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Issue 9 - The gentle art of blending

Whisky Magazine Issue 9
April 2000


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The gentle art of blending

Blended whiskies are too often dismissed as the poor relation of single malts, but as Dr Jim Swan reveals, their creation is extraordinarily complex.

Attractive though they may be, it is not the single malts that have created the enormous success of Scotch that has taken place since the 1950s – that has been the domain of the blended whiskies. Nevertheless, single malt whiskies are at the core of all successful Scotch blends. So how are these highly successful blended whiskies created? What ‘rules' have to be followed to create a good blend? What are the practical problems that arise?

The art of blending is not unique to Scotch whisky, of course. Similar skills can be found throughout industries that are involved in making products to appeal to the senses; the production of tea and coffee and the perfumery industry are two examples. Experts, blenders in these industries, use techniques to enhance and create complexity in their products. The same theory applies in all; the differences are practical ones. In the whisky industry blenders must take into account the practical problems of constructing their product. They have to live with cost constraints, the need to ensure that the necessary stock will be in the warehouses when needed and there is the very real requirement to maintain quality and consistency in an ever-changing world.

The blended complex.
Every product that we smell or taste is made up two parts, firstly the part that enables us to recognise the product – for example a Scotch whisky or a white wine, and secondly, the part that gives individual products their own unique identity. In the whisky example...

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