In Praise of Blended Whisky

Blended Scotch Whisky is the solid foundation on which all whisky, not just Scotch, stands. If it was not for the incredible success of the major blended whisky brands have had over the past 50 years, today’s Scotch malt whiskies may never have reached the prominence they now have.

Blended Scotch Whiskies have a different flavour profile to single malts, but the range of flavours and ages is still wide. Blended whisky offers no less a drinking experience just a different experience. Blended whisky is a mixture of grain whisky and malt whisky, usually the grain whisky is the largest proportion of the blend, between 60% and 80%. The grain whisky will be made from a mixture of non-malted cereal and malted barley. It will be distilled using the continuous column distillation method. The grain whisky, which will have a lighter flavour, will have been matured for the same length of time as the malt whisky in the blend. Scotch Grain Whisky must comply in all respects with the definition of Scotch Whisky. A 12-year blend will contain both grain and malt whisky that has been matured for no less than 12 years.

The vast majority of malt whisky distilleries in Scotland rely heavily on blended whisky sales to keep them operating. The use of their malt whisky in blended whisky allows the distillery to lay down some malt for sale as the single malt. This is true of InchDairnie Distillery also but at InchDairnie our approach is different. At most distilleries, the malt whisky they produce for the blends and for the single malt is the same whisky. Some distilleries will exchange their malt whiskies for others but call it a different name to protect the single malt brand.

At InchDairnie we produce a different style of malt whisky specifically for blending, the Strathenry. The Strathenry is not made from Fife Barley but British barley, it is fermented using cream distillers yeast only, the still cut points are different and it is produced throughout the year. The Strathenry is produced with the same care and attention to detail as all our other whiskies. Here, consistency of style is extremely important.

At InchDairnie we produce for our partner company MacDuff International all of their blended whiskies. To do this we exchange with other distillers our Strathenry single malt for some of their makes of single malts and for some of their grain whiskies. We do these exchanges when the spirit is new. We send out the Strathenry in tankers and take tankers into our warehouses here at InchDairnie, with other new makes of whiskies. Just like all of our InchDairnie Single Malt, all these whiskies are matured here at InchDairnie until we make up the blends ready for bottling.

Once the Strathenry is exchanged, the whisky is no longer ours and we have no control over the wood policy used for the maturation or how long it is matured. The Strathenry is a blending malt so the wood it is matured in will have an impact on the final quality.

This way of trading whiskies is as old as blended whiskies, and it is very much part of the traditional business undertaken between distillers.