WSET – The world of Blended Scotch Whisky

WSET - The world of Blended Scotch Whisky

Hello uh good afternoon good evening Good morning depending on wherever you Are in the world and you’re very welcome To this webinar about the world of Blended Scotch whiskey my name is Charlie McCarthy I work for the wine and Spirit education trust as a business Development manager in the field of Spirits and my job is essentially to Help spread knowledge and my passion About spirits uh across the network of Wsct Educators and students and Potential students globally I’m very Lucky to be joined today by a field of People who are I said to say much more Expert in the world of blended Scotch Than I myself am we have Craig Wallace From Diageo is a master Blender at the Azure we’re going to be spending a lot Of time talking to him about what he Does hello Craig and thanks for joining Us Right and we also have Christiana Sherry Who is a very knowledgeable whiskey Writer and educator and I had the Pleasure of doing my wct level 3 course Uh on Spirits with Cristiano about three Years gone up thanks for joining us Christiana thanks so much for having me And if you haven’t done your level three Yet go for it it’s amazing I would like That getting a solid plug in early thank You and we’re also uh I suppose the Opposite end of the scale from the

Diageo Um experience of blending we’ve got uh Very new and uh Boutique uh blending Studio called woven whiskey based in Leith and uh we’re joined by Duncan McRae and Pete Allison from woven Whiskey thank you guys for joining us Great to be here thanks for having us Absolute pleasure so um we have got an Hour and that’s actually a relatively Short time to cover everything we want To cover so what we’re going to do first Is we’re going to go through a very Quick summary of the production methods And the terms and phrases used around Scotch whiskey and how that refers to Blended whiskey and then we’re going to Dive into a bit of a deep dive with uh Craig’s Master Blender at diagio talking About his practice in blending uh Whiskey for Diageo which is as everybody I’m sure will already know probably the The major player in the Scotch whiskey World so At wsct we also talk about four stages Of production we always start with a raw Material the first step is to process That raw material in order to create a Sugary liquid which you have a sugary Liquid you introduce yeast and you will Ferment in order to create ethanol and Congeners and then you will distill Through heat to select and concentrate Ethanol and desirable characteristics

And after distillation you will either Uh age and cancer are just sort of ways The color of their almond sweetness uh The texture and alcoholic strength when It comes specifically to Scotch whiskey Those stages break down into the first Stage which is uh processing the grains Uh because the grains contain starch and The starch needs to be converted into Sugars and then we’ll ferment using Almost exclusively contraducible there Is some possibility to use ambient use So we may talk about that later And then we get into the third stage Which is distillation and in Scotland Both hostels and column Stills are Permitted and we look at how they are Used in different manners that they’re Used as well as we go through And then after distillation as already Mentioned the spirit can be Oak Aged it Can be Blended it’s always dry that Means that there’s no sugar added after Distillation and as no sugar comes Across distillation this means that it Doesn’t contain sugar even though it Might have lovely sweet vanilla coconut Caramel Aromas uh speaking of caramel Spirit caramel color may be used to Standardize and regulate the color but This this doesn’t bring any flavor it’s Just a colorant and typically it’ll be Diluted down from your cast strength Down to a bottling strength so one of

The most important stages specifically When it comes to Scotch is malting Barley and this is essentially a way of Tricking The Barley into thinking that It’s going to germinate in order to Convert the starch into fermentable Sugars and the important thing that we Want to talk about is the flavor that That creates at the end now depending on Whether you hold that process by Introducing neutral hot air that would Create a lovely cereal toasty Multi-party type of Aroma or optionally You could also use pean smoke and this Peat smoke introduces this kind of smoky Peachy Aroma that a lot of scotch Aficionados are very familiar with and It’s a very tenacious set of compounds Called phenols and some carbonics there As well and they will remain with the Spirit right through to the end but they May adjust and sometimes diminish Through aging So we got we got our Malta barley we Grind it up to create a Grist we Introduced our Grist into some hot water And that creates a liquid color wart and Then that wart will be fermented by the Introduction of yeasts and then Depending on what type of grain you’ve Used initially you’re going to get two Separate stars of liquid the first style Of liquid is if you use exclusively Malted barley in that wash that can be

