Not a member? - Register and login now.
All registered users can read our entire magazine archive.

Single malts, vatted malts and blends

All your whisky related questions answered here.

Single malts, vatted malts and blends

Postby Ed » Tue Jan 18, 2005 3:48 pm

Hello All,

I started a poll question on Japanese whiskey and we started to discuss vatted malts which lead us to blends.

In Japan there are quite a few pure malts or all malt expressions. I don't think that the competing companies share malt with one another though I can't be sure. It is not the Japanese way though.

I know that many of you are single malt enthusiasts and also that you drink other whiskies. What are your experiences and opinions on single malts vs. vatted malts? And how do blends fit into the picture?
Ed
Ed
Silver Member
 
Posts: 408
Joined: Tue Jan 11, 2005 3:33 pm
Location: Japan (American)

Postby Aidan » Tue Jan 18, 2005 4:02 pm

Ed

I can't see why a vatted malt would be worse than a single malt, assuming it's done right. The difference would be that, presumably, unless the master distiller worked for both distilleries, he wouldn't have control of the whole process.

As long as it's clear that it's not a single malt...

Blends - I like them. There's a huge variety, needless to say.
Aidan
Cask Strength Gold Member
 
Posts: 3252
Joined: Sun Nov 10, 2002 2:01 am
Location: Dublin

Postby Tom » Tue Jan 18, 2005 5:05 pm

Hello Ed,
Cant say i had alot of vatted malts yet, only three i think. I see them as just another part of the bigg whisky picture. Although on the part of vatted malts im not so sure what the point is, the ones i tryed had potential but didnt stand their ground in the end. Blends have proven their worth IMO. They are good for the masses and i apreciate them for what they are.cheap, smooth and easy. Single malts have this enormeous diversity and they never stop amazing you. they are also more profound in taste and thus not suiteble for anyone, thats where the blends come in. But vatted malts... they aint smooth and easy as blends, often cost more then malts but lack the complexity and intensity. Like i said before, i just dont know where they fit in. Offcourse i only had three and this might change when i sample a really good one. i guess they are good for a diversity once in a while.
Tom
Gold Member
 
Posts: 648
Joined: Tue Nov 09, 2004 6:25 pm
Location: Belgium

Postby whiskyluvr25 » Sat Jan 22, 2005 8:30 pm

no one talks about higher end blends like jw gold, and blue.
pinch, and some of the chivas blends.
i've had a few blends i have enjoyed immensly, yet these are overlooked. mabe just shadowed by the somewhat brighter single malts.
what is it about a blend that makes them "inferior" to a single malt?
whiskyluvr25
New member
 
Posts: 1
Joined: Sat Jan 22, 2005 7:29 pm
Location: rawlins, wy u.s.a

Postby WestVanDave » Sat Jan 22, 2005 9:46 pm

Hi Whiskyluvr25 - I'll through my thoughts in on your question -
what is it about a blend that makes them "inferior" to a single malt?
"Grain alcohol"...

This continuous still produced component is cheaper and flavour-dilutive... The economics suggest it can stretch production and balance out the unique characteristics of the single malt component.

The objective in producing blends is different - it is to balance out the unique, distinctive qualities and produce an approachable, easy to drink (for the masses) product - often with the understanding that it will be thrown in a tumbler with ice, soda, water or even coca cola... :)

I too have "enjoyed" the occasional blend - but I did not grow up on blends (as so many people have - especially before the recent re-birth of single malts) - so my palate yearns for something more - the unique and distinct. For those who enjoy blends - it comes back to this - there is nothing inferior about what you and your palate enjoy!!!

Cheers, Dave.
WestVanDave
Silver Member
 
Posts: 494
Joined: Tue Jan 14, 2003 2:01 am
Location: West Vancouver, BC, Canada

Postby patrick dicaprio » Sun Jan 23, 2005 2:26 am

nothing wrong with blends or vatted malts. for my money the best belnd I have had is Dewars 12 yo. I like it more than many single malts.

Pat
patrick dicaprio
Silver Member
 
Posts: 298
Joined: Tue Jan 04, 2005 3:22 am

Postby Crispy Critter » Sun Jan 23, 2005 6:48 am

I've tried the Compass Box Eleuthera (vatted malt, Clynelish/Glenlossie/Caol Ila) and Hedonism (vatted grain, Cambus/Cameronbridge), and found then both to be excellent whiskies. I'm almost ready to unleash their Peat Monster - it's been staring at me from my shelf for a while now, and I just finished off the last of my Highland Park 12. So far, at least, I've found the Compass Box products to be quite good. Their Orangerie (not technically "whisky" since it is infused with spices and orange peel) is a treat, too.

Being an all-grain blend, the Hedonism reminds me of a fine bourbon, but there's a mellowness with an underlying edge that says Scotland. Knob Creek, for instance, is more intensely sweet. As I understand it, Scotch grain whisky needs a lot of time in the cask to really be good without having malt blended into it. Kentucky's warmer climate and the use of virgin casks make bourbon age faster.

