The rise of single malt whisky is a relatively recent phenomenon. William Grant & Sons pioneered modern, mass market single malts in the 1960s, and as other producers entered the market in the ‘70s and ‘80s, they steadily gained in popularity and prestige.
But, while single malts have driven interest in Scotch, in terms of consumption blended whiskies remain more popular. Part of this is down to price, with blended whiskies typically less expensive than single malts (good single malt whiskies can take years, or even decades to produce, but a blended whisky can be made more quickly). There’s also the largely persuasive argument that blended whisky tends to be more consistent and doesn’t make serious demands of drinkers.
But to maintain a snobbish attitude towards blended whiskies would be smug and foolish, because there are examples that are truly excellent, and not only at the ultra-premium end of the market. For your summer-drinking pleasure, consider these reasonably priced options.
The Broody Hen, £29.95
A new venture from the Summerhall Distillery in Edinburgh, makers of Pickering’s Gin, The Broody Hen is a blend of Highland whiskies. Sweet in every sense, it is rich with honey, butterscotch and vanilla, with a little spice on the finish. Producing this blend is a first step towards distilling their own whiskies, something that Summerhall has been working towards for eight years, because as co-founder Marcus Pickering says, “Our motto is: if you can’t find what you want, make it yourself.” The skill in evidence here will only build anticipation.
• Available from summerhalldistillery.com
Johnnie Walker Black Label Sherry edition, £33.99
Johnnie Walker is the world’s best-selling range of blended Scotch whisky, and this is a limited edition spin on the classic Black Label; aged for 12 years as usual, but then finished in casks seasoned with sherry from Jerez. Made with stock from some of Diageo’s best distilleries, it has all the layers you would anticipate, but the peatiness of the Caol Ila is rounded out by the figgy flavours of the sherry. An old friend, filled with unexpected Christmas cheer.
• Available from malts.com
Mossburn Signature Cask Series Cask Bill No. 1 – Island, £45.00
Independent bottling company Mossburn has produced two blended malt Scotch whiskies, celebrating archetypal regional styles. This first batch sources whiskies from the Islands, with their signature smoke and pepper.
After a first maturation in refill American white oak, they underwent secondary maturation in purpose-built hybrid casks in first fill ex-bourbon barrels, with toasted virgin European oak heads. Mossburn’s whisky maker Neil Macleod Mathieson says, “The traditional peated flavour historically associated with Island whiskies is well known, and we have looked to build on these more aromatic phenols with additional oak spice and vanilla to enhance the typical maritime flavours.”
• Available from masterofmalt.com
Mossburn Signature Cask Series Cask Bill No. 2 – Speyside, £42.00
The second batch is a celebration of Speyside. Once again, the whiskies were first matured in refill American whiskey barrels, before being transferred to bespoke hybrid casks; this time Oloroso sherry butts, with heavily charred American oak heads. The result is a crisp, enjoyable whisky with hints of dried fruit and baked goods. Macleod Mathieson says, “The fruity profile of Speyside has allowed us to enrich the flavour and broaden the finish of the spirit whilst maintaining the honey and heather florality of the finest Speyside malts.”
• Available from masterofmalt.com