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cowdery
11-16-2005, 17:19
Every whiskey-making culture makes both "straights" and "blends" except the Canadians. Each, in different ways, has followed a pattern in which blends are initially dominant, then are supplanted by straights. Actually, that's not true anywhere except the USA, but what has happened in Scotland and Ireland is similar, whereas although blends still sell more than "singles" (their equivalent of straights), singles are where the action is.

And yet there is a parallel phenomenon, of educated and experienced straights/singles drinkers revisiting blends.

What do they discover?

First, that blends are in fact another kind of whiskey and if you take them on their own terms, they indeed have something to offer.

Second, that blends may be a good way to introduce a friend to whiskey. People who contentedly sip Stagg have trouble accepting the fact that, for some people, Jim Beam is too strong.

Third, all whiskey makers intend their product to taste good. Nobody sets out to make a bad-tasting whiskey. Because blend makers are not limited by the restrictions that constrain straights/singles makers, it should be easier for them to make their products taste good and it shouldn't be a wonder that some of them succeed.

Fourth, what is a blend? In simple terms, a blend is a straight whiskey "diluted" with vodka. Mix your favorite bourbon 50/50 with your favorite vodka (unflavored, of course) and see what you get.

Fifth, the problem with taking blends seriously is that what you ultimately want to know about is the underlying whiskey, which brings you right back to straights/singles.

CrispyCritter
11-16-2005, 17:58
Blended Scotch uses grain whisky instead of GNS, with the grain vs. malt proportions depending on the blend. Some, like the now-extinct Campbeltown Loch 25yo, are mostly malt, with some much older grain whisky in the blend.

There are a few single grain (100% grain whisky) bottlings available; they are nowhere near as common as single malts.

Then there's the new "blended malt" category that the SWA came up with - what is traditionally known as a "vatted malt" - all malt whisky, but blended from different distillers' output. The SWA also defined a "blended grain" category for grain-only blends.

Scotch grain whisky has a lot in common with bourbon in my experience, but it's a bit softer in character. Some have said that it's at its best when well-aged; I haven't had a "young" Scotch grain whisky, so I can't say that first-hand.

So far, I haven't tried an American blend - maybe I should do so, just to get a better idea of what they're like.

cowdery
11-17-2005, 01:21
The grain whiskey used in most blended scotch is whiskey, not GNS, but only barely so. It is distilled at a very high proof and doesn't get much age. The flavor in blends comes from the malts. The grain whiskey provides body and alcohol, but not much taste. It is misleading to compare a scottish all grain whiskey that is sold as such to the grain whiskey used in most blends.

kbuzbee
11-17-2005, 07:34
Third, all whiskey makers intend their product to taste good. Nobody sets out to make a bad-tasting whiskey.



Chuck, are you sure about that?? I thought the Maker's Marketing said that was what made Maker's different from other bourbons. They'd designed it to taste good.

http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/lol.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/lol.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/lol.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/lol.gif

Ken

JeffRenner
11-17-2005, 08:28
The grain whiskey used in most blended scotch is whiskey, not GNS, but only barely so. It is distilled at a very high proof and doesn't get much age. The flavor in blends comes from the malts. The grain whiskey provides body and alcohol, but not much taste. It is misleading to compare a scottish all grain whiskey that is sold as such to the grain whiskey used in most blends.



My understanding is that the grain whisky (mostly unmalted wheat or maize and column, rather than pot, distilled, at high proof) in blended Scotch must be aged at least as long as the stated age of the whisky. So Johnnie Walker Black contains five different grain whiskies that are each a minimum of 12 years, are are the 35 different malts (see Murray below).

I believe this is also the case in Irish and Canadian blended whiskies, but not US blends, which use unaged GNS. Better Scotch and Irish whiskies can have up to half straight whisky or even more, while US blends generally have 20-25%. The highest I know of is Seagram's-7 at 33%.

The grain whisky in blended Scotch seems to me to contribute a juicy sweetness, as well a a lightness that is sometimes quite welcome. And, since a blend may have dozens of malts as well as several grain whiskies, blends can be far more complex than single malts.

