By Rob Allanson

Welcome to Whisky Magazine

The word blended whisky seems to be one that divides the drinking public, and possibly the worst reaction you can get from people is the opinion that single malts are best and blends are somehow inferior.

Personally I find this attitude so frustrating, and indeed lacking in vision and education.

For a start this ignores the fact that without blended whisky we would not have the world of single malts. There is a symbiosis between the two. Blends need the broad flavour spectrum of the single malt distilleries to create their depth, weight and infinite variety. Conversely single malts rely on the blends to be the storm troopers of the whisky world, cracking markets open, lighting the touch paper of whisky passion and providing a basis for initial education.

So really, in my eyes, cutting yourself off from blended whisky by dismissing as inferior is just denying a whole world of flavour.

I know the phrase 'blends are like an orchestra playing in harmony' is somewhat overused but after having tasted 50 different varieties for the Blended Supplement, the description is spot on.

Fine so sometimes you get a blend that is not as well put together, you can see the joins between grain and malt, but let's face it there are some single malts that have been over or underwhelmed by the wood.

Then there is the fact that blends account for something like 85 per cent or more of global whisky sales; someone somewhere is enjoying them. Ok this may make them mass market, but if you are one of these people who turns their noses up at a blend, you are missing the point.

Blends were the genesis of this great industry and they continue to be at the forefront of growth and innovation.
They are put together with great skill and attention. Having tried my hand a couple of times at blending my own whisky I can attest to how hard it is to get it right. Too much of this or too little of that and it all goes horribly wrong; well not that bad as long as it is still drinkable. But add to this the pressure of having to achieve flavour profile consistency year to year, even decade to decade, across all markets and the mind boggles at the blenders’ skills.

Hidden in this broad church of whisky there are some true gems, whiskies that will really get your mind working overtime: what’s this flavour? Where is this texture coming from?

One of my favourite experiments is to give someone a decent mid range blend blind and watch them rant and rave, then the reveal and the look on their face is often priceless.

Not big or clever I know but it often gets the point across.

There are times, and I am sure I am not alone in this, when you just want a decent drop and not have to analyse, score or pull apart. For me there are several blends open in my cabinet that are perfect for this. Packed with flavour and complexity, they speak of the art of the creator.

Also on some long haul flights I would rather take a Johnnie Walker, Dewar’s, or Chivas, which is often what you are offered if you ask for a whisky, than a vodka.

So, come on, it's time to embrace this flavour filled world of artistry.

You never know you might just surprise yourself and find a new friend.


Investment drams



Michael Hopert

Shop Manager, Royal Mile Whiskies, London
www.royalmilewhiskies.com

What whisky have you bought to keep?
Highland Park 17 Years Old from 1958 in a green bottle.

What whisky will you sell or open soon?
Ardbeg Single Cask 1976 Féis Ile bottling from 2002. Now worth £1000.