Put through a pot still it’s typically Put through twice in fact that’s the Minimum sometimes it can be put through More often than not sometimes it’ll be Twice three times if you go into a cask And this will be an oak Cask in Scotland For a minimum of three years and at the End of that you have more whiskey and That can then be bottled has malt Whiskey and if it’s from a single Distillery that would be single malt Alternatively it’ll be a Mixed Grain Wash and that will go into typically Column Stills and then that will produce What’s known as a green Spirit which Will be aged for three years minimum to Produce single grain whiskey but single Grain whiskey isn’t very common and even Though everybody thinks a single more Whiskey In fact there’s not a lot of the Pot still Spirit that’s produced in Scotland ends up in single mold the vast Majority of both of these are combined And they’ll be the products typically of Many different distilleries and that is How you get Blended Scotch whiskey You’re blending your malt whiskey with Your grain whiskey So that is quite a crash course in Scotch whiskey and I suppose now it’s Time to bring in uh somebody who has far More experienced than I do of actually Making whiskey and that would be uh Craig Wallace Craig Wallace’s Master

Blender from the iGo and Craig Um I suppose as an interesting starter Question for people is what does a Master blender do what is your job what Does it entail Thanks Charlie yeah that was really Interesting intro um so yeah thanks for That and uh yeah so in terms of day to Day for master blender is uh it’s almost End to end from the raw materials all The way through to the bottle so Um I get involved very heavily with our Distilleries to make sure that the Flavors they’re making on our batch by Batch bases are really consistent Um we want consistency we want intensity We want diversity of flavor from our Distilleries so a really big part of my Role was to work closely with her almost 30 distilleries uh to make sure that Every batch is is is has given me that Um And obviously that’s coming from the raw Materials the the yeasts you know the The grains Etc so yeah part of my role Is to work work with the the technical Teams we have in our our distilleries And our Central lab up in Elgin to make Sure all that is is running smoothly Um also work very closely with our guys And warehousing and coopering to ensure That The Cask quality is consistent Um going forward so we look a lot of the

Suppliers of casks Etc and and do a lot Of sampling and uh both sensory and Chemical analysis on those casks to Ensure that quality is consistent going Forward so Um So as I say looking at that quality both At the new make stage and through the Casks it can be pretty confident when we Come to blend it and every many years it Is whether it’s three five twelve years Time we can be confident if we get it Right at the start that we’re going to Get a good result at the end so uh so Yeah I did the basis that quality is Really important to my role Yeah Charlie sorry no I was just saying it’s Something that’s I think is very Interesting for a lot of people when They discover this is that in an Operation like the Ico or in any large Distillery that it’s actually the Blender who’s giving that instruction to All the other practitioners in terms of The recipe and the outcomes that they’re Looking for Yeah I mean it’s a real team effort so Uh it’s about having sort of you know The The the good relationships across the Different parts of the the company like You say it’s a big company so those Relationships are really important we

Have really strong technical expertise In our multi-stilling grain distilling And and coopering areas so yeah as the Blender I’m just really there as the Almost middle man to make sure that Um I’m happy that everything’s happening As I would expect it to but you know Using the people’s knowledge and those Areas to actually deliver the Consistency that I’m looking for yeah I’ve heard people describe the roles Similar to that of a uh an Orchestra Conductor I don’t know if it’s that if That’s something you might agree with or Not yeah I’ve heard that yeah that’s one That a lot of people talk about yeah so I mean like I said at the start I think We’ve talked about 30 disabilities now Seem to be 31 um when we do open uh Port Ellen and Having all those different flavors you Know aesthetic flavors if you think About it but then all the different cast Types as well so sort of fork in a Standard cast types but then other other Innovative casts as well then multiplies Up those flavor options that I have so It is really just the more flavor Options the better uh in some ways for Me gives me more flexibility and and uh Um possibilities when it comes to Innovation uh and then obviously for Ongoing products it’s about the Consistency of these flavors yeah I

