What is Blended Whiskey?
If you’re a fan of whiskey, you’ve probably noticed that some bottles categorize their contents as “blends” or “blended.”
But what is blended whiskey, and how does it differ from single malt, single grain or single barrel whiskeys? Blended whiskey has increasingly become a popular choice for many whiskey drinkers, and if you’re curious about what it is – don’t worry. We have the answers.
What is Blended Whiskey?
A blended whiskey is exactly what it sounds like: a mix of two or more whiskeys. The resulting product has a distinctive flavor profile that seeks to combine the best characteristics of each whiskey used in the blend.
Most blended whiskeys are a combination of malt whiskey (made from malted barley) and grain whiskey (made with other grains). Typically, most blended whiskeys are found in the international whiskey market as opposed to bourbon/rye.
Blending also allows distillers to create flavors and aromas that are not possible with single-malt whiskeys. For example, blending two different types of malt whiskey can create additional flavors that would not exist in either single-malt whiskey alone. This makes blended whiskeys perfect for creating complex drinks with multiple layers of flavor.
Is Blended Whiskey Worse?
Blended whiskey is often regarded as lower quality than single-barrel whiskeys because most bottom-shelf whiskey used to be blended, and the popularity of both single malts and single-barrel whiskeys has risen drastically in recent years. Blended whiskey, however, can be just as good as its single-barrel counterparts and even better. After all, combining the best elements of many great barrels is a recipe for success when it comes to building a great whiskey.
Blended whiskey was first developed in Scotland in the mid-1800s to create something more palatable and more value-oriented. Nowadays, the practice of blending whiskeys lives on, but the key is to be aware of what’s in the blend, because it’s only going to be as good (or bad) as the whiskey stocks that make it up.
Blended whiskey earned a negative stigma in the earlier days of whiskey, when it was made cheaply and often contained flavorings and additives. At that point, blended whiskeys were rightfully considered cheaper, lower-quality alternatives, especially those that contain neutral grain spirits (essentially vodka).
Today, however, blending whiskey is something of an art form. Companies like Barrell Craft Spirits, as well as Kentucky’s heritage producers blend together stocks of well-aged whiskeys from around the U.S. and make delicious, intriguing and bold expressions that are far superior to their individual parts.
Age Statements in Blended Whiskey
When it comes to blended whiskeys, an age statement refers to the minimum age of the spirits used in the blend, not necessarily how long each individual spirit has been aged.
If you see an age statement of 12 years on a bottle of blended whiskey, it means that all of the spirits used in that blend have been aged for at least 12 years. However, this doesn’t mean that all of those spirits are 12 years old — some may be older. It simply means that none of the whiskeys in the blend are younger than 12 years old.
However, there will be times when whiskey bottles don’t bear an age statement, which can be for a variety of reasons.
For one, blending different aged spirits together gives the distiller more control over the flavor and aroma of their whiskey. This means they can create a flavor profile that is unique to their product while still conforming to legal requirements for what constitutes “whiskey.”
Additionally, by not labeling the exact ages of each spirit used in the blend, distillers can protect their trade secrets and avoid revealing information about the processes behind making their whiskey if they’d rather focus on marketing other aspects of the whiskey.
Blended Scotch Whisky vs. Blended American Whiskey
If you’re interested in blended whiskey, you might be curious about the difference between blended American whiskey and blended Scotch whisky (if you’re wondering about the reason for the different spellings of “whiskey” vs. “whisky,” we’ve got you covered here).
Blended Grain Whisky is a type of whisky made from a blend of single grains from two or more distilleries. These whiskies tend to be lighter and milder than blended malts and other blended whiskies, which are made from a mix of malt and grain whiskies.
Blended scotch whiskies make up about 90% of all scotch sales. Notable blended scotch brands include Johnnie Walker, Cutty Sark and J&B.
U.S. regulations state that blended American whiskey must contain at least 20% straight whiskey. Straight whiskey is distilled from a mashbill containing at least 51% of a single grain, aged at least two years in charred oak barrels, bottled at a minimum of 80 proof and has no added colors, flavors or other spirits. The rest of the blend can be either whiskey or unaged neutral grain spirits. A blend of straight whiskeys is a designation that ensures a blend with no additives of neutral grain spirit. Between the two, the latter is absolutely the product to chase down on shelves.
Some of the most popular brands offering blended American whiskey are Sweetens Cove and Barrell Craft Spirits, which both only blend straight spirits and produce some of the most popular blends on the market.
This post may contain affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site. This helps support Whiskey Raiders at no additional cost to you.