Overcoming blend bias

What, no election day post? Yeah, sorry. I was in the middle of writing something when I got an invitation from my friend Lance to join him at a Scotch tasting. Drinking Scotch at 2:30 in the afternoon pretty much killed my productivity, but sometimes you’ve got to make sacrifices. Maybe I’ll get it up tomorrow or maybe this blog will just go straight into some food and drink posts. We’re due for some after all the politics of the past few weeks. Don’t like it? Blame Lance.

The tasting was hosted by Dewar’s. I’m your stereotypical elitist single malt guy, so I was a little wary of the blends. Dewar’s wanted to fight that prejudice and educate us about how blending works and why we should appreciate a good blended whisky. So after warming us up with glasses of their 12-year-old offering, they lined up samples of six different components that go into a blend: single malts from the 4 recognized regions, an Island malt, and the simple grain Scotch that forms the base. We sampled their aromas and went over a quick course about what sets them apart from each other. Our challenge? To create our own individual blend, with each team choosing their favorite for the final judging.

My McDivot blend (named after the cute terrier you sometimes see at the top of the page) took home first place. This was due to luck more than skill, but the Scotch did turn out the way I hoped it would, with a healthy dose of peat and smoke. I’m sipping the remnants now, and it really is the kind of Scotch I like to drink. It’s striking how large an effect a tiny bit of Islay and Island has on the blend; just a few milliliters from a pipette into a 100 mL sample are all it takes to radically change the flavor profile.

The prize was a bottle of the Dewar’s 12. It packs a little bit of heat and is well-balanced with just the right amount of smoky depth. It’s something I probably never would have picked up on my own, but it’s actually a nice Scotch and much easier on the wallet than a high-end single malt. I’d love to enjoy it with a strong maduro cigar. Now that I’ve given it a fair shake I could easily see keeping a bottle on hand.

The finale to the tasting was a glass of the Dewar’s Signature blend. Twenty-seven-year-old whisky from the company’s Aberfeldy distillery makes up the heart of this one and the extra aging does seem to come through in a stronger vanilla flavor. It’s definitely a good drink, but at $160-200 a bottle it’s well past the point where I’d consider the expense worthwhile. For that kind of money I’d rather get two excellent single malts.

Today’s tasting didn’t convert me away from my love of big, peaty single malts, but it did leave me with a deeper education about Scotch and a much greater appreciation for blends. If you’re looking for an affordable whisky with depth and character, the Dewar’s 12 is certainly worth checking out.


4 thoughts on “Overcoming blend bias”

  1. I’ve never really tasted many blended Scotches, but I guess I’ll have to try one at some point. As soon as I get through all the different single malts, that is…

    Man, now I’m in the mood for a good single malt Scotch. Fortunately, I have one (Aberlour 16) sitting on the bookcase in my office. Seriously. I may have to dip into it later on. (Not now, I mean it is 10 AM.)

  2. We’d have to find the base Scotch grain alcohol. Not sure how easy that is to come by. Would also have to have several bottles of single malt on hand, which isn’t happening till I get fully employed! (Unless brands want to send me more samples…)

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