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What's the point of "vatted malts?"

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What's the point of "vatted malts?"

Postby blacksabb » Sat Apr 25, 2009 2:20 pm

Hey everyone. Well, as I slowly continue to venture into single malts, I have a question about vatted malts-which I believe to be a mix, or blend if you will, of single malts. Eg, Johnnie Walker Green label.

Now, I haven't as yet tried a vatted malt, and to be honest, have no real desire to buy a bottle of JWG or any other. So correct me if I'm wrong, the attraction of blended whisky is that it is able to be produced affordably and able to be reproduced with a high standard of consistency. However, the downside of it (and again, correct me if I'm wrong) is that it tends to produce whiskies of fairly indistinct and bland flavours.

Single malts however, as far as my understanding, produce whiskies of distinct and unique flavours, such as smoke, peat, sweet, fruit etc. But it's more expensive to produce and is subject to batch variations.

Which brings me to vatted malts. I just don't see the point of melding various single malts together and losing the unique component flavours of each constituent malt. I'm currently drinking one of 2 bottles of Talisker 10yrs which has a distinct smoke/peat flavour and aroma. I've sampled Macallan 10yrs Fine Oak series and a Highland Park 14yrs (thanks to Collector57-muchly appreciated) and the Macallan had a lovely sweet aroma and palate, whilst the Highland Park had a very interesting and complex palate-I thought the palate was a gentle peat with an interesting sharp tang to it, almost like it was sweet. The Cragganmore 12yrs also had a really nice floral and delicate palate.

I could just imagine for eg, mixing the Macallan and Cragganmore together and losing all that distinctness of the 2 malts. The Cragganmore particularly would be lost as it's quite a delicate palate. Also, the interesting palate of the HP 14yrs would definately be lost if you just mixed it with Talisker 10yrs or some other smoke/peat whisky.

In fact, I see vatted malts as something of a "lose lose" situation. Because firstly, you don't get any distinct flavours anymore and secondly, you lose consistency as the constituent ingredients are single malts.

Is this correct or am I missing something?
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Re: What's the point of "vatted malts?"

Postby The Third Dram » Sat Apr 25, 2009 3:48 pm

http://www.cigarweekly.com/magazine/lifestyles/

Scroll down to my article dated June 16, 2008... A Rich Pour - Column No. 13: All For One & One For All.
:wink:
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Re: What's the point of "vatted malts?"

Postby blacksabb » Sat Apr 25, 2009 4:04 pm

The Third Dram wrote:http://www.cigarweekly.com/magazine/lifestyles/

Scroll down to my article dated June 16, 2008... A Rich Pour - Column No. 13: All For One & One For All.
:wink:


Wow, was that you? Great article, so indepth and well written. I was amazed at the Chivas reference that featured a vatted malt of a whopping 100 single malts! :shock:

I have 2 bottles of Talisker 10yrs. So I may have to go through your article and leave a little and mix it with something else. I'll be a master blender yet, hahahhaha..... :)

Somehow I don't think I'll be mixing it with Lagavulin 16yrs. I could just imagine the next time I have blood tests when the doctor says:

"You seem to have unusually high levels of peat in your blood". Maybe mix some Talisker 10yrs with a sherry monster whisky and taste the result. Hmmm......peaty sweetness.

Btw, is there such a thing as a whisky produced from mixing both single malts and blends? Maybe the blend being a type of base from which the malts are added to give it extra flavour. If there is, how is this type of whisky classified as it's not a blend, SMS or vatted malt?
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Re: What's the point of "vatted malts?"

Postby kyorke1 » Sat Apr 25, 2009 10:22 pm

Great article Doug and thanks for sharing, that's been added to my favourites. For me it highlights what an art form it appears to be, its something I would love to get into but lack the confidence especially with my little experience and reading lines like..

Good accidents can happen, of course.


I guess there is some common sense to it though, like for example not blending a Balvenie 21 with Talisker 10.
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Re: What's the point of "vatted malts?"

