Every product or industry has its basic products that can be described in one or two words, but go much deeper than most people realize. Take muscle cars, for example. They are more than just a sedan with a powerful engine. There are gear ratios in the transmission, the kind of tires, steering, and weight distribution that go into not only the design but the definition as well. The liquor industry has blended whiskey, which is just as complex.
Types of Blended Whiskey
The first thing to know is that there are three main types of blended whiskey – blended malt whiskey, blended grain whiskey, and blended whiskey (yes, it’s both a broad and specific term). Each one has their little quirks and characteristics, so for those new to the whiskey biz, it isn’t just some clever marketing. It is also worth mentioning that almost all the blended whiskeys you will find will be Scotch (and the reason it’s blended whisk-EY instead of whisk-Y) since to be called bourbon legally, the bourbon must come from one batch. That doesn't stop some bourbons from getting mixed into some non-bourbon blends.
Reasons for Blending Whiskey
There are two main reasons behind the idea of blending whiskey. The main one is flavor. Blending different batches of whiskey together can produce some amazing flavor combinations and textures that create a memorable drinking experience. Blends also make it easier to create a consistent flavor for a brand over the years.
The other reason is to save money. This can be good or bad, depending on the company. Add enough decent stuff to the swill, and you got a bargain brand that most people can tolerate enough to drink. On the better side of this reason are the companies who make blends as a way to deliver a more outstanding product, in the most cost-effective way. This makes blended whiskey the usual choice when it comes to making mixed drinks. Without getting too off track into the details of single batch/malt (unblended) whiskeys, just know that they are more expensive to produce. And they are different but not inherently better.
Here is a quick breakdown of the three types of blended whiskeys.
Blended malts are whiskeys that are a mix of single malt Scotches. There are no grains allowed in these, unlike the other blends.
This is pretty much the same thing as blended malts, except they use cereal grains instead of malts. Grain whiskeys have an undeserved reputation of being inherently lower in quality than malts because they are cheaper to produce. In many ways, they are the blended whiskeys of blended whiskey.
90% of all Scotch Whiskeys fall into this category. These are a mix of grains and malts. Before you get the idea that this is what is done with leftovers, you couldn't be more wrong. Mixing the right grains with the right malts can bring the unique flavors and textures together in some amazing ways.
Blended whiskeys can range from the heavy stuff to a more refined and elegant style of liquor. It may not reach the same lofty levels of reputation that the more expensive single malts hit, but once you taste it, it is all good. Drink what you like to drink, and never take the word of any whiskey snob who says blended is a dirty word.