Blended Scotch is kind of the Rodney Dangerfield of whisk(e)y. I find it quite enjoyable at times, although I completely lose my taste for it and single malt Scotch in warm weather. Fortunately, bourbon and rye keep their appeal throughtout the year!

Jim Murray's 1999 Classic Blended Scotch is a great book on the subject, and the only one I know of that deals only with blended Scotch. Single malts have swamped blended Scotch in lines in print, though not in sales.

Jeff

cowdery
11-18-2005, 01:38
My understanding is that the grain whisky (mostly unmalted wheat or maize and column, rather than pot, distilled, at high proof) in blended Scotch must be aged at least as long as the stated age of the whisky.



That is correct, but there is a large volume of blended scotch sold without an age statement. Across the range of blends, it is fair to say that the better blends contain older grain whisky. That doesn't change the fact that the function of the grain whisky in blended scotch is exactly the same as the function of the GNS and corn whiskey in American blends, to provide a more-or-less neutral base for a flavor profile constructed from the malt components.

Blackkeno
02-05-2006, 19:31
I hate to say this, but I have yet to find an American blend that I find enticing.

What makes this so painful, is that many foreign blends rivet my attention. Blended Scotch like Chivas 18yo & Royal Salute, JW Gold, and Campbeltown Loch 25; Irish such as Midleton, Jameson Gold and 12yo; and Canadian like Crown Royal Special Reserve, and Canadian Club Classic (12yo); are all fine whiskies IMHO.

Seagram 7 is not bad, nor is Ancient Age blended, but none are on a par with the other blended whisk(e)y producers IMHO.

I'm certainly open to suggestions regarding great American blends I have overlooked!

Thanks,
John

cowdery
02-06-2006, 18:23
They're all pretty undistinguished and I don't think that's going to change. What do you want from whiskey-flavored vodka?

The best blended American whiskey is probably the standard Four Roses bourbon. I'm playing, of course, because Four Roses is straight bourbon but it is, in fact, a blend (as in combination or mixture) of ten or eleven different bourbons, differing in terms of yeast, mashbill and age.

What Four Roses does is more like Gillmanization than true blending. Like Gary, Four Roses blends together several good straight whiskeys to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. True blending, as practiced in all whiskey-making cultures, is about taking intensely flavored whiskey and making it less intense by cutting it with a nearly flavorless whiskey. The USA goes a little further by saying you can cut it with neutral spirit if you want to.

Perhaps it makes a difference that while the grain whisky in Scottish blends and the corn whisky in Canadians is nearly neutral, it isn't quite and it gets a little aging too, albeit in used barrels. The main answer, though, is that while there is a range of quality, reflected by price, in the Scottish and Canadian portfolios, American blends are all cheap, bottom shelf products. Consequently they are made as cheaply as possible, which typically means they get the straight whiskey the distiller has already rejected for any of the company's signature products.

So, who makes the straight whiskey base for Seagrams 7? None other than Four Roses.

Gillman
02-07-2006, 13:14
To me it is all a continuum. Single distillation can result in a very intense product full of secondary constituents that a second distillation would reduce (e.g., Lot 40). At one time, such "singlings" were common. Even in the 1970's for a while, and earlier for those small plants which lacked a rectification column or doubler, some bourbon distillers used one run. Double distillation produces a more refined - less intense, in Chuck's words - palate. Triple distillation, even more so: robust as WR is it would be a heck of a lot more so if it was double-distilled. Different still settings and designs can change the equation again...

By the same token, if you dilute any such whiskey with near-GNS aged or not, or GNS, or young whiskey under 160 or over 160 but under 190, you will get a milder palate. How mild depends on what you are diluting and how much diluent you use. This is from the distillery's perspective. The consumer has always cut his whiskey, with water amongst other things.

The mingling of all-straight whiskeys is a form of blending, yes, but not really different in kind than the foregoing. It is not just Four Roses that does it. Wild Turkey does it too although the whiskeys used are from the same mashbill (ditto Barton's for some of the VOB line). In all such cases the idea is to get a balanced and often milder palate. The commercial practice currently may be, for American (blended) Whiskey, to add no more than 1/3rd real whiskey to a GNS or young whiskey base. But at one time (pre-1920) recipes added from very little to 90% or again 100% real whiskey with every gradation in between.