Postby talisker10 » Sat Apr 25, 2009 10:52 pm

There is a vatted Islay malt called Auld Reekie that is very good. I think the major component is Cail Ila, but it is very interesting whisky without the vanilla grain whisky taste of blends.

If you can get it I would suggest you try it.
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Re: What's the point of "vatted malts?"

Postby Deactivated Member » Sun Apr 26, 2009 5:55 am

Mr Picky squirms in his seat when he reads something like "There are 100 single malts in the Ben Cartwright blend." He contends that there is in fact no single malt in any blend--"single malt" and "blend" are two mutually exclusive things. A single malt is a bottling containing only malt whisky from a single distillery. It is proper to say rather that there are 100 different malts in the Ben Cartwright blend. Or so Mr Picky thinks.
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Re: What's the point of "vatted malts?"

Postby Gov » Sun Apr 26, 2009 5:57 am

Yes...try JWG and tell us your thoughts on it. It is excellent and packed with lots of great flavors. It is rather distinctive as well.
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Re: What's the point of "vatted malts?"

Postby blacksabb » Sun Apr 26, 2009 9:13 am

Gov wrote:Yes...try JWG and tell us your thoughts on it. It is excellent and packed with lots of great flavors. It is rather distinctive as well.



Well, you and Collector57 seem to like it, so I may have to end up trying it. I might give this one as a gift to my old man and of course, share it with him.

What single malt would you say the JWG is comparable to?

Btw Gov, I was in the liquor store today that The Third Dram recommended to me and ended up buying Glenmorangie Nectar D'or as it was a bit cheaper than everywhere else that I've looked. And they also had "official whisky" glasses, exactly as in your avatar. But they were $15 each!

I think I'm going to check out ebay for that item.
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Re: What's the point of "vatted malts?"

Postby The Third Dram » Sun Apr 26, 2009 4:57 pm

"It is proper to say rather that there are 100 different malts in the Ben Cartwright blend."

This does indeed seem a better way in which to pinpoint the distinction you cite. :thumbsup:

But am I, in fact, incorrect to use the expression "single malts" in the context I have?

From the SWA web-page:

"Single Malt Scotch Whisky: A Scotch Whisky distilled at a single distillery,

1. from water and malted barley without the addition of any other cereals, and
2. by batch distillation in pot stills.

The industry is also seeking legislation that would require Single Malt Scotch Whisky to only be bottled in Scotland."


Some definitions of 'single malt Scotch' do include the qualification of bottling, while others do not. And how would one distinguish between the bottled samples Colin Scott utilized in the creation of Chivas Century of Malts and the bulk of the whiskies as yet contained in casks? Furthermore, if one were to directly purchase a cask of malt whisky from a distillery to be bottled off-site, would that whisky not properly be termed a 'single malt'?

I'm now more confused than ever! :wink:
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Re: What's the point of "vatted malts?"

Postby blacksabb » Mon Apr 27, 2009 1:36 am

The Third Dram wrote:
From the SWA web-page:

"Single Malt Scotch Whisky: A Scotch Whisky distilled at a single distillery,

1. from water and malted barley without the addition of any other cereals, and
2. by batch distillation in pot stills.

The industry is also seeking legislation that would require Single Malt Scotch Whisky to only be bottled in Scotland."





I'm confused now. I thought the term "Scotch" meant whisky that was distilled specifically in Scotland. So for eg, a Bushmills could be called whisky but not Scotch, as it's distilled in Ireland. I thought that was alread the legislation. Am I wrong?
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Re: What's the point of "vatted malts?"

Postby The Third Dram » Mon Apr 27, 2009 3:08 am

blacksabb wrote:I thought the term "Scotch" meant whisky that was distilled specifically in Scotland.
It does.

Bushmills could be called whisky but not Scotch, as it's distilled in Ireland.
Exactly, although being as it's Irish, it would be called whiskey.

Above and beyond these qualifications, however, a single malt can technically be produced anywhere in the world (as witnessed by the fact that Bushmills, amongst many, also produces a single malt).

