The list of iconic Blended Scotch whiskies is a large one, and a significant chunk of the worldwide Scotch whisky sales happen to be blended Scotch whiskies. Not to take away anything from single malts but the rich depth of flavors and immensely complex drinks that blended Scotches are, we understand why they are in such huge demand.
Brands such as Chivas Regal, Ballantine’s, Johnnie Walker, 100 Pipers and many other Blended Scotch whisky makers have conquered bar shelves in countries throughout the globe.
But what does a Blended Scotch whisky mean; and how are they different from single malts, and single grain whiskies? Are they the same as blended malt whiskies? Let us dispel all the rumors, clear all your doubts, and put you on the Scotch whisky enlightenment path so that the next time you down a few drams, you will have a treasure chests worth of knowledge to spread around.
A blended Scotch whisky is a blend of single malt, and single grain whiskies, a marriage of spirits, that was legally prohibited until the Spirits Act of 1860 relaxed these restrictions, and allowed whisky blenders and merchants to unlock new possibilities in the world of whisky making.
Pioneers in the blended Scotch whisky world, the Chivas Brothers were one of the first whisky makers to seize this opportunity with both hands, and create some of their finest proprietary blends. Other blenders such as the Alec Walker and Alexander Walker II, beneficiaries and builders of the Johnnie Walker brand, soon followed suit.
Over the years, the blended Scotch whisky market began to gain phenomenal traction, from which arose the need to legally define the parameters for a whisky to be called Scotch whisky, and thus, the parameters for a Blended Scotch whisky too, were laid out.
In order for a whisky to earn the title of a Scotch whisky, it must be distilled, matured and bottled in the country of Scotland. Whether it’s a single malt, or a single grain whisky, it must embark on its journey from malting to bottling in Scotland for a period no less than three years.
Scotch whisky must be aged in Oak barrels and bottled at a minimum alcoholic strength of 40%, without the addition of any flavoring or coloring except food-grade caramel coloring.
Now for Blended Scotch whiskies, they can be a mixture of any number of source whiskies, and there are no limitations on that. When a single malt whisky, and a single grain whisky are married together, the liquid is then legally referred to as a Blended Scotch whisky.
Similarly, if only two or more single malt whiskies are blended together, it would be referred to as a ‘Blended Malt Whisky’; whereas a blend of two or more single grain whiskies would be known as a ‘Blended Grain Whisky’.
Misconceptions and flawed notions of the superiority of single malts were soon beginning to fade in the minds of consumers after they had a chance to savor some meticulously blended liquids that redefined what opulence meant.
Expressions such as the Chivas Regal 25, often credited as the world’s first luxury whisky, the Johnnie Walker core range of blended whiskies and others took the world by storm. They began to establish a loyal fan base for blended Scotch whiskies all over the world, inspiring more and more whisky makers to take up whisky blending and deliver rich, complex drinks.
Chivas Regal, Ballantine’s, Johnnie Walker, Teacher’s, 100 Pipers and many other blended scotch whisky brands are some of the most voluminously sold whiskies worldwide, and in some countries, outnumber the sale of single malt whiskies altogether.
New techniques, and many other whimsical changes in the blending process have allowed brands to experiment and present breathtaking expressions to the whisky lovers. Finishing the blended product in special casks, blending a number of whiskies from different region to retain their individual characteristics and other such activities have really diversified the blended Scotch whisky segment with drinks that are truly exquisite and unique in nature.