Currently my own blends tend to be 80% straight whiskey to 20% Canadian whisky but I've drunk some made with 50/50. If you use Lot 40 you can do 50/50 very well using regular Canadian whisky as the base. Maybe you could do the same with Old Potrero or WR 4 grain (or using say 60:40). It is all relative in other words, I don't see that one can draw bright lines between American Whiskey, mingled whiskey, or straight whiskey except (and not to minimise this) in terms of what is available commercially. But for those willing to use some simple historical sources and experiment at home, and again for those who make whiskey cocktails, they have many other options.

A rye Presbyterian for example is rye whiskey, 2 ounces ginger ale, 2 ounces soda. Very nice drink, it is a "blend", isn't it? Maybe a better or more obvious example is half Southern Comfort and half bourbon.

In terms of what is on the market, I like Barton's blends, one is called (this from memory) QT. Heaven Hill makes some good ones, too, one is Kentucky Gold. I am not a fan of the current Seagram 7 Crown but that's okay, if I happen upon some I'll just add bourbon to it or a mix of straight whiskeys.

You can too.

Gary

chasking
02-10-2006, 12:51
Was there a time when Seagram's Seven Crown was blended without GNS? I was at a party a while back at which an old (tax-stamped) bottle of Seagram's was offered, and it seemed more flavorful than I would have expected from a GNS blend.

Also, I seem to remember reading somewhere that Seagram's made some rather unusual whiskeys that it blended into Seven Crown, i.e., not just traditional straight bourbon or rye. Does anyone know anything about that?

Gillman
02-10-2006, 14:13
I don't know about the unusual whiskeys but I think you are absolutely right that the brand seems less interesting than it was. A relation in Florida gave me last year a 25 year old bottle of 7 Crown. I did a side-by-side with a current bottle amongst a group who included people who almost never drink whiskey (but enjoy e.g., vodka). The consensus was the oldie was better by a fair margin.

Gary

gr8erdane
02-10-2006, 22:57
In my early days of whiskey drinking in college, Seagrams 7 was usually on sale on football weekends and was the budgeters drink of choice. Late my freshman year I was introduced to DN 1843 bourbon and well, I do remember tasting each straight in my very first side by side straight up tasting and remember thinking that 7 was not a good taste on it's own. Mixed with 7 up or Coke it was drinkable. However the DN 1843 to me was the other way around, great on its own but seemed not to mix very well. Of course now I know that this was SW whiskey at the time and the good taste fairy was whispering into my ear.....:slappin:

ThomasH
02-11-2006, 16:19
American Blended whiskey is basically good if your a drunk on a budget or a bar that sells a lot of cheap whiskey drinks. The individual that thought up this concoction had too much rot gut bourbon and vodka on his hands. I have heard people say that bourbon is too strong for their tastes. If they would quit drinking this bourbon flavored vodka, they wouldn't have this problem. If you want to drink a blend, try some Canadian or better yet, a good Irish!

Thomas

mrt
02-15-2006, 15:11
I tried two blended Scotches yet, and I think both of them will be described as "entry level" here: Johnnie Walker Red Label and Balantine's Finest (yes, not American Blends, but I saw words about Scotch here) :)

As I learned from "scotchwhisky.net", Johnnie Walker Red -for example-consists of 35 malt and 5 grain whiskies. Does this mean that it consists mainly of malts? Or does it include only little amounts of 35 malts and much more grain whisky for the rest? (curiosity-to be continued) :)

ratcheer
02-16-2006, 17:34
As I learned from "scotchwhisky.net", Johnnie Walker Red -for example-consists of 35 malt and 5 grain whiskies. Does this mean that it consists mainly of malts? Or does it include only little amounts of 35 malts and much more grain whisky for the rest? (curiosity-to be continued) :)

I don't know the answer, but that is a very good question.