Suppose consistency is is a really Important thing people think of Consistency largely in relation to a Single malt whiskey because obviously There’s a house style that has to be Reproduced year and year and year Um traditionally the role of the blender They might have been buying in cash or Buying in new make or sourcing new make From outside distilleries and uh trying To create consistency with a very Inconsistent set of products is that Something that you’ve seen change since You started as a Distillery itself or Has that always been a kind of that Reciprocal trade in the background where Distilleries are swapping tasks and Swapping new makes and trading in the Background Yeah it’s still a really important part Of the work I do as well so I work very Closely with our kind of sales team to Make sure that we’re buying in the Whiskeys we need so some of our products For example J B still talks about 42 Different uh whiskeys in that blend so As I said we put 30 so we buy in a Number of different grain whiskeys and More whiskeys to combine and give us That complexity in our product Um and also sometimes it just allows the Statute add to consistency so Um if I Distillery may be closed for a Couple of years we may be buying some

Whiskeys to substitute in that that Flavor style in our in our recipes so It’s a kind of mutual thing so we Provide different whiskeys for other People in the Whisk industry and we and Then we then we get an exchange usually It’s an exchange you know a swap of okay So much malt whiskey for so much grain Whiskey or whatever it may be so it’s Almost like a kind of horse trading Barker type of thing rather than cash It can be cash but something quite often As swaps yeah swaps really okay that’s Really interesting and um when I suppose Something that people a lot of people Don’t realize is that single malt Whiskey doesn’t mean it’s one barrel It’s always large batches and it’s Always it’s always a matter of blending Whether it’s a single malt a single Grain or a blended Scotch Um free Something that I always appreciate about Blender discussion I think it can suffer Sometimes as being seen as a correlation Of single malt whiskey even though it’s By far the Larger output from the industry I think It’s the number that always gets banded About is 90 of the whiskey that comes Out of Scotland is is blended Scotch Whiskey um I think it might be interesting for People to hear about the the different

Levels of complexity that you can Achieve in a blended Scotch whiskey that Wouldn’t be as easy to achieve in a Single malt potentially Yeah for sure I mean at least you stay a Single malt from when the story tends to Be one flavor style and then you can use The Cask type to to sort of push that in Different directions which is great it Allows us to produce some fantastic Single malts but for blending you’ve got That complexity across multiple Different distilleries and you know you Might have uh Distillery structures like Say liquid producing a kind of apple uh Fruity flavor whereas a Distillery such As more like especially sort of meaty Rich and then obviously our famous Iola Distilleries as well so you know uh and And places like Tower scar up and sky so That that bread for flavor is really Important to me as a blender and when You’re working on products it’s about Layering those flavors on top of each Other and sometimes it’s really Interesting how those come together and Sometimes a bit unexpected and you you Um quite often have to do quite a lot of Um modifications in the lab just to get That balance correct so you might you Might feel like you want uh really fresh Fruity blend that you’re innovating on But in reality you have to actually add Some of the more complex malts in there

As well potentially some even some smoke Just underneath that Um to sort of pull the whole blend Together and give it more complexity and Depth even though you thought to begin With a very straightforward project but Actually you know bringing more more Things in is actually what you need and It just it’s just through sort of Experience you know knowing Knowing the characters you have at your Disposal the flavors disposal and also Lots of trial or error in the lab Um blending and and having you know Having fun really it’s one of the job I Love the most is the is the Experimentation in the lab and just Having a bit of fun to create different Things and and where does the balance Sit for you in terms of the process Between nosing uh spirit tasting a Spirit doing organellectic analysis or Doing chemical analysis how how is the Balance achieved there yeah I mean uh so It’s almost all uh in terms of uh bounce Towards nosing and we only taste um very Almost the last minute if we’re Innovating you know we would notice Hundreds of samples and I was down to The flavor Styles we want potentially Bulk some samples together to create Larger bulks and and flavor components For the final Blend and then once we Blend those all together we would then

