Ideally you want to get into a whiskey bottle, not spend all your time reading it like a cereal box. But to ensure you actually like what you buy, it’s probably a good idea to know how to decode a label. We won’t get into the nuance of all aspects here—whiskey subjects, if you’ve dabbled into them at all, tend to inspire some serious exegesis—but we can help guide you down the whiskey (whisky) aisle with a few key terms and basic definitions.
Correction: Single Malt means that the whiskey came from a single batch of malt rather than from several that were blended. Think of a single origin coffee or single varietal wine versus a blend.
Blended whiskeys tend to be less expensive and more consistent on the flavor because the distillers can make up for weaknesses in one malt with strengths from another.
Single malt whiskeys tend to be more expensive, in part, due to the time and care it takes to get good results from just using one malt instead of blending. You’re also much more likely to get distinct flavors from a single malt (some are peaty, some are smokey, some are floral, some taste of vanilla).