To know what is blended scotch whisky is to know that it takes centuries of expertise in whisky production to come up with an amazing recipe that will turn on a perfect whisky expression.
Because blended scotch whisky is often taken as less valuable than other types of whisky, one can easily forget that blending is so much more than putting different expressions together: it is an art. Afterall, the people who create these mixtures are not called master blenders for nothing. Creativity and know-how interflow in order to create a unique blend and a magnificent blended scotch whisky expression.
To answer the question “What is Blended Scotch Whisky?” shortly, one could say that blended scotch whisky is an expression made with a mixture of different whiskies from different distilleries, including malt and grain whisky. By blending those expressions, one higher spirit, with a consitent and superior taste, is created.
But, as said before, there is more to know about this type of scotch whisky and it cannot be explained in just a few words. Continue to read the article and find out the answer to this question, the answer to how is blended scotch made and to know a few expressions worth tasting.
Sipping this article:
- What is Blended Scotch Whisky?
- How is Blended Scotch Whisky Made?
- What is the difference between Single Malt and Blended Scotch Whisky?
- 7 Blended Scocth Whisky Worth Trying
In short, if a malt whisky and a grain whisky had a child, that would be a blended scotch whisky. It is a distilled spirit that is created by the mixture of two or more different malt and grain whiskies. That expression is, thus, created by the mixing of those two (or more) different expressions that come, of course, from different distilleries. The ultimate goal is to get the best characteristics of all the whiskies mixed, resulting in a smoother and harmonious expression.
Mixing a single malt whisky with a single grain scotch whisky is mandatory to determine what is a blended scotch whisky. And there is a reason for that: the single grain whisky will bring out some hidden flavors and aromas of the single malt, highlighting some important characteristics of them both.
As expected, the whiskies used in the mixture must follow the rules to be considered Scotch Whisky and, obviously, be aged for at least 3 years and matured in oak barrels. As for the age statement, it’s the youngest whisky that will dictate age displayed on the bottle.
For what is blended scotch whisky, this is mostly what one might want to retain. However, there are other kinds of blends worth knowing in order to make the best choice when its time to get a blended whisky bottle.
- Blended Malt Scotch Whisky – This blend does not have any grain whisky involved in the mixture. As the name states, it is the blend of two or more single malt whisky expressions previously distilled in different distilleries. Monkey Shoulder is an example of a Blended Malt Scotch Whisky.
- Blended Grain Scotch Whisky – As it happens with blended malts, the Blended Grain Scotch Whisky is a mixture of two or more single grain whiskies. As an example of this type of whisky blend, there is Grant’s Elementary 8 Years Old Oxygen.
Discover all the 5 types of Scotch Whisky, in this article: https://www.whiskyflavour.com/blog/5-different-types-of-scotch/
It all started in the late 19th Century and it all points to a single culprit: Andrew Usher, an inventive Irish that wanted his spirits to be exported more easily and enjoyed by more people.
Back then, either Scotch Whisky and Irish Whiskey were made as Single and Pot Still Malt Whisky. These spirits, however, had a strong and punchy character, which made them more difficult to be enjoyed by many people. Besides, producing only these kinds of malt whisky had higher costs for fos distillers. At least, until the grain whisky production started.
It was after grain whisky invaded the market that vendors discovered that mixing it with malt whisky resulted in a more pleasant drink that would sell easily and generate more revenue. This new spirit was, then, considered to be more smoother and sweeter than malt whisky itself, so it was easy for it to be tasted and enjoyed by more and more people over time. And that’s what is blended scotch whisky, and irish whiskey as well, in its most basic form.
Later, blending was legalized by the Spirits Act of 1860 and blended whisky started to be exported to more countries. The appearance of distillers and blended whisky expressions also became more common either in Scotland as in Ireland.
Regarding Andrew Usher, he has his name behind the blending practice due to being the first recorded master blender, representing Usher & Co. Edinburgh.
After answering to “what is blended scotch whisky?” and going over the history of whisky blends, it’s time to talk about one of the major personas in this process: the Master Blender. Afterall, it takes a master blender, ideally with generational knowledge of the blending trade, to make an exceptional blended scotch whisky.
So, what is a master blender and what does that person do?
A Master Blender is the person responsible for creating a blended whisky expression, maintaining it and assuring the same characteristics of every batch of the same blend. This is no easy task and that is why Master Blenders are considered true spirit alchemists.
A Master Blender chooses the flavor profile as well as the barrels of the single malt and grain whisky that will be used to achieve that particular expression.
Besides what’s due to the distiller’s recipe, this person also has to monitor the maturing whiskies, the actual barrels in which an expression will mature and decide if it’s ready to be bottled or not.
The role of the master blender has evolved over the years and, nowadays, it relies a lot more on technology to make things happen. However, don’t be fooled to think that this job requires some artistic take on whisky production. It still needs one to be creative, have a great memory and an even better olfactic function.
