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A Primer on Buying Blended Scotch

When I last looked at Irish whiskeys, after looking at bourbon and North American whiskeys, I figured next would be the time to look at the king of these wonderful beverages, Scotch. However, once I started to examine it more, it became apparent that there are two more essays at work, single malt and blended Scotch whiskeys. As we climb the tower of whiskeys together, because of all that I’ve heard in popular culture, the apex must be single malt, so this floor is the blended variety.

What is Scotch?

Just like the other whiskeys, Scotch has its own rules, in this case the Scotch Whiskey Regulations 2009. To be called scotch, it must be made and aged in Scotland, it must be aged in oak barrels for at least three years and it must be made from water and malted barley.

Scotchy Scotchy Scotch

Single malt Scotch is made from only water and malted barley at a single distillery. Single grain Scotch is the same as single malt, but can contain other grains and malted grains. (The “single” in this case just refers to the single distillery.)

Blended Scotch is then a combination of single malts (into blended malt Scotch); single grains (into blended grain Scotch); or both (into blended Scotch).

Familiar Blended Scotch Brands

Chivas Regal

Originally distilled in Aberdeen, Scotland, Chivas started as part of a gourmet food emporium in 1801. Today, Chivas is distilled in the Strathisla Distillery where you can take a six-pound tour with two samples, or spring for the extra 19 pounds and get five samples.

Cutty Sark

The first time I ever drank Scotch, it was in the basement of a house near St. Louis and it was part of a ninth grade Student Council trip. The Scotch was Cutty Sark and I got sicker than a dog after drinking it. It might taste like nectar of the Gods, but I doubt I’ll drink it again. However, the fact that this was the Scotch of choice during Prohibition, if I do drink a glass, it will be with a flapper on my arm.

Dewar’s

Sometimes you read something on a website and it immediately sows the seed of travel in my mind. Dewar’s pages did just that. “We’re lucky to be in a place of such natural beauty – the highest mountain, the deepest loch and the longest glen in Perthshire are all here.” All that and a private tour to taste their premium whiskies, and I need to get tickets to Scotland soon.

J&B

Two words: Mirrorball Man.

Johnnie Walker

I love the fact that the marketing for Johnnie Walker has instilled in all of us the different brands they have just by having different colored labels. Trying to tie each color with an adjective (e.g. Red = Versatile, Green = Intense) just seems to be a bit overboard.

Other Blended Scotch Brands

As always, Wikipedia has a nice summary of brands, so let’s just explore a couple of the ones with better names.

Hankey Bannister

On it’s heritage page, Hankey Bannister boasts of being a favorite of Sir Winston Churchill and that begs the question of with which American political figure would you want to associate your whiskey? As far as beloved and not touched by much in the way of scandal or partisan politics, I’m going to guess Abraham Lincoln, mostly because of the fact that he wore a sweet stovepipe hat.

Teacher’s Highland Cream

As good as the connotations with Scotch are, I would think that anything named “Highland Cream” will sound better. The fact that they also invented the self-opening bottle makes me think they are in the business to tempt me to drink. (“Ooops, I’m a bottle and I just opened. Whatever are you going to do?”)

The Famous Grouse

Located an hour from both Glasgow and Edinburgh, Perthshire, Scotland is home to The Famous Grouse distillery as well as The Famous Grouse Festival. Drinking and music just go together well. (See also Telluride’s Blues and Brews.)

See you at the bar, I’ll be the one with a blended Scotch on the rocks.

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About Jason McClain Jason is an aspiring novelist, which means there is a lot of time to put off writing and watch baseball or go fly-fishing, hiking and traveling. By "a lot of time", Jason means "procrastination."

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