What is blended whisky?
A quick guide to whisky knowledge
In a nutshell, blended whisky is a blend of single malt whiskies and grain whisky.
BLENDED WHISKY OR SINGLE MALT?
Is blended whisky worse than single malt? No, it’s just different. It can be as complex and elegant as a fine single malt… or even better! Don’t listen to fools, just trust your nose and palate and you’ll have long years of whisky fun!
WHO IS THE MASTER BLENDER?
The art of blending is hard to master: the professional dedicated to this art is called the Master Blender. The master blender has one major tool: the nose. Nosing and detecting the subtle aromas of each whisky that goes into the blend is a big part of the job.
A blended whisky can be the result of the blending of up to 50 different whiskies. That is whiskies that have been made in different distilleries from different grains and matured in different casks for a varying amount of years.
Once the master blender has chosen (with his nose) the whiskies that will go into the blend, it is time for mixing them (usually into huge vats).
What comes next is the “marriage”: the freshly created blend goes into casks for an additional period of maturation (generally no more than 8 months). The aim of the marriage is to harmonize all the whiskies together and to create a complex and balanced spirit.
Then comes bottling.
WHAT ABOUT THE AGE STATEMENT?
If your bottle displays an age statement, it always refers to the youngest whisky in the blend. So, let’s say you have a 12 year old statement: this means the whiskies in the blend can’t be younger than that. Usually some of them will be much older.
HOW DOES BLENDED WHISKY TASTE LIKE?
Every component of the blend adds its own flavor profile and contributes to the final result.
On a general basis grain whiskies often provide a sweet, cereal-like base to the blend.
Malt whiskies add full, nutty and cereal-like flavors. Malts also impart flowery and fruity aromas, mostly due to different fermentation/distillation patterns.
What you must always keep in mind, is that a big part of the flavor profile of each whisky comes from aging.
It is the cask that gives complexity and elegance, adding a wide spectrum of flavors to the new-make spirit.
For example, if you detect vanilla, caramel and tannins, you’re tasting something that comes straight from the oak cask.
All this flavor elements must be skillfully married together by the art of the master blender.
SOME BLENDED WHISKIES TO START FROM
If you want to try something in the blended style, you can start with the big names. You’ll definitely find something to entice your taste buds at a reasonable price.
Try Dewar’s White Label or the Famous Grouse if you want some easy drinking Scotch. You’ll start to understand how a blended whisky feels like… and you’ll know where to go next.
Ireland has a lot to offer too. Some affordable classic Irish blends are Tullamore DEW or Jameson Triple Distilled. These are especially appealing if you like a fruity, mellow taste: they will definitely meet your expectations.
You can also go for japanese whisky if you feel daring: Nikka Whisky From the Barrel is delicious, with a lot of fruit, caramel and spice, it is a powerful blend!