A Tasting of Blends

By Franz Scheurer

 

Despite the recent popularity resurgence of Single Malt whiskies, it’s a fact that Blends account for the bulk of the world’s whisky consumption. Where a Single Malt drinker looks for variety, a Blend drinker revels in consistency, looking for a house style and adopting it.

 

Our panel tasted the following six leading Blends on the market (masked, of course), in alphabetical order:

 

Ballantine's Finest Scotch Whisky

Black Bottle Scotch Whisky 10 y/o

Blue Hanger Scots Whisky 25 y/o

Cutty Sark Scots Whisky

Dewar’s 12 y/o Special Reserve Scotch Whisky

Johnny Walker Gold Label The Centenary Blend 18 y/o

 

The whiskies were ranked, not scored, to prevent a single judge from drastically influencing a score. The winning three, in order were:

 

1)     Black Bottle Scotch Whisky 10 y/o

2)     Johnny Walker Gold Label The Centenary Blend 18 y/o and

3)     Dewar’s 12 y/o Special Reserve Scotch Whisky

 

Black Bottle has been in production since 1879 and although less known, it is a superbly crafted whisky, and it’s available in Australia through the Odd Whisky Coy in Adelaide. Johnny Walker’s market share is phenomenal and we often overlook the Gold Label, which has to be my personal favourite from that stable. The Dewar family knows their whiskies and the 12 y/o must be one of the best value Blends on the market.

 

We congratulate the three winners!

 

Let’s recap the whisky categories:

 

Single Malt: A whisky made from malted barley from one distillery. Blended from a variety of casks.

 

Single Malt, Single Cask:

                   A whisky made from malted barley from one distiller from one cask.

 

Vatted Malt: A whisky made from malted barley from multiple distilleries.

 

 

Single Grain:          A whisky made from grain from one distillery. Blended from a variety of casks.

 

Single Grain, Single Cask:

                   A whisky made from grain from one distillery from one cask.

 

Vatted Grain: A whisky made from grain from multiple distilleries.

 

Blended Whisky: A whisky blended from Grain Whisky and Single Malt Whisky from any number of distilleries.

 

 

Single Malt whisky is distilled in Pot Stills and tends to be rather robust in taste, whereas most Grain Whisky is distilled in much higher capacity Continuous Stills. Grain Whisky tends to be sweeter and more approachable and adds a lightness to Single Malt whisky that is unobtainable using the traditional Pot Still method.