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Blended Malt: A World of Whisky Innovation

Blended Malt: A World of Whisky Innovation

24.03.2018

Blended Malt: A World of Whisky Innovation

 

The most well-known categories of whisky are blended whisky and single malt. An intriguing third category is the somewhat confusingly named blended malt, which consists of two or more single malt whiskies. Unlike blended whisky, no grain whisky is included.

 

Blended malts form a small segment of the market compared to single malts, but the range has increased in recent years. Single malts have a reputation for being the best the world of whisky has to offer. But just how different are single and blended malts?

 

The answer is more ambiguous than might seem at first glance. Except for single cask bottlings, any single malt expression is made up of multiple casks from the same distillery. Counter to the singularity its name implies, a single malt can be composed of a mixture of spirit matured in different types of casks (e.g. bourbon and sherry casks) and might even include casks of different ages. Careful selection of casks is required to achieve consistency in a single malt across multiple years of production. Because no two casks are identical, the precise combination needs to be continually adjusted. This exacting process of combination is for all intents and purposes a type of blending. Thus, a single cask bottling is the only type of malt whisky that strictly speaking is not blended at all.

 

As with single malts, great care goes into quality blended malts. For example, Monkey Shoulder, which is a popular blended malt made up of Glenfiddich, Balvenie, and Kininvie, is produced in batches of just 27 casks for optimal quality control, a tiny number compared to the number of casks that make up many popular single malt expressions. This level of meticulous selectivity characterises premium small-batch blends.

 

A musical metaphor might provide a helpful way to think about these categories of malt whisky. A single cask bottling is akin to a piece of music played on a single instrument. The unique timbre of that instrument takes centre stage. A single malt is more like the string section, where similar but slightly different instruments come together in a rich and harmonious character. And a blended malt can make use of the entire orchestra to create a multi-dimensional, vibrant, and exquisitely balanced overall effect.

 

The Robert Graham line of independently bottled whiskies, which was established in 1874, currently comprises bottlings in each of these categories. The Dancing Stag and Treasurer Selection lines feature spectacular single cask bottlings. Our core range is composed of two single malts, Ailein Mor and Hoebeg, and an exceptional blended malt, Cearban.

 

Cearban is Gaelic for “basking shark” and takes its name from the huge shark that each autumn swims the west coast of Scotland, home to many of the country’s greatest distilleries. This award-winning dram’s lively coastal character, smoothly rounded and brimming with rich sweetness, showcases the bold and powerful nature of the region’s malts. To quote Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible: “The label shows a shark. It should be a whale: this is massive.”

 

The quirky, one-off nature of single cask bottlings is charming – their ephemeral character, the fact that you probably won’t encounter this exact dram ever again. The consistency and complexity of well-loved single malts are good reason for their prestige and popularity. Blended malts make possible enticing varieties of carefully composed taste profiles and provide bottlers the opportunity for exciting innovation, bringing together the unique characters of various distilleries to create ground-breaking new whiskies.

 

So if you’re curious about blended malts (or just want a fine whisky), we recommend you try Cearban, a fantastic west coast blended malt from our award winning core range selection; available online or in any one of our five shops.

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