Cask selection and blending skill are critical for vattings and blends, though - I remember seeing a comment on Malt Maniacs about the "Sheep Dip" vatted malt: "Sheep Dip by name, Sheep Dip by nature." Then again, most single malts are vattings of multiple casks, so selection and blending skill are important for the singles as well!

As for Suntory Yamazaki 12, my bottle says "Pure Malt," so I would guess it's a vatted bottling; I've seen the much-more-expensive 18YO bottling labeled "Single Malt." Although the Yamazaki 12 has a very different nose, on the palate it seems a lot like a Springbank 10. Quite nice, even if it does have a screw top. :)
Crispy Critter
Silver Member
 
Posts: 265
Joined: Tue Jan 11, 2005 4:50 am
Location: Chicago

Re: Single malts, vatted malts and blends

Postby Frodo » Sun Jan 23, 2005 7:49 am

Ed wrote:I know that many of you are single malt enthusiasts and also that you drink other whiskies. What are your experiences and opinions on single malts vs. vatted malts? And how do blends fit into the picture?
Ed


My experiance with vatted malts is somewhat limited. I've tried the "Smooth Sweet One", the "Peaty Smoky One", Sheep Dip, and 1 shot of both 6 Isles and Eleuthera. Most of these share a similar price point (C$40) so that may factor into my lack of enthusiasm for these experiances. I liked Sheep Dip at it's price point, but I don't consider it choke-full of flavour.

In theory, vatted malts IMHO should be less costly than singles but offer similar quality. My experiance is that grain alcohol changes the mouthfeel of the whisky in the blend. A vatted malt should not have this effect, while stretching out the flavour of some "top dressing" malts with some less expensive filler. The result I would expect to be a whisky that walks and talks like a single malt but has less jagged edges, and is about 25-30% cheaper than a single. What I've tasted are some nice whiskies, but not anything that can compete with singles in the same price range.

I think blends are usually made for the mass consumer in mind, and so are bought because of marketing in large part as opposed to taste. Having said this, I've had some blends that I quite liked. An example of one that I got on sale was Grants 15yr old. No question it has a different mouthfeel than a malt. But taken in it's own right, I found it a large bodied blend with some sherry character and a lot of sharp, challanging flavours. Black Bottle also come to mind, but these are the exception not the rule in my mind.

I would guess that there may be only so many 1st fill barrels to go around, and that these are used for the more high profile whiskies - the ones that will command the most money. Perhaps blends get the leftover casks with heavy dollups of caramel to soothe out the unpleasent flavours.

Just my take on things.
Frodo
Frodo
Triple Gold Member
 
Posts: 2472
Joined: Fri Sep 17, 2004 2:22 pm
Location: Toronto, Ontario

Postby Deactivated Member » Sun Jan 23, 2005 1:16 pm

Hi Ed,

There's nothing wrong with a good single malt, vatted malt, single grain, vatted grain or a blend. It's like each to its own.

The single malts I prefer them the most because of the different varieties and characters. There different styles and lots of different flavors and they are allways a challence ot discover...

Some vatted malts are quite good or even excellent, although it's a certain character that the master bleder has created, from time to time I like that and if it's a well done job you might even detect the distillery influences in thes malts.

A single grain, only when I find a good one such as a 1979 North Brittish from Signatory an excellent example or a Invergordon from 1965 bottled by Duncan Taylor, now that was a stunning dram gorcious stuff.

A vatted grain is the one I take from Compass Box, a wel done job when I tasted it a few years ago for the first time I was surprised by it. Nice stuff in Summertime.

The blends, well that's anoter thing I'm very fond of blends like Famous Grouse and Whyte and MacKay, because of their quality job of blending. And from time to time you find me with a blend early in the evening or somewhere in the garden on a late afternoon...

That's my view agains al the different types of whisky.

Cheers,

Erik
Deactivated Member
 

Postby hpulley » Sun Jan 23, 2005 2:40 pm

Actually, Frodo, the Compass Box offerings are much more expensive here. Eleuthera is nice but at $80C it seems too much. For that price I could get either a Clynelish or Caol Ila single malt which I think is better. I have a vattist bias I guess on the price. I've never done a HTH or Eleuthera with my favorite CI or 'lish but I doubt that would be useful.

The Hedonism, while nice, is even more expensive. $100C which just seems too much for grain whisky. I thought it was nice but it didn't blow me away. Like bourbon, I find good grain whiskies to be nice but still grain whisky.

Blends have to be cheap for me. If parenthood ever means I'm unable to even afford $50C single malt whisky then I'll be happy with 1.14L bottles of Teacher's for $33C (750mL for $25C). This compares quite favorably with my favorite Canadian Whisky which retails for $22C. For an import containing much malt whisky, the Teacher's is a good deal, as it should be. Blendist bias? Of course!

