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just1otherguy
03-08-2007, 11:50
Bear with me on this one for a minute. It might take some time but I'll get to the point--eventually.

I've been enjoying SMSW for about a year now. Honestly, it's about the only whisky I really enjoy. However, I sometimes get put off by some of the so-called snobs that demand you must drink it this or that and you can never touch a blend. So I went looking for something that had less mass appeal and, in turn, less self-proclaimed experts. I found Jameson Irish Whiskey.

Although it was cheaper, it was still delightful. Something I could casually sip and enjoy while in a lighter state of mind. I had decided that Irish whiskey would be my pinch hitter for single malt scotch.

Firm in my decision, I set out armed with my prior experiences with scotch whisky and attempted to apply that knowledge with Irish whiskey. Believing that a single malt was most generally of better quality than a blend, I purchased Bushmills 10 YO--mostlty because of the middle range price. I was greatly disappointed. Instead of the light vanilla and soft buttery finish I was expecting, I was greeted with wood and hazlenut. The mouthfeel was akin to biting into a tree that was wrapped in carpet. Which got me to thinking.

Canadian and Irish whiskies are predominantly blends (Yeah so are scotches but you can make that point later). In fact, some of the most highly regarded Irish whiskies are blended--Redbreast anyone? Bourbons are blended and even straight bourbons are distilled from a variety of grains. So my question is this: Does the single malt rule only apply to scotch while most other whiskies lend themselves quite readily to blending? Or is it that there is just a dearth of quality samples of other single malt whiskies that are readily available?

Before answering, I am aware that some fine examples of single malts do exist for Irish and Canadian whiskies. But the question more regards the quality of blends of other whiskies as opposed to scotch.

Okay, thanks for patronizing me:rolleyes:

Hedmans Brorsa
03-10-2007, 03:53
With all due respect, I think your definition of 'blend' is somewhat faulty. If I understand you right, you are talking about vattings.

A blend to me, constitutes of a mixture of different types of whiskey. In Canada, for instance, they mix rye and corn whiskies into a blend. On the other hand, if you mix five different straight bourbons or five single malts from different Scottish distilleries, then you get a vatted whiskey, not a blend.

As for your primary question: I do not think that single malts neccessarily are a blue print for better quality. A vatted malt can be just as enjoyable as a single one.

What is important to remember, though is what my compatriot Leif wrote earlier in another thread: the attraction behind the single malt craze is equal parts hedonism and a, sort of, stamp-collecting mentality. People are interested in trying stuff from different distilleries and they do not want to have it mixed with anything else. Mixed products and products where the origin is undisclosed are more or less dismissed as unpure.

Hope this, at least partly, explains my point of view.

P.S Redbreast is not a blend. There was once a blend called Redbreast but it is since long discontinued.

ILLfarmboy
03-10-2007, 13:51
Also don't most blends contain high proof "lightly flavored" grain whiskeys or GNS to attenuate the more robust flavors of the "straight whiskeys" or "single malts" in the blend and to stretch the more costly straights/singles?
This addition also makes the diference between a blend and a vatting, at least in common parlance.

CrispyCritter
03-10-2007, 19:44
American blended whiskey uses GNS, while Scotch, Irish, and Canadian blends use high-proof grain whisky (not quite GNS). There are also Scotch vatted malts (the new official term is "blended malt," but that term has proven unpopular).

Scotch blends range from cheap-and-nasty, to cheap-and-decent, to reasonable-and-good, to sublime. That reminds me, someday I'll have to crack open my last bottle of Campbeltown Loch 25yo... it's a crying shame I didn't snap up every bottle I could find when I had the opportunity! At $50 per bottle, it was a steal.

Single-grain Scotches need extreme aging - I had a 40yo Alloa that was just beautiful. It's long gone now, though - and I made that bottle last!

Edward_call_me_Ed
03-11-2007, 04:54
American blended whiskey uses GNS, while Scotch, Irish, and Canadian blends use high-proof grain whisky (not quite GNS). There are also Scotch vatted malts (the new official term is "blended malt," but that term has proven unpopular).



To use in a blend grain whisky needs to be aged, at least two years IIRC, while GNS could come straight from the still, it is just vodka, after all. Of course if the Scotch Blend carries an age statement the grain whisky must be at least as old as the the stated age, just like the malt.

Oh, and one more clarification, blend five straight bourbons and you get straight bourbon. I know we often talk about vattings here, but technically, if all the constituent whiskies are straight and of the same type you end up with a straight whiskey.

