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Issue 60 - Dial B for blends

Whisky Magazine Issue 60
November 2006


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Dial B for blends

In the second of our ‘back to basics'guides Dominic Roskrow looks at the letter B and in particular blends

If there is one word purpose-built to confuse newcomers to whisky, it's the word ‘blend.' This has always been the case but it has become even more so now that the whisky industry has adopted a new descriptor which uses the word.

The trouble with the word ‘blend' is that it is used as a technical descriptor to define specific types of whisky, but it is also used loosely and misleadingly to describe other production processes in whisky.

The dictionary definition refers directly to whisky: “to mix together to produce a desired flavour; to produce by this method (blended whisky); to form a harmonious compound; to mingle or be mingled; a mixture.” Now let's define the two terms that refer to ‘blend' in whisky.

1. A blended whisky is a whisky containing single malt whiskies mixed with whisky made with another grain. So you make malt whisky, you make grain whisky, and you blend them together.

2. A blended MALT whisky is a mix of single malt whiskies from different distilleries.

This is a new industry term for vatted malts.

That's it. Relatively straightforward.

Problem is, other styles of whisky can be explained by the use of the word ‘blend' when it's used in the dictionary sense of the word.

For instance, the Irish produce a whiskey known as pure pot still whiskey. This is how Michael Jackson describes it in his classic book Whisky: The Definitive World Guide: “The pot stills are charged with a wash made from a blend of raw and malted barley. This is pot sti...

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