Blended Malts – wake Up and Smell the Awesome | Blog # 89

So a day before we delve into this years Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar, it’s time to stir the pot a little with what for me has been a growing irritant.

The Scotch Whisky Association has certainly helped this irritant to grow and in some circles it has permeated even level headed and seemingly open whisky drinkers to shun this category altogether.

I am of course talking about Blended Malts. This is for me going to be the closest I get to a rant as I have just had one too many well educated whisky drinkers tell me that blended malts are rubbish.

Once upon a time Vatted Malts was the moniker but in complete disregard for what this category should be called so as not to confuse consumers the SWA decided to let the lawyers have a go and behold a second “blended” category was born. Many Single Malt consumers upon reading that dreaded word do not even look to see if the word Malt is following.

“But single malt is the ultimate expression of Scotch and Blended Malts are an inferior option” What a load of BS.

As the majority of you are aware a high percentage of single malts are made up of dozens if not hundreds of different barrels. All this to make a consistent bottling that the distillery can put out on a regular basis and most distilleries are really good at hitting that consistent note. If you drink any of these multiple cask single malts and decree that the concept of a blended malt is crap then we may have a major disagreement on our hands.

If you think about taking different casks from multiple distilleries that are all Single Malt and then combining them to create something greater than the some of their parts you are only adding an extra layer of complexity not taking it away. I know the argument is that blended malts are just a way to use the sub par casks and cover up deficiencies. In some cases I’m sure this may have been true but you can also say that combining 100’s of casks to make a Single Malt is also a way to cover up those sub par barrels. It is my experience that  independent bottlers that are crafting blended malt like Compass Box are making delicious whiskies not rubbish.

Let’s take Samaroli for example. December 25th in last years calendar was a 33 year old Blended Malt that was by far and away everyones favorite whisky receiving almost half the votes. No one even thought to complain about the fact that it was a blended malt. It was just an amazing whisky using 100% malted barley which is the only ingredient allowed in the production of Single Malt. Samaroli carefully selected only 2 casks to marry into that expression because they believed the end result was more delicious than just bottling each as a stand alone Single Malt.

The sad truth of the matter is that the European market is much more advanced in terms of general whisky education than North America. Despite the acceptance of “blended malts” in Europe there is still some resistance. In North America it is a much stronger deterrent to have the word blend anywhere near the label for mid to high level whisky consumers.

What saddens me even more is that many retailers do not help enough with educating the up and coming whisky drinker as most of them seem to lump “blended malts” straight into the “blended scotch” category and disregard it as either a quaffing whisky or a lesser option to the many bright and shiny “Single Malts” lining the shelves.

Singlemalting is the name of my blog and I unabashedly love it. For me single cask expressions are particularly near and dear to my heart but there are many multiple cask single malts and blended malts that are knee buckling, awe inspiring, life changing events.

If you love single malt and your pallet just can’t get enough but you then turn around and dismiss blended malt the stark reality is that you are only BS’ing yourself.

You simply cannot enjoy the complexity that 100% malted barley brings from the one distillery and then say that the addition of another 100% malted barley expression from a second distillery destroy’s it.

Bottom line is that “Single Malt” has become a term that some use as the ultimate expression of Scotch snobbery. Time to wake up and smell the awesome that is “blended malt”

If I’ve offended anyone well……. to bad. I feel that now I am nearing the 100 blog mark that I might actually be able to put my opinion out there and accept as many friend and foe comments as you will fling at me with a small sense of whisky foundation behind it all.

Looking forward to the next time I pull the cork on an amazing blended malt. I hope you will too.

Cheers!

3 comments

  1. Scott says:

    Interesting and reassuring for a newbee like me. After last years calendar I ran out and bought the Peat Chimney and gobbled most of it down before I realized I should savour it a bit. Does seem like the retailers favour the single malts and the "legitimacy" they represent.

    My question now is – what is the protocol on the Dec. 1 st door?. I am wondering if it is bad form to wait up another hour and a half and "have at it" or does the calendar really begin on the evening of the 1st as I suspect. Exciting times either way and thanks for putting it together.

    • Jonathan says:

      G’day Scott

      As soon as that clock ticks midnight its fair game 🙂 I have already heard about a lot of people who just couldnt hold out so well done on the delayed gratification stakes.

      Are you coming to the Launch party in Calgary tomorrow night or Edmonton on Wednesday night?

      • Scott Gillespie says:

        You will be right in the middle of the Calgary kick off as I write (and sip). Saskatoon is a bit far of a commute but I will be there in "spirit" (couldn’t help myself). I hope you have a great evening! I love the glass and your choice for a starting dram! Definitely comes to life after a few minutes and even more so with a drop of water.

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