Single Malt or Blended?

By Donnavan Finlay, Co-Founder of Guyding Principals.


I have a bit of a tradition on a Tuesday. Cigar and Scotch in the evening. This is my little treat during the week. My escape from daily life. I like some alone time to reflect on whatever is going on in my life. Personal and professional. Over some time I have had people join me. Some clued up on scotch and cigar traditions and some not so much.


I thought I would take the time to explain some things around Scotch drinking. This is just a guide for anyone interested. If you drink your Scotch with ice and plenty water, that is fine, but you will have to bring your own as I will not allow anyone to do that to my Scotch.


Bourbon is not a Scotch and that is why it is not listed here.


First let me explain some different types of Scotch available.


  1. Blended Scotch.

Made from at least one or more single malt Scotch whiskies that are blended together with a single grain Scotch whisky.


  1. Blended Malt Scotch.

Very uncommon type of Scotch. Previous known as “Vatted Malt”. Made when you take two or more single malt Scotch whiskies from at least two separate distilleries and blends them together to create one batch of whisky.


  1. Blended Grain Scotch.

Made when two or more single grain Scotch whiskies from at least two separate distilleries. Then blended together to create a single batch of whisky.


  1. Single Malt Scotch.

Simply whisky made at a single distillery. Made from just water and 100% barley.


Note where your Scotch (obviously Scotland) comes from and the attributes.


Lowland Light bodied, gentle, malty, grassy
Highland Firmer, spicy, dry and sweet
Speyside Sweet, mellow and often fruity
Islay Smoky, heavy peated, spindrift



With all the varieties available you will have to do some experimentation. I suggest you attend a tasting event in your area so you can find the one you like the best. There is no one best Scotch and single malt is not always best. The price may make that statement but not always true. It is dependent on your personal taste. There they will also give you some tips to enhance your experience while drinking Scotch.

In the past I have done tasting events at my house. It turned out to be great fun. You can pair it with some cheese and quality cold cuts. To split the cost as it can get pricey, I suggest each person attending bring a different blend so you get to taste a good variety.


There are a variety ways to drink your Scotch. Some people add a lot of ice in the glass and then pour the Scotch over it. All you are doing is diluting and cooling the drink. If you drink it like this there is no need to pay premium for your Scotch. You may just as well buy the cheap Scotch. If you want ice in the drink, I suggest no more than two cubes.


The only reason I would dilute a Scotch with ice or water is due to high alcohol content numbing my palate.


If you do add water to your Scotch, I suggest taking a sip or two neat first. Then add a little water as you drink. Emphasis on little. Some people use a straw to add only a couple of drops between sips. When I am smoking a cigar with my Scotch I tend to have a bottle of water at hand. A sip in-between clears the palate nicely.


There are also some cocktail recipes you can try. Listed below are my two favorites. I suggest you try them, as they are rather good on occasion.

  • The Godfather. (My favorite if I have to choose)

Two parts Scotch and two-part Amaretto poured in a heavy bottomed glass over ice. Stir briefly.

  • Rusty Nail.

I pour 1 oz Drambuie and 1.5oz Scotch in a glass over ice. Stir briefly and top with a lemon twist.

This is just an introduction to drinking Scotch. It can get very technical and some people take it way too serious. I stick to the basics and I like it that way.

I hope you find the information informative and you have fun trying some new things.


What is your favorite brand of Scotch and why?