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Issue 115 - The art of science

Whisky Magazine Issue 115
October 2013

 

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The art of science

Our man tackles the age old question about blending, and looks at other traditions

That simple principal was grasped first by the merchants of Scotland. The earliest blends arrived on the market in the early 1850s, pioneered by Andrew Usher and William Sanderson. They were working in an era when Irish whiskey dominated sales; when Scotch was little known outside Scotland and, where it was available, had a poor reputation.

The reason can be summed up in one word: consistency. The great Dublin distillers, by working very large stills, triple distilling and vatting the output, had achieved a high degree of product consistency, avoiding the burnt flavours and raw tastes that characterised much Scotch whisky at the time.

By the 1850s the continuous still was in widespread operation and was being enthusiastically adopted by many distillers in Scotland, while regarded with distrust and antipathy by the Irish. As far as they were concerned adding grain whisky – or ‘sham spirit' as they termed it – to their pot still product represented adulteration and fraud. In their eyes the consumer was being cheated of the genuine article, and they campaigned energetically against the practice. But the consumer didn't care – in fact, offered the choice, blends were enthusiastically preferred. Tax changes in 1860 permitted blending under bond and Usher soon launched his Usher's OVG (Old Vatted Glenlivet). Usher's Green Stripe brand achieved a substantial following in the USA during the 1950s and is still available today, though very much at the ‘value' end of the ma...

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