I generally try to be diplomatic about whiskey on Whisk(e)y Apostle. I think that if you have a website providing something resembling educational or informational content then it’s only good form to be as nonpartisan as possible and clearly state that something is your opinion when it is so and not speak in absolutes.
Today I’m going to break ranks with that and say the typical American single malt drinker is (notice the definitive verb there) a snobbish idiot. There…I said it. I’ve been thinking it for a long time. I just couldn’t keep it bottled up inside any longer. “But aren’t you an American single malt drinker?” you may ask. Yes I am. And I went through a phase of this a number of years back. It was when I was trying cigars, drinking more single malt, and generally thinking I was more sophisticated than I really was. In short, I was an idiot.
So why am I bringing this up now? Well, it’s something that’s been on my mind for some time. What finally sent me over the edge was a post I saw on a forum that I’m a member of. This question was posted:
“Do you guys ever drink single malt scotch on the rocks or do you consider the very idea an affront to all that is good, decent, and proper about whisky?”
Granted that’s a loaded question but there are gentlemen on that forum with good taste in liquid libations so I was curious to see the responses. What followed were general answers like this:
“Single Malts on the rocks is indeed a waste of money. If you want to drink it on the rocks, save money and buy Blended.”
“Honestly, you’re just throwing money away….And as much as that sounds like liquor-snob posturing and “look how macho I am, drinking my whisky straight from the bottle,” I’m really not trying to be. There are some fine blended whiskeys out there that go well on the rocks, and I drink them too.”
These responses annoyed me on two fronts. First, as we say here over and over again, drink it how you like. No one else’s opinion (and it is an opinion, not some mandate from God) matters. I understand the points made in the prior example. Yes chilling the whisky numbs out some of the flavors. But so does not adding water. As long as the water is room temperature it will open up flavors and aromas that you can’t fully appreciate at bottle strength. Do I like mine with water? No. I don’t like it with ice either but we’re not talking about my drink. We’re talking about yours. You’re buying it. You’re drinking it. You get to have it however you want.
But what really bothered me was the left handed slight toward blended scotch. I can’t tell you how many times I hear people rattling on about the superiority of single malts versus blends. “Oh blends are where you start. Once you’re ready to really appreciate scotch try single malts.” “Blends just don’t have the flavor or complexity of good single malt.” And on and on and on. It’s a pile a crap. Just because YOU don’t like blends doesn’t make them inferior. You just don’t like them. That’s your opinion not a fact.
Are there crappy blends out there? Sure, but there are just as many crappy single malts too. It’s not like I’m measuring Dewar’s Signature against Big Al MacLeod’s discount malt. There are plenty of single malts out there far inferior to regular blends like Johnnie Walker Black.
Truth be told it takes as much if not more skill to make quality blends than it does to make good single malt. It may take different skills maybe but not fewer skills. You have be able to source and pull together dozens of different single malt and grain whiskies into a solid uniform piece, balancing and marrying flavors into cohesion. Is it hard to play the trumpet? Yes. Is it less impressive to pull together an entire symphony? I don’t think so.
I think of it like this: The master distiller is the true craftsman, but the master blender is the true artist. Are either the artist or craftsman lacking in skill, talent, or focus? Of course not, they just create differently. The blender is the symphony conductor pulling together all the pieces and parts into what you hold in your hand. They are taking all the different instruments and making something greater than the sum of its parts. Think about that the next you try a blended scotch.