Tim

JeffRenner
02-16-2006, 19:53
Johnnie Walker Red -for example-consists of 35 malt and 5 grain whiskies. Does this mean that it consists mainly of malts? Or does it include only little amounts of 35 malts and much more grain whisky for the rest?

I've loaned out my copy of Jim Murray's Classic Blended Scotch (1999) to another Ann Arbor bourbonite, so I can't check for sure. But most blended scotches are rather less than half malt. I think Johnny Red is about 30-35% malt, which is typical of the better blends. Bottom shelf will be ~20%.

Blended scotch does not get the respect it deserves, IMO. It fills a niche, although I must say that I drink less of it than I used to since getting more into bourbon. And I always lose my taste for it in warm weather.

Jeff

TNbourbon
02-16-2006, 21:12
...Blended scotch does not get the respect it deserves, IMO...

I very much enjoy a Cutty Sark and ginger ale about once a week.

elkdoggydog
02-17-2006, 16:23
Agreed, gentlemen. I remember reading a whiskey critic somewhat bemoaning the fact that whiskey snobs believe that anything which is easy to drink has no place. Personally, I'm not a fan of SMSW, and I love scotch blends. They taste good, and they're smooth. I do not like whiskey that tastes like iodine, but I like Johnny Walker Black just fine. Who's gonna tell me that I'm wrong?

It should come as no surprise that I seem to like wheaters better than rye-heavy bourbons, though rye whiskey is a favorite of mine.

Frodo
02-18-2006, 01:19
As I learned from "scotchwhisky.net", Johnnie Walker Red -for example-consists of 35 malt and 5 grain whiskies. Does this mean that it consists mainly of malts? Or does it include only little amounts of 35 malts and much more grain whisky for the rest? (curiosity-to be continued) :)

In this case I think the grain whisky content outstrips the malt content significantly.

Going from memory, I think in Jim Murray's "Classic Blended Scotch" he states that most blended scotch whiskies are 20-30% malt whisky, the rest being wheat or corn whisky. The malt content often rises when the blends become more expensive.

There are some exceptions to this. Power's Gold Label is supposed to be something like 70-80% pure pot still whisky (malted & unmalted barly) for an entry level price.

Frodo
02-18-2006, 01:26
I remember reading a whiskey critic somewhat bemoaning the fact that whiskey snobs believe that anything which is easy to drink has no place. Personally, I'm not a fan of SMSW, and I love scotch blends. They taste good, and they're smooth. I do not like whiskey that tastes like iodine, but I like Johnny Walker Black just fine. Who's gonna tell me that I'm wrong?


Hi elkdoggydog:

Not all malts are smoky peat monsters! On whiskymag.com, there is alot of chatter about Balvenie, a malt that has a rather honeyed character. Different expressions use finishes of course, so these have an influance on the flavour profile. But take the 10yr old, and the 15 (single barrel) expressions. VERY honeyed IMHO.

Glenfiddich 12 and Glengoyne 10 are both smooth whiskies that lack that smokey "punch". But your point is well made, that malts often have stronger tastes than blends.

elkdoggydog
02-18-2006, 10:54
Frodo:
I haven't had the Balvenie or Glengoyne, but I've enjoyed Glenfiddich before. Thanks for giving me a couple of tips- I'll be sure to check them out. My hesitance toward malts has been caused by picking up a bottle that's well regarded, only to have a hard time drinking it. Anyway, I appreciate your naming of a couple that it sounds like I'll enjoy.
I think if I had as solid a grasp on scotch as I do on bourbon, I'd like it more.

ratcheer
02-18-2006, 14:52
I also highly enjoy The Balvenie. Alas, I cannot afford it.

Tim

elkdoggydog
02-18-2006, 15:16
I also highly enjoy The Balvenie. Alas, I cannot afford it.

Tim

After checking online with BevMo, neither can I, but maybe I'll see it in a bar sometime. That's how I try expensive bourbons, too.