Bottom line... Scotch and Irish (just like Japanese, Canadian, etc.) refer to the country of production, while terms such as single malt, vatted (or blended) pure malt and blended refer to the constituent nature of the spirit.
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Re: What's the point of "vatted malts?"

Postby blacksabb » Mon Apr 27, 2009 4:09 am

Sorry, still a little confused because you say "The industry is also seeking legislation that would require Single Malt Scotch Whisky to only be bottled in Scotland".

To me, that implies that the term "Scotch" is not necessarily whisky of Scottish origin. If the industry is "seeking legislation" that means that it is not enacted yet, and that "single malt scotch whisky" can be labelled outside of Scotland, hence the request to have the definition of "Scotch" enforced by legislation.
Last edited by blacksabb on Mon Apr 27, 2009 4:17 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What's the point of "vatted malts?"

Postby The Third Dram » Mon Apr 27, 2009 4:12 am

(edited so as to respond to the points cited in the edited post above)

Scotch must be produced in Scotland in order to legally carry the label of "Scotch Whisky". Simple and straightforward.

The push by the SWA to establish a further requirement that all Scotch Whisky should also be bottled in Scotland is analogous to similar political moves undertaken by, for instance, the producers of Port in Portugal.

At the present moment, Scotch Whisky can be transported in cask (or in bulk) outside of Scotland and then be bottled elsewhere.
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Re: What's the point of "vatted malts?"

Postby Deactivated Member » Mon Apr 27, 2009 6:01 am

The proposed legislation refers to bottling. As it now stands, Scotch whisky must be distilled in Scotland, matured in Scotland, and be at least three years in the barrel. The SWA is trying to add bottling in Scotland as a qualifier in using the term "Scotch whisky".

These terms--"Scotch" and "single malt"--are matters of labeling, what the bottled product can be sold as. "Single malt" is something you can buy at the liquor store. The stuff in the barrel, distilled in pot stills from barley only, is malt whisky.
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Re: What's the point of "vatted malts?"

Postby blacksabb » Mon Apr 27, 2009 7:22 am

MrTattieHeid wrote:The proposed legislation refers to bottling. As it now stands, Scotch whisky must be distilled in Scotland, matured in Scotland, and be at least three years in the barrel. The SWA is trying to add bottling in Scotland as a qualifier in using the term "Scotch whisky".



Okay, I get it now. So why does the SWA want to add bottled in Scotland as part of the definition of Scotch whisky? Are there Scottish whiskies that are distilled and matured in Scotland but bottled outside of Scotland?
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Re: What's the point of "vatted malts?"

Postby blacksabb » Mon Apr 27, 2009 8:04 am

Collector57 wrote:They obviously know of some.

For legal definition, see the SWA Site



Hey thanks for that link, it was very thorough. But I have a question. What is the big deal if a whisky is distilled and matured in Scotland, but transported away elsewhere for bottling? Perhaps because the plant bottling operation is cheaper. Does that really affect, in your opinion, the worthiness of calling that whisky "Scotch?"
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Re: What's the point of "vatted malts?"

Postby The Fachan » Mon Apr 27, 2009 10:20 am

All are distilled and matured in Scotland while some are bottled outwith the country, that is how it stands at the moment.
This applies to any spirit in the world, the SWA are just trying to close a loophole in the legislation. Little over zealous as far as I am concerned but that is their job.
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Re: What's the point of "vatted malts?"

Postby blacksabb » Mon Apr 27, 2009 10:38 am

The Fachan wrote:All are distilled and matured in Scotland while some are bottled outwith the country, that is how it stands at the moment.
This applies to any spirit in the world, the SWA are just trying to close a loophole in the legislation. Little over zealous as far as I am concerned but that is their job.



So would you consider a whisky any less of a "Scotch" if it's distilled and matured in Scotland but bottled elsewhere?
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Re: What's the point of "vatted malts?"

