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Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
Blended Malts are a category I’ve covered extensively on this website. They offer all the depth and complexity of single malts, yet often come without the price tag associated with the most reputable distilleries. The practice of blending malt whiskies together has been around as long as blending itself. Often given lofty (and likely inaccurate) names like the Godfather of blending, Andrew Usher combined different samples of Glenlivet whisky to create his Old Vatted Glenlivet in 1853, though the practice had surely been going on before then.
The category of the Blended malt was defined in the Scotch Whisky Regulations of 2009, replacing previously used terms like vatted or pure malt. This came about, at least in part, thanks to an issue with Diageo’s Cardhu brand. Cardhu is a distillery in Speyside. Such was the success of its single malt, the owners were unable to keep up with demand. Rather than lose out on sales, they decided to change the recipe and include spirit produced elsewhere. The label was altered to say “Pure Malt” as opposed to “Single Malt” but otherwise remained the same. Complaints were made, and Diageo was forced to backtrack. As a result, vatted or pure malt was confined to the history books and it became illegal to put a distillery name on a label unless the entirety of the bottle’s contents had been produced there.
Whilst no doubt protecting the integrity of single malt whiskies, I’m not sure it did “Blended” Malts much good. By this point, decades of single malt marketing has convinced a significant proportion of whisky drinkers that any bottle sporting the B-word is significantly inferior to their luxury, premium product. Now I will happily admit that the blended malt cannot match the romance and provenance of the single malt – oftentimes the origin of the spirit is left unsaid – but in terms of smell, aroma, character and depth, there is no difference between the two. Let’s simplify the situation by saying Macallan is a great single malt. So is Highland Park. If a bottle is 50% one and 50% the other, does it suddenly become inferior? Of course, it doesn’t.
For more on That Boutique-y Whisky Company visit here.
That Boutique-y Whisky Company Blended Malt No.4 – 6-Year-Old
This is apparently “almost not even a blended malt at all” meaning it’s something known as a tea-spooned malt. This is when a distillery adds a tiny amount of another whisky to a batch of their own spirit. It is a handy way of ensuring no one can use your distillery name after buying a cask.
Bottled in a 50cl bottled at 53.6%, it retails for £47.95.
Smell: There’s malty bread, shortbread, lemon curd and fresh apple. Little bit of vanilla and baking spices.
Taste: Caramel and cinnamon. Apple and orange zest. Shortbread again. Some peppery spice.
Thoughts: 50cl bottles are a scourge on the whisky scene but they can be acceptable when the price reflects the smaller quantity. Sadly, I don’t think that’s quite the case here. It’s under £50, which certainly isn’t crazy money but at that rate, a full bottle would be close to £70 and even taking the decent bottling strength into account, that would be a fair old sum for a six-year-old blended malt. That said, it’s a pleasant wee dram with a fairly typical Speyside character and it’s been presented with layers of depth and good weight thanks to the un-chill-filtered, high strength bottling. If you’ve got £50 to spend on a bottle of whisky, you could certainly do a lot worse, just be aware that you’re getting less than normal.
That Boutique-y Whisky Company Blended Malt No. 1 – 18-Year-Old
Similar to the previous dram, this is apparently made up almost entirely of spirit from a “very well-loved” Speyside distillery with a small quantity of a second whisky added to preserve the original brand. It’s 18 years old, 47.3% and £87.95 a bottle.
Smell: Oranges and lemons. Red berries. Marzipan. Caramel. Cinnamon and nutmeg. Danish pastries.
Taste: Apple and citrus. Toffee. Currant buns and cinnamon. Wee touch of ginger. Wee bit of oak on the finish.
Thoughts: £87.95 would be a decent price for a 70cl bottle of 18 year old malt but at 50cl the value for money factor drops. The two drams featured in this article aren’t a million miles apart. You certainly wouldn’t guess that there’s 12 years between them. The 18 is superior though. It has the sort of complexity that only comes with age but the vibrancy of the spirit hasn’t been lost under the near-two decades of oak contact. No idea what went into the blend, but it reminds me very much of Glen Moray, and that’s no bad thing. Still a bit pricy for a dumpy bottle, but good quality whisky, nonetheless.
If either of the whiskies reviewed in this article has caught your eye, you can buy them from Master of Malt at the links below. Please be aware that I can be paid commission on any purchases you make. Other retailers are available.
Buy Blended Malt No 4 here
Buy Blended Malt No 1 here