Blending whisky is a considerable art acquired only after years of experience.
A blend will consist of anything from 15 to 50 different single whiskies, combined in the proportions of a formula that is the secret of the blending company concerned.
Whiskies from different distilleries have a character of their own and, just as people of different temperaments are often incompatible, so some whiskies cannot be blended with certain others if a satisfactory result is to be achieved. The Malts and Grains in a blend must be chosen to complement and enhance their respective flavours. Thus blending is in no sense a dilution, but the combining of like with like, to produce a whisky that brings out the best qualities of each of its constituent parts.
The objective of the blender is first to produce a whisky of a definite and recognisable character. It is of the greatest importance that his blend should never vary from this standard which his customers all over the world have come to expect. His second objective is, therefore, to achieve consistency.
The blender must also decide when the different single whiskies are ready to be used in his blend. They are brought from the warehouse where they have been maturing to the blending establishment, where they are mixed together in a blending vat. They are usually returned to cask and left to 'marry' for a period of months, before bottling. Some companies prefer to vat their Malts and Grains separately and only bring the two together before bottling.
The combining of Malt with Malt or Grain with Grain is known as vatting.
The reason for this was that Pot Still Malt Whisky was inclined to be too strongly flavoured for everyday drinking, especially by people in sedentary occupations and warm climates. By combining Malt Whisky with Grain Whisky, which has less pronounced characteristics, the demand for a whisky that is milder in flavour and more suited to the conditions of modern life can be met.
© SWA 1995