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Blended Malt Whiskey – Everything You Need To Know

Blended malt whisky, formerly known as “vatted malt” or “pure malt,” is a sophisticated and complex spirit that embodies the artistry of Scotch whisky blending. Unlike single malt whisky, which is produced from malted barley at a single distillery, blended malt whisky is crafted by combining two or more single malt whiskies from different distilleries. This process allows master blenders to create a harmonious and balanced whisky that showcases the best qualities of each component malt.

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What is Blended Malt Whisky?

Blended Malt Whiskies are known for their versatility. They can appeal to a wide range of Whisky enthusiasts, from those who appreciate the smoothness of Malt Whisky to those who enjoy exploring nuanced and layered flavors. Some well-known examples of Blended Malt Whisky include Johnnie Walker’s Green Label and Monkey Shoulder.

The blending of different single malts offers a unique opportunity to layer flavors and aromas, resulting in a whisky that can offer a broader and more intricate taste profile than its single malt counterparts. The choice of malts in the blend, their age, and the casks in which they were matured (such as sherry, bourbon, or wine barrels) all play crucial roles in defining the final character of the blended malt whisky.

Blended malt whiskies can range from light and floral to rich and smoky, depending on the characteristics of the malts selected for the blend. This diversity makes blended malt whisky a category that appeals to a wide range of whisky enthusiasts, from those who enjoy delicate and nuanced flavors to those who seek out bold and intense taste experiences.

History of Blended Malt Whisky

The history of blended malt whisky is intertwined with the broader history of Scotch whisky, reflecting the evolution of distilling practices, regulatory changes, and market preferences over time. The key developments in the history of blended malt whisky include:

Early Distilling Practices

Pre-19th Century

Distilling was primarily a small-scale, farm-based activity in Scotland, producing single malt whiskies. These whiskies were often inconsistent in quality and flavor, reflecting the varied distilling practices and local ingredients.

Rise of Blending

Mid-19th Century

The practice of blending malt whiskies from different distilleries began to emerge. Pioneers like Andrew Usher in Edinburgh started blending whiskies to achieve consistency and complexity in flavor. This innovation was crucial in making whisky more palatable and appealing to a broader audience.

Innovation in Grain Whisky

The invention of the continuous still by Aeneas Coffey in the 1830s allowed for the more efficient production of grain whisky. Although not directly related to blended malt whisky, this technological advancement played a significant role in the rise of blended Scotch whisky, which combines malt and grain whiskies.

Legal Recognition and Growth

Scotch Whisky Association (SWA)

The formation of trade bodies like the SWA helped establish legal definitions and standards for Scotch whisky, including distinctions between single malt, blended malt, and blended Scotch whisky.

20th Century

Blended Scotch whisky (a blend of malt and grain whisky) became incredibly popular worldwide, overshadowing single malts and blended malts for much of the century. However, blended malt whisky continued to be produced and appreciated by connoisseurs.

Renaissance of Malt Whisky

Late 20th Century to Present

There has been a resurgence in the popularity of single malt and blended malt whiskies, driven by growing interest in premium, artisanal spirits. Distilleries and brands have been exploring the art of blending malts to create distinctive, high-quality expressions. This period has seen the release of many notable blended malt whiskies that highlight the blender’s craft.

Regulatory Definitions

2009 Scotch Whisky Regulations

These regulations formally defined the categories of Scotch whisky, including single malt, single grain, and blended whisky types (blended malt, blended grain, and blended Scotch whisky). These definitions helped clarify the market and protect the integrity of Scotch whisky.

Throughout its history, blended malt whisky has been appreciated for its ability to offer complex and nuanced flavors. While it may not have the same widespread recognition as single malt or blended Scotch whisky, its production and consumption have been sustained by enthusiasts and connoisseurs who value the craftsmanship involved in blending whiskies from different distilleries to achieve a harmonious and unique product.

Did You Know?

