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Issue 138 - The Art of Blending

Whisky Magazine Issue 138
September 2016


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The Art of Blending

The combination of malt and grain whiskies

It's always good to begin with the parameters. Blends can comprise numerous malt and grain whiskies. But rather than focusing on the number of component whiskies, or the proportion of malt and grain whiskies, looking at how they can work together also helps to explain the result they create.

“Grain whisky creates a foundation of flavour, and that flavour is hugely important, if you changed one grain whisky in a blend it would be noticeably different, that's why I say grain whisky defines the style of the blend, and malt whisky adds the nuances, such as fruit,” says Brian Kinsman, Master Blender, William Grant & Sons.

Blenders have a broad range of whisky styles to draw upon, which can be classified stylistically, in terms of the key flavour, such as fruity or smokey.

The type of cask used provides another way of classifying whiskies, whether aged in sherry casks (which contribute dried fruit notes including raisins and a rich sweetness), or Bourbon barrels (adding vanilla and a lighter sweetness).

A further sub-division is whether the whisky has been aged in a first, second or third fill cask, referring to the number of times the cask has been used to age a malt or grain whisky. The influence of the cask diminishes with each successive fill, and different fills provide a broad range of whiskies to draw upon. “Different fills are hugely important, there's a step change in flavour each time, and it can be a great advantage to use milder flavours in order to giv...

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