Blended Whiskey: Beyond the Bottom ShelfBy Stephanie Moreno
We’ve given you rundowns on single malt, single grain, and blended malt whiskeys. Now we are ready to tackle blended whiskey. We’ll go over some of the basics on its production and also provide a few suggestions for which ones to add to your home bar.
WHAT IS BLENDED WHISKEY?
Blended whiskey must:
– be comprised of both single malt(s) and single grain(s) whiskeys
– if Scotch or Irish, must be aged for at least three years
– if Irish, can include single pot still whiskey in the blend
Blended whiskey is most often made in Scotland, Ireland, and Japan, but it can be made anywhere.
Blended American Whiskey: A Whole ‘Nother Story
One thing to note is that blended American whiskey is a very different thing. That category’s rules are that straight whiskey or straight whiskeys must comprise at least 20% of the blend—straight whiskey is whiskey that is aged for at least two years in charred, new oak barrels. The exception is for straight corn whiskey, which must be aged in either used charred oak barrels or un-charred new oak.
Once you have the 20% straight whiskey minimum, the rest of the whiskey can be comprised of whiskey of any type or a grain neutral spirit, or a combination of the two. Traditionally speaking, blended American whiskey is not given much regard. Many consider it to be whiskey flavored vodka. Its most known product is Seagram’s 7. This category, however, has gotten a fresh jolt with a couple of exciting new products such as Jim Beam’s Little Book and Woodford Reserve’s Blended Rye Whiskey. Keep your eyes and mind open for gems such as these.
Blended Whiskey: Not Just for the Bottom Shelf
Yes, the most common (and relatively inexpensive) whiskeys comprise this category. Brands you will likely be familiar with are Jameson, Cutty Sark, and Johnnie Walker Red to name just a few. There is certainly a time and a place for these whiskeys, and they are great introductions to the category. I personally like to enjoy them as a sidecar next to a pint of beer.
My advice is to try everything. If you’ve haven’t had a whiskey sitting on the back bar, no time like the present to give it a go. But there are also many fine blended whiskeys—even occasionally with older age statements of 18 years and beyond—to be found. These are treats worthy of your home bar. Below we’ve listed some of our favorites. Prices listed are average retail prices in the US.
Another blended whiskey to include single pot still whiskey, this time blended with single malt whiskey. This bottling shows breakfast-like flavors with grains, apples, and a dollop of honey. $35
This bottling from Tullamore includes three different types of whiskey, hence the name. Single malt, single grain and single pot still all comprise this whiskey. It also has a trio of barrel types for maturation—bourbon, oloroso sherry, and rum—utilized for its 15 years of aging. This provides for a sweet whiskey with dried fruit flavors. $80
Launched in the summer of 2016, this release has created quite the stir, pun intended. Suntory’s Chief Blender Shinji Fukuyo has put the focus on single malt whisky from their Hakushu distillery to blend with their Chita grain whisky. The result is a versatile blended whisky which can be sipped, served on the rocks, or in a highball cocktail. $43
Also known as Gold Signature, this is arguably one of the best values for blended Scotch whisky. Introduced in 1997, this 18 year old whisky includes over 20 malt whiskies most prominently from Strathisla. A complex whisky showing flavors of baked apples, dark chocolate, and gentle spices. $70
Created by master blender, Stephanie MacLeod, this is blend of malt and grain whiskies aged at least 25 years. The blended whisky was transferred to freshly-emptied Royal Brackla single malt barrels to finish the maturation process. This bottling replaces the discontinued Signature from Dewar’s. Although that blend featured 27 year-old single malt, it should be noted, that marque did not have an age statement. This one does. $225
Ready to find your favorite blend?