Saturday, January 2, 2010

Blended Scotch

A great article from Dave Nelson of Beer Wine and Whisky on the blended scotch....

In Praise of Blended Scotch
From Beer Wine and Whisky

"I was going to title this post “In defense of blended Scotch” but when you look at the sales figures at least, blended Scotch needs no defense from me as blends make up 90% or so of the Scotch sold in the world. But, when it comes to folks who style themselves “serious” about Scotch whisky, blends are ignored, if not downright reviled.
Personally, I love a good blend. In fact, my consumption is probably at least 2:1 blends to single malts. So in the interest of getting other malt fans to give them a shot, here are a few of the things I love about a good blend, as well as some recommended blends to try.
One of my favorite things about a good blend is the “bite” it has. This is particularly true of young blends, which is what I tend to favor because they have this punchy element. A good young blend is the whisky equivalent of an extremely hoppy beer, or tannic red wine - there is just so much vitality there that it’s hard for me not to get excited. I think this character is generally the result of the relative youth of the whiskies used to make most blends, and as someone whose palate skews away from oak influence, young whisky is something I tend to prefer.
The other main selling point about blends for me is the complexity that’s possible. Sure, a fine Springbank or Glenmorangie is a complex whisky, but the sheer variety of whiskies available to blenders opens up a staggering potential, and allows the use of malt whiskies that might not be compelling on their own to add a much-needed voice to a choir.
So, what do I drink when it comes to blends? Here are a few favorites.
For the Islay lover, I highly recommend getting your hands on
Islay Mist. This blend features a hearty dose of young Laphroaig, in all of its peaty loveliness, but with very little oak influence at all due to its youth. Backing this up is a rich, plush bed of grain whisky that wraps the Laphroaig in a velvety, long, lingering finish. It’s a great ride, and I drink more of this than any other whisky. It costs all of $18 a bottle.
Another favorite is
Teacher’s. This is a more Highland-style, though it does have an underlying smokiness from a healthy dose of Ardmore. It is much more of a malt bomb than Islay Mist, but a firm backbone of grain whisky keeps it from getting diffuse in the mouth. Amazing length, and criminally under-priced at about $15 a bottle.
Less ubiquitous than Teacher’s, but almost as compelling is White Horse. This is another Islay-led blend that used to employ Lagavulin as its signature malt, but since the popularity of
Lagavulin went through the roof (and maybe before . . .), the oily richness of Caol Ila has been the star here, though some Lagavulin still makes it into the blend. Firm grain again gives steel to this blend, and makes for a long, busy finish. A lot of fun for $15 a bottle.
Finally, the least surprising rec on this list and the one most malt drinkers are likely to admit to having on their shelf is
Johnny Walker Black label. This is a truly seamless but busy blend where starring malts are not apparent, yet the whole is much more than the sum of its components. It is an incredibly complex drink, and I haven’t had too many single malts that I enjoy as much as a good bottle of JWB. About $28 a bottle.
As you probably noted, though I think of it more as a bonus than anything, blends are bargains compared to single malts. I find the best stand on their own as great whiskies, but when you compare them to single malts on the basis of value it’s no contest at all." -- Dave Nelson, Beer Wine and Whisky

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