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What makes SMs a better dram (understanding bad drinks)

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What makes SMs a better dram (understanding bad drinks)

Postby steveblack » Sun May 03, 2009 6:44 pm

I am just trying to figure out what makes a most of the cheaper drams a bad whisky compared to SMs. Not from a taste point of view, SMs are way ahead in this regard. I am trying to understand why cheaper drams have more bad effects on the stomach and give hangovers.

I have been on SMSWs for over two months now and I notice SMs are way too smooth on the palate as well as the stomach. Even if I were to overindulge a bit also, there are no hangovers as were the case with cheap drinks. I drink SMs with about 1/5th of water where as other blends and cheaper whiskies of old times where watered down liberally, but still used to burn the stomach, palate and give hangovers when in excess. So I was wondering what makes aged SMs better?

As I understand each of the following factors contribute to how the dram behaves. My musings on them:

Alcohol - If anything SMs have same or more alcohol (abv) compared to cheaper blends. Laph QC has over 56%, still goes down smooth. So what makes SMs smooth?

Distillation - Vodka gets triple distilled, still I am more likely to get hangover from vodka. So what gives?

Age- How does age mellow the dram? Do alcohol change in composition? I believe it doesn't. What else aging do?

Congeners - What role do they play vis a vis blends/cheap drinks and SMs. Do they add flavour or they contribute to hangovers?

Malt/Grain - Do malt make a better alcohol? I keep reading recommendations for avoiding grain whisky. Do grain whiskies age differently compared to malt? I believe American whiskies have less malt, but I am sure there are god American whiskies matching SMs.

Cut - Ok I get this point. A good cut ensures the best of spirit goes in to the dram. Cheaper drams may be compromising here.

What are the other factors contributing to a better dram?

Assuming other parameters like proper hydration, proper eating and rest are taken care of, what makes a good/bad dram? Your thoughts please.
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Re: What makes SMs a better dram (understanding bad drinks)

Postby blacksabb » Mon May 04, 2009 12:13 am

steveblack wrote:I am just trying to figure out what makes a most of the cheaper drams a bad whisky compared to SMs. Not from a taste point of view, SMs are way ahead in this regard. I am trying to understand why cheaper drams have more bad effects on the stomach and give hangovers.

I have been on SMSWs for over two months now and I notice SMs are way too smooth on the palate as well as the stomach. Even if I were to overindulge a bit also, there are no hangovers as were the case with cheap drinks. I drink SMs with about 1/5th of water where as other blends and cheaper whiskies of old times where watered down liberally, but still used to burn the stomach, palate and give hangovers when in excess. So I was wondering what makes aged SMs better?

As I understand each of the following factors contribute to how the dram behaves. My musings on them:

Alcohol - If anything SMs have same or more alcohol (abv) compared to cheaper blends. Laph QC has over 56%, still goes down smooth. So what makes SMs smooth?

Distillation - Vodka gets triple distilled, still I am more likely to get hangover from vodka. So what gives?

Age- How does age mellow the dram? Do alcohol change in composition? I believe it doesn't. What else aging do?

Congeners - What role do they play vis a vis blends/cheap drinks and SMs. Do they add flavour or they contribute to hangovers?

Malt/Grain - Do malt make a better alcohol? I keep reading recommendations for avoiding grain whisky. Do grain whiskies age differently compared to malt? I believe American whiskies have less malt, but I am sure there are god American whiskies matching SMs.

Cut - Ok I get this point. A good cut ensures the best of spirit goes in to the dram. Cheaper drams may be compromising here.

What are the other factors contributing to a better dram?

Assuming other parameters like proper hydration, proper eating and rest are taken care of, what makes a good/bad dram? Your thoughts please.




I've only just started getting into single malt whiskies myself. But last night, I was watching a video of a journalist interviewing a representative of The Balvenie during a tasting session. This guy mentioned firstly that with the single malts, it's all barley (plus of course produced from a single distillery). Whereas blended whisky is primarily grain (wheat) which he said was a lot cheaper to produce.

And I think that the other thing that distinguishes a lot of single malts (particularly as far as smoothness is concerned) is time of maturation. Many single malts are at least 10yrs and are generally matured a lot longer than blended whiskies.

Plus of course the fact that single malt whiskies are matured &/or finished in very high quality casks. And not only that, many single malts are matured and/or finished in multiple differing casks for extra flavour. For eg, some whiskies are matured in oak casks then transferred to all manner of other casks such as sherry, port, rum etc. This is not something that happens in blended whiskies. Some whiskies are even matured and/or finished in 3 different casks, so it is quite an elaborate process. Unlike the straight and relatively short cask maturation of blended whiskies.

But like I say, I'm only just starting out, so if I've said anything wrong, for the love of Pete, someone correct me!!!
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Re: What makes SMs a better dram (understanding bad drinks)

Postby v1p » Mon May 04, 2009 12:47 am

Laphroaig QC is 48%.
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Re: What makes SMs a better dram (understanding bad drinks)

Postby Deactivated Member » Mon May 04, 2009 12:54 am

Well, for one thing, all casks are oak, whatever they've had in them previously. For another, grain whisky is not inherently any more "rough" than malt; in fact, I would guess to the contrary, that it's lighter and "smoother" than malt of comparable handling. ("Smooth" is not my favorite descriptor, but never mind, I understand what you're getting at.) I've had a couple of all-grain whiskies that were perfectly nice.