Do some more some more detailed tastings And those things so it’s uh as the Majority and those uh and then when we Get to the final stages as tasting and We actually do it I’m not sure if people Are able to do it at different strengths As well so we start off usually at 23 ABV because we feel like we can pick out Different flavors more easily at that Strength and obviously then we know that The consumer is going to try a um So 40 plus obviously and so obviously The final decisions are always made at 40 Um and then you mentioned analysis That’s really important it’s always been Around but I feel like there’s been lots Of uh advances and Analysis in the last Few years and and I find myself uh Leading on the the scientific experts on Our team more and more to give me uh Even more confidence based on their Scientific uh findings in the lab which Is you know it’s it’s amazing what they Can do these days to find out what the Dollar compounds in the whiskey is Absolutely fascinating so Um yeah that’s a huge part of it as well But the numbers are still the most Critical part I think yeah I’d say I Guess fascinates me that even in this Day of such advanced technology that Really does still come down to the nose Um one last thing I wanted to touch on

Before we move on to our next panelist Is Um obviously you work on a number of Different blends for the Azure the Flagship blend that almost everybody in The world will be familiar with is Johnny Walker but we also have buchanans We’ve got black and white got all par And they seem to have different profiles But also they seem to appeal to Different countries different areas in The world Yeah for sure I mean uh yeah I mean over My 25 years I’ve kind of worked in Almost every casual blend now and you’re Right there’s there’s different styles Um it’s probably fair to say that the Azure style was sort of Rich complex Smoky Um and but there’s variations within That you know like uh Johnny Walker Black 12 year old is a really Smoky Blend whereas old bar is a bit more Subtle smoke in there but very important To have that smoke in there in both of Them and just it brings different things Out of the the liquids but we do notice That in certain geographies so I noticed On the on the on the participants there There was some people coming in from Latin America Etc and you know Blends Like the Cannons and all fire absolutely Massive in Latin America and now North America as well getting back in and I

Think um the flavor style of you know Particularly uh Buchanan’s lens of Stealth to that smokier style and then All par is a bit more accessible and it Works really well in with mixers and Things like that as well so we’ve Noticed that that works very well when Uh parts of South America where they Like to mix it with things like uh Coconut milk and things like that they Could create a really fantastic Um uh cocktail so yeah these different Flavors have just kind of uh seemed to Work in different areas over the years And it’s evolved through time and and Become part of the almost culture and Some of these countries Yeah I think it’s fascinating especially The way that people mix uh Glenda Scott In particular I think opened out the Whole realm of mixability into the Category of whiskey Um great thank you very much for that We’re going to move on uh for a moment Uh to uh Christiana Sherry and we’ll Come back to Craig at the end we’ve got Some follow-up questions Um just a little bit of housekeeping for Everybody Um it’s great to see so many people in The chat joining us from all parts store That’s amazing if you have a question That you’d like to uh post to usfully q A that’s going to happen at the end uh

Please do log that there in in the Q a Section and um if you’re interested in Doing a wsct qualification Um just to give everybody a little bit Of um knowledge about WSET with the Leading provider of spirits wine and Sake qualifications around the world and Uh we have got a network globally of Over 800 course providers available in 15 different languages obviously we’re Well all throughout the world as the Leading provider of wine qualifications But increasingly the spirit’s Qualifications in level one level two And level three are getting uh a huge Amount of renown thankfully throughout The world and if you do want to find a Local provider just go to wsct and there is a page there Called where to study and you’ll be able To find a local provider so with that Said uh it’s my pleasure to welcome on Christiana Sherry Christiana uh and I Did the level three course together Years ago and I can safely say that Cristiano has got one of the best Palettes of anybody I have ever met Having listened to some of her tasty Notes she’s got this amazing level of of Analytical Clarity in how she tastes and It’s very impressive she’s a well known Writer and educator especially in the World of whiskey uh Cristiano thank you For joining us thank you so much for

