Whilst you won’t have any trouble finding site after site dedicated to single malts, it’s a little harder to find an introduction to blended whisky.
You may be wondering why this is the case? The thing is, many people are under the misconception that blended whisky is inferior to single malt. That it is somehow a ‘cheat’s version’ of whisky produced by the single pot method. Here at Frootbat, we love our whisky and want to set the record straight. Blended whisky is, indeed a different variety of the beautiful spirit, offering a lighter and slightly sweeter palate, but, these days, is by no means inferior at all.
The History of Blended Whisky Many people’s belief that blended whisky is a lower quality spirit comes from the fact that - initially - blended whisky was created to make the whisky making process more profitable for distilleries. Beginning in the late 19th century, distilleries were allowed to blend a number of different spirits together to create a lighter, sweeter spirit with a consistent taste from batch to batch. The process of blending whisky was introduced by the Scotsman, Andrew Usher. He blended the strong and savory single malt whiskies of the day with grain whiskies, creating a lighter spirit.
Because the process required a move away from the traditional single pot method, many people who loved the depth and savory taste of single malt, decided that the new version of the spirit was not for them – and therefore inferior. The new sweetness introduced by blended whisky was, however, extremely appealing to many people and blended whisky became popular very quickly. The world's oldest whisky is over 150 years old and was bottled somewhere between 1851 and 1858.
So what is a Blended Whisky?
There are three types of blended whisky: Blended Scotch, blended malt and blended grain whisky. Blended Whisky can consist of any mixture of different whiskies, hailing from different distilleries. The taste of a blended whisky is therefore determined by the character of the whiskies it uses.
A blended Scotch, is a combination of a barrel-aged malt whisky and a proportion of grain whisky (a whisky made with barley as well as other grains). These two types of whisky are blended together to create a consistent taste across all bottles, rather than the varied effect a single malt can offer from cask to cask.
A blended grain whisky is created through the blending two or more single grain whiskies from any country, whilst blended malt whisky combines only malt whiskies.
Generally, most blended whiskies will contain more grain whisky than malt. The higher the ratio of malt in the blend, the higher quality it’s considered to have as the resulting flavour will be deeper, less sweet and heavier.
Moderate consumption of whisky can bring benefits to your health. It’s said to prevent stroke, heart attacks, dementia, clotted arteries, cancer and increase good cholesterol.
The Role of the Master Blender With the millions of potential flavour profiles from blending different whiskies, the role of getting it ‘right’ for any distillery is that of the Master Blender.
The Master Blender’s job is to choose up to 20 different whiskies each with a complimentary taste, to work together in forming a unique and celebrated blended whisky.
And it’s no easy feat. The challenges a Master Blender will face include the character of one or more of their chosen whiskies changing over time. Or worse, being discontinued. Their role is to maintain the consistency of the blend, so tiny changes such as this, even in a blend with many whiskies can be a real challenge. This being the case, Master Blenders are experts in their field, constantly researching and testing both the existing whiskies in their blends and any new, potential replacements.
Where to Start with Blended Whisky With thousands of blended whiskies on the market, it can be hard to know where to start with your tasting journey. We’ve put together a few suggestions, based on our own tastes and customer feedback to get you going, but remember, wherever you start, the beauty of blended whisky is that there’s a perfect blend out there for everyone. Enjoy finding yours!