15th century, but most people believe that it was discovered by chance when someone stored alcohol in oak barrels and left them for a few years. It is thought that the barrels imparted a distinctive flavour to the liquid.
Whisky is the generic term for distilled alcoholic spirits produced from fermented grain mash. Many different grains, including barley, maize, rye, and wheat, are used by distillers all over the globe to manufacture whiskey. Various methods of blending malts and grains result in different kinds of whiskies.
Whisky has been produced in almost every country around the globe, but Scotland, Ireland, Japan, the United States and Canada are known for producing some of the best whiskies globally. Even though there are numerous types and brands of this spirit available today, each one clearly indicates its country of origin on the label’s description.
This is often done because each country follows strict rules on how their whisky should be made which includes what type of grain or malt should be used and production techniques followed etc. In fact, each country has its own unique style and quality of whisky. Each type of whiskey has its own unique characteristics shaped by factors such as the aging process, climate, and ingredients used to make it.
How is Whiskey Made?
The process of making whisky can be broken down into three stages: fermentation, distillation, and maturation.
Fermentation is the process by which yeast converts the sugar in grains into alcohol and carbon dioxide gas -- giving the whisky its distinctively sweet taste. It usually lasts seven to nine days.
Distillation is the process of heating up fermented grain mash in order to evaporate its alcohol content. When cooled, this alcohol vapor condenses into liquid when cooled form and becomes "the good stuff."
Maturation is the final stage during which new make spirit (unaged whisky) is placed into oak barrels for aging. The longer whiskey matures in these barrels, the darker its color.
Single Malt Whisky
First, we should define a malt. A malt is, at its core, a dry germinated grain. Malting is the process of transforming a raw grain into a germinated grain.
Single malt whiskey is a single whisky produced by a single distillery and created from a mash containing only one type of grain. It is usually always more expensive than other varieties of whiskey. Whisky from a single barrel is highly prized by connoisseurs and is considered to be a rare and valuable commodity nowadays.
Single malt whiskies have stronger flavors since the grain flavors are not diluted by non-malt grains or corn.
The taste of single malt whisky varies greatly depending on the cask used for maturation, how long it has matured in the barrel and where it is matured. Generally, these whiskies have a strong peat flavor with subtle flavors of fruit, spices, or wood. Some whiskies may have added caramel coloring to adjust the color.
A single malt can be consumed neat. However, you can also enhance its flavors by adding water in small quantities as you drink it.
A few fantastic Single Malts are:
- Glenfiddich 12 Year Old Single Malt
- Laphroaig Lore Single Malt Scotch
- The Dalmore 12 Year Old Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky
- The Macallan 12 Year Old Sherry Oak Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Double Malt Whisky is one of the most popular whiskies across the world. Double Malt Whisky is made by mixing several types of malt, grain, and other additives that impact the flavor of the whisky. A majority of modern whiskies are made in this way, and the names Irish, Scotch, or Canadian whisky almost always describe a blended whisky.
The taste of double malt whisky can vary depending on its blend. Generally speaking, however, double malt whiskey has a sweeter taste than single malt whiskey.
The term "double" refers to the fact that it is created by blending two or more different types of malt whisky. The most common double malt scotch on the market today is the Chivas Regal Double Cask which has been around since 1982. In this blend, Chivas Regal’s 12-year-old whisky is mixed with 20-year-old Glen Grant single malt whisky, which has been matured in sherry oak casks for a richer flavor.
A few amazing Double Malts are:
- Johnnie Walker Double Black Blended Scotch Whisky
- Chivas Regal 18 Year Old Gold Signature Scotch Whisky
- Dewar's 25 Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky
What is a Blend?
A whiskey blend is made by mixing two or more single malts or grain whiskies. These are then blended with other ingredients like flavorings, colorings, etc., to get a consistent quality product. This product is ready for drinking as soon as it's bottled without being aged.
The term "blended whisky" was first used in 1824, but the practice of blending whiskies goes back to the earliest days of whisky distillation. In those days, every distillery produced a wide range of different styles, or "vintages", of whisky. These different styles were usually sold off as separate products, or mixed together and sold as a blend.
The reason for this is that it was thought that each local water supply had its own distinct character that would show through in the whiskey made using it. Distillers would take 40% ABV spirit barrels and mix them with other barrels at different strengths until they found a combination they liked.
The famous blends we know today are the product of this method (with some excisable modern exceptions). The unique flavor profile from one distillery is combined with another to produce a more complex and consistent taste.
Blends are said to be easier to drink because they don't come with any burning sensations as single malts do.
The most common blends are:
- Blend of malt and grain whiskey: this blend is mostly produced in Ireland. Irish Whiskey is often aged in sherry casks. It can be made from malted and unmalted barley, with or without corn and wheat.
- Blends using only malted barley: this is the most popular blend in the UK, and it is quite similar to American blended whiskey. Some of the brands include Johnnie Walker, Bells, Ballantine's, Teachers, and Dewar's.
- Blends using only unmalted barley: This blend is popular in Canada, Scotland, and Japan. It has a different taste compared to blends made from malted barley because it contains enzymes that affect the flavor and aroma of whiskey during the aging process.
- Blends using only grain: These are very similar to American blended whiskey, but they differ with regard to taste because they have been matured for less time than American whiskeys.
- Blends that are obtained by mixing various types of whiskey: These are mainly produced in Ireland or Scotland; they have a wide range of flavors coming from each kind of whiskey used in the blend (i.e.: Irish, Scotch, or Bourbon).
What’s the difference between Double Malt and Blended whiskey?
The difference here is that a Double Malt Whiskey is manufactured from 2 distinct Single Malts striving for a certain flavor, while a regular Blended Whiskey is made by combining several whiskeys (two or more) together.
Which one should you choose?
A person's choice of whisky is very personal, but there are some things you can consider to help you make your choice.
Double malt whiskey has a lighter taste compared to single malt, which makes it an excellent choice for individuals who want to introduce themselves to drinking whiskey. This type of whisky's light taste also makes it easier to drink mixed with other drinks like water or soda. Single malt whiskey has a much heavier flavor profile than double malt, which could be off-putting for some people.
Blended whiskey has a more complex flavor profile than double malt because it includes ingredients from more than one distillery. Many people consider blended whiskeys, like Johnnie Walker Black Label, to be superior to single malts because they have a longer finish on the palate after drinking them. The variety of flavors in blended whiskey makes it ideal for adding ice.
Some people think that single malt is superior to a double malt because they believe that each batch of single malt has been distilled separately. Others prefer double malts because they think that blending creates a better whiskey. There is no right answer; it all comes down to personal preference.
The best way to decide between single or double malt whiskey is by tasting them both for yourself!