Whisky snobbery: don’t be a blend snob

03 August, 2018 by Tam Allenby

Single malts aren’t the only whiskies worth drinking. In this article from a back issue of BARS&clubs, we explored how blends are earning a renewed reputation in the industry. 

Whisky snobbery is rife across the liquor industry – professional and amateur – but the tides are turning, with fans of the blended form of the amber nectar singing its praises.

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Gabriella Payne of Melbourne’s Whisky and Alement freely admits that she started out as a bit of a single malt snob, before learning the error of her ways.

“Personally, I have to admit that I was a little prejudiced against blended whisky, but I think that there really are some quality blended whiskies out there,” she says. “Attitudes are definitely starting to change but a lot of people still have the mindset that single malt is better.”

She also points out that we have the blended whisky industry to thank for keeping the single malt industry alive, in a way.

“Back in the 80s blends were way more popular, so a lot of those distilleries would have probably shut down if not for blends,” says Payne.

Ev Liong, who also tends bar at Whisky and Alement and The Melbourne Whisky Room, is hopeful that the winds of change are starting to blow and the snobs are quieting down.

“They forget that it is the blends that kept the single malt distilleries open, because you need a workhorse,” she says. “Blends just have a lot more to offer than single malts sometimes. And they’ve always leant themselves to a wider market because they cover a lot more palates. It’s like going to a party with a party mix of nuts instead of just the one kind that you love.”

YOU’RE MISSING OUT

Liong says that by avoiding blends, people are missing out on the subtle art that goes into creating them.

“Blends are just really underrated – but like anything there are good and bad ones on the market,” she says.

Payne says that people forget that the blended whisky category is a lot bigger than if first appears, and some digging outside the big names can turn up whisky gold.

To be honest there are some brilliant blended whiskies that are lesser known,” she says. “My favourite blend is the Spencer Collings Founders Reserve, it’s amazing – it’s made by the same guy who came up with Johnnie Walker Blue Label but it’s so much richer and has so much going on.”

SIP & SAVOUR

While blends lend themselves well to cocktails, being often a lot softer and less aggressive that their single malt counterparts, there are plenty that should only be missed with water or ice.

“If you get a quality drop, it is really nice to sit and sip on,” says Payne. “There are so many out there – it really depends on what mood you’re in as well. If it’s a hot day I don’t want anything too smoky, but there really is something for everyone out there.”

Liong reiterates that you would be crazy to put certain whiskies in a cocktail, ever, under any circumstances.

“Some of them you would never put in a cocktail, like Johnnie Walker King George V – no one in their right mind would put that in a cocktail. It’s really great sipping whisky,” she says.