  • Johnnie Walker Green Label was one of the first widely available blended Malt Whiskies. It gained a loyal following for its combination of Malt whisky from various regions of Scotland.
  • Blended Malt Whiskies can include Malt Whiskies from different regions in Scotland, such as Speyside, Islay, Highland, and Lowland. This diversity contributes to their unique flavor profiles.
  • Blended Malt Whiskies aim to provide a consistent flavor profile across batches, making them reliable choices for consumers who enjoy a specific taste.
  • While single malt Whisky is made entirely from malted barley at a single distillery, Blended Malt Whisky combines Malt Whiskies from multiple distilleries, allowing for a broader range of flavors.
  • Many Blended Malt Whisky producers pride themselves on the artistry and craftsmanship in creating their blends, highlighting the meticulous selection and blending process.
  • The practice of blending malt whisky was partly inspired by the techniques used in tea blending. Blenders applied these principles to whisky to achieve consistency and complexity in flavor, much like tea merchants mixed different teas to create signature blends.
  • To qualify as a blended malt Scotch whisky, all component whiskies must be distilled, matured for at least three years in oak barrels, and bottled in Scotland. This ensures that even though blended, the whisky meets the strict standards set for Scotch whisky.
  • Blended malt whisky was once commonly referred to as “vatted malt” or “pure malt,” but the terminology was officially changed to “blended malt” in 2009 by the Scotch Whisky Regulations. This change aimed to clarify the distinction between blends containing both malt and grain whiskies and those made exclusively from malt whiskies.
  •  Some blended malt whiskies undergo a secondary maturation process or ‘finishing’ in barrels that previously held other spirits or wines, such as sherry, port, or rum. This innovative approach introduces additional layers of flavor, adding depth and complexity to the final product.

How Adaptable is Blended Malt Whisky?

Blended malt whisky is highly adaptable, both in its creation and consumption, making it a versatile choice for whisky enthusiasts and newcomers alike. This adaptability stems from the very nature of blending, where the goal is to harmonize flavors from different single malts to create a balanced and complex final product. Here’s how blended malt whisky showcases its adaptability:

In Creation

Flavor Profiles

Blenders have the freedom to craft a wide range of flavor profiles by selecting and combining single malts from various distilleries. This means they can create whiskies that appeal to a broad spectrum of tastes, from light and floral to rich and smoky.

Consistency and Innovation

Blended malt whiskies can achieve a consistent taste year after year, which is challenging for single malts due to the variability of individual casks. Additionally, blenders can experiment with new combinations, introducing innovative flavors to the market.

Cask Finishing

The adaptability extends to cask finishing, where the whisky undergoes additional maturation in previously used barrels (such as sherry, port, or rum casks). This process imparts unique flavors, allowing for even greater diversity in the whisky’s character.

Age Blending

Blenders can mix malts of different ages to achieve the desired depth and complexity. Older whiskies bring richness and character, while younger malts can add freshness and vitality.

In Consumption

Neat, On the Rocks, or Mixed

Blended malt whisky can be enjoyed in a variety of ways—neat, with a bit of water, on the rocks, or as part of a cocktail. Its versatility in flavors makes it a suitable base for both classic and innovative cocktails.

Food Pairing

The diverse flavor profiles of blended malt whiskies make them excellent companions to a wide range of foods. From savory meats to rich desserts, there’s a blended malt to complement every course.

Accessibility

Blended malts offer an accessible entry point for those new to whisky, providing a smoother and sometimes less intimidating introduction than some of the more robust single malts.

Affordability and Premium Options

The category spans a broad price range, from more affordable bottles perfect for everyday enjoyment to premium, aged blends that appeal to collectors and connoisseurs.

The adaptability of blended malt whisky is a testament to the creativity and expertise of the blenders. It enables both producers and consumers to explore the rich tapestry of flavors that Scotch whisky offers, ensuring that there’s a blended malt to suit virtually any palate or occasion.

