By Dominic Roskrow

Going round the blend

Judging by the conversations I’ve been having at Whisky Live London and New York the ‘blended malts’ debate is going to run and run.In this issue the Scotch Whisky Association has replied to my editorial in issue 46, and our round table debate also addresses the subject. I said pretty much all I wanted to say back then, so I don’t intend to comment on the substance any further.I would, however, refute the allegation that my view was expressed before I was in possession of all the facts. I have heard nothing since the last issue to sway me from the view that using the term ‘blend’ for a product that contains only single malts is plain wrong. It’s very straightforward. Either the new term has been adopted because it is the best term to use, or it has been adopted because there is no alternative.In the first case it’s a purely subjective view – and it doesn’t matter how many facts you throw at or around it, you either agree that the term is the best or you don’t. I don’t. As for whether it’s the only option – well, we’ve had some smoke and mirrors about European legislation in the future and the fact that some other terms might not be eligible. But if that’s the case, why aren’t we sticking with the term ‘vatted’, which has been used for some 150 years?The most disturbing thing about all this is that it’s supported by the major companies and they have based their view on the outcome of what marketing people call ‘consumer focus groups’. Who are these people? Are they you; knowledgeable Whisky Magazine readers? Are they Mrs Smith outside the local supermarket on a Saturday afternoon? Or most pertinently, are they Mr Wong in a whisky bar in downtown Shanghai? Because whatever problems the English-speaking world has with the term ‘blended malts’ they’re multiplied massively when it comes to other languages.In the coming months the consultation period over this issue will continue and I think it’s essential that as many voices as possible are heard. If you have a view on this please send them to me on dominic@whiskymag.com or make a comment on our website.The two Whisky Live events weren’t all about intense debate and heavy lobbying. Indeed, the London one in particular had a truly celebratory air about it. It’s grown too big for its own good, with the Saturday selling out around Christmas and the Friday not far behind. Plans are afoot to move in to the adjoining bigger hall next year.What makes this event such a joy for me is the number of new and younger people that are turning up, and the willingness to embrace new directions and change.It is wonderful to see a Swedish whisky company, and a delight to report that Amrut, a whisky from India, was one of the most talkedabout products at the show. More in a future issue, but what a treat to taste a flavourful product with the maturity of a Scotch 10 year old and then discover that it spent just three years in the cask.And another highlight for me was attending the Woodford Reserve class. Two years ago the great Jimmy Russell had just seven people through the door. This year nearly 30 attended, and the depth of questioning was astounding.Add to that the breadth of many of the Scottish masterclasses, and the new directions being explored with food and coffee, and it’s clear that we’re successfully managing to welcome new enthusiasts while keeping the more advanced visitor contented.