Blended scotch, unfortunately, gets a bad rap in the world of fine whiskey. Too often, these smoother sips are considered cop-outs, mixing whiskeys, or drams that are better reserved for a glass full of ice. Maybe it’s because the world of blended scotch is unknown, unlike its single malt counterpart. Or maybe, it’s because the blanket term “blended” alludes to an antithesis of purity. Yet, with a fine blended scotch, this isn’t often the case. In fact, many single malt scotches are, in one way or another, blended themselves. They’re just blended with various malts, grains or other whiskies specific to one distillery. For example, a single malt Laphroaig could very well feature different batches of whisky in its composition. However, all of these batches were distilled and aged on site at the same distillery, therefore it’s allowed to exist within the single malt category.
Let’s start with the term itself. In the scotch world, ‘blended’ can mean one of three things pertaining to three different elements of the whiskey itself, known in the industry as either blended malt, blended grain, or blended scotch. Confused yet? Not to worry, here’s a brief outline of each.
Breakdown Of The Blends
Blended Malt: These are blends that are born out of marrying two or more single malt scotches from different distilleries into one batch. They’re typically more medium to full bodied.
Blended Grain: Similar to a blended malt, these offerings feature a smooth blend of single grain scotches from two or more separate distilleries. They’re typically lighter and milder than single malts.
Blended Scotch: When voyaging into your local liquor store, this variant makes up the majority of what you see in the “blended” aisle. And rightly so, seeing how they’re often a mix of both single malt and single grain scotches from two or more separate distilleries.
Beyond that, whisky lovers around the globe are free to roam a new realm of possibilities and off-shoots that range anywhere from world-class one-of-a-kind pours to burning “who signed off on this terrible idea” experiments. See, the world of scotch doesn’t have to be so homogenous. The journey is half the fun. So, if you’re looking for some recommendations on where to start this new voyage into the blended beyond, have a look at what we compiled in our list of best blended scotches. Cheers.
The Famous Grouse
Functioning as a newer addition to the Famous Grouse family, Mellow Gold is a blend that was conceived and executed by Master Blender Gordon Motion using a combination of bourbon and sherry casks. It features a notable amount of creamy vanilla and dried fruits on the nose, toffee and biscuits on the palate, and finishes up with more orange peels and cinnamon spice.
Compass Box Great King Street
Pulling from several distilleries, Great King’s Street truly is a work of art in the realm of blended scotch whisky. A combination of both single malt and single grain whiskies are harmonized and balanced to produce a soft and fruit-forward drinking experience, full of flavors alluding to baked apple, spices, vanilla, and toasted oak from new French oak barrels.
Quite frankly a hodgepodge of different malt whiskies (16 different ones aged between 8 and 21 years to be exact) Sheep dip is a quintessential blended whisky that brings a whole lot of elements to the table. The result? A nose rich with coastal notes, honey, toffee and malt; a warming palate filled with smoke; and notes of fruit and spice that actually serve as the dominating finishing notes as well.
Sometimes everything you need to know is in a name. Big Peat is one of those instances, combining single malt whiskies from smoke-forward drams like Coal Ila, Bowmore, Ardbeg, and Port Ellen. The result is a peat-centric scotch with hints of grass, nuts, spices and coastal notes that make Big Peat a fun try for any fans of smokey scotch.
It’s not every day that we find a blended scotch hailing from the salty and briny island region of Scotland. Rock Oyster features a fantastic blend of single malts from the islands of Islay, Jura, Arran, and Orkney. Naturally, notes of ash and a coast peat dominate the nose, while oceanic flavors, cracked black pepper, and peat smoke follow up on the palate. Hints of vanilla also round things out quite nicely.
Haig Dimple 15 Year
Known simply as ‘Dimple Pinch’ in the states, you might remember this blended whisky as Walter White’s final drink in the renowned AMC series Breaking Bad. Well, drug kingpin or not, the man had good taste seeing how the Haig Dimple is a high malt blend pulling from both Glenkinchie and Linkwood whiskies. It’s a medium body whisky, featuring notes of caramel on the nose with honey, toffee, and a bit of oak on the palate – while finishing with rich chocolate and more oak.
Dewars 18 Year
Smooth and sweet. That’s the result of Dewar’s carefully crafted blend of both 18-year-old malt and grain whiskies working to impart a unique tasting experience for the drinker. The palate is full of honey notes, almonds, vanilla, and butterscotch. A long and lingering finish makes up the tail end of this dram, as well, with notes of oak and more sweetness persuading you to take another sip.
Mackinlay’s Shackleton Rare
Inspired by a whiskey discovered back in 2007 in Antartica by Sir Ernest Shackleton, this Old Rare Highland Malt was then blended by none other than “The Nose” himself, Richard Paterson. It features malts from the likes of Glenfarclas, Mannochmore, Pulteney, and Jura among many others, and boasts a complete and complex flavor that’s sure to please.
Johnnie Walker Blue Label
Known across the realm of blending as one of the greats, Johnnie Walker Blue utilizes some of the rarest Johnnie Walker casks available. It’s a bright amber scotch, boasting nutty and cocoa aromas along with spices, leather, and earth. The palate hosts a similar smoky flavor from Scotland’s western regions and rounds out with more mellow notes from the south and eastern part of the country.
Nikka Taketsuru 17 Year
Believe it or not, Japanese blended whiskey is some of the finest in the world. And with a quality reputation, Nikka certainly delivers here with fresh notes of fruit salad, berries, and honey on the nose, more spice on the palate with vanilla and chocolate rounding things out, and a medium and mild finish imparting oak, fruit, and cocoa to wrap things up.
Chivas Regal 25 Year
The oldest of the blends on our list, Chivas works both single malts and grains into their composition, resulting in a delicious offering that continuously wins awards around the globe for its smooth and gentle character. It features nutty and rich notes of malt and berry, a palate full of toffee, sweets and a buttery mouthfeel, followed by an earthy butterscotch finish that’s quite delectable.
Suntory Hibiki 21 Year
Hibiki is one of those names in the world of Japanese whiskey that simply stands on its own. On the nose are notes of lemon, caramelized nuts, vanilla, and toffee. On the palate is a touch of oak, dark cherry, and wood spice. And with a long smokey finish, the Hibiki will certainly leave a lasting impression.
Budget Single Malt Scotches
In case you’re more of a purist, these single malt scotches under $100 are sure to please both the discerning palate and the weekend allowance.