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Issue 137 - Marrying Malts

Whisky Magazine Issue 137
July 2016


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Marrying Malts

Selecting the right casks for blending

Marrying malts is a culmination of the production process, when casks of mature malt whiskies are blended, and water can then be added to adjust the alcoholic strength ready for bottling. This may seem an entirely pragmatic stage. However, in addition to the skill and experience of the master blender, certain precautions are also required to ensure a successful (and very happy) marriage.

The first stage is for the master blender to select the casks required to bottle a batch of a particular expression, such as a 12 years old, and every batch must of course maintain the established flavour profile. However, every cask has an individual influence on the maturing malt whisky. Even casks of the same type, which are filled on the same day, and then aged next to each other in the same warehouse for the same length of time can show differences. These may be very subtle differences, but they can also be significant. Moreover, blending malts from various casks also results in interaction between them, which sees some characteristics promoted while others are relegated.

“Selecting the right casks is absolutely vital, and we sample every single cask before deciding whether it will enable us to create a final product that is consistent. I'd be too scared not to sample every cask, in case a batch went wrong,” says Gordon Motion, Master Whisky Maker at the
Edrington Group.

Once selected, casks can be emptied into a trough, from where the malts are pumped into a marrying vat (large ...

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