Having me what an introduction very kind Yeah All he knows and stuff and it’s fabulous And there’s an amazing host for us today Oh thank you so much Um so Christina I suppose what I wanted To cover a couple of topics with you the First of which is The category kind of obviously when Column distillation and uh continuously Distilled Spirit became available then It became Blended and became what we Know as blended Scotch today but it Seems to have gone through a few trials And tribulations as a as a category gone From in for me to fame and then maybe Some mixed perceptions throughout its Its long history I wonder if you have Any kind of big Impressions that you Want to share with us from that Journey Yeah of course I mean I think blended Scotch has some of the richest stories And such a you know sort of a decadent History I don’t know why no one has made A movie of it yet and I think if we go Back to the Advent of a coffee still Back in the early 1800s which was the Name for the sort of early stage of Development for the Stills you can see On the screen where you can just still Play it after play after play get your Spirit done no batch is needed boom out The door and that really was the start Of all things blended Scotch and then

Also later on which was a very bad thing For cognac um but something that really Propelled blender scotch in particular To sort of the global Fanfare was the Phylloxera crisis and there being no Brandies available and then Scotch Steppedance before was like we’re here You can taste us and then it Rose to Global Renown obviously with blended Scotch being the predominant category Like Fast photos even more than today Um Singapore’s just weren’t really a Thing back then obviously things like Prohibition really harmed it Um we’ve had rise and Falls of whiskey In general whiskey locks too much Whiskey overproduction to Louise closing Most recently in perhaps the 1980s we Saw some of the big names sort of close And never open again in terms of Um grain production and Sycamore Production but then I really think What’s incredibly exciting is if we look Back even before that sort of the glamor Era of blended Scotch in movies and Films how it was really celebrated that Really went away it’s come back again Now and I think from the late 2010s Onwards we’ve seen Scotch whiskey Go Global again this isn’t the first time It’s happened this isn’t the first time Everyone’s got really excited about it I Think the difference now is that for Some reason we’re all incredibly excited

About single Mall as we should be it’s Delicious but let’s not forget this Incredible category that we have today It still accounts for around 90 some Might say Less almost 85 now but you Know we cherish it it’s wonderful There’s incredible breadth of flavor Incredible dynamism in there and it has Ebbed and flowed it’s flowing right now A long way to continue yeah I think That’s um one of the things that always Strikes me about Um blender discussion a historical Aspect is obviously it’s brought us Certainly things like the the scorching Soda which is you know ubiquitous Globally now really only came about Because of blended Scotch because it was Available widely from an Irish point of View I think uh the obviously the Irish Whiskey industry had a huge crisis after Prohibition uh I think one of the things That discards managed to do quite Cleverly was Their exports to Canada and Mexico and Cuba and Costa Rica really boomed during Prohibition now obviously all that Whiskey wasn’t really going to be Ultimately consumed in those countries a Lot of it was Finding its way by Bootleggers into the states but um you Have to take your hats off because uh There’s one thing you’ll always say About uh Scots is that the county

Businessmen and women and they know how To maintain an export strategy and a Route to their customer it’s all so it Was very impressive Absolutely and I find it wildly Entertaining that you could get a Prescription for Scotch whiskey at that Time It’s not because I want a party it’s not Because I want to sit with my friends Yeah believe it believe it or not you Could when I was a child get a Prescription for for a Guinness true Story that was incredible I love that so Much That’s probably another story for Another time Um one of the things I did want to cover With you as well because Um we have got kind of that shared Background is obviously there are Perceptions of scorching I think one of the things that I enjoy About wac course is that it gives you The knowledge to be able to dig under a Label and to have confidence in your Tasting skills so that you know when you Read a label you’re going to know oh This word Blended means this word Scotch Means this Um the words Highland and Um space side and all this the regional Variations in Scotch I think they Probably stylistically used to mean more

