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All About Blended Scotch

If you don’t live in Scotland, chances are you drink blended scotch. Yes there are a few informed drinkers who appreciate single malts, single grains and vatted scotch, but for the most of us mortals, its blended scotch.

What is Blended Scotch?

By definition blended scotch is a “marriage” of several different malt whiskies with grain whiskies. Malt whiskies are richer in both body and flavour, while their grain counterparts are much lighter. Blending is a master art and those who know it are usually extremely knowledgeable and talented individuals and are highly sought after in the scotch business.

The master blender samples the different whiskies and then suggests the exact proportions of the different malt and grain whiskies. The marrying is carried out in a large tub, where mechanical rotating paddles constantly blend the different whiskies. Compressed air is released from below to further blend the mix. On sufficient blending, the whisky is again returned to casks for a further period of maturing.

So, what’s with the blending?

Scotch is a very complex spirit. Since, it is distilled off at a lower proof; it retains a lot of character and flavour. This, combined with the long maturing periods, makes the produce of every distillery in Scotland, different from each other. There are four main scotch producing regions in Scotland. The Highlands, Campbeltown, The Isles & The Lowlands. Each of them have their own unique product. The Highlands malts are less smoky and are light in body and flavour. The Lowlands malts are even less smoky and lighter in both respects. The Isles malts have a rich body with a smoky zing. Campbeltown malts are the most pungent of the lot and possess a distinct smoky character. Most of the grain whiskies are made in the Lowlands. They are typically light spirits. Even among these regions there is a lot of variation. Such is the variety that Scotch offers.

Now Single Malts, Single Grains and Vatted whiskies are all fantastic drinks. But the average consumer wants a balance among the different flavours and also a quasi-guarantee to consistency in the spirit. Scotch is an expensive drink. The consumer wants to have a certain assurance that time and time again, he will get the same flavour that he has come to like. This is where blended whiskies come in. Blended whiskies combine the flavour of malt whiskies and the lightness of grain whiskies of various ages to bring a unique blend that hides the shortcomings of certain whiskies and enhances the flavours of the others.

The Composition

Most blended whiskies whether scotch or other, contain usually more grain content than malt. This is due to a number of factors. Firstly, grain was initially very cheap to produce when compared to malt. Secondly, as we now know, that grain is lighter, hence, it appeals to much wider range of audience today. This is because the white spirits dominate today. And these are typical much lighter than a full bodied scotch malt. 1/3rd of the blended scotch produced is consumed in the United States. Thus, grain provides the lightness that is required to persuade the American palate. A typical blended whisky contains about 25 – 40 % malt and the remaining grain. Balantine’s, J&B and Whyte & Mackay have a high grain content of nearly 70 to 80 %.

On the other hand, Johnnie Walker and Teacher’s are two fantastic blends, that contain a high malt content harbouring between 35 – 40%. This is the reason, the Indian Sub continent is a fantastic market for these brands.

Additionally, blended scotch is generally a product of more than 25 different malt whiskies and another 10 grain whiskies. Whiskies from different regions, having different maturity levels, are blended together to bring about a unique blend, that the manufacturer feels caters to his audience.

To conclude this article, I’d say that blended scotch is a fantastic drink. Before you go and buy your next scotch bottle, remember to read about the different brands, most have their own websites. See what really goes in the scotch. How much malt? How much grain? How many years has it been matured? In what casks? Then, pick one that suits your palate. There is no best scotch, only your most favourite one! :)

This article is written by Gautamm Mehra, a certified bartender and enthusiast. You can write to him at gautam [dot] mail [at] gmail [dot] com.



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