This is what it means to produce blended whisky and, as you can read, it has more science and inventiveness than some whisky connoisseurs may point out.
In order to give you the most complete answer to what is blended scotch whisky, it is important for you to know how it is made. However, the process begins with the process of making any other grain whisky.
Only after these whiskies are made, can they be blended in order to create a new expression that brings out the best of all the others.
The master blender begins its process by defining a character of the spirit. After deciding the flavor notes personality traits of the new spirit, they search for the single malt and grain whiskies that better fit those traits.
After that it relies on tasting whisky, putting it in the mix and trying to achieve the perfect recipe regarding the distillery benchmarks.
If the recipe is already finished and the expression was out to the market already, the master blender has to ensure that the same recipe is used and that the final product will taste the same as all the previous batches.
In case you’re still wondering about the first steps in whisky making, here they are:
1. Select the Grains, Malting and Drying
Grains are selected and added to a hot water mix, warmed until the grains begin to germinate. This converts the starch to soluble sugar and is called malting.
The cereals are then transferred to a kiln where they are dried, sometimes with peat to add flavor. This stops the germinating process and prepares them for the next step.
2. Maceration and Fermantation
The grains are ground in a mill and added to hot water to extract the sugar. Hot, sweet liquid is drawn off the mix, which is the base of the spirit.
After cooling the liquid, yeast is added to the liquid to start the fermentation process.
After the fermentation, this liquid is added to copper stills to distill the liquid twice. This removes some of the water and increases the alcohol content and flavor.
4. Aging and Maturation
The liquid is transferred to oak casks where it is left to mature for a minimum of three years.
After three years or longer, the spirit is taste-tested and mixed with other whiskies into a new blend. This includes careful blending from a master blender, usually someone who’s learned the art of blending after years or can be a skill passed down through the generations.
Get to know more about How Scotch Whisky Is Made!
Between all the other types of Scotch Whisky, single malt and blended scotch are most relevant in terms of consumption patterns. And, although Single Malt Scotch has a higher reputation within the whisky lovers community, blended Scotch Whisky represents around 90% of all whisky sold worldwide. There are a lot of factors that contribute to these numbers, but, for now, we will focus on the differences between these two spirits.
Know the history and more details about Single Malt Whisky on our article – SINGLE MALT WHISKY AND THE MYSTIQUE BEHIND IT
Single Malt Scotch Whisky vs Blended Scotch Whisky
As we stated in the previous paragraphs blended scotch whisky is the combination of two or more single malt whiskies and a grain whisky, all from different distilleries.
A Single Malt Scotch Whisky, however, is a spirit that is produced and matured in only one distillery. That is where the word “single” comes from: “from a single place of origin”. Contrary to what some people might think, a Single Malt Whisky is not made with specific harvested grains and produced singularly; it can be a blend of other expressions. The key here is that those expressions come from the same distillery.
Now that you know what is blended scotch whisky, what is a master blender and the differences between a single malt scotch whisky and blended scotch, we will show you some of the best blended Scotch Whisky expressions you should definitely taste – if you have the budget and the opportunity.
Finished in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks, this whisky has an impressive and innovative four-stage aging process, meaning it’s been aged, blended, aged again, then finished in sherry casks for a higher level of smoothness.
According to the Dewar makers, they have received “gold medal awards the world over since [this whisky was] released.”
This expression of Dewar’s Whisky costs around $325.
Dewar’s Double Double 32 Years Old Tasting Notes:
Dewar’s Double Double 32 Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky tastes like rich, ripe treacle notes with smokiness and silky smoothness. The nose of this whisky is described as old, soft worn leather, moist Christmas cake, treacle, with notes of tobacco, banana, mango, and papaya. The palate is similar to the nose with the taste of tobacco, moist Christmas cake, dark chocolate, and treacle with hints of fruit, maple syrup, sugar, and sherry. The finish is described as warm and spicy with rich sherry, and notes of fruit as it settles.
With almost four decades of age, the Stone of Destiny is an exceptional collection of rare whisky, a signature of Royal Salute’s Scottish heritage, and a tribute to Scotland, the birthplace of scotch whisky.
Besides this expression, this Royal Salute Collection comprises the Union of The Crowns 32 Year Old and the 62 Gun Salute Expressions.
This excquisite expression of blended Scotch Whisky costs around $1,038.
Royal Salute 38 Years Old Stone of Destiny Tasting Notes:
Written by the makers of Royal Salute 38 Year Old Stone of Destiny, they say it has a “mature, sophisticated nose [with] dried fruits… bold spices… [and] a deep floral fragrance.” The palette is “full of flavor… cedarwood and almonds… with rich, sherried oak.” The finish is remarkably long.
