Once you have experienced the wonders of a great single malt, you never go back to blends. That is what many whisky experts will have you think, that is. Do blends have a place in the alcohol cabinets and bars of true aficionados? This is a complicated and somewhat controversial topic in the whisky community.
Blended whisky is not evil incarnate. In fact, it has several benefits going for it. First, it is very common and therefore very easy to find. 90% or more of global whisky production goes to blends. Second, many of these blends are quite good, at times better than similarly priced single malts. A last reason to try blends is that the extreme grain flavor often found in most blends is usually gone after 15-20 years of aging. Therefore, if you buy a blend that has been properly aged, the harshness that is associated with blended whisky will be gone. Last, some whisky types (Irish whiskies, for example) tend to be blended. The only way to avoid blends is to avoid certain regions altogether. Who wants to limit themselves like that?
However, we are not blend apologists by any means. Quite the opposite, there are definite advantages to single malt that cannot be mitigated. First, blends are somewhat muddled. They lack the complexity and clarity of single malt whiskies. Second, they tend to be aged only minimally. Age is one of the factors that creates a truly awesome whisky, so this is done at the expense of the end product. Blends are made for the masses, without the care and artisan experience that goes into your average single malt.
While many Irish blended whiskies are awesome, this is only when they are blended in the pot still. Irish whiskies are a unique situation because of the long history that has gone into creating a high quality blend. We give you full permission to sample single pot still blended whiskies such as Redbreast.
In short, blended whisky should be viewed the way cheap food is seen. It is a necessary evil in a world where many people cannot afford quality. Some people buy food merely to fill their bellies; similarly, many people buy whisky simply for the alcoholic effects. But these people are not gourmets or lovers of the product. Fast food will never equal the food from a gourmet restaurant, and a blended whisky will never match a quality single malt. There may be some great blends out there (and there are some pretty awesome fast food hamburgers as well) but this is not the stuff that gourmet tastes are made of.
If you have a few favorite blends, there is nothing wrong with that. However, there is no comparing a blended whisky to a single malt whisky. They are of two completely different qualities. You drink a blended whisky to get drunk; you drink a single malt to savor centuries of traditions.