Harry
hpulley
Triple Gold Member
 
Posts: 2503
Joined: Mon Mar 25, 2002 2:01 am
Location: Guelph, Ontario, Canada

Postby Ed » Sun Jan 23, 2005 3:37 pm

On different thread, i.e. "Lagavulin vs laphroaig, the war between neighbours" Admiral said,
"Each individual cask is unique and different, and two casks that sat side by side in the warehouse for 12 years could end up tasting completely different when the time comes to bottle.

The Caol Ila 12yo OB that you purchased will have been vatted from many, many casks. All the casks (I don't know how many....20?......50?.......) would have been emptied into one or more marrying vats (a large container to allow the contents to mix), and then the final product bottled.

That's the appeal of the SMWS....you are tasting individual single casks that often taste very different from the official bottlings released by the distillery."




This confirms something I have suspected from reading the forums and also the books I have been reading; The individual cask is the purest, most individual, form of whisk(e)y. I think I will stop here before I say someting foolish.
Ed
Ed
Silver Member
 
Posts: 408
Joined: Tue Jan 11, 2005 3:33 pm
Location: Japan (American)

Postby Ed » Sun Jan 23, 2005 3:56 pm

Hello All,
Hello Frodo,
You said,
I would guess that there may be only so many 1st fill barrels to go around, and that these are used for the more high profile whiskies - the ones that will command the most money. Perhaps blends get the leftover casks with heavy dollups of caramel to soothe out the unpleasent flavours.


I have been reading Appreciating Whisky by Phillip Hills. He had some interesting things to say about casks. He said that there are about 17.000.000 casks currently in use in Scotland and that only around 750,000 bourbon casks become available each year. Far fewer sherry casks are turned out per year. So, a lot of those casks in current use must be worn out. Whether they would produce whisky with an unpleasant flavor or a weak flavor would depend on how the old casks were treated by the distillers. Interesting book.
Ed
Ed
Silver Member
 
Posts: 408
Joined: Tue Jan 11, 2005 3:33 pm
Location: Japan (American)

Postby Lawrence » Sun Jan 23, 2005 6:38 pm

I've had the Chivas Century (100 Malts), Johnnie Walker Green Label, Famous Grouse Malt and I liked the Famous Grouse offering the best, I had a chance about 18 months ago to spend some time with the bottle and really grew to like it.
Lawrence
Matured cask
 
Posts: 5019
Joined: Wed May 21, 2003 1:01 am
Location: Victoria, BC, Canada

Postby Lawrence » Sun Jan 23, 2005 6:44 pm

Harry, some of the older single grain whiskies are stunning, I had two at the Craigellachie Hotel September '03 that really opened my eyes. They were a 25 yo Cambus and a 31 yo Caledonian. Both were bourbon casks and they were just amazing, very smooth and full of flavour and 25% the price of malts.
Lawrence
Matured cask
 
Posts: 5019
Joined: Wed May 21, 2003 1:01 am
Location: Victoria, BC, Canada

Postby Admiral » Mon Jan 24, 2005 3:40 am

Ed,

Your quoted figures are correct, and this suggests that there is a lot of "plain wood" being used.

(Plain wood or plain oak is the term used for casks that have already had their first or second fill, and are now maturing their third filling or higher).

Don't forget that the bottling of single malts only makes up between 5% to 10% of the Scotch market. In other words, around 95% of all malt whisky goes off to the blenders.

This is primarily where all the "plain oak" matured whisky goes to. A whisky matured in a third-fill cask will probably not be good enough to bottle as a single, but it's deficiencies can easily be disguised in a blend.

Cheers,
Admiral
Admiral
Triple Gold Member
 
Posts: 2719
Joined: Wed Jan 08, 2003 2:01 am
Location: Australia

Postby Deactivated Member » Mon Jan 24, 2005 7:00 am

If 750,000 casks a year are used in their first fill for an average of 10 years, then the past 10 years' production would account for 7,500,000 of those 17,000,000 casks in use. The previous 10 years' production, now in their second filling, brings the total up to 15,000,000. (This is very fuzzy math, of course, and is based on the premise that whisky production has been steady for the past twenty years, which is of course ridiculous. But you get the idea.) My understanding is that casks are normally used four or five times. If single malts indeed comprise only 5-10% of what is bottled, it seems to me there are still plenty of quality casks going into blends. It would indeed be interesting to know what percentages of first fills, second fills, etc. go into malts and blends.
Deactivated Member
 

Postby Deactivated Member » Mon Jan 24, 2005 10:22 am

If we talking about how many times using the casks, then I know for a fact that The Macallan only use them once for about 80% of their fillings and the rest, 20%, will be used as a second filling. But they aim for first fill only. All the other used casks by The Macallan will end up in their sister distilleries.

But comming back to the origional point here is that every type of whisky has its own charme. But then again depending on the quality of the whiskies that's being used. And that brings us back again to the cask selection. Everything has its price ofcourse.

Erik
Deactivated Member
 

Return to Questions & Answers

Whisky gift and present finder