The growth of our prosperity has also affected our choice of alcoholic beverages. In addition to the traditional vodka and wine, a lot of interesting and sometimes even exotic variants have been appearing on the shelves for a long time. Whiskey has gained particular popularity. It's no secret that in the West this drink has a whole army of admirers and has developed a cult following and a series of myths to match.
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Even Haruki Murakami wrote that one must first consume the whiskey and only then, when one has had enough, one take a sip. Drinking this spirituous liquor is a science that a connoisseur of quality alcohol must know how to handle. When talking about whiskey, the blend is always mentioned. But what is it, how, what and why is it mixed?
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What is blended whiskey?
The word "mixed" itself simply means "mixture." Thus, blended whiskey is a mixture of different types of whiskey and sometimes neutral grain alcohols, colorings and flavorings. It is usually the product of mixing one or more higher quality pure or single malts with less expensive spirits and other ingredients. The proportions can vary a lot. Normally up to 60% malted barley spirit can be found in a mix, but increasing this ratio makes the drink more valuable. The rest of the mixed drink, on the other hand, comes from grain alcohols, from wheat, corn and rye. It is believed that they cannot provide a quality comparable to that of barley spirit. But blended whiskey isn't necessarily worse than single malt, they're just different types of whiskey and each have their own connoisseurs.
Differences between blended whiskey and single malt
The fundamental principle of Single Malt Scotch Whiskey is the absence of blends, while Blended Whiskey is the basis for it. Single Malt Scotch Whiskey is made from barley malt with no grain additives, with a few exceptions. It is the benchmark whiskey and, naturally, it is not cheap.
Buyers must understand that they are paying for a high-quality drink. Only the best raw materials are used in the production of single malt whiskey, and much time and care is devoted to germinating and drying the grain. Producers also closely monitor the quality and condition of the barrels in which the elite drink is aged for 10-12 years. A total of four single malt varieties can be distinguished (indicated on the label):
- single malt. The drink is created by a single distillery, but mixing (blended) whiskeys of different ages is allowed.
- single barrel. Whiskey poured from a single cask.
- quarter barrel. She is aged in an American oak barrel. This gives the drink a richer flavor and the strength can be up to 50%.
- Pure malt (tuned malt, blended malt). It is based on barley malt, but can also be blended with whiskeys of different ages.
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How to properly mix whiskey?
You cannot mix different spirits. Making a good blended whiskey is as fine an art as making a single malt. The first stage of the two mixtures is the same: the malting, the fermentation and the distillation of the barley. Similar processes affect other grains. The finished liquors are then mixed. Since the quality of the liquids is not always the same, the producer achieves stable flavor characteristics that remain unchanged over the years. The final stage of blended whiskey production is barrel maturation. The Scotch Whiskey Association distinguishes between several types of blended whiskey:
- Standard mix. This whiskey is produced with spirits aged for at least three years and the proportion of malted barley is around 25%. The mixture is kept in barrels for a month or more. It is the standard blend most often offered to the discerning masses.
- luxury mix. Here, the proportion of single malts already reaches 50%, with an impressive 10-12 years of aging. After mixing, the drink remains in barrels for about six months.
- Premium. This blended whiskey is widely considered to be the best. It can contain up to 60% single malt, but the main thing here is 12 years or more of barrel aging. Premium blend whiskey isn't cheap; a bottle can cost more than a thousand dollars.
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The most famous brands of blended whiskey
In the standard blended whiskey category are Johnnie Walker Red Label, Ballantines, and Dewars. In the luxury blends category, Johnnie Walker Black Label, Dewar's Special Reserve, William Lawson, Chivas Regal 12 Year Old, Tullamore Dew and The Antiquary stand out. If we talk about premium blends, we can mention Chivas Regal with 18 years of maturation, Ballantine's Gold Seal, Famous Grouse (Old Reserve, 15 and 21 years), Cutty Sark (Discovery, 12 and 18 years).
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What should you drink blended whiskey with?
Single malt whiskey excludes the use of any additional ingredients, except for carbonated water, which must be served separately. Blended whiskey, on the other hand, can be mixed with ice, with cola, which is considered a classic, and with plain water. Lemon or cranberry juice can be used, in the ratio of 1 to 2 with respect to whiskey. As an appetizer we can offer cheese, such as gouda, cheddar, swiss cheese, dark chocolate and various appetizers: chips, nuts. Smoked meats also go well with blended whiskey.