The world of blended whiskeys is large and varied, especially in America. The American standards for what constitutes a blended whiskey is a mixture containing no less than 20% – and up to 100% – whiskey. Colorings, favorings, and neutral grain spirits can make up the rest of the drink that isn’t whiskey. This relatively free-range way of categorizing blended whiskeys leaves room for a lot of great blended scotches, relatively cheap brands, and absolute bottom of the barrel drinks. The word “blended” can be off-putting to some due to the connotation of impurity that can be attached to the word, or the implication that the drink is somehow diluted. This is far from true, however, and the list below will hopefully give you some insight into the wide world of blended whiskeys.
Using a combination of bourbon and sherry casks, Mellow Gold is produced by The Famous Grouse, a distillery that has been blending whiskeys since 1800. Rich, sweet and well-rounded, Mellow Gold smells of oak and sherry, with just a touch of citrus. Orange peels carry through to the body, along with creamy vanilla and warm biscuits. Cinnamon spice finishes up the drink along with another wave of oranges. Between the delicious flavor and the affordable price tag, Mellow Gold lives up to its name and is easily one of the more accessible drinks on this list.
Artist’s Blend: Great King Street
Also a very fruity drink, Great King Street is a tribute to a time when blenders used artistry, creativity and craft to make blended whiskeys. It is a combination of flavorful single malt whiskeys and delicate single grain whiskeys. Staying away from citrus, Compass Box Whiskey’s concoction embraces baked apple, vanilla, spices and toasted oak. It delivers a soft, full and fruity body that is deliciously smooth. Made to be enjoyed neat by those who prefer single malt, or mixed by those who like their cocktails, this blended whiskey does it all.
A one-of-a-kind whiskey, Sheep Dip was created by Scotland’s only 3rd generation master blender, Richard Paterson. It is a premium blended malt Scotch whiskey that was inspired by sneaky farmers who bought alcohol under the label of “sheep dip” so as to avoid detection. Spencerfield Spirits produces this surprisingly warm and smoky drink. It stays away from fruit notes until the very end, and up until that point it is dominated by honey, toffee and malt. It warms the palate with a smoky spice flavor that then gives way to sweet fruit at the finish.
Unlike some of the blended whiskeys on this list, Big Peat’s name actually has a lot to do with the flavor. Made entirely with malt whiskies from the island of Islay, Douglas Laing & Co.’s blended whiskey is ashy and earthy in a big way. The fresh, salty and clean nose develops into malted barley and dried peat before turning into an ash, sweet tar, sandy beaches and smoking chimney flavor. The finish is more bonfire ashes and some tangy liquorice to tie together a drink that is perfect for any fans of smoky scotch.
Johnnie Walker Blue Label
Touted as an extraordinary scotch whiskey for extraordinary occasions, Johnnie Walker Blue Label is an exquisite blend made from some of Scotland’s rarest and most exceptional scotch whiskeys. By far the most expensive on the list, Johnnie Walker’s blend is best served neat with iced water on the side. The nose is nutty with a hint of cocoa with a full body of spices, leather and damp earth. Scotland’s western regions round out the flavor while the southern and eastern parts of the country bring in the more mellow notes. If you have already dabbled in blended whiskeys and are looking for a step up from what you’re used to, Johnnie Walker Blue Label is the doorway to a higher class of blended whiskeys.