Blended Malt Whisky Regulations

Whisky regulations for Blended Malt Whisky can vary by country and region. The most comprehensive and well-known regulations are found in Scotland, the home of Scotch Whisky, including Blended Malt Whisky. Here are some key regulations that typically apply to Blended Malt Whisky in Scotland:

Geographical Indication: Scotch Whisky, including Blended Malt Whisky, must be produced in Scotland to carry the “Scotch” designation. This is protected by law.

Ingredients: Blended Malt Whisky must be made primarily from malted barley. Other cereal grains are not allowed in the production of malt Whisky. Water and yeast are also used in the fermentation process.

Distillation: The Whisky must be distilled in pot stills or traditional batch processes, contributing to the unique character of malt Whisky.

Aging: Scotch Whisky must be aged in oak casks for at least three years. The age statement on the label indicates the youngest Whisky in the blend.

Cask Types: The use of oak casks for aging is regulated. The type of oak and previous use of the casks (e.g., sherry, bourbon) can influence the Whisky’s flavor but must meet specific criteria.

Alcohol Content: The Whisky must be distilled to an alcohol content not exceeding 94.8% and bottled at a minimum of 40% alcohol by volume (ABV).

Blending: Blended Malt Whisky is made by blending different Malt Whiskies from various distilleries. Blenders must adhere to specific rules and quality standards when creating blends.

Labeling: The labeling of Blended Malt Whisky must adhere to strict regulations. It should include the Whisky’s name, alcohol content, and volume and may include an age statement.

Coloring and Additives: Adding artificial coloring and flavorings is prohibited in Scotch Whisky, including Blended Malt Whisky. The Whisky should derive its color and flavor solely from the aging process.

Protected Terms: Certain terms, such as “Single Malt,” “Single Malt Scotch,” or “Pure Malt,” have specific meanings and are protected by regulations. These terms indicate that the Whisky is made exclusively from malted barley at a single distillery.

What are the Ingredients in Blended Malt Whisky?

Blended malt whisky, also known as “pure malt” or “vatted malt,” is a type of Scotch whisky that contains a blend of different single malt whiskies from multiple distilleries. The ingredients in blended malt whisky are quite straightforward, reflecting the traditional and natural approach to whisky production in Scotland. Here are the key ingredients:

  • Malted barley
  • Yeast
  • Water

Since blended malt whisky is a mix of single malts from different distilleries, the specific character and flavor profile of the final product will depend on the combination of whiskies chosen by the blender. Each single malt included in the blend brings its unique characteristics, influenced by factors such as the distillation process, the type of casks used for aging, and the length of time the whisky matures. Blended malt whiskies do not contain any grain whisky (which is made from grains other than malted barley) — this distinguishes them from blended Scotch whiskies, which can include both single malts and grain whiskies.

What are the Tools Used to Make Blended Malt Whisky?

The production of blended malt whisky involves several key tools and equipment, integral to the whisky-making process. Since blended malt whisky is a combination of single malts from different distilleries, the tools used can vary slightly from distillery to distillery, but the core process remains consistent. Here are the main tools and equipment used in the production stages of the single malts that go into a blended malt whisky:

  • Malt Mill
  • Mash Tun
  • Fermentation Tanks/Vats
  • Stills
  • Spirit Safe
  • Casks
  • Blending Vat
  • Bottling Line

How is Blended Malt Whisky Made?

The process of making blended malt whisky involves several steps, combining traditional whisky-making techniques with the art of blending. Unlike blended Scotch whisky, which can include both malt and grain whiskies, blended malt whisky is composed exclusively of single malt whiskies from multiple distilleries. Here’s an overview of the process:

Production of Single Malt Whiskies

Each single malt whisky in the blend goes through the traditional production process, which includes:

Malting

Barley is soaked in water, allowed to germinate, and then dried in a kiln, often with peat to impart flavor.

Milling

The dried malt is ground into a coarse powder known as a grist.

