Blended whiskies, which make up 90% of all whiskies, are created by using many different expressions across multiple distilleries. This is why the scotch industry is often referred to as the ‘friendliest industry’, because distilleries that are often thought of as competitors actually trade their casks between each other in order to maximise the different flavours in their blended whiskies.
Blended whiskies make up the majority of the market due to them being cheaper for the average consumer and represent many of the most highly respected whiskies on the planet, for decades they were the only whiskies found on supermarket shelves. It is only in the past 30 years that single malts have risen to popularity.
Many people assume that single malt whisky means: scotch that has come from the same distillery and barrel, produced in the traditional way. While it is correct that all single malts are produced by the same distillery, they do not come from the same cask. Instead that distillery will use hundreds of different casks of its own make to create its single malt scotch.
While this might be disappointing to learn, there is a very valid reason for why distilleries do this. Essentially, individual casks will not produce the exact same whisky due to tiny variations in microclimates and the wood grain. Meanwhile customers when they buy a brand of single malt whisky come to expect the exact same flavour each time. For instance barrels which sit at the bottom of the shelves age quicker than those at the top due to the slight temperature difference. Therefore to ensure consistency between single malts, many casks are married together to create the distinct profile of the expected brand.
There are much rarer single cask releases as well, which are bottled from the exact same cask. These are incredibly valuable for collectors and aficionados because they are utterly unique and will never be replicated again due to the specific conditions that produced that cask.
It is useful for investors to be aware of the difference between blended and single malt whisky in order to know what is best for investing, so that they can meet their financial goals. Purchasing a cask which is used in a wide variety of blends means that there will always be keen buyers for your cask, while a cask that is used for single malts might provide greater returns because collectors might be interested in issuing a single cask release.
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