Postby The Fachan » Mon Apr 27, 2009 11:17 am

Blacksabb,

No I wouldn't. as long as it meets the requirements of distillation and maturation all scotches all are equal(legally) in my eyes.
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Re: What's the point of "vatted malts?"

Postby borgom » Mon Apr 27, 2009 12:38 pm

Could they be safe guarding against extra dilution or unauthorised additives prior to bottling or is this just bureaucracy gone mad?
What about IB's? Are there any outside of Scotland that might have caused this action?
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Re: What's the point of "vatted malts?"

Postby Deactivated Member » Mon Apr 27, 2009 4:37 pm

Aren't there some bottled in France, as well?

I wonder if there's another issue...if the cask is removed from Scotland, then some of the maturation, however brief, is outside Scotland. Once that line is crossed.... If the barrel is three years in Scotland and five years somewhere else, is it still Scotch? If not, at what point does it stop being Scotch? Anyone know?
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Re: What's the point of "vatted malts?"

Postby The Third Dram » Mon Apr 27, 2009 6:33 pm

MrTattieHeid wrote:Aren't there some bottled in France, as well?

The Belgian Michel Couvreur, for one, bottles his 'artisanal' Scotch whiskies (high percentage of Sherry casks utilized, from what I can gather) in the Burgundy region of France. His labels clearly state "Scotch Whisky", too. I would think the SWA might have a 'fight' on its hands from Couvreur, amongst others, should it wish to pursue the 'bottled in Scotland' criterium. Not saying it won't happen, of course. But if it does, the litigation time frame might turn out to be rather extended.

And finally, as regards the question of whether one is technically correct in saying that there are single malts (versus use of the term malt whiskies) incorporated in a blended (previously termed vatted) pure malt Scotch whisky, I cite the SWA's own definition of the latter:

"Blended Malt Scotch Whisky: a blend of Single Malt (underlining mine) Scotch Whiskies, which have been distilled at more than one distillery."
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Re: What's the point of "vatted malts?"

Postby ClubSmed » Mon Apr 27, 2009 8:02 pm

blacksabb wrote:
I could just imagine for eg, mixing the Macallan and Cragganmore together and losing all that distinctness of the 2 malts. The Cragganmore particularly would be lost as it's quite a delicate palate. Also, the interesting palate of the HP 14yrs would definately be lost if you just mixed it with Talisker 10yrs or some other smoke/peat whisky.

In fact, I see vatted malts as something of a "lose lose" situation. Because firstly, you don't get any distinct flavours anymore and secondly, you lose consistency as the constituent ingredients are single malts.

Is this correct or am I missing something?


You are of course using examples of 2 single malts that you have liked (maybe even loved) so it is hard to see an advantage. Think instead of 2 single malts that you were not fond of (or just plain did not like) and that the mixing of these 2 removed the bad qualities of each yet enhanced the better qualities. Now doesn't that sound like a good deal?
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Re: What's the point of "vatted malts?"

Postby lincoln imp » Mon Apr 27, 2009 8:34 pm

Collector57 wrote::lol: It would be a blend. High malt content but still a blend

Do yourself a favour and try a JWG

I will second that one JW Green is much better than many single malts for the same price.
Please do not be put off from blends. Try Dewars Signature or an older bottle of JW Blue label before you group all blends together as inferior to single malts, believe me they are not :thumbsup:
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Re: What's the point of "vatted malts?"

Postby John Barleycorn » Mon Apr 27, 2009 8:42 pm

What the SWA are embarking on is an old Scottish practice that we Scots like to do from time to time, that of navel gazing. To look at our own belly button and wonder how the fluff got there, is there any significance behind it and what can be done to prevent from happening again. Of course it doesn't matter where the whisky is bottled, it's just protectionism. Local jobs for local people. To some extent the SWA are justifying their existence.
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Re: What's the point of "vatted malts?"