Mashing

The grist is mixed with hot water in a mash tun, converting the starches into sugars to produce a sugary liquid called wort.

Fermentation

The wort is cooled and transferred to fermentation vessels, where yeast is added. The yeast ferments the sugars into alcohol, creating a beer-like liquid called wash.

Distillation

The wash is heated in copper pot stills. The alcohol vapors condense into a liquid called “new make spirit.” This process is usually done twice (double distillation).

Aging

The new make spirit is aged in oak casks for a minimum of three years. The interaction with the oak casks adds flavor, color, and complexity to the whisky.

Blending

After the single malt whiskies have been produced and aged, they are ready to be blended.

Selection

A master blender selects various single malts based on their flavor profiles, with the goal of achieving a consistent and desired taste for the blended malt whisky.

Blending

The selected single malts are carefully measured and mixed in a blending vat. The proportions are crucial and depend on the desired flavor profile of the final product.

Marrying

After blending, the whisky may undergo a marrying process, where the blend is left to age further in casks for several months. This allows the flavors of the different single malts to integrate and harmonize.

Dilution and Bottling

Before bottling, the blended malt whisky is often diluted to the desired strength using water. It may also be chill-filtered to remove impurities and ensure clarity. Finally, the whisky is bottled and labeled for sale.

The skill of the master blender is crucial in the blending process, as they must understand how different single malts will interact and complement each other. The goal is to create a balanced and complex blended malt whisky that maintains a consistent profile batch after batch despite the natural variations in the individual single malts.

How is Blended Malt Whisky Different from Others?

Blended Malt Whisky is distinct from other types of whiskies, such as Single Malt Scotch, Blended Scotch Whisky, Bourbon, and Rye, primarily in composition and production. Here are some key differences that set Blended Malt Whisky apart:

Composition

Blended Malt Whisky

Blended Malt Whisky is made by blending multiple Malt Whiskies, all distilled exclusively from malted barley and typically produced at different distilleries. It does not contain any grain Whisky. Blending Malt Whiskies aims to create a product with a specific flavor profile.

Single Malt Scotch

Single Malt Scotch is made from 100% malted barley and produced at a single distillery. It is not blended with Whisky from other distilleries or grain Whisky.

Blended Scotch Whisky

Blended Scotch Whisky combines malt Whisky (malted barley) with grain Whisky (made from other grains like corn or wheat). It can include whiskies from various distilleries to achieve a balanced flavor.

Bourbon

Bourbon is primarily made from corn (at least 51% corn), with the remainder being a combination of other grains like rye and barley. It’s produced in the United States and has distinct regulations governing its production.

Rye Whisky

Rye Whisky is made from at least 51% rye grain and can include other grains like corn and barley. It has a unique flavor profile and is commonly produced in the United States and Canada.

Production Process

Blended Malt Whisky involves the art of blending, where whiskies from different distilleries are combined to create a harmonious and complex flavor profile. The skill lies in selecting and combining whiskies that complement and enhance each other.

Single Malt and Single Grain Whiskies are characterized by their production within a single distillery, reflecting the unique characteristics of that distillery’s location, distillation process, and maturation conditions.

Blended Scotch Whisky requires a balancing act between the lighter grain whiskies and the more robust malt whiskies to achieve a consistent and appealing flavor profile that can appeal to a broad audience.

Flavor Profile

Blended Malt Whisky offers a complex and nuanced flavor profile, combining the characteristics of the individual malt whiskies. This can lead to a wide range of tasting notes, from light and floral to rich and peaty, depending on the malts selected.

Single Malt Whisky typically expresses the distinct flavors and terroir of its distillery of origin, which can vary widely across different regions of Scotland and other whisky-producing countries.

Blended Scotch Whisky is generally designed to have a more consistent and approachable flavor profile, with the grain whisky often softening the more potent characteristics of the malt whiskies.

Single-grain whisky tends to have a lighter and milder flavor profile compared to single malt, making it a versatile component in blended whiskies but less commonly found as a standalone product.