Than they mean now would you agree I Would completely agree because I mean on Either you can get unpeated Spirit In Space odds you can get smoke repeated Spirit I don’t think it means that much At all I do have three very quick Examples to do a quick run through for Things that you can see on the label I’ve got um Johnny Walker right here I Don’t think it’s got a little bit dark I Forgot about the time of day the sun Setting in Brighton and obviously the Main thing to look out for is blended Scotch I also wanted to show this off Just because it kind of um maybe goes Against that narrative that blended Scotch is boring a lot of the big Brands These days will leave special releases They’ll um honing on certain flavors so Don’t forget about that but yeah if you Could if you see blended Scotch on there That’s what you’re looking for Um obviously age statements run across All Scotch but it’s always worth Pointing out that blended whiskey is not Just this cheap it doesn’t have to just Be you know the three-year minimum There’s all kinds of age statements out There this one’s 12 years old you can See it there from shivas and you know Age doesn’t always mean better at all we Know that but I think it is interesting Just to flag that this is a thing and It’s it’s a useful thing I think

Sometimes when you’re trying to navigate Blended Scotch and get rid of these Preconceptions and then I wanted to show A Berry Brothers one as well But something that doesn’t actually mean Anything in terms of whiskey labeling so It’s got this age statement there I Think you can see it’s 21 years old it’s Also got small And this provides across all whiskey but I saw this on my shelf earlier and I Thought I’m gonna use this moment to Shout it out that doesn’t legally mean Anything so there’s lots on the label That will help you navigate something Whether you think it might be you know Better quality or it’s got an age Statement or it tells you the grains Within it perhaps Um but small batch doesn’t really mean Anything so I just wanted to show you Amazing amazing it’s really it’s really Important to know and as well I think One of the topics we’re going to touch On later when we talked is Duncan and Pete is the idea that with that minimum Age statement if you’ve got lots of Different component Whiskey’s the Youngest would be at that age at least And you’ll have some older whiskeys in There but also sometimes it’s not the Old malt you want it’s the old grain Whiskey that can be actually sort of After a commodity

Um and and that can be quite interesting So um I’m gonna hop over actually to Duncan and uh to Pete now if that’s okay Christian and then we’re going to come Back uh something I’m going to ask all The speakers to think of I won’t put you On the spot straight away but what’s Your favorite blended Scotch if you want To you know promote your own product That’s absolutely fine I’m not going to Sit and they say that at all but maybe Not not gonna be the first question so Uh we got peace joining from uh Leith And we got Duncan joining all the way From uh Adelaide so thank you very much For joining us guys welcome Hi thanks Charlie it’s great uh it’s a It’s a great toenail as well fantastic That’s amazing look at the great Questions coming through as well on the Q a and we’re going to have a little bit Of time towards the end to to cover all Of those off so I suppose what’s Interesting to talk about uh in terms of Yoga’s Journey is you’ve all got a Wealth of experience without working on My calendar grants or you both work for Master of malt and the atom Brands uh Whiskeys which uh for people who don’t Know what involved that Boutique company And various different brands there Um and I suppose what I’m interested to Hearing from you guys is how traveling Around the world and representing

Whiskey or gin as it might be Um how that has informed your decision And your journey to to set up a new Boutique whiskey blending Studio Foreign Yeah even before that you know we we Actually all met in in the bars of Edinburgh and Scotland going back nearly 20 years I’m sad to say now Um but I think what what it did and Actually the level of Education that was Being given to bartenders at the sort of Genesis of the cocktail Revolution that We’re sort of currently in Um it really opened our minds to Technique and flavor and almost you go On this bell curve Journey where you Start learning and then you realize that There’s so much more to learn you know That you could never possibly know Anything and it’s best to keep an open Mind and try everything and interrogate Everything and Um uh you know courses like the WSET Uh in in spirits you know it teaches you As Carrie Anders did to to look beyond The label and really interrogate things And ask why and you know it sets you up For I think a life where you look at any Liquid differently because you can sit There in a blind tasting and using the The knowledge that you get sort of hone In that it might be this price point or This style or this category and I think

