We love to talk about la-di-da single malts, but blends are the bulk of the Scotch market, writes Jono Carr

Story by Jono Carr.

Jono is one of our regular Drinks Writers. He is also co-owner of Sydney bar, About Time @abouttimesydney. You can reach Jono at drinks@spantonmedia.com

‘’Blended’ is not a dirty word! As a consumer, I’d say spend the extra dollarydoos because you will always get bang for your buck,” says James ‘Rusty’ Russell, Bar Manager at Sydney’s Baxter Inn.

I think there is an interesting stage in a bartender’s life when they figure out what they like in a Scotch, become loyal to that distillery or style, and start thinking less of blends. Potentially around the same time, they may forget that blended whiskies are probably the reason those beloved and unique single malts are still around.

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The reason for that could also be attributed to certain guests who brand call for their favourite blends with a dash of Coke. Not their fault, of course, it’s not our job to tell people how to drink their spirits, we can only try to educate when it’s an optimal time or if they care, but that’s about it.

Lucille Rose-Hopkins, Brand Ambassador for Monkey Shoulder, suggest that blends suit a newer bartender beginning to experiment with whisky cocktails, or maybe you have a patron wanting to try something new. Blended whisky is a great liquid to introduce someone to the category.

I think bartenders would agree there’s an important space in the industry for blends. Lucille Rose-Hopkins, Brand Ambassador for Monkey Shoulder, suggest that blends suit a newer bartender beginning to experiment with whisky cocktails, or maybe you have a patron wanting to try something new. Blended whisky is a great liquid to introduce someone to the category.

So, once you get past that typecast of guests ordering them and maybe have the chance to work in bars with a larger range of whiskies, blends start to make sense as a sipper of choice. The ability to, year after year, put out a consistent product is one of the benefits of blends. It’s also a true art form. Once you know what you like in a single malt, it can be amazing searching for those characteristics that enhance their nuances.In an online tasting recently, ‘Whisky without the Risk-y’, Georgie Mann, Bacardi Whisky ambassador mentioned that one of the things she loves in the Dewar’s 15-year-old is finding the honeyed sweetness of Aberfeldy underpinned by the cereal malt of Devron. One of the flavour descriptors thrown out by an attendee for the dram was crunchy nut cereal. Delicious.

When asked if people brand call their blends at Doss House, GM Alex Rogerson says: “people in general love a good name call! I think it’s an action that people like to believe makes them sound more affluent when ordering, although I find a lot more people just ask “what blended whisky do you have?” then will follow with “I’ve tried Jameson’s, Monkey Shoulder, Chivas etc.”

Alex adds that blended whiskies are the second most ordered whiskies at Doss House after Irish whiskey. In contrast, Rusty says that at Baxter’s it’s almost all single malts thanks to the large range. “We do get brand calls for Japanese whiskey, I don’t know if it’s general consumer knowledge that many of them are blends though,” says Rusty. “We do have some incredible independent bottling of blended stuff, look into ‘that boutique-y whiskey company’. They sell minis as well which are bloody awesome and make great gifts for whiskey nerds. My birthday is July 19.” Duly noted Rusty.

We know blends are versatile enough to be mixed into cocktails, complex enough to savoured and often delicious, so what’s to look for in a blended whisky? It should be approachable but still have an in-depth flavour profile. If single malt was a piece of fruit, then blended whisky is a fruit salad. You want to still notice those individual flavours but enjoy them, even more, when blended suggests Lucille.

Alex says: “I look for balance. What and where all the liquids have come from to get a better idea of what I would choose to drink as a single malt. Plus the added benefit of the price point helps.”

“John Dewar was an absolute legend imagine Robert Downy Jr. at the turn of the century and Johnny Walker as a brand was absolutely innovative for its time and changed packaging design to a degree (24 degrees to be exact).” – James ‘Rusty’ Russell

Considering the history of blended whiskies Rusty points out that the history of blended whisky is really cool, really unique and enterprising. He says: “John Dewar was an absolute legend imagine Robert Downy Jr. at the turn of the century and Johnny Walker as a brand was absolutely innovative for its time and changed packaging design to a degree (24 degrees to be exact).”

In terms of the future of blended whisky, Lucille thinks that as time goes on and the category continues to grow, more and more people will be drawn to blended whiskies. “Especially now with so many consumers drinking at home, people are chasing versatile spirits – something they could drink neat or in a cocktail, and I think blended whisky is perfect for this,” she says.

Lucille adds that the stereotypes that existed around Scotch in the past are starting to fade away, and people are starting to get more curious about spirits they might not have thought to try before. “With Monkey Shoulder, for example, we get to play in some really fun fields, such as music festivals. It’s great to see how many younger people will come to try our liquid and our cocktails and enjoy it. This makes me excited for the future of blended whisky.”

Truth is that we need blended whisky. It is roughly 82 per cent of the whiskey bought by consumers and this will allow those of us who know exactly what they want from a dram to continue enjoying Single Malts. Plus, they bring a lot to the palate party if you’re looking for it.

THREE BLENDS TO MIX WITH:

Copper Dog
In years long-passed, Distillery workers would help themselves to a dram using a ‘Copper Dog’; a pipe hidden inside the leg of their trousers. These Speyside rascals and characters are the inpsiration for this unique blend of eight single malt whiskies, slowly married together in old oak casks. An easy-drinking scotch with ripe fruit aromas and a delicate spicy finish. First created in the Craigellachie Hotel in Speyside, Scotland. Diageo

Monkey Shoulder
A smooth and rich ‘triple’ malt Scotch (a world first!) that has been blended from three of Speyside’s finest single malts and using batches from only 27 casks to produce this fine malt whisky. A delightful nose of sherry, cinnamon baked pear, butterscotch, barley, strawberry and Bourbon vanilla which are all complemented by tangy, sweet nut, citrus, mint, oak and orange peel flavours. William Grant & Sons

Dewar’s White Label
Double aged for extra smoothness, Dewar’s White Label is the worlds most awarded blended scotch whisky. Created from a recipe which dates back to 1899, today we blend up to 40 of Scotland’s finest single malt and grain whiskies to create Dewar’s White Label. Honey with floral heather notes and fresh vanilla, with a hint of pear. Soft, fruity and well-rounded. This well-rounded blend has a subtle sweetness, with a curl of smoke and is full, balanced and satisfying. Bacardi Martini

 

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