First it was vodka, then gin and coffee. Now blended Scotch whisky is experiencing a craft revival. Single malts have been the choice of many whisky aficionados for the last century or so, but Scotch blends, which have a longer history stretching back to the mid-19th century, continue to account for 90% of global Scotch whisky sales.
They are attempting to steal into the limelight again as smaller companies introduce single-malt snobs to the craftsmanship behind blends. Copper Dog, a balanced blend of eight Speyside whiskies, is winning admirers as well as distributors, as are the blends of the Lost Distillery Company, which has been trawling through whisky archives in its mission to blend whiskies that recreate the taste of single malts no longer in production.
It’s not just independents that are getting into this. Diageo included a blend of single malts from each of the company’s distilleries, the Collectivum XXVIII, in its reserve list last year, and Famous Grouse launched Naked Grouse, a blended malt whisky aged in first-fill (or “naked”) Oloroso sherry casks.
They are responding to changing tastes and values. Georgie Bell, global malts ambassador for Dewars, reckons that “millennials are more likely to appreciate the artistry involved in making blended Scotch.” Inevitably, whisky blends are part of an ongoing cocktail revival. “Blended malts tap into the versatility and playfulness of cocktails,” says Kirsteen Campbell, Naked Grouse’s master distiller.
Up in Scotland, they are reading the runes: 40 new distilleries are due to start production in the next few years, giving the blenders ample opportunity for even more experimentation.