Whisky Magazine Issue 122
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Craft blenders...a disappearing art?
The success of Scotch whisky is a story of toil, of hard work, and of skill all mixed in with just a touch of luck. Today we are surrounded by single malt brands whose roots run far back, beyond the licensing of distillation, to a time where local farmers would routinely produce spirit as part of their harvest; this was a time not for brand building, emerging markets or commercial opportunity, but for survival, sustenance and storage.
The strong, white spirit produced by these farmers moved from an agricultural product and into the realm of luxury when it was discovered that the flavour of the spirit improved from time spent resting in an oak barrel; more so in barrels that once held French brandy or Spanish sherry. From this point on, aged whisky became sought-after and highly desirable (such as King George IV asking for a dram of Glenlivet-style whisky when arriving in Scotland in 1822).
Yet it was the same challenge for those taking whisky from a single cask from the first day maturation was realised, through to the present day: delivering consistency, a challenge embraced by the entrepreneurs of the 1800s, adapting their experience in blending teas and spices to vat together mature whisky. Aided by the arrival of the Patent Still and grain whisky production, what we now know as blend, was born.
Blended Scotch whisky was left to the shopkeepers of the day and such famous names as Alexander Walker and John Dewar began to create special blends for their customers, pinpo...