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  1. #1
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    Giving short shrift to blenders...

    Why is it that some Bourbon enthusiasts look down their noses at folks who blend and/or bottle whiskey that they've purchased from distilleries? There seems to be a consensus of 'if you didn't distill it, you're not legit', or that bottling something you didn't make is somehow less of an accomplishment, qualitatively speaking. Take, for example, the polarizing reaction to David Perkins of High West getting the “Innovator of the Year” award from Malt Advocate. Many purists derided Dave’s award by saying, ‘He didn’t make the spirit, he just blended it’.


    To my point of view both distillers and blenders practice very important crafts. And, in my experience, it takes a whole lot more talent to take a multitude of barrels - some of varying mashbills, ages and characteristics- and make a compelling, layered, nuanced bottle of whiskey. Don't get me wrong...I'm not saying that there's no art to distillation. There certainly is; however, if forced to come down on which of the two is more important, I'll choose the blender.



    In the wine industry there is a whole category of producers known as negociants. They neither grow the grapes nor process them into wine. They purchased finished wines from wineries, and (most often) blend them with wines purchased from other producers to craft a finished product. And some of those products are damn good. The general consensus in the wine trade is that negociants aren’t as ‘good’ as a winemaker…and I’d agree with that sentiment on the whole. I’m not taking away anything from their talent to blend a complex wine, it’s just that – when it comes to wine – the grower and winemaker are every bit as important in the finished product.



    With selling whiskey you do need to have a good distillate base…but the maturation and blending of the product is really where the rubber meets the road. You can make the finest white dog in the world, but it pales in comparison to a well-crafted Bourbon. If you don’t know how to blend – what to add, what not, and in what proportions – then you’re toast.



    I make this observation not to piss any of you off, it’s really to get some honest feedback as to why some here think that folks who purchase barrels from distilleries and then bottle under their own label are not (or somehow less than) ‘real’. I’d welcome your input…thanks!
    Mat Garretson
    HIGH WEST DISTILLERY

  2. #2
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    Re: Giving short shrift to blenders...

    To me it is like the difference between a singer/songwriter and an "artist" who takes the finished musical product of another and remixes it and calls it their own.

    Weird Al Yankovic has made a career of taking popular songs, penning brilliant parodies and selling boatloads of albums. Nobody that I know looks at him as a serious musician.

    Successful rectifiers are the Al Yankovic's of the spirits world. At least with Al, we know 100% of the time where he sourced his blending stock.
    My name is Joel Goodson. I deal in human fulfillment.
    I grossed over eight thousand dollars in one night. Time of your life, huh kid?

  3. #3
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    Re: Giving short shrift to blenders...

    Single barrel, Small batch, multi-thousand gallon batch blending to achieve the "company profile"..........as long as what is coming out of the bottle into my glass is fine tasting to my taste, I'm happy.

    No doubt, it takes real skill and dedication to master the craft of distillation, but equal skill is needed to take multiple taste profiles, noses, barrels, years, etc..... .and combine them into something greeter than the sum of their parts.

    Not that I drink much of the other stuff that comes in from across the pond, but the scotch industry has some very talented folks in the blending business, The guy from Compass Box, whose name escapes me at the moment, comes to mind.

    Not to mention our own members who have come up with some great "blending" recipes of their own.

    B

  4. #4
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    Re: Giving short shrift to blenders...

    Knowing where the base distillate was sourced from is a completely different issue (and, for the record, I'm all for transparency).

    And while I'm not a fan of Weird Al, it does take a serious musician to do what he did/does. If you follow that line, you'd have to say that Itzak Perlman isn't a serious musician...after all, he didn't write that Tchaikovsky piece.
    Mat Garretson
    HIGH WEST DISTILLERY

  5. #5
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    Re: Giving short shrift to blenders...

    Quote Originally Posted by callmeox View Post
    To me it is like the difference between a singer/songwriter and an "artist" who takes the finished musical product of another and remixes it and calls it their own.

    Weird Al Yankovic has made a career of taking popular songs, penning brilliant parodies and selling boatloads of albums. Nobody that I know looks at him as a serious musician.

    Successful rectifiers are the Al Yankovic's of the spirits world. At least with Al, we know 100% of the time where he sourced his blending stock.
    Okay, now, wait a cotton-pickin' minute.

    Weird Al and his band have got boatloads of musical talent just on the basis of the sheer range of music they are able to play, imitate and parody. Not to mention the amount of non-parodied, original music he releases on each album.

    Not only is Weird Al, and each member of his band, a serious musician, but they are all damn fine musicians.
    Mark Edwards - Proof of Sanity Forged Upon Request

  6. #6
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    Re: Giving short shrift to blenders...

    Quote Originally Posted by MarkEdwards View Post
    Not only is Weird Al, and each member of his band, a serious musician, but they are all damn fine musicians.
    Also, where else can you find the Rolling Stones done polka style?
    Mark Edwards - Proof of Sanity Forged Upon Request

  7. #7
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    Re: Giving short shrift to blenders...

    Quote Originally Posted by mrviognier View Post
    Knowing where the base distillate was sourced from is a completely different issue (and, for the record, I'm all for transparency).

    And while I'm not a fan of Weird Al, it does take a serious musician to do what he did/does. If you follow that line, you'd have to say that Itzak Perlman isn't a serious musician...after all, he didn't write that Tchaikovsky piece.
    I think that Weird Al would be very happy to be compared to Itzhak Perlman, but strawmen aside...

    When has Itzhak Perlman recorded a Tchaikovsky piece and sold it without crediting the composer? Typically, the composer gets top billing with classical artists.

    It's not the perfect analogy, but I remain unswayed. Those who take the finished product of others and modify it to sell as their own creation are many levels below craftsmen who create from end to end.

    (all of this is IMO of course)

    Now, when does this guy come out?

    My name is Joel Goodson. I deal in human fulfillment.
    I grossed over eight thousand dollars in one night. Time of your life, huh kid?

  8. #8
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    Re: Giving short shrift to blenders...

    But - like callmeox - you're missing the point. I'm not talking about those who have issues who rectify and are reluctant to discuss where the product was distilled...or, worse, those who make up some cock-n-bull story about the origins of the whiskey. And, yes, those that can do BOTH are truly talented.

    I'm wondering why folks feel that those who blend and don't distill lack real talent.
    Mat Garretson
    HIGH WEST DISTILLERY

  9. #9
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    Re: Giving short shrift to blenders...

    Quote Originally Posted by MarkEdwards View Post
    Also, where else can you find the Rolling Stones done polka style?
    Hmmm. Brave Combo comes to mind.
    Mat Garretson
    HIGH WEST DISTILLERY

  10. #10
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    Re: Giving short shrift to blenders...

    This topic has been discussed ad nauseum, my nauseum anyway. But here I go again...

    Speaking for myself, and I am unanimous in this, I have no problem with those who mix and marry stuff they bought elsewhere. I took issue with Perkins being called a pioneer b/c I don't think what he does is pioneering, not b/c I think there's no skill involved. Yes, that's a double negative.

    What annoys me is when a company claims or implies (either on the bottle or elsewhere) that they distilled a whiskey when they didn't. This includes putting the name "Distillers" or "Distillery" in the company name when no distilling is going on. Or implying that the product was made somewhere it wasn't.
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