Ed

Edward_call_me_Ed
03-11-2007, 06:00
Firm in my decision, I set out armed with my prior experiences with scotch whisky and attempted to apply that knowledge with Irish whiskey. Believing that a single malt was most generally of better quality than a blend, I purchased Bushmills 10 YO--mostlty because of the middle range price. I was greatly disappointed. Instead of the light vanilla and soft buttery finish I was expecting, I was greeted with wood and hazlenut. The mouthfeel was akin to biting into a tree that was wrapped in carpet. Which got me to thinking.

So my question is this: Does the single malt rule only apply to scotch while most other whiskies lend themselves quite readily to blending? Or is it that there is just a dearth of quality samples of other single malt whiskies that are readily available?

Before answering, I am aware that some fine examples of single malts do exist for Irish and Canadian whiskies. But the question more regards the quality of blends of other whiskies as opposed to scotch.

Okay, thanks for patronizing me:rolleyes:

Okay, first Bushmills 10. Your description of it doesn't match my experience of this single malt. No tree wrapped in carpet. Hazelnut? Maybe, but what is wrong with hazelnut? I do find vanilla, malt, and sherry. It's not my favorite pour, I prefer Blackbush to this and if I want sherry there are several scotches that I prefer. Still, not a bad pour at all. Maybe you got a bad bottle or maybe our tastes differ, as always, YMMV.

In a way, the idea that single malts are not 'blended' or 'vatted' is incorrect. Unless it is a single cask bottling then a number of casks were mingled before bottling. It may be a huge number or only a few, but mingled they are. They may be of different ages so long as they all meet the minimum age of the label. Some may be from first fill bourbon casks, others from old wood, and still others from sherry casks. The casks might be from different warehouses and therefore have aged differently. The whiskies might have different levels of peat or no peat at all. What make a malt 'single' is the fact that all of it was made at a single distillery.

In theory, a master blender who had a similar range of malts to choose from could blend a masterpiece malt. I suppose that the advantage that a master blender at a distillery has is that he can choose from the entire warehouse of whisky that meets the age of the intended bottling, plus he can manipulate the way their whisky is aged and he can refuse to sell the best that they have. Still, I don't think this is an overwhelming advantage. And the independent blender has some advantages, too. He can shop around while the distillery can not.

Do independent blenders or brand blenders make stellar malts? I can't say for I don't have that much experience with them. It may be that they are not aiming for the market that would appreciate them because being a blended malt would be held against them.

Ed

AVB
03-12-2007, 05:49
Not quite the case. Black Bottle, a blend of all the Islay distilleries is very well regarded for example. Dew of Ben Nevis is another blend (the 40 yo is exceptional IMO) and who can not like JW Blue or Royal Salute? Blue Hanger and John Scott also make very good blends. The UK has a much better selection of blends then here in the US and they seem to be accepted more then here too.




Do independent blenders or brand blenders make stellar malts? I can't say for I don't have that much experience with them. It may be that they are not aiming for the market that would appreciate them because being a blended malt would be held against them.

Ed

just1otherguy
03-13-2007, 08:19
Okay. I think I miswrote my point of discussion. I wasn't actually referring to blends in the technical sense. I was more interested in points of style. Like, for example, bourbons are made from a combination of grains, no single grain is ever used as far as I know. And that is what makes bourbon so colorful. But when you ad different grains or malts to a scotch whisky you begin to destroy the qualities that make that singular scotch so unique. You manipulate the flavor into something more mechanical than natural. It does work in some scotches, I like JW Black. However, when you add different grains to Canadian, Irish, or American whiskies it can sometimes edify the flavors that make THAT whiskey enjoyable. So I'm asking what makes scotch less compatible with blending. Is it simply because blenders are aiming for a blander, more marketable product? Or is it just scotch itself that seems to disagree with the introduction of "foreign" grain or malt whiskies? It's just someting to talk about and I was interested in seeing the discussions.

just1otherguy
03-13-2007, 08:24
Okay, first Bushmills 10. Your description of it doesn't match my experience of this single malt. No tree wrapped in carpet. Hazelnut? Maybe, but what is wrong with hazelnut? I do find vanilla, malt, and sherry. It's not my favorite pour, I prefer Blackbush to this and if I want sherry there are several scotches that I prefer. Still, not a bad pour at all. Maybe you got a bad bottle or maybe our tastes differ, as always, YMMV.