Surprisingly, perhaps, this is a rather elusive question. Malt whisky for blending shouldn't be radically different from malt whisky for single malts--same distillation process, same maturation. I don't doubt that the occasional duff cask gets hidden in either one. I've had whisky from what I'm sure was a tired old multi-refill cask, and I wouldn't say it was rough--just lacking in anything much interesting. The only obvious thing in my mind is the fact that, yes, cheaper blends will have a lot of very young whisky in them, three and four years old.

Is it possible that you just drink them differently?
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Re: What makes SMs a better dram (understanding bad drinks)

Postby evanstonwhisky » Mon May 04, 2009 1:33 am

I personally think that single malt whisky (or even good blended) is THE BEST alcohol for feeling good. I have never had ill effects ever from high quality whisky.

I feel like the alcohol and flavour is "stickier" somehow, more bonded to positive compounds that are actually somehow good for you.

And good blends - JW Blue, Green (vatting), JW Gold, some Chivas's - this can be very good too.

That's why I drink the boilermaker: a dram of great whisky, followed by a nice German wheat/barley beer (i.e. franziskaner Hefeweizen)

I do wish somebody knew the answer to steveblack's original query - I have the same question on the scientific reason for the higher quality alcohol being better on for you.
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Re: What makes SMs a better dram (understanding bad drinks)

Postby borgom » Mon May 04, 2009 8:22 pm

I don't know, but my unfounded suspicion is that the process of producing single malt cuts down on the impurites to a greater degree than other alcoholic products production. It also appears to be less dehidrating than others which makes a big difference too.
Hopefully someone with a more scientific background can give us some hard facts.
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Re: What makes SMs a better dram (understanding bad drinks)

Postby steveblack » Fri May 08, 2009 4:58 pm

Sorry for not replying so far...I was busy last few days and unable to access the forum.

Oops.. Laph QC is 48% abv.

I guess MrHT may be right in the sense SMs get drunk differently compared to the way I used to drink cheaper drinks. Now the emphasis is more on the taste, flavor etc. and discovering the dram. The drink is no longer about creating a mood for the occasion. The SM can be an occasion by itself now. So to that extend, there is a better approach to drinking these days and that may contribute to the feeling of well being that SMs bring about. But still a good quality dram must be having something that sets apart from cheaper ones. May be it about is about having less of the impurities as borgom mentioned.

Anyway thanks for all the feedback.
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Re: What makes SMs a better dram (understanding bad drinks)

Postby red » Fri May 08, 2009 5:56 pm

From personal experience, I've never experienced hang over from neither single malt or cheap blended whisky. Since about two years, I've been drinking lot of crown royal (or occasionaly Jack daniels) with Coke and I've never had any kind of hang over. However, vodka, wine, tequila, gin give me hang over even if I have as few of 2 or 3 glass.

Beer is usualy not so bad on hang over either, unless my favorite hockey team win a playoff round ;)

But I have noticed most people around me to never get hang over with whisk(e)y in general.
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Re: What makes SMs a better dram (understanding bad drinks)

Postby irishwhiskeychaser » Mon May 11, 2009 4:31 pm

No difference between blended or Single Malts for me either ... never get hangovers unless I murder a stupid amount.

I think you may have hit on it yourself ... how were you drinking your blends before you got into Single Malts? Maybe you were also mixing your drinks ... that is the biggest reason for hangovers along with large quantities. Believe it or not sugary fizz in your alcohol does not help a hangover either.

Also remember you get what you pay for ... if your drinking cheap blends it stands to reason they are not going to be as good as a DEARER single malt taste wise.

I challenge you to buy a blend at the same price point of Laphroaig QC and I'd be interested in your thoughts then :thumbsup: dismiss blends at your peril :wink:

PS sometimes it is easy to confuse stronger tasting whiskies as being more flavoursome. When you are being belted around the face by a peat monster it is sometimes hard to get the more subtle tastes from a good blend.
Last edited by irishwhiskeychaser on Mon May 11, 2009 5:46 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: What makes SMs a better dram (understanding bad drinks)

Postby Deactivated Member » Mon May 11, 2009 4:56 pm

borgom wrote:I don't know, but my unfounded suspicion is that the process of producing single malt cuts down on the impurites to a greater degree than other alcoholic products production.

The malt whisky going into blends is produced the exact same way as that going into single malts, and so should not have any other "impurities". (Really bad stuff comes from badly-made whisky, too broad a cut, resulting in feints and other nasties--this simply should not happen, ever.) Grain whisky is distilled to a higher proof, and so should have even less. Neutral spirits like vodka have far less "impurities" than whisky, being distilled to very high proof. In fact, it's the impurities in whisky--congeners, esters, etc--that make it interesting. Some think congeners contribute to hangover; if so, cheap blends should be better in that regard, as much of the oily stuff will have been filtered out, compared to a good unchillfiltered malt.

So yeah, it must be just the way you drink it. I can assure you it is perfectly possible to have a raging hangover on finest malt whisky, if you have enough of it. :D
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Re: What makes SMs a better dram (understanding bad drinks)

Postby Peter Alcamo » Mon May 11, 2009 6:38 pm

I noticed this long time ago about SM. I find spirited drinks that have a high concentration of corn (bourbon, Cdn Whisky) and grape (cognac, brandy) give me tremendous heartburn after a few drinks, but never with single malts. I also get the heartburn from blended whiskies which I suspect may have corn (I'm guessing).
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