Postby Deactivated Member » Mon Apr 27, 2009 9:01 pm

The Third Dram wrote:And finally, as regards the question of whether one is technically correct in saying that there are single malts (versus use of the term malt whiskies) incorporated in a blended (previously termed vatted) pure malt Scotch whisky, I cite the SWA's own definition of the latter:

"Blended Malt Scotch Whisky: a blend of Single Malt (underlining mine) Scotch Whiskies, which have been distilled at more than one distillery."

Mr Picky is well aware that the term "single malt" is commonly used this way, and there is nothing he can do about it. But he remains adamant that the phrase "a blend of Single Malt Scotch Whiskies" is an oxymoron. (Mr Picky smacks me in the head and says it's not a true oxymoron, just a contradiction in terms.)

Not the first time the SWA has been clearly wrong about something. 8)

And on the original topic, there are those who will tell you that single malts are like solo instruments, and blends (with or without grain whisky) are like orchestras. Perhaps a tapestry is a better metaphor, or a tartan--the blender weaves the various threads of malts together to create something very different from the whole cloth of a malt. If you visit the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh, you will be told that blends are the pinnacle of distilling achievement. I freely admit to being a malt snob, for a variety of reasons (some of which are not logical), but I'd never contradict anyone whose appreciation for the blender's art is greater than mine. Blends and blended malts give the whisky maker the opportunity to create something different from anything previously existing, just as a chef does with food.

Besides, even the standard single malt is a vatting of many casks, chosen by the house blender to achieve the desired profile. This may include some sherry casks and some bourbon barrels, some first-fill and some refill, and various peating levels--in other words, a lot of whisky that doesn't all taste quite the same, despite having come through the same stills. It's still the expression of the master blender's skill. If you really want to be a malt snob, you have to get into single-cask bottlings.

And it may or may not be worth noting that this malt snob enjoyed a couple of drams of Compass Box's Oak Cross last night. Very nice whisky.
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Re: What's the point of "vatted malts?"

Postby Novice Scotch Fan » Tue Apr 28, 2009 3:46 am

MrTattieHeid wrote:Mr Picky squirms in his seat when he reads something like "There are 100 single malts in the Ben Cartwright blend." He contends that there is in fact no single malt in any blend--"single malt" and "blend" are two mutually exclusive things. A single malt is a bottling containing only malt whisky from a single distillery. It is proper to say rather that there are 100 different malts in the Ben Cartwright blend. Or so Mr Picky thinks.


I'd like to add a comment here as I think it is misleading to describe single malts as devoid of being blends. In fact, I think you would agree that single malts, depending on the distillery, blend the single malt of the same distillery from different years, different periods of aging in particular casks, etc, in order to come up with the "single malt." THe point I am trying to make is that single malts are blends of a sort in the sense that they are a blend of different vintages of the same producer. There are very few single malts that are produced in one year and that is the sole basis of it.

Vatted blends, rather than being restricted to one distillery, will incorporate single malts from others. basically blends just take the blending of single malts one step further and the end result is a different flavor profile.

By the way, to the original poster, Johnnie Walker Green is damn good stuff, I wouldn't knock it unless you have tried it.
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Re: What's the point of "vatted malts?"

Postby blacksabb » Tue Apr 28, 2009 6:20 am

ClubSmed wrote:
blacksabb wrote:
I could just imagine for eg, mixing the Macallan and Cragganmore together and losing all that distinctness of the 2 malts. The Cragganmore particularly would be lost as it's quite a delicate palate. Also, the interesting palate of the HP 14yrs would definately be lost if you just mixed it with Talisker 10yrs or some other smoke/peat whisky.

In fact, I see vatted malts as something of a "lose lose" situation. Because firstly, you don't get any distinct flavours anymore and secondly, you lose consistency as the constituent ingredients are single malts.

Is this correct or am I missing something?


You are of course using examples of 2 single malts that you have liked (maybe even loved) so it is hard to see an advantage. Think instead of 2 single malts that you were not fond of (or just plain did not like) and that the mixing of these 2 removed the bad qualities of each yet enhanced the better qualities. Now doesn't that sound like a good deal?




