Saturday, May 26, 2012

Scotch 101 - Blended

Way, way too much ice
From the previous post we learned single malt scotch whisky means a scotch whisky produced from only water and malted barley at a single distillery. 

There is also something called a single grain scotch whisky which is made using a variety of whole grains. The single designation in this case also refers to the distillery, not the grain.

 Chivas Regal, J&B, Cutty Sark, Johnnie Walker, Dewar's, and Pinch.
However, the number one selling scotch is blended scotch. Unlike single malts, blended scotches contain whiskys distilled from barley (single malt) as well as corn, wheat, rye and so on. Blended scotch can contain as many as 40 or 50 different whiskys.

Blended malt Scotch whisky means a blend of two or more single malt Scotch whiskies from different distilleries.
Blended grain Scotch whisky means a blend of two or more single grain Scotch whiskies from different distilleries.
Blended Scotch whisky means a blend of one or more single malt Scotch whiskies with one or more single grain Scotch whiskys.

Both blended or single malt must be aged in oak barrels for at least three years. If there is a year mentioned on the bottle, ie: 12 year old, then the youngest whiskey in the blend must be at least 12 years old.

So all the scotches in the blended category can play together regardless of age as long as everyone is older than three and everyone abides by the youngest scotch's age. 12 year old scotch simply means the youngest scotch in the bottle is 12. There could be many in the blend much older.

Just as there are those who believe scotch should be served neat, there is an underlying prejudice against blended whiskys, die hard types believe scotch isn't worthy unless it's single malt and perhaps that's what makes blended scotch more affordable generally speaking.

Really, why the snobbery? Most single malt scotches are made for the purpose of selling to blended scotch manufacturers and never see the light of day as a single malt on the shelf. We're all family people. Don't hate.

There is a chemistry that can be utilized with blended scotches, one that enhances characters and softens some of the harshness of single malts and makes it universally more palatable. There are many blended whiskys that are every bit as enjoyable as single malts.

I realize I have simplified that which is complex, but it's a start. I started out almost resenting how much information there is out there on this subject but I have come to enjoy what I've learned and there's the added snob factor that when the subject comes up next I will be able to follow the conversation and not feel like a complete neanderthal.

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