That’s remarkable it’s a remarkable Skill to have but for us what it meant Was that we you know we’d always seen Exceptions to the rules or exceptions to The accepted wisdom when it came to Flavor and creation of flavor so when we Decided to to do what we’re doing now And start a small boutique you know Whiskey blending operation Um we knew that it wasn’t going to be as Simple as a plus b equals c that we were Going to have to find you know Combinations you know we don’t own any Distilleries we don’t have infinite Whiskey at our disposal we had to seek Out you know as as good a whiskey as we Could get Um through Indie Butler markets or or Brokerages and create Blends that Befitted a vision of what we felt Blended whiskey could be but it was a Very different process to what we were Taught you know blending looked like Because we we were essentially Um you know making it up at a very small Scale as as amateurs but we had a very High standard we wanted to achieve but We had to be very creative with the Combinations and the accepted wisdom of Uh of of what people I think are assume Is is the process for making a blend we We almost deconstructed it and started Again Um

Bits but but that’s more more Pete’s Wheelhouse than mine so let them come in On that yeah I suppose people you’re You’re the guy who’s uh the cold face is Probably too crude a word for it but but You’re you’re the guy in with all the Bottles and all the samples and doing The mixing and creating recipes Um operationally I mean we can see some Fantastic schematics and Bottles behind You operationally how how does your how Does your day go or your week go yeah I So yeah I mean I’m right now in our uh Tiny little lab just uh in the center of Leith which was the old historic Center For blending whiskey Um and I think really what what the big Difference between us and uh and the Likes of diados that we’re Much closer to I suppose how blended Whiskey began sort of in the green Grocers and a very small level where Buying tiny Parcels of uh of single Malts and grain whiskeys and putting Them together into unique compositions That um that uh Uh perhaps a bit more complex or Challenging or Um or maybe just slightly different from Uh your bone of whiskeys that you Perhaps see on the on the shelves Um I suppose that that the day Would be relatively similar to to

Craig’s Um I I received Spirit samples from uh From distilleries and cast samples that We have lying in our warehouse Um and I draw them and I see how they’re Getting on and then uh the work in the Lab here is putting together small scale Um Blends just uh in a in a uh in a Glass or in a or in a small vial and Seeing how uh you know very very small Parcels so where Craig might put together a whiskey with Uh 30 40 50 whiskeys Um we tend to use between sort of four And ten whiskeys for uh for a blend Um the reason for that is that uh you Know where where we’re very small so we Uh so we Um all of our whiskeys are uh limited Releases and uh unique in the in Themselves and we only uh release Whiskeys that you know are the most that We’ve made is about 5 000 bottles at a Time Um but we’ve also made Friskies that are 30 bottles Okay it’s a very very small batch yeah Yeah some people say a small batch you Know there’s that’s a very elastic turn Yeah it was um it was a it was a it was Our first it was in our first collection So we released collections Um and uh and the first collection had Uh had number four which was a very old

Green whiskey paired with a also another Very old green Frisk and a little bit of A of a smoky whiskey just to Bridge bridge a gap between them both Um but we only had sort of five liters Of the of the exceptionally old frisky So uh so we were limited to the amount That we could release Um but that was the exception I suppose So yeah the the the day is really just Putting together uh conversations that We think could be interesting or or Working on each one I think that you Know I tried to work this out last night I think that each blend takes between Sort of 102 250 hours of sort of trying To work not constantly on it but it’s You know it’s a it’s a few weeks it’s a Good sort of month on on on each blend Trying to trying to make it just right There’s something in that that I think Is very interesting because obviously What Craig does at the scale that he’s Doing it he’s working with a lot of Normal quantities and he’s got a huge Degree of control about his inputs and He’s he’s essentially his blending Ingredients and what are you what you’re Doing is very much a boutique kind of Style operation where you’re um Using ingredients that you just think Are interesting do you ever find that By combining two ingredients with very Clear profiles and you think okay A and