Tasting Notes

Blended Malt Whisky often aims to achieve a harmonious and complex flavor profile by blending Malt Whiskies with different characteristics. The resulting taste can vary widely, ranging from light and fruity to rich and smoky, depending on the selection of Malt Whiskies used in the blend.

Single Malt Scotch has a distinct flavor profile that reflects the characteristics of the specific distillery, region, and aging process.

Blended Scotch Whisky may have a more balanced and approachable flavor, often with a milder malt influence due to the inclusion of grain Whisky.

Bourbon and rye whiskies have unique flavor profiles, with bourbon often showcasing sweetness and rye Whisky offering spiciness.

Types of Blended Malt Whisky

Blended Malt Whisky encompasses diverse expressions with unique flavor profiles and characteristics. While the possibilities are vast, here are some common types and categories of Blended Malt Whisky:

Regional Blended Malts

These blends are crafted using Malt Whiskies from a particular Whisky-producing region in Scotland, such as Speyside, Islay, Highland, or Lowland. Regional blends showcase the typical flavors and characteristics of that region’s malt Whisky.

Age-Statement Blended Malts

These blends include Malt Whiskies with a specific age statement on the label, indicating the minimum age of the youngest Whisky in the blend. Examples include 10-year-old, 12-year-old, or older age statements.

Non-Age-Statement (NAS) Blended Malts

NAS blends do not carry an age statement but may include Malt Whiskies of varying ages to achieve a desired flavor profile. Blenders have flexibility in creating unique expressions without the constraint of age.

Peated Blended Malts 

These blends feature Malt Whiskies that have been dried with peat smoke during the malting process, resulting in smoky and earthy flavor characteristics. Islay is famous for its peated malts; some blended malts incorporate Islay Whisky.

Sherry Cask Blended Malts

Blends prominently feature Malt Whiskies aged in sherry-seasoned oak casks. Sherry cask maturation imparts rich, fruity, nutty, and sometimes spicy notes to the Whisky.

Wine Cask Finished Blended Malts

These blends undergo a finishing period in wine casks, such as those previously used for port, sherry, or other wines. The additional maturation in wine casks adds unique wine-influenced flavors to the Whisky.

Cask Strength Blended Malts

These blends are bottled at their natural cask strength, often without dilution, resulting in higher alcohol content. Cask strength expressions offer a more intense and unadulterated Whisky experience.

Limited Edition and Special Releases

Some Blended Malt Whisky producers release limited edition or special releases, including unique combinations of Malt Whiskies, innovative cask finishes, or older and rarer components.

Historical or Revival Blended Malts

Some blends are created to pay homage to historical Whisky recipes or to revive discontinued Whisky brands. These blends often aim to capture the essence of a bygone era.

Signature or Distillery Blended Malts

These blends feature Malt Whiskies from a single distillery, showcasing the house style and character of that specific distillery’s products.

Experimental and Innovative Blended Malts

Some blenders and distillers create experimental or innovative blended malt expressions, pushing the boundaries of flavor and aging techniques to produce unique and unconventional whiskies.

Buy Blended Malt Whisky Online

Compass Box

Compass Box is known for its innovative approach to blending Whisky, including blended malt expressions like “Spice Tree” and “Peat Monster.” They have a reputation for producing high-quality and unique blended Malt Whiskies.

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Johnnie Walker (Green Label)

Johnnie Walker Green Label is a Blended Malt Whisky that has gained recognition for its balanced and approachable flavor profile. It’s a combination of Malt Whiskies from various distilleries.

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Monkey Shoulder

Monkey Shoulder is a blended malt Scotch Whisky made from a combination of three Speyside single malts. It’s known for its smooth and accessible character, making it a popular cocktail choice.

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Naked Grouse

Naked Grouse is another blended malt Scotch Whisky incorporating Malt Whiskies from different regions. It’s known for its rich and fruity flavor profile.