Yeah, I think our tastes must just be different. I sampled it again last night and still got the same feeling. The mouthfeel just seems fuzzy to me--like carpet. But who knows. And there's nothing wrong with hazlenut, it just seemed out of place in here. But our difference in tastes is what makes tasting such a unique experience. Someone else is always gonna find something you can't and vice versa. I will admit though that I've never has sherry and wouldn't know what it tasted like if it slapped me in the tongue.

Thanks for your comments.

ILLfarmboy
03-13-2007, 09:32
..... So I'm asking what makes scotch less compatible with blending. Is it simply because blenders are aiming for a blander, more marketable product? Or is it just scotch itself that seems to disagree with the introduction of "foreign" grain or malt whiskies? It's just someting to talk about and I was interested in seeing the discussions.

I wouldn't say scotch is less agreeable to blending. The general market for blended scotch wants a more bland product. Producers respond by using a high proportion of grain whiskeys in most blends. A "luxury blend" or an all malt blend (vatted malt) can be very flavorful. JW Gold and Green are examples of these respectively. I like them both. In fact I give the edge to the Gold Lable-the blend containing grain whiskey(s).

As for Irishes, standard Jameson's seems to contain more pot still whiskey than it did a few years back. I recently had a glass at a restaurant after reading a positive review of recent samples here on SB.com. Indeed, it had a richer character than I had remembered. more like their 1780 (a luxury blend containing a pretty high proportion of pot still).

Hedmans Brorsa
03-14-2007, 13:23
bourbons are made from a combination of grains, no single grain is ever used as far as I know. And that is what makes bourbon so colorful. But when you ad different grains or malts to a scotch whisky you begin to destroy the qualities that make that singular scotch so unique.

Please bear with me if I have misunderstood you once again. However, I still think you are talking about two different things.

Scotch blends are just that, that is, a mixture of different types of whisky mixed after distillation. The grains in bourbon, on the other hand, are part of the same mashbill.

To my knowledge, there is no Scotch made in the 'bourbon way', that is with, for instace 51% malted barley, 30% wheat and 19% corn. How a whisky like that would end up in terms of quality, I can only speculate.

cowdery
03-14-2007, 16:12
Scottish grain whiskies can and, I think, sometimes do use a mixed grain mash but in general the mixed grain mash is one of the unique characteristics of American straight whiskey.

just1otherguy
03-15-2007, 09:55
Please bear with me if I have misunderstood you once again. However, I still think you are talking about two different things.

Scotch blends are just that, that is, a mixture of different types of whisky mixed after distillation. The grains in bourbon, on the other hand, are part of the same mashbill.

Okay. I think I should stop using the word "blend". What I mean, and what I should have said in the first place, is "combination". Bourbon is a combination of grains. Single malt scotch is only malt. Blended--not vatted--whiskies are also a combination of grains because grain and malt whiskies are combined together.

Am I still saying this wrong or am I starting to make a little sense? Now I just don't know anymore:rolleyes:

Hedmans Brorsa
03-15-2007, 10:21
Scottish grain whiskies can and, I think, sometimes do use a mixed grain mash but in general the mixed grain mash is one of the unique characteristics of American straight whiskey.

This is correct. However, an overwhelming majority of the grain whisky production ends up in blends. Official bottlings are rare and seldom aspire to any premium status.

A small percentage of their make is released in extremely limited editons by the independent bottlers, as exclusive 20-40 year olds, aimed at a small amount of purists.

What I had in mind, was an explicit attempt from a Scottish distillery to produce a multi-grain mashbill whisky with the specific aim of conquering the world, so to speak.

Hedmans Brorsa
03-15-2007, 10:29
Am I still saying this wrong or am I starting to make a little sense? Now I just don't know anymore:rolleyes:

You make sense! I am slow and non-English. :grin:

However, donīt you think thereīs a big difference between a true blend, where the different whiskies are mingled together after the distillation and "the American way", where they all are part of the same mashbill?

As pointed out earlier by Chuck, some grain whisky distilleries in Scotland use a mixed mashbill but their make is industrial in nature and not really aimed at the connoiseurs nor are they primarily malt-dominated. Some of it can be quite tasty, though.

