Scotland is the only country producing single malt whisky
There are fine examples of single malt whisky from a range of countries across the world including India, Wales, England, Sweden, Australia, South Africa, France, Belgium, Switzerland and Germany.
Scotland is the only country producing good whisky
This is poppycock. It is true that if you asked all the world’s leading whisky writers to compile the best whiskies a top 100 would probably include 80 from Scotland. But there would be a smattering of whiskies from Japan, America and Ireland in there, too, and one or two of them would be very close to the very top of the list.
Single malt whisky is better than blended whisky
Again, not true. Even though the sales of single malt whisky have been growing extensively blended scotch still accounts for nine out of ten glasses of Scotch whisky consumed. Blended whisky is a vast category.
Its poor reputation is based on the fact that unlike single malts, where the provenance of the drink is transparent, blends are a mix of malt whiskies and cheaper and less flavoursome grain whisky. Because there are no rules governing the proportion of grain to malt some blends are made up of cheap grain whisky and little malt. The whiskies are often matured in inferior casks and are basically cheap drinks.
But when made properly a blended whisky requires a huge amount of skill to balance flavours. It is a full orchestra to single malt’s solo instrument. There are blends which contain very old and very rare whisky and they are every bit as good as the finest malts, if not better.
Older means better
Not necessarily. Older probably means more expensive because the older the whisky is the less there is of it. But older doesn’t necessarily mean better. The longer a whisky is left in a cask, the more flavour it will take from that cask and up to a point, in many cases the better it will become.
But there comes a point with every whisky when the taste reaches an optimum point and from then on the influence of wood starts to have a negative impact. It varies from whisky to whisky and some distilleries can produce malts that taste great at 40 years and above. But this is not always the case and highly expensive whiskies of very great age have their value in their rarity and not necessarily their taste.
Some styles of whisky – such as smoky peaty ones – are arguably better when they are young.
The darker the whisky the older it is
Colour is no more than a guide to the age of a whisky. Malt whisky is typically matured in oak casks that have previously been used for bourbon production or sherry production. The former will produce a much lighter spirit than the latter. The number of times the cask has been used for whisky making will also influence the colour – if it is being filled with malt spirit for the first time after being used for sherry the effects will be much greater than the second time spirit is put in.