B are going to go together and they’re Going to get her well is there does the Combination sometimes produce an Unexpected Pleasant outcome in terms of Does it create a different set of or Present a different set of estrogens That you might not have necessarily Expected In short yes all uh all the time Um we find that uh that that it’s not a Uh I think Greg mentioned a link for it Earlier on she has a very sort of clear Green apple Sort of flavor and if you want to sort Of Build a green apple flavor into a Whiskey you think oh liquid would be a Great Whiskey to do that And it and it certainly can be but you Need to You need to augment it by adding you Know it works very well with a bit of Grain to be able to which sort of Highlights those those Top Esters coming through Um and even a little bit of smoke again As Craig said sorry to piggyback off Your off your comments Um but a little bit of smoke can just Can just highlight those those flavors Almost like adding uh you know if you Add salt to a tomato then it makes it Much more tomatoey yeah it’s a I guess

That’s a that’s a I don’t know if that’s a good analogy But it’s an analogy nonetheless and I Think I think you’ve seen this sometimes In um when people do blending exercises this Regal did a really interesting Activation for a couple of years where People are given all the constituent Five or six hundred constituent blend Whiskeys to make their own Blends and I Think you can do something similar at The Johnny Walker experience in Princess Street now and I think sometimes people Just end up putting too much malts and Too much malt in straight away almost Like a reflex and I I think from my Limited understanding you have to be Quite judicious on that front Yeah Pete is the uh Is a very tricky flavor profile to to Work with Um but What we tend to find is that is that Making a a balanced peated whiskey is One of the tougher challenges in in Blending it’s it’s Finding out finding a great single malt Repeated single malt from uh say you Know kalila is a great blending malt for For for for Peter twisky and it’s a Beautiful single malt in itself but Using it as a component uh you you Almost have to be quite sparing in it uh In its in its use because it can it can

Take over a lot of the nuances and other Flavors that you’re perhaps trying to Build into the blend uh quite easily so It’s um it’s certainly a challenge but Um but you know I think when you do find A great Peter’s or even lightly pitted Uh blended whiskey you know uh I think About Johnny Walker Black Label or Double black uh in that in that frame or Um or black bottle I think is a Fantastic uh from distel uh these types Of whiskeys are uh you know are a are a Real Triumph in terms of the the art of Blending yeah it’s quite a difficult Balance so I was teaching a level three Spirits class on Monday and recovering Whiskey and we’d like to show two Different ends of the scale with you Know quality when we’re sure the blended Scotch but one of them was a supermarket Old label and as the the piece was nasty It’s probably the best way I could Describe it in terms of balancing all The other elements and then the one that We showed as something at the opposite End of the scale in terms of the kind of Macro available was that Johnny Walker 12 year old which always for us shows Like up at the higher end I know Everyone will say that Johnny Walker 12 Year old is exactly the same every year And maybe Craig can speak this there’s Always tiny differences in the way it Shows I think it just really really tiny

Differences but yeah the one that we’ve Tried on one day we’re showing Absolutely exceptionally well so uh yeah Um we’ve got to open up the conversation Now in a little second but I just wanted To throw back to Duncan very quickly Before we do that Duncan Um could you talk to us a little bit About perception of scotch as a category And I really find your labeling and your Bottling and how you present the Information on your bottle of woven Really interesting in that regard Yeah I mean obviously I think the the Sentiment on the calls being that Blended Scotch is in rude Health but I Think because maybe we’d existed at the Very sort of Premium end of the drinks Industry through our whole careers we Felt it had Um potentially a bit of an image problem Uh because if you look at other Spirits Categories or wine for example blending Is seen as this incredible art form and It is you know when you’re in the Presence of someone uh like Craig you Know it’s it’s it’s incredible the the Care and the technique and and you know It’s Alchemy Um Uh but I think we felt there’s a bit of Uh a sort of a lot of the conversation About blending is done in a sort of Backhanded complement sort of way where

It’s you know oh great Brands but you Know and and I think we we really felt That Um there was a bit of an Achilles heel Everyone wants to start a Distillery and We wanted to be blenders and people said Well why would you want to do that Um and we said because blending is Amazing and I think that you look at the Innovation that’s happening at a Distillery level uh in Scotland you know More distilleries open than the