A shout out for blends! Or not…

For some reason the professional whisky press has decided that the last couple of years everyone should write an article about how cool standard (read: cheap) blends are. You can’t really open a Whisky Magazine (or Whisky Advocate) without going through reports on the incredible skill that goes into making the bulk of the industry run.

90+% of all (Scotch) whisky that is drank around the world is blended whisky which more or less makes the industry economically viable. And yes, keeping a blend consistent is a work of art and I am not in the nearest capable of doing anything like the great blenders can.

But why, I ask, is it so important to convince whisky geeks, who almost all go for premium malts, ryes and bourbons, that they should spend more time with blends?

It’s a bit like asking someone who enjoys driving his Aston Martin DB9 to take some time and appreciate a Lada, because that’s a car too and most people in the world don’t drive Aston Martins. Isn’t the intended marketing aimed at the wrong people?

Let’s take it from the start of whisky-geekdom:

  1. We all start in a bar and drink blends/bourbons/JD with ice.
  2. At some point we get lured to that more expensive bottle of Glenfiddich.
  3. We realize there’s a lot more to whisky than getting pissed quickly.
  4. We try a couple of miniatures.
  5. We start buying obscure stuff at a specialist.

I think that, in short and without all taken detours, sums up what we’ve all more or less gone through. Luckily, most people stay at step 1, and they keep our industry alive.

From my point of view most single malt afficionados just don’t really enjoy the basic blends any longer. According to professionals in the industry ‘crap wood is used to get it to three years and then everything is blended into oblivion’. Whisky geeks like some flavour, depth, richness and diversity. Especially that last bit is tricky to find in blends, if a blender does his work well.

I think we should all enjoy the fact that the entire planet drinks gallons of Famous Grouse and then enjoy our Macallan, Highland Park and other single malts.

In short. Please stop trying to convince me I should spend my hard earned cash on stuff I don’t enjoy and keep articles aimed at whisky geeks interesting for whisky geeks. No, there’s nothing wrong with blends, you’re just barking up the wrong tree.

PS: I’m talking about the press writing about cheap blends. Not premium stuff like Shackleton’s. That’s entirely different.

About Sjoerd de Haan-Kramer

I'm very interested in booze, with a focus on whisky. I like to listen to loads of music and play lots of Magic: the Gathering, and board games too. I'm married to Anneke, have two daughters Ot and Cato, a son Moos and a cat called Kikker (which means Frog, in Dutch). I live in Krommenie, The Netherlands.
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3 Responses to A shout out for blends! Or not…

  1. Gal Granov says:

    i call it : Blanded whisky 😉
    but seriously, I can still enjoy some lovely blends , without sniffing and trying to analyze them too much, and of course there are the boutique blends such as Compass Box, and The Tweeddale etc which are exceptional.

    but yea, as much as we appreciate the “amazing” skills of a blender, we do like malts better due to the fact that some are much better, and wood is has been selected to maximize their potential, rather than “store” the whisky enough time to make it legally called “whisky”.

  2. pr0mille says:

    I think you can compare this ‘sort of’ with the difference of someone buying an audio system because he likes to listen to radio and an occasional cd, and us being audiophiles.
    A blend of 25,- is good enough for 90%. The other 10% buys an amplifier which will bring out 90% more ‘flavor’, But only if you are prepared and/or trained to listen.

    • That is exactly true, but if you go to a top notch audio shop looking for info about € 100 per meter cables and a speaker of € 1250 people won’t start yapping about boomboxes and how cool they are exactly.

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