Cutty Sark 25 Year Old Tam O’Shanter is a second take on the award-winning Cutty Sark 25 Year Old blend, noted for being darker with a stronger punch. Tam O’Shanter is named after the poem by Robert Frost, where Cutty Sark derives its name from.
Kirsteen Campbell, the master blender at Cutty Sark ,marked this bottling as the first limited edition, presented in a special oak box with a commissioned book by Scottish artist Alexander Goudie, making this expression a collector’s prized piece.
Since only 5000 bottles were produced, this expression from Cutty Sark is quite valuable. It costs around $318.
Cutty Sark 25 Year Old Tam O’Shanter Tasting Notes:
The taste is rich, shadowy, with dark amber color perfectly reflecting the roots of the brand’s origin.
The nose is filled with spices such as jasmine, anise, and sandalwood with sherried sweetness, vanilla, fruitcake, zest, and peat smoke. The palate is full-bodied, sweet, and dark with chocolate, eucalyptus, cracked black pepper, and mint with notes of sherry sweetness and toffee. The finish is long, rich with a mix of sweet and spicy.
Ballantine’s 30-Year-Old Blended Scotch Whisky is made of some of the rarest whiskies from distilleries that no longer in service, and the youngest of them is aged 30 years. This whisky blend has also won two gold medals in the International Spirits Challenge in 2018 and 2020.
For what is blended scotch whisky, this is a fine representative. The cost of this Ballantine’s Whisky expression revolves around $341.
Ballantine’s 30 Years Old Tasting Notes:
With a color of deep copper, the nose is described as sweet and earthy with hints of fruit, floral honey, milk, oranges, and a hint of cloves.
The palate is elegant with a viscous texture, introducing a flavor intensified with blood oranges, grapefruit, raisins, and earthiness mixed with spice. There are notes of Assam tea and heather honey. The finish is hot and vegetative with cinnamon and cloves.
Hibiki 21 Year Old Blended Whisky, although it is not a Scotch Whisky, is unique with its origin in Japan, quickly becoming world-famous by winning first place in the Best Blended Whisky in the World Competition at the World Whisky Awards in 2017.
Part of its blend is mainly corn-based and column distilled which adds lightness, soft texture, and fruit to the blend. The Hakushu malt portion of this blend is savory and crisp. This contrasts with the Yamazaki malt portion which has a deeper fruit taste.
A blend of cask types is used for the aging process, with higher-end Hibiki whiskies being finished in Mizunara casks that offer a unique perfume to the whisky.
This Japanese Blended Whisky expression costs around $1,229.
Hibiki 21 Years Old Tasting Notes:
Hibiki 21-Year-Old Blended Whisky offers impeccable balance and smoothness with a nose of fruit, sandalwood, heather, smoke, honey, and brine. There are also hints of orange oil, raisin, genmaicha, and lavender.
The palate is full and fruity with notes of citrus, spice, sandalwood, fruit, honey, and caramel.
J&A Mitchell Spirit of Freedom 30 Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky
The Spirit of Freedom 30 Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky is a unique creation by Springbank’s owners, J&A Mitchell, and was bottled to commemorate the 700th Anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. The blend consists of 75% malt and 25% grain with casks used from all over Scotland and it is a limited edition. It was released in 2014 and this batch has only 2014 bottles.
Each bottle of this J&A Mitchell costs around $494.
The initial nose is floral with a creamy sweetness, with notes of honey, nougat, and strawberries.
The palate is described as sweet, creamy, and buttery with notes of sugared pears, honey, nuts, and malt. There are faint notes of oak and biscuit, followed by a long, smooth finish of sweetness and spicy pepper.
The Famous Grouse 21 Year Old Blended Malt Scotch Whisky is great as it is an exquisitely blended malt whisky, combining single malt whiskies from legendary distilleries such as The Macallan and Highland Park Distilleries. The resulting blend is exceptionally smooth.
The 21 Year Old Expressi0n from The Famous Grouse costs around $289.
The Famous Grouse 21 Year Old Tasting Notes:
The Famous Grouse 21 Year Old Blended Malt Scotch Whisky tastes rich with a heavy influence from sherry, with the nose infused with sherry and sweetened grape juice.
The palate is even richer with plump raisins and plums. There are other notes of grape peels, chocolate. wood spices and Highland Park brine. The finish is short and a bit watery.
So, to tell what is blended scotch whisky, one must know that it is just as complex, if not more complex than most other forms of whisky.
To create the perfect blended dram, a Master Blender must achieve the right amount of balance, flavor, and full-bodied taste that enthusiasts know and love. Besides, they also have to maintain the same flavour and over the years, even if some single malt or grain whisky stops being produced.
To end this article, if you thought that a blended Scotch Whisky did not deserve the same attention as a Single Malt Scotch Whisky, think again. There are amazing blended expressions out there.