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Issue 49 - Mixing it!

Whisky Magazine Issue 49
July 2005


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Mixing it!

Does the art of blending vary with the size of the operation? Richard Jones talks to John Glaser of Compass Box and John Ramsay of The Famous Grouse

They may share a common name, but the contrast between the two Johns could barely be greater.

The first, John Ramsay, is master blender for the Famous Grouse: the world's seventh largest selling whisky, the most popular Scotch whisky in Scotland and a brand with a heritage stretching back to 1896; a man personally responsible for more than 30 million bottles of whisky sold in over 100 countries every year.

The second, John Glaser, is whisky maker for Compass Box Whiskies, US born and bred; he began blending whisky in his own kitchen in Kew before setting up his company in 2000. And a man who, while he might produce extremely fine, multi awardwinning whiskies, is, it's fair to say, responsible for considerably fewer than 30 million bottles.

The question was a simple one. Despite occupying widely disparate ends of the whisky industry spectrum, do the skills involved in blending a whisky remain the same for each of them?

Whether it be a traditional blended whisky (a mixture of malt whiskies and grain whiskies, as it was defined before recent attempts to ‘clarify' whisky labelling in Scotland) or a blend of malt whiskies (or in old money, ‘vatted malt'), does the art, the science, the practical implications involved in combining a number of different whisky components into a unified whole change as you move from David to Goliath, from little to extremely large indeed?

I began by asking the two Johns, little and large, for their philosophy and approach to blending whisky....

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