Why Are Whiskeys Typically 'Blended'?

Interesting story. I am a lover of fine liquors. It all started when I turned 21. You see all my parents typically had around our house was wines and beers. And perhaps unbeknownst to them, I would sneak a sip here and there (cut me some slack, I was young and foolish then:)). Then shortly after I turned 21, I bought my first liquor. And I am glad I did. It literally opened up a new world of taste, etc. I never knew before. And I only enjoy in moderation–and recommend everyone who reads or responds to my post to do the same.

Anyways, something has always perplexed me: why are whiskeys typically “blended”? Scotch is blended. American whiskey is blended. And so forth. Some things, like gin, for example, are never blended to the best of my knowledge. What does “blending” accomplish?

Thank you in advance to all who reply:)

Blending assures a standardized, palatable commercial product from distilled whiskies.

A liquor like gin is usually produced by infusing a flavouring agent into (almost) pure alcohol, and so variations are controlled by other methods than mixing to a standard.

Typical whiskey production, assuming it isn’t coming out of a distillation column type, tends to have characteristics of the environments and inputs. What may work one year, may not be repeatable so the distiller will go and bring various malts and blend them together. It also allows the use of younger, “hotter” malts and so avoids the cost of waiting at least 7 years before selling them.

Beer and wine makers do the same thing in many instances.

The discerning spirits drinker will avoid blended spirits and shop instead for single malt scotch whisky (note the spelling). The act of drinking single malt scotch is an art form. The experienced bourbon drinker will shop for a single barrel (unblended) Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (note spelling). Again, drinking single barrel bourbon whiskey is an art form. If it’s Irish Whiskey, look for Single unblended, pure pot still Irish whiskey. Redbreast is one such. I’m not sure what you mean by ‘American whiskey’ though Rye Whiskey is sometimes called American Whiskey. Rye Whiskey also comes unblended. Look for single barrel rye.

Despite your opening words, “Interesting story. I am a lover of fine liquors.”, I suspect that you are uneducated when it comes to spirits. Otherwise you would know the simple factual notes that I provided above.

I said I am a “lover” of fine whiskey, not a “knower”;). Seriously though, I take information wherever I can get it, here and there. BTW, I already knew about the whiskey/whisky (plural: whiskeys/whiskies). According to one source, “whiskey” is the American spelling, and “whisky” is the British/Commonwealth (Canada, etc.) spelling.

Blending also allows distillers to cut older whisky with younger and cheaper whisky, therefore allowing them to sell more whisky.

I am no expert (beer makes up about 95% of my alcoholic beverage intake) but I dont think I have ever seen a Canadian whisky that was not blended…

Apparently there is only one: Glen Breton Rare.

Also single malt scotch whisky is always barley while blended whisky is a mix of single malts and grain whisky producing a different taste. I’m not an expert, but I find single malt scotch to be a bit smokier, which I like.

Most of the scotch blends date back from the time when distilleries didn’t market their own product. That was done by others. These people, men like Johnnie Walker, started blending their own distinctive product out of the single malts they bought. That way they could create a brand.

As noted, blends also contain a lot of grain whiskey, which is much cheaper and acts as a “filler.” Besides, all the subtleties of a whiskey are lost when you mix it with stuff to make a cocktail.

Strangely (note spelling), I don’t think I have ever seen a Canadian whiskey that was palatable in any form other than as a mixed drink (note spelling). :slight_smile:

As you read in my post, I dont drink much whisky, but when I do, I can enjoy a Seagrams and ginger ale, or a Canadian Mist and cola (for example) without needing to feel inferior to others who may have more “refined” tastes than I do.

I dont have any aspirations of becoming a rare spirits connoissuer anytime soon, but I certainly know what tastes good to me and refuse to have an inferiority complex about it…

If you are mixing it, there is no need for a distinctive tasting whiskey. In cocktails, Canadian is fine most of the time. Undrinkable (to me) straight, it functions fine as the boost to a mixer, especially a sweet one.

For a treat, try a Manhattan made with good rye. Sublime.

To continue your education, I recommend that you use your jetpack to acquire a bottle of Knob Creek Single Barrel Bourbon ASAP.


Amen to that. I’m excited to see the local state-run liquor stores are starting to stock a few ryes. Maybe now when I return from visiting family I won’t have to pack my luggage full of bottles and hope the airline guys don’t smash 'em all to hell.

Does Knob Creek really sell a single barrel bourbon? I don’t think I’ve ever seen it. Their standard bourbon is a small batch. I’d sure be interested to try a single barrel expression though.

Yes, they do make a single barrel.

The flavor of barrel aged spirits changes not only with their ingredients, aging method, and length of aging, but also with the position of the barrel in the warehouse, and probably other factors I am unaware of. Blending doesn’t need to be a cost cutting measure; it can be done for the purpose of both improving flavor and making a more consistent flavor profile for a larger number of bottles. I don’t see how you can argue that mixing barrels that have no other difference than what floor they were aged on is a cost cutting method, but I seem to recall that is done at times because it can produce a larger number of bottles with the same flavor profile and that gives the maker a chance to affect the flavor to better match their own ideal.

It also seems unlikely that always a single barrel would provide a better flavor. It would seem just luck of the draw would mean that at times you would get a bottle out of a barrel that is not as much to your taste as some others would be. Nor do I think that all blended is worse than all single barrel. I rather like 1792 and Old Overholt, and have had single barrel spirits that do not hold a candle to them. My favorite Armagnac is a Jeanneu which is blended.

The Knob Creek single barrel that I had was nice, but I like 1792 better for both mixing and sipping.

What? No, it isn’t. The creation of single malt Scotch may well be, but you’re gonna have to get up awfully early to convince me that glugging hooch is ever ant art in itself.