With whisky’s demand at record levels and forecast to rise further over the next 10 to 20 years at least, it is of no surprise that brands are coming up with new and innovative ways to approach the huge demand. One such innovation is the advent of blended world whisky.
Blended world whisky is exactly what it sounds like – a whisky blend made up of whiskies from different parts of the globe which has allowed producers in countries like Japan to cope with the huge demand for their ever-popular and celebrated blends and malts, as well as bringing something really unique and exciting to the market.
There is great potential to create new and diverse flavour profiles in this way by combining cultures, flavours and spirit styles from countries thousands of miles apart as each produces whisky that tastes very different, since maturation quirks like climate will effect the flavour of grain and how the whisky matures. Maturation is a very delicate process and many brands have studied what small changes in things like temperature and humidity can do to flavour.
For example, whisky in Scotland matures at a much slower pace than that in India. The climate difference, where Scotland is quite cold compared to the heat in India, means that whisky will mature faster, at a rate of about three years to one. The angels’ share is also different; in Scotland the average is two per cent per annum of evaporation per cask per year, whereas in India that can be as high as 14 to 15 per cent meaning after three years around half the spirit in every cask has evaporated.
Bringing together whiskies from all over the world shows the dexterity, the skill and the prowess of a whisky blender as they will have to strike a balance between the competing flavours, whilst also creating harmony and balance in the resulting product.
So far there have been a handful of blended world whisky products, many of which have come from Japan.
Suntory stole the headlines recently with the announcement that due to dwindling Japanese stock levels, they have released a new product called AO, a reference to the colour of the ocean and the journey the whiskies within the blend have made across the seas, which blends together whiskies from the five major whisky regions of Japan, Ireland, America, Scotland and Canada. In true Japanese craftsmanship style, the bottle has five sides to celebrate the five locations the whisky hails from.
Within the blend, which is blended together at the Yamazaki Distillery in Japan and initially limited to 30,000 cases, or around 360,000 bottles, the component parts from the Yamazaki and Hakushu Distilleries in Japan, the Ardmore and Glen Garioch Distilleries in Scotland, the Cooley Distillery in Ireland, the Alberta Distillery in Canada and the Jim Beam Distillery in the USA.
Another great example, which follows a similar path of using whisky from Scotland, Ireland, Canada and America is Ichiro’s Malt & Grain whisky, with the main malt component coming from Chichibu Distillery in Japan. It was created by Ichiro Akuto, who owns the distillery and crafted the blend while he was building up his brand. Akuto is well known in the Japanese whisky scene, although his malts are only just becoming established in other territories around the world.
This blend is full of flavour and very sweet, with big notes of malted grains, caramel and vanilla.
The Glover and The Huxley are two world blends that bring together various countries in celebration of different people.
The Glover honours Thomas Blake Glover, who was instrumental in opening up trade with Japan in the 1800s. The whisky is a celebration that brings together malt from Scotland, specifically Aberdeen, where Glover was born, with malt from Japan, where he lived most of his life. It was created by the Adelphi Distillery and is full of sweet sherry notes and a tell-tale Japanese floral aroma.
The Huxley celebrates T. H. Huxley, a 19th century anatomist and is made up of whisky from Canada, America and Scotland. It is part of Diageo’s attempt to create new and challenging whisky that really breaks the mould. The project is called the Whisky Union and seeks to expand their innovation portfolio into unknown territory in order to boost sales of Scotch. It is available from exclusive bars in cities throughout Europe, including Vienna and Berlin.
Kentucky Dram and High West Campfire are both expressions from America that bring together American and Scottish Whiskies. Kentucky Dram is a hybrid of Kentucky Bourbon and peated Highland Scotch released by Jim Beam as a limited edition. This is a really great whisky and the combination of sweet and fiery is superb. The Bourbon adds a lot of depth to the peat and develops the smoky notes.
On the same line of thinking and style, there’s High West Campfire, a combination of Scotch (Bruichladdich to be exact), Bourbon and rye. Again, the flavour is special, unique and different, with each component really bringing out the best in the others. High West is known for their experiments and have brought out other combinations before, such as Bourye, which is Bourbon and rye. The peated notes are potent, yet refined alongside the spice of the rye, whilst also bringing out the caramel from the Bourbon component.
So where next for this blended world whisky movement?
Innovation is at the forefront of the whisky market right now, with brands creating all different types of concoctions, including IPA and craft beer cask matured malts. While there are not vast examples of blended world whisky products at the minute, with such high demand for new and innovative whiskies that push the boundaries of flavour as well as being unique in their own right, not to mention innovation stories and advancements, it will not be surprising if more come out soon.