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Issue 10 - Subtle seducers

Whisky Magazine Issue 10
June 2000

 

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Subtle seducers

Gavin D Smith reveals the contribution grain has made to the Scotch whisky industry.

Without grain whisky Scotch would be nothing more than a cottage industry, yet the spirit has traditionally received a less than enthusiastic press. Indeed, it would probably be fairer to say that it has received very little press at all. Grain whisky is widely perceived as nothing more than neutral alcohol, a necessary evil to bulk out the individual, characterful spirit which flows from the ‘proper' pot stills.

Single malts are obviously of great interest to the whisky lover, because of their sheer variety and individuality, but in excess of 95 per cent of all Scotch whisky drunk around the world is blended.

Surprisingly, no book dedicated to blended whisky had ever been published until Whisky Magazine's Jim Murray's Classic Blended Scotch appeared in 1999, and few writers had ever acknowledged that there are discernible differences in nose and taste between different grain whiskies. At the most basic level, North British and Dumbarton, which are distilled from maize and a portion of malted barley, tend to have a fuller flavour than those made using wheat and malted barley.

Ask Whyte & Mackay Master Blender Richard Paterson if he thinks that all grain whiskies are much the same, and you will get a very
instructive response.

“From a blending point of view they are most definitely not neutral alcohol, as is often supposed. The grains play a major part in a blend. After all, grain may make up 65 or 70 per cent of the contents of the blend. The grains soften and seduce...

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