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The Six Isles

The Six Isles is a Blended Malt Whisky that combines single malts from six different Scottish islands, each contributing unique flavors and characteristics to the final product.

Douglas Laing’s Remarkable Malts

Douglas Laing is an independent bottler that produces a range of blended Malt Whiskies under their Remarkable Malts series. These bottlings often showcase the diversity of flavors in Scotch Whisky.

The Gauldrons

The Gauldrons is another blended malt from Douglas Laing, which combines Malt Whiskies from Campbeltown distilleries, known for their maritime influence.

Other brands you might like sipping are: 

  • Sheep Dip
  • Rock Oyster
  • Scallywag
  • Timorous Beastie
  • Johnnie Walker (Double Black)
  • Wemyss Malts
  • The Lost Distillery- Gerston
  • Dimple Pinch
  • Blue Hanger
  • Poit Dhub

Blended Malt Whisky Cocktails

Blended Malt Whisky is a versatile spirit that can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or in various cocktails. Here are five recipe variations that showcase the unique flavors of Blended Malt Whisky:

Classic Whisky Sour

Ingredients 

  • 2 oz Blended Malt Whisky
  • 3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup (or adjust to taste)
  • Lemon twist or cherry for garnish
  • Ice
  • Optional: Egg white (for a frothy texture, about half an egg white)
  • Optional: Angostura bitters (a dash for garnish)
  • Optional: Cherry and/or lemon twist (for garnish)

Instructions 

Shake the Whisky, lemon juice, and simple syrup with ice. Strain into a rock glass filled with ice. Garnish with a lemon twist or cherry.

Rob Roy

Ingredients 

  • 2 oz Blended Malt Whisky
  • 3/4 oz sweet vermouth
  • Dash of Angostura bitters
  • Maraschino cherry for garnish

Instructions 

Stir the Whisky, sweet vermouth, and bitters with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

Rusty Nail

Ingredients 

  • 2 oz Blended Malt Whisky
  • 1/2 oz Drambuie (a honey-sweetened Scotch liqueur)
  • Lemon twist for garnish

Instructions 

Pour the Blended Malt Whisky and Drambuie into a rocks glass filled with ice. Stir gently. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Blood and Sand

Ingredients 

  • 3/4 oz Blended Malt Whisky
  • 3/4 oz sweet vermouth
  • 3/4 oz orange juice
  • 3/4 oz blood orange juice
  • Orange twist for garnish

Instructions 

Shake all the ingredients with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

Whisky Highball

Ingredients 

  • 2 oz Blended Malt Whisky
  • 4-6 oz sparkling water (club soda)
  • Ice
  • Lemon or lime wedge for garnish (optional)

Instructions 

Fill a highball glass with ice. Pour the Blended Malt Whisky over the ice. Top up with sparkling water. Stir gently and garnish with a lemon or lime wedge if desired.

Penicillin

A modern classic that combines the smoky notes of blended malt with the zesty freshness of lemon and ginger.

Ingredients

  • 2 oz blended malt whisky
  • 3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 oz honey-ginger syrup
  • 1/4 oz Islay single malt whisky (for the smoky top layer)
  • Candied ginger for garnish

Method

Shake the blended malt whisky, lemon juice, and honey-ginger syrup with ice. Strain into a rock glass filled with ice. Float the Islay whisky on top by pouring it over the back of a spoon. Garnish with candied ginger.

The Modern Highlander

A contemporary cocktail that highlights the herbal and fruity notes of blended malt whisky.

Ingredients

  • 2 oz blended malt whisky
  • 1 oz St. Germain (elderflower liqueur)
  • 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 2 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters
  • Sparkling water

Method

Shake the whisky, St. Germain, lemon juice, and bitters with ice. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass, top with sparkling water, and gently stir.

These cocktail recipes offer a range of flavors and styles for enjoying Blended Malt Whisky. Adjust ingredient ratios to suit your taste preferences, and always enjoy responsibly. Cheers!!

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