The label on a bottle of Scotch whisky can be as confusing as it is enticing. Different types of whisky can be identified as single malt, double malt, blended whisky or blended malt. Each of these types differs in terms of how it is made, its flavor and its cost.
Produced by a single distillery, single-malt Scotch contains only whisky made from malted barley, water and yeast. Distilleries that produce single-malt Scotch use traditional copper pot stills. Single-malt Scotch is known for the richness and complexity of its flavor; each region of Scotland has its own distinctive characteristics. These characteristics derive from the individual character of the distillery's water source as well as the distilling technique.
Blended Scotch is based on a mixture of different single malts. It may contain as many as 50 different malts. In addition, blended whisky might not contain only malt whisky. The blend may also include grain whisky, which is made from cereals other than malted barley. If the whisky contains only malt whisky, it will be sold as "blended malt." Whisky advertised simply as blended Scotch or blended whisky can contain a mixture of malt and grain whiskies.
Flavor of the Single Malt and Blended
Whisky connoisseurs admire the complexity and richness of single malts. The gentle, subtle flavors of lowland whisky reward thoughtful contemplation, while the potent, peaty depth of Islay whiskies can be intimidating to newcomers. By contrast, blended whiskies tend to be smoother and more consistent in their flavor. This doesn't mean that single malts are the only choice for the whisky lover; some universally acclaimed whiskies are blended.
Serving Single Malt and Blended
Single malt whisky is usually enjoyed straight or more commonly called "neat" in Scotland, or with a small splash of water to bring out the flavor. You should avoid ice, as it tends to suppress the flavors and aromas of the whisky. By contrast, blended whisky can cope with several different serving methods. You can serve it with ice, with a mixer such as soda water, or as an ingredient in a number of different cocktails.