There are a confusing number of types of Scotch whisky. From single malts to vatted grains and blended whisky, people call whisky lots of different things. This month we’re focusing on blended whisky, so it’s time to answer some questions and dispel the myths about the most popular type of whisky in the world.
WHAT IS BLENDED WHISKY?
Legally, there are five types of Scotch whisky, each with a slightly different definition:
1. Single Malt Whisky – whisky made at one distillery using pot stills and only malted barley.
2. Single Grain Whisky – whisky made at one distillery using a continuous still, or using any type of still and grains other than malted barley.
3. Blended Malt Whisky – whisky made by combining single malt whiskies from different distilleries.
4. Blended Grain Whisky – whisky made by combining single grain whiskies from different distilleries.
5. Blended Whisky – whisky made by combining malt whisky and grain whisky.
THE HISTORY OF BLENDED WHISKY
Since whisky has been sold in shops, there have been blends. Back in the days when glass was expensive, you would take your empty bottle to your local grocer who would fill it up from a cask of whisky. While these were often single casks of single malt, over time some grocers would top up their cask with whatever whisky they could get, creating blended malts. Some shops became famous for their blended whiskies over time, carefully curating the recipe of the whisky in their casks to make sure that it was consistent and every bottle bought was similar.
By the 1800s, brandy was the high-class drink – delicate Cognac was the choice of the aristocracy and weighty Scotch whisky was considered much more uncouth. In 1830, an Irishman named Aeneas Coffey patented a still that could produce a lighter and more delicate style of spirit – grain whisky. The grocers discovered that if they combined this with their heavier single malts, they could produce a more elegant whisky that appealed to the Cognac drinkers. And with that, our modern idea of blended whisky was born.