What type of whisky sells the most bottles world-wide in any given year? You’d be forgiven if you said single malt whisky, because that’s the type that gets a big share of all the accolades and hype. In fact, blended whisky is by far the biggest seller, accounting for an estimated 90% of whisky sales in any given year. Blended whisky is often sniffed at as the lesser sibling, but let’s take a closer look. Almost all Scotch whiskies, including single malts, are combinations of casks (the exceptions are those rare bottlings of single barrel expressions, which are very limited). For every single malt or single grain whisky produced, there is someone responsible for blending the casks for each bottling to ensure consistency. Scotch whisky distilleries use a variety of casks, each flavouring the whisky in their own way. To manage consistency, a recipe is maintained by a person in charge of blending the ingredients in a particular product: the amounts of component whiskies from different cask types, as well as those of different ages. The difference: if it is a single malt or single grain whisky, all the components come from just one distillery. If it is a blended whisky, part of the recipe includes the amounts of whiskies from different distilleries. To keep a long story short, the distillery blender’s objective for a blended whisky is to marry various components, to layer heavy flavours with light to create complexity and balance, similar to how a Bordeaux winemaker will blend different grape varietals to achieve a sum greater than its parts. Any wine lover would tell you that the cachet of a First Growth Bordeaux lies in its depth, which is provided by the blend of varietals.
Blended Scotch whisky is a combination of single malt whisky and single grain whisky. The blender will decide on a flavour profile and then select different whiskies to mix together to create the blend. These whiskies can vary in complexity from small batches combining a handful of casks to massive recipes of tens of different distilleries' whiskies and thousands of casks. It is an exceedingly difficult task!
Is a blended Scotch whisky inferior to a single malt Scotch whisky? That’s comparing apples to oranges. They are different, and a great blend can be equally as complex as a great single malt. The creative potential of blending in Scotch is almost limitless, so the next time someone says ‘that’s just a blend’, perhaps remind them that blending is a platform for creativity.
Buchanan’s Deluxe 12 Year Blended Scotch
Who were the folks who pioneered the craft of blending? Andrew Usher, John Walker, William Teacher, George Ballantine, the Chivas brothers, John Dewar, and James Buchanan, plus many more.
James Buchanan established his own London-based blending business in 1884, with the aim of developing a sweeter, smoother blend that would appeal to the more genteel English palate. ‘What I made up my mind to do was to find a blend sufficiently light and old to please the palate of the user,’ he wrote. The first whisky he created was The Buchanan Blend, which was soon snapped up by the London music halls. Only a year after he started in business, he won the contract to exclusively supply the House of Commons, and four years later the blend won a gold medal at the Paris Centennial Exhibition. The Buchanan Blend became so popular with the MPs at Westminster the whisky became known to the public as ‘that House of Commons whisky’. Buchanan subsequently shared it with the world, traveling from Scotland to London to Latin America. Today, under the same company, Buchanan’s has become one of the world’s leading Scotch whiskies, spearheaded by unquenchable demand from Latin America and the US.
If You Like Buchanan’s Why Don’t You Try…
At Aligra we carry a good range of other top quality blends. Here’s an incomplete list:
- Monkey Shoulder Blended Scotch Whisky
- Johnnie Walker Black
- Black Bottle Blended Scotch
- The Famous Grouse Blended Scotch
- The Famous Grouse Smoky Black
- Angels’ Nectar Blended Malt Scotch Rich Peat Edition
- Compass Box Artist Series Blend
There are others that we carry, with names you will be familiar with. And we’re always on the look out for new additions; stay tuned for updates as we bring in more labels!!
List Of Sources
Billy, What is Blended Whisky? A Beginner’s Guide, May 10, 2017, blog: The Whisky Exchange
The Whisky Exchange Administration, Blended Whisky – Everyone’s Doing It, May 3, 2017, blog: The Whiskey Exchange
Denig, Vicki, The 11 Best Blended Scotches to Drink in 2021, Liquor.com, 01/25/21
Whisky Analysis, Single Malts vs Blends – Understanding Whisky