Frodo
02-19-2006, 00:48
Frodo:
I haven't had the Balvenie or Glengoyne, but I've enjoyed Glenfiddich before. Thanks for giving me a couple of tips- I'll be sure to check them out. My hesitance toward malts has been caused by picking up a bottle that's well regarded, only to have a hard time drinking it. Anyway, I appreciate your naming of a couple that it sounds like I'll enjoy.
I think if I had as solid a grasp on scotch as I do on bourbon, I'd like it more.

I hear you on your hesitancy to "take a chance" on SMSW bottles. They are too expensive IMHO to try a bottle at random.

Balvenie: Honeyed character. I find the 10 nice but not very flavourful. The 15 is like an uber 10 at 50% abv. The 12 (sherry finish) I like the best, and with a reasonable price point for SMSW.

Glengoyne: The 10yr old is quiet, but if you strain, you can catch quiet flavours underneath the surface. Older expressions tend to climb the ladder quickly in terms of cost, and often get more spicy.

Auchantoshan: The 10yr old is pooh poohed by many malt enthusiasts, as it is a rather "quiet" pour by SMSW standards. Tripple distilled. More about mouthfeel than flavours IMHO. The Threewood version is sherry finished, and projects flavours of raisens (sp?).

Bushmills: Irish malt whisky. Tripple distilled and unpeated. Reminds me a bit of Auchantoshan with a metallic aftertaste.

Glenfiddich: The 15 differs significantly IMHO because of significantly more sherry vatting in the 15 as opposed to the 12. 15 is fruitier, the 12 is creamy. The 15 reminds me of Balvenie 12 - both fruity drams (dark fruits from the sherry).

Hope these give you more options.

Cheers!!

CrispyCritter
02-19-2006, 09:10
Some others to try:

Aberlour: 10yo is a vatting of sherry and bourbon casks, lightly sherried, has a honeyed character much like Balvenie - around here it's about $30 or so for a bottle, which is a steal. I haven't tried the 15yo. The A'Bunadh bottling varies by batch, but it is all oloroso sherry casked, and it is cask strength, generally around 58-60% ABV. Think of it as Speyside Stagg. :)

Glenrothes: I've only had the 1974 vintage (if I remember right, 29 yo), and it was a stunner. Sherried, but there was a strong hint of orange to it. It was about $95 when I bought it, right at the top end of what I'm willing to pay for anything, but it was worth every penny.

Islay single malts are generally a love/hate proposition - especially the intensely peated ones like Ardbeg or younger Laphroaigs. You might want to try a miniature of one of these before buying a full bottle. Bunnahabhain is very lightly peated, and seems more like a mainstream Highland than an Islay.

ThomasH
02-19-2006, 18:39
As far as blended scotch goes, I like dewars 12yr and Johnny Walker gold label. the gold label has a sort of honeyed taste to it and the Dewars isn't that smokey unlike some of the other brands. As far as single malt, I like the brands from the Perthshire region: Edradour,Dahlwinnie,glenturret,deanston, glengoyne etc. These also tend to be not so smoky. On the other hand, Brands like Ardbeg remind me of a forest fire. I definitely have to be in the mood for them.

Thomas

Frodo
02-19-2006, 19:50
... the gold label has a sort of honeyed taste to it...
Thomas

Yeah, the Gold Label does have a silky feel to it.

elkdoggydog
02-21-2006, 09:49
Fantastic stuff guys. I'm looking forward to trying some scotches with a bit more confidence now. I'm a big fan of Irish Whiskeys, having tried and enjoyed most of the ones you can get in an Irish Pub (an American Irish Pub, that is), so it seems reasonable to expect that I'd enjoy some of the less peaty SMSW's as well.
Man, do I love this forum.

bluesbassdad
02-21-2006, 11:28
e.d.d.,

I suggest you meander over to the Foreign Whiskey forum for further guidance regarding scotch.

I have a personal fondness for this thread (http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/showthread.php?p=9294#poststop) , from the days when my total exposure to scotch consisted of a few blends.

Come to think of it, I like this one (http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/showthread.php?p=9612#poststop), too. It has posts about my impressions of specific scotch bottlings, as well as some tangential posts related to scotch.

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield