Art of Blending Whisky - Things You Never Knew About Blends

Blended whiskies are the foundation upon which the worldwide whisky industry is built, and they are more popular than ever. It is true that most newbies to the whisky world might thirst after single malts and other false indicators of luxury, but the seasoned whisky drinker knows there is nothing better than a carefully crafted blend.

Whether it’s Scotland, or the whisky industry in India, it is blends that rule the roost not just when it comes to sales figures and volume, but also in terms of popularity. Blends can stretch from the luxurious Chivas Regal and Ballantine’s to the reliable giants such as Jameson Irish whiskey, 100 Pipers Deluxe and Blenders Pride Rare Premium.

While it may be quite easy to grasp single malts and how they are made, blended whiskies are far more diverse and different in all parts of the world. Single malts are merely whiskies distilled from 100% malted barley, then matured and bottled at one distillery. On the other hand there is no one definition that can even begin to describe blended whiskies from around the world.

The Whiskypedia answers every question, dispels every confusion and clarifies every doubt you may have had regarding blended whiskies – no matter where they come from. Read on to find out some interesting facts about blended whisky that you may have never known.

Every Country Blends Differently

Whether it’s Scotch, Irish whiskey, American Bourbon, Indian whisky or Japanese whisky, they are all blended unlike their counterparts. The definition of blended whisky is so vast, and so diverse in a number of countries worldwide that it always leads to confusion for a beginner.

Chivas Regal were the pioneers of Blended Scotch whisky. They created the world’s first luxury whisky in 1909 – the Chivas Regal 25!

Chivas Regal

James and John Chivas expanded their grocery store business on King Street, Aberdeenshire by blending and maturing whiskies in their vast cellar. Selling these whiskies to their prestigious and wealthy clientele earned them a glowing reputation. They were awarded a Royal Warrant by Queen Victoria in 1843. Many years later, Chivas Brothers created the world’s first luxury whisky and took the world by storm.

There are three types of blended whiskies in Scotland

Blended Scotch whisky, Blended Malt whisky and Blended Grain whisky. Blended Scotch whisky is a blend of single malts and single grain whiskies, whereas Blended Malt is a blend of two or more single malts. Blended Grain whisky is a blend of two or more single grain whiskies.

Blended Scotch whisky is the most common type of Scotch whisky sold worldwide, whereas Blended Malt Scotch whisky and Blended Grain Scotch whisky are quite uncommon, and hard to find.

The square-shaped Ballantine’s bottles were designed to make them easy to smuggle during Prohibition

Ballantines Finest

During Prohibition, the makers of Ballantine’s had to resort to a creative and clever way for Scotch whisky lovers to get a fix of their daily drams. The iconic square-shaped flat bottle of Ballantine’s Finest was designed to make it easier to smuggle in briefcases. While we are talking about interesting facts about blended whisky, you will be surprised to know that the recipe for Ballantine’s Finest has not changed in over 110 years!

No one takes blended as seriously as the Scottish do

The position of Master Blender is a respected one in Scotland since it is one of the most respected jobs in the country that loves whisky like nothing else. There are perhaps more blended Scotch whiskies in the world than any single country worldwide.

Chivas Regal

Colin Scott, Custodian Master Blender at Chivas Regal

In order to create these blends, Scotland requires many Master Blenders to ply their trade in the country. This has given an opportunity for legends like Colin Scott, Sandy Hyslop and Jim Beveridge to create some fantastic blends for their respective brands. The Custodian Master Blender at Chivas Regal, Colin Scott has created some truly extraordinary blends over the years.

India blends their whisky in a very unique manner

Blenders Pride

Blended whiskies in India are so much different than their counterparts in Scotland, Ireland and America that they are often referred to as a completely different category. Top selling Indian whiskies such as Blenders Pride, Royal Stag and Imperial Blue are blended by marrying imported malts from Scotland with locally distilled grain whiskies.

Blenders Pride

Many other Indian whisky brands go even further to cut down on their prices by blending Scottish malts with neutral, molasses-based spirit. Brands such as Officer’s Choice, McDowell’s No.1, Bagpiper, Director’s Special and Royal Challenge are some of the few Indian whisky brands to carry out this practice.

Blends are extremely popular in India

100 Pipers

It is not just Indian blends that sell like hot cakes, but also blended Scotch whiskies that do really well in the country. One of the most astonishing facts about blended whisky is the tale of 100 Pipers Blended Scotch, and how it became the first ever Scotch brand to sell more than 1 million cases in India. No brand had ever managed to register such an impressive record before 100 Pipers did it.

The Irish do it like no one else

Blending whiskeys in Ireland is also done quite differently. Blended whiskeys in Ireland such as Jameson Irish whiskey are usually a blend of single pot still and grain whiskeys. Most Irish whiskeys are blends, and Jameson Irish whiskey is the most popular one of them all.

Jameson Whiskey

In fact, here is a mindboggling fact about blended whiskeys – Jameson Irish whiskey sold more than 8.1 million 9-litre cases last year alone!

The Americans take a cue from Indian blenders

While most American whiskeys are straight Bourbons, or Rye whiskeys, there are some who take inspiration from their Indian counterparts. Blended whiskeys in America are required to have at least 20% straight whiskey content, with the rest being the blenders’ prerogative. Some blenders choose to add younger whiskey, and some opt for neutral spirit instead. The blended whiskey market in America is quite small unlike India where it makes up for a massive chunk of whisky sales.

Canada blends everything

Nearly every Canadian whisky is blended, and the most common components for these blends are corn and rye whiskies. Wheat and barley are also used at times, but it is corn and rye that rule the roost when it comes to whisky in Canada.

Seagrams VO Canadian

Since Canada lacks any meticulously put-together legal definitions for their whisky unlike Scotland, Ireland and America, Canadian blenders are afforded far more freedom with their product. Crown Royal, Seagram’s VO, and J.P Wiser’s are some of Canada’s finest blended whiskies that do very well in North America.

Japan follows the Scottish blueprint

The man who brought back the knowledge of whisky distillation to Japan, Masataka Taketsuru, was so heavily inspired by Scottish methods that he recreated it to the tee. Masataka, working for Suntory founder Shinjiro Torii, helped bring Scottish distillation techniques and equipment to Japan in 1923.

Nikka Whisky

Ever since, Japanese whisky brands have followed the Scottish ways, but by adding their own ingenuity in subtle ways. They have preserved the blending practices, creating expression such as the Hibiki, Nikka From The Barrel, Toki, Togouchi and many more. These whiskies are created by blending single malt and single grain whiskies.

It took more than 200 years for Chivas to release their first ever Blended Malt Scotch

The Chivas Regal Ultis was the first blended malt Scotch whisky from the house of Chivas in over 215 years of the brand’s existence. Released to critical acclaim, it marked an important event in the history of Chivas Regal. This blended malt Scotch was created by blending single malts from five different distilleries that are part of the Chivas Brothers’ family.

Chivas Regal Ultis

Strathisla, Allt A’Bhainne, Braeval, Longmorn, and Tormore single malts were married to create the Chivas Regal Ultis. Five single malts were chosen to honour the five different people who served as Master Blenders at Chivas Brothers. Charles Howard, Charles Julian, Alan Baillie, Jimmy Lang and Colin Scott, the current Custodian Master Blender were the five Master Blenders honoured by the Chivas Regal Ultis.

That concludes our exploration into the very heart of the blended whisky industry, traversing across all the countries of the world and understanding their ways of blending whisky.