Gillman
03-15-2007, 10:48
Not directly relevant to this discussion, but the 1911 edition of Britannica Encyclopedia, the famous edition that gathered the world's knowledge to that time, is available on-line. (Just search 1911 Britannica online and it comes right up). The whisky entry contains many interesting statements. One of them is that the grain whisky of the day contained appreciable amounts of congeners. As compared to Highland and Lowland malts, the proportion roughly was 3:2:1 (Highland to Lowland to grain whisky).

I wonder if this is still the case in Scotland, or is the grain whisky make much cleaner today?

The statement is also made that straight whiskey in America has twice as much congener content as malt whisky. I wonder if that is still true. Also, Britannica said American whiskey must be matured longer than malt whisky because of the higher fusel oil content in the former - a reversal of the practice today.

Detailed fusel oil and other congener content was given in a table for all these types. It would be interesting if someone on the board who knows the chemistry of modern whisky would comment on this table. I.e., have things changed a lot since then, are they the same? Ethochem might have an interesting take on this.

Can someone who knows how link the whisky entry?

Gary

cowdery
03-15-2007, 11:31
1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, Whisky entry. (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Whisky)

just1otherguy
03-15-2007, 13:33
However, donīt you think thereīs a big difference between a true blend, where the different whiskies are mingled together after the distillation and "the American way", where they all are part of the same mashbill?

I would completely agree with you. A blend and "the American way" are barely comparable. It just interests me though how most whiskies are traditionally made from different grains while scotch was, at the earliest, intended to be single malt. It's the whole history and tradition of distiling practices and how they vary from country to country, region to region, and whiskey to whiskey that makes me wonder about these things. Know what I mean?

Gillman
03-15-2007, 15:36
Thanks Chuck for posting that article.

While I see that it does not refer to the congener content of bourbon or rye, an article on drink in that Britannica does state what I had indicated (that U.S. whiskey has twice the congener levels of malt whisky). Probably it is in the article on "spirits" or "alcohol".

Gary

cowdery
03-16-2007, 16:53
I suppose you could consider Irish pure pot still as a "mixed-grain" mash, since it combines malted and unmalted barley.

Gillman
03-16-2007, 18:15
When I was first learning about whisky and beer, I remember being struck by a conundrum. I knew that unmalted grains could be part of a mash, as e.g., for production of Irish pure pot still whiskey, or where roasted or flaked (raw) barley is added to a mash of malted barley to make Irish stout.

What I couldn't understand was, how does alcohol form from the unmalted component?

I was at a conference (not sure where, it might have been Fort Mitchell, KY where that big brewpub used to be) and I met Michael Jackson, famed beer and whiskey scribe.

And I asked him: how can unmalted grains help the mash, form the alcohol? He said, the enzymes in the malted component convert the starch in the raw grains to fermentable sugars; in other words, the unmalted grains become malted.

And a light went on in my head.

Gary

cowdery
03-16-2007, 19:08
That's a good example of something being illuminating even though it's inaccurate.

What Jackson told you is wrong.

"Malting" refers to the interrupted germination that produces enzymes. In malting, germination is stopped before the enzymes begin to saccharify the starch in the malted grain, which is what they would do if the germination was allowed to continue. This occurs because the sprout needs sugar as food until it is developed enough to systhesize food from the environment. It is literally like mother's milk.

That may be what the sprout wants, but it's not what the brewer or distiller wants, which is strictly the enzymes. That's why the germination is terminated before saccharification occurs.

Malted grain, in other words, is still mostly starch. Saccharification occurs in the mashing stage, after the starch has been dissolved in water. The whole grains do not become malted but they do become saccharified due to the activity of the enzymes from the malt.

Gillman
03-16-2007, 19:14
But broadly it's the same thing Chuck, that's what he meant.

Gary

cowdery
03-17-2007, 04:06
What is true is that the end result of using some malted grain and some whole grain is exactly the same as using malted grain only, but in no way do "the unmalted grains become malted."

boss302
03-18-2007, 12:05
Redbreast is not a blend. There was once a blend called Redbreast but it is since long discontinued.

Redbreast has been re-launched by the Irish Distillers Group (the same guys who do Jameson, Tullamore Dew, Paddy, and Power's), as a style of whiskey indigenous to Ireland called "Pure pot still."

This is similar to a single-malt, with the exception that 60% of the barley is un-malted. Unlike other Irish whiskeys, which use a column still, Redbreast is made in a pot still. It is currently released as a 12-year.

And it is the only whiskey from the Irish Distillers Group (owned by Pernod-Ricard) that I drink.