Hmmm....interesting point. I never thought of it like that. I can appreciate however how difficult it would be to combine malts and remove the less desirable palates whilst enhancing other palates. I could just imagine that when you remove less desirable tastes from say 2 whiskies, you have also lost the desirable tastes too.

I suppose that's why the call such people "master blenders".

Hahaha, although I did a little bit of blending myself with some cherry liquers recently. And I thought it was pretty good too! I bought my old man 2 cherry liqueors, one Croatian and the other German.

The Croatian one was very sweet. I didn't care for it particularly, whilst the German one was sweet but with a sour palate as well. It had some bitter ingredient in it, a bit like aniseed or something. On its own, I preferred the German one, but then I had a brainstorm.

I think you can see where this is going. Yep, I mixed half and half and my old man and I much preferred the "vatted" liqueor than either of the original "single" liqueors, (I'm taking so many liberties with my use of terms, aren't I?).

Be that as it may, I don't think Talisker will be calling me any time soon for my blending expertise.......... :roll: :roll:
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Re: What's the point of "vatted malts?"

Postby ClubSmed » Tue Apr 28, 2009 9:02 am

MrTattieHeid wrote:Besides, even the standard single malt is a vatting of many casks, chosen by the house blender to achieve the desired profile.


Good point, if memory serves me the DALMORE KING ALEXANDER III is of course a single malt (being from a single distillery) but is created from 6 different casks (finishes/ ages)
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Re: What's the point of "vatted malts?"

Postby scotchdrinker » Tue Apr 28, 2009 3:59 pm

I have to say I got this post a little late. Seems like everyone hit the good points before I could get to it. But, I will Blacksabb definitely try JWG before you say anything bad about it.

And ClubSmed is that Dalmore still available sounds like something I might want to try??
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Re: What's the point of "vatted malts?"

Postby ClubSmed » Tue Apr 28, 2009 4:15 pm

scotchdrinker wrote:I have to say I got this post a little late. Seems like everyone hit the good points before I could get to it. But, I will Blacksabb definitely try JWG before you say anything bad about it.

And ClubSmed is that Dalmore still available sounds like something I might want to try??


I think there are still bottles available but at £125 a bottle it is a little outside my usual price per bottle. I was lucky enough to try it when I went round the Dalmore distillery on a tour, it is REALLY good!
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Re: What's the point of "vatted malts?"

Postby RogerB » Tue Apr 28, 2009 11:10 pm

I'm a single malt guy, but will concur that JWG is excellent, and a good value as well. To answer a question about it earlier, it is a vatting of the following single malts- Talisker, Cragganmore, Linkwood, and Caol Ila.
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Re: What's the point of "vatted malts?"

Postby The Third Dram » Wed Apr 29, 2009 12:33 am

RogerB wrote:I'm a single malt guy, but will concur that JWG is excellent, and a good value as well. To answer a question about it earlier, it is a vatting of the following single malts - Talisker, Cragganmore, Linkwood, and Caol Ila.

Those malts are indeed what Diageo describes as the 'core malts' incorporated into Johnnie Walker Green Label. But many other malts from the Diageo stable of distilleries are also utilized in the JWG blend.
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Re: What's the point of "vatted malts?"

Postby blacksabb » Wed Apr 29, 2009 1:39 am

Collector57 wrote:And since there's a thread about packaging, I'll post a pic of my Alex III:
Dalmore 1263 King Alexander III.jpg



That looks absolutely fantastic! More like a work or art than mere whisky.

Apparently, the JWG has 15 constituent malts, with 4 main ones (as has been said). I'm definately going to have to check it out, everyone seems to like it.
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Re: What's the point of "vatted malts?"

Postby dramtastic » Wed Apr 29, 2009 8:57 am

Hey sabb I don't know much about the politics or history of vatted malts,
but I agree with a lot of the other posters, JW Green is :thumbsup: :thumbsup: and a bargain at 70 bucks from Dan Murpheys. Certainly would be a worthy addition to your collection.

Cheers
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