Article No.11. The Art of Blending

It took me a bit of time to get the hang of the knowing the difference between blends, blended malts, single malts and single cask whiskies.  Hopefully the material you find on my blog will help speed up that process for you.  Once it finally clicked in my head I have been left wondering why there isn’t much of a deal being made of blended malts in comparison to single malts.  I hear more about new distilleries being built to produce single malts rather than new blended malts being released.

So just to remind you, single malts are made of a combination of casks from one distillery. Blended malts can be made up of many single malts or casks from many distilleries.  So single malts are blends and blended malts are blends but with the potential to blend on much larger scale.  So, according to my logic that would mean the potential to be creative is enormous.  I wouldn’t event exclude blends (grain and malt whisky) from this either.

I am a fan of the Johnnie Walker range, I appreciate what each label brings to the table.  I am also a huge fan of Compass Box, who have a big presence and are seen to be pushing the boundaries of what can be done with blending (Spice Tree for example).  I have tried the Compass Box core range and I can honestly say there is not one that I dislike, each one is distinct and what they have within their core range is a representation of the broad spectrum of flavour profiles you will find across single malts. I am very particular about peated whiskies, but the Peat Monster is a real stunner in my eyes and really shows how brilliant Compass Box are at blending.  I like peated whiskies, but I must be in the mood to drink them and when I do I can only handle it in moderation (one or two drams max), however I could happily have Peat Monster as my dram of choice for an evening.

I do take issue with the price that Compass Box command for their products.  The sceptic in me thinks that this is partly a marketing strategy to give the image of exclusivity.  They are certainly doing that with their packaging anyway, their bottle, label and box designs are amongst the most creative and luxurious looking in the industry in my opinion.  Having read a lot and heard a lot from Jon Glaser so I am certain that they are very particular about the casks they use so I can imagine that would be driving a lot of their production costs.

Another blend that had recently caught my attention is Shackelton Blended Malt Scotch Whisky.  This is a replica of an original recipe that was discovered in the Antarctic from the early 1900’s.  You can find out more by searching online if you are interested in the back story.  This blended malt carries that coastal and smoky characteristics that I enjoy, and I cannot think of any coastal/smoky entry level core bottling from any distillery in Scotland that is close to resembling the flavours (in my opinion).  You can pick this up on offer for just over £22 which is a bargain.  I think the full price is nearer to £30 but I will still purchase it at that price.

On a side note I would like to give a mention to Jameson Caskmates Stout Edition which I think is a interesting blend. The flavour profile is driven by the time it has been given maturing in ex stout casks, but I think it is worth a mention because it shows what can be done with blended whisky.

The process of making the distillate is very scientific but the process of making whisky is an art in my opinion.  The process of cask selection, maturation and blending occurs at every single malt distillery as well as blending houses such as Compass Box.  The growing number of distilleries increases the potential of what can be done with blended malts, I just wish there were more of the likes of Compass Box to realise that potential.