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Issue 117 - Expanding the niche

Whisky Magazine Issue 117
February 2014

 

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Expanding the niche

The art of creating something a little different

Blends account for more than 90 per cent of all Scotch whisky sales, and a handful of brands account for a similar percentage of the total blended sector. The marketing and distribution clout required to elbow a place at the top table of Scotch whisky exports means that the Grants, the Johnnie Walkers, the Chivas Regals, the Ballantines and the J&Bs are always going to dominate.

This does, however, leave a significant amount of ‘niche' territory available, and as there has been a slow but welcome realisation among a growing number of whisky aficionados that malt whisky is by no means automatically ‘better' than blended whisky, so several enterprising companies have developed blends to occupy the expanding niche.

These are ‘small batch' blends, created to appeal to consumers who want something just that bit different, and the example of this sub-genre to have received most media coverage is Compass Box Great King Street Artist's Blend, launched in 2011. Great King Street majors in the use of quality grain spirit, a high percentage of malt, excellent casks, natural colour, no chill-filtration and presentation at 43%. Unlike most of the larger companies creating blends, Compass Box is happy to share details of the component whiskies and casks, noting that Great King Street contains 45 per cent Lowland grain whisky, 45 per cent two different Northern Highland single malts and nine per cent Speyside single malt.

When it comes to maturation, Compass Box specifies that i...

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