C_I wrote:Just bringing back some water of life to this subject...
After re-reading an article in WM-39 about vatted malts I wondered why vatted malts are never a hit. The general tone of the article is that vatted malts are also good, but sometimes considered as the bridge between blended and single. Also vatted malts are able to introduce complexity that isn't noticeable in their single components.
How can vatted malts introduce complexity that isn't noticeable in their single components?
C_I wrote:When considering the above, and that "single" malts are actually also vattings, why vatted malts never grow into something big. There is almost an infinite amount of combinations to make out of the 88+ (ok, 88! = 1.8 ×10^143) available distilleries with any style you can wish for (Cardhu could be partly recreated using other whiskies, but was not received well). Maybe it could be even considered that no longer available malts could be recreated with vattings (I know it happens already, but usually it sticks to create a single malts that comes close to the original, like Macallan replica and Stronachie).
So why does the counter stop at just a handfew of vatted malts which are considered good (see previous posts) compared to the huge single malt market? Is it because of the image of vatted malts (single malts are THE only good whiskies, vats are just $#^%#), or is it just difficult to get into the market as there are so much different tastes, and which to focus on? John Glaser has apparently good success, so there is a market for it.
A lot of it is marketing. There are no large companies marketing vattings, aside from Johnny Walker Green which isn't really marketed as being that special. Without a big name and big advertising dollars, vattings will have trouble getting the word out. A distillery can do guerrilla marketing as most have been around for at least 100 years and have associated history, perhaps a visiting centre, etc. A vatting will have nothing physically associated with it and not much history so far so most will just seem them as grainless blends.
Among many single malt lovers, the single cask has an even more special place so there is an understanding that most single malts are vattings.
In my experience, blend buyers and single malt buyers buy in different ways. That is not to say there aren't people who mostly drink blends but buy a special single malt at Christmas, and conversely there are single malt drinkers who like some blends or prefer to drink blends when they're drinking rather than doing serious nosing and tasting. For the most part, however, blend drinkers are in one of two camps: 1) they don't care what they are served, "scotch on the rocks please!"; or 2) they have found a brand they like and they stick with it, often religiously defending their choice. Give me Teachers Highland Cream or give me death! This makes them like most other customers for the marketing and advertising folks: you pay a certain amount of money to attract a new customer and then a lesser amount to retain that customer. Most serious single malt drinkers I know are different and would never ask for an anonymous single malt in a pub or would drink beer instead if their favorite whisky isn't available.
Many single maltsters will want to try a bottle or bottles from as many distilleries as possible. Old, closed distilleries may hold a truly special place for them. I know some that never buy the same bottle twice, always wanting a new expression. You'd think vattings would be something new for them but they aren't biting as there is no distillery to post-pin on the map, no conquest, just somebody's mix to try if they get a vatting instead of a single malt.
Other single malt drinkers have been doing it for long enough to know the distilleries they like and while they might try a vatting here or there, they become like the blend drinkers, more of the usual customer who is attracted and then retained by the brand. "If it's Ardbeg, it's gotta be good," they'll say. Unlike the blend drinker who probably won't even experiment with 10yo, 12yo and 25yo versions of their blend, single malt fans will often be willing to pay larger sums for older or more special expressions from their favorite whisky factory. I like to think I'm outside of the influence of marketing but I know I'm just as hooked as the next guy.
With time and money I think vattings could get bigger but it is a bit of a chicken and egg problem. Do the current vatters have sufficient stocks to make a product for decades? If not, they may have difficulty hanging onto customers who get comfortable with a brand and its taste.
People who like vattings have probably gotten beyond distilleries and brands and just want to explore tastes. This is a more pure pursuit than liking a bunch of distilleries but it provides more risk to the customer. They have to be willing to risk something new every time; what is to say vatting B will be good like vatting A was? Most customers want predictability; they don't want to drop hard earned money on a premium priced product only to find it is no better than a mass marketed product.
Price is an area where vatted malts are NOT between blends and malts. Due to small market share, they are priced up with single malts so many ask, "why buy this when I could have a single malt for the price?" That's the image all over again, which will be very difficult to shake off.