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Issue 50 - Magic in the mix

Whisky Magazine Issue 50
September 2005


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Magic in the mix

Why is it that the reverence for single malts can turn into disappointment, or disdain,when single malts are mixed together? Is this based on knowing what blending can achieve,or just unenlightened prejudice?

Let's start our evaluation of the category with a typical definition, that the resulting complexity exceeds the individual components of a vatted malt (I use this term in this article because it is not yet outlawed).

But with various single malts renowned for complexity, cynics assume vatted malts comprise simpler whiskies that rely on each other to create excitement.

“Many people appear to misinterpret vatted malts, they think it's for using up the left-overs, but I can assure you the same dedication goes into preparing them as a single malt or blended whisky. It's not a case of hiding anything, which is an insult to blenders, and it's our reputation that's on the line. We wouldn't produce a vatted malt unless we thought it was of a high quality,” says Whyte & Mackay's Richard Paterson.

Robert Hicks of Allied Distillers continues, “You've got to have the right malts of the right age from the right casks. You build a vatted malt, with a base of lighter malts, then add more heavyweights with fruity, smoky notes.

Quite a few heavyweights don't work well together, you need lighter malts to moderate these flavours.” Moreover, apart from single cask bottlings, single malts are also a vatting (albeit from one distillery), gaining complexity from a combination of cask types and often various ages of malt.

What a vatted malt offers depends on what blenders want the component whiskies to achieve, integration or individuality.

“I don't want consumers to pick up individu...

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