Single malt whisky is made from malted barley only, at one single distillery, in copper pot stills

Blended whisky is composed of various mature whiskies. The backbone of a blended Scotch whisky is always a grain whisky, made from either corn or wheat, in a column still.

After maturation, a percentage of mature single malts is added to create a particular flavour profile. The flavour and composition are unique to each blend, and the recipe is a secret of the master blender. Blending is sometimes compared with composing a symphony—each whisky plays its part and contributes its own note to the end product, making the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

To create a good blend, the master blender regularly tests samples from various casks of single malt whiskies to analyse how they develop over time. For this, he predominantly uses his sense of smell. A liquid library of samples is created to ensure that different components of the flavour remain easily identifiable.

The blender is extremely knowledgeable about the difference in taste of each malt whisky and can effortlessly find an adequate replacement should a certain brand temporarily run out of stock. A handy tool of the trade is a malt classification system widely embraced by the industry. It can be found in Richard Paterson’s excellent book Goodness Nose. Finally, choosing the right casks is key to a successful blend. Distilling whisky is a craft; blending whisky is an art.

Our whisky Q&A is provided courtesy of SMWS ambassador Hans Offringa’s A Field Guide to Whisky: An expert compendium to take your passion and knowledge to the next level