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Issue 27 - Hey, big blender

Whisky Magazine Issue 27
November 2002


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Hey, big blender

Marcin Miller visits Colin Scott, Master Blender at Chiva Brothers to learn about the subtle art of alchemy

Let's avoid the stuff you all know about already. The stuff about blending being the backbone of the industry, that blending accounts for up to 95% (estimates vary) of total whisky sales and so on. You know all that because you read Whisky Magazine and we take every opportunity available to remind you of these salient points.

I'm in Colin Scott's blending laboratory. Here Colin re-pilots every Chivas Brothers blend every year. He works to a formula by make, by cask type and by cask size. This is to ensure the consistency that enthusiasts expect from their blends. It is also where new blends and special projects begin.

Let's get down to the bones of it. In front of me are nine new make spirits; two grains and seven malts. All are reduced to 20% abv. Whenever I have had the good fortune to assess fresh distillate, it is always in isolation. By which I mean there is no frame of reference. Under those circumstances, of course, one's impression of one new make is pretty much like any other. You have expectations along the lines of: “I've nosed fresh distillate before so I know exactly what to expect.”

The goal posts shift a little when you have nine of the little beauties in front of you, albeit reduced. The grain whiskies are distinctive; one sweet, clean and light whilst the other is heavier and more vegetal. And the malts manifest such different characters that it is easy to see why we all get carried away by the finished, bottled product. Five of the samples are from S...

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