As for the Bushmills, I think the thread starter was way off in describing its texture. The bottle I got was very much like a light-bodied Single-Malt Scotch from the lowlands (think Auchentoshan). Smooth, with a heartiness from the malted barley. I'm a rather inexperienced taster, but I picked up the Sherry notes, and a bit of a creaminess, almost right away.

Martian
10-22-2007, 16:38
I noticed the New York Times rated Bushmill's 10 yr. as the Best Irish whisky. They also rated Black Bush as the Best blend. I guess I'll have to try them both. I have only tasted the regular white lablel and the 16 yr. I loved the 16 yr. Of course, a $65 whisky should be very good.

ILLfarmboy
10-22-2007, 21:15
Better than Redbreast 12 ? I guess as they say YMMV.

AVB
10-23-2007, 06:02
I have to go with Green Spot if I want some Irish.

tango-papa
10-23-2007, 07:26
...the New York Times...


:rolleyes: :27: :rolleyes:

...and that's all I have to say about that.

~tp

tango-papa
10-23-2007, 07:29
I have to go with Green Spot if I want some Irish.

Might you know of and/or have a source where one (specifically, me) can purchase a bottle or 6 of Green Spot here in the US?

Might you have a bottle or 3 to trade for something you're specifically interested in?

Do tell... please. :cool:

~tp

tango-papa
10-23-2007, 07:30
Better than Redbreast 12 ? I guess as they say YMMV.

I agree! Red Breast is superb!

~tp

Martian
12-15-2007, 09:05
It is interesting that I did not see Green Spot at duty free at the Dublin Airport. I saw several other Irish brands that I had never heard of, but not Green Spot.

brockagh
12-16-2007, 04:44
Might you know of and/or have a source where one (specifically, me) can purchase a bottle or 6 of Green Spot here in the US?

Might you have a bottle or 3 to trade for something you're specifically interested in?

Do tell... please. :cool:

~tp

It's made for a specific shop in Dublin (which now sells it to other shops) and is produced in very limited quantities. You can get it in the odd place overseas, but it is very difficult. It has also just gone up in price to about €40.

You can get it at www.celticwhiskeyshop.com. I don't think you pay the duty if you're buying from America. You may have to pay duty in the US, but I don't think this has happened to any of their customers yet.

brockagh
12-16-2007, 04:50
Bear with me on this one for a minute. It might take some time but I'll get to the point--eventually.

I've been enjoying SMSW for about a year now. Honestly, it's about the only whisky I really enjoy. However, I sometimes get put off by some of the so-called snobs that demand you must drink it this or that and you can never touch a blend. So I went looking for something that had less mass appeal and, in turn, less self-proclaimed experts. I found Jameson Irish Whiskey.

Although it was cheaper, it was still delightful. Something I could casually sip and enjoy while in a lighter state of mind. I had decided that Irish whiskey would be my pinch hitter for single malt scotch.

Firm in my decision, I set out armed with my prior experiences with scotch whisky and attempted to apply that knowledge with Irish whiskey. Believing that a single malt was most generally of better quality than a blend, I purchased Bushmills 10 YO--mostlty because of the middle range price. I was greatly disappointed. Instead of the light vanilla and soft buttery finish I was expecting, I was greeted with wood and hazlenut. The mouthfeel was akin to biting into a tree that was wrapped in carpet. Which got me to thinking.

Canadian and Irish whiskies are predominantly blends (Yeah so are scotches but you can make that point later). In fact, some of the most highly regarded Irish whiskies are blended--Redbreast anyone? Bourbons are blended and even straight bourbons are distilled from a variety of grains. So my question is this: Does the single malt rule only apply to scotch while most other whiskies lend themselves quite readily to blending? Or is it that there is just a dearth of quality samples of other single malt whiskies that are readily available?

Before answering, I am aware that some fine examples of single malts do exist for Irish and Canadian whiskies. But the question more regards the quality of blends of other whiskies as opposed to scotch.

Okay, thanks for patronizing me:rolleyes:

Irish blends are usually made from whiskey from the same distillery. And very few whiskeys go into them. For example, the Blackbush contains two whiskeys, a malt (about 70 to 80%) and a grain. Scottish blends use lots and lots of different whisky from different distilleries.

Also, Irish distillers are more particular about the wood they use for their blended whiskey. Some Scottish blenders use whiskey from third, fourth fill casks.

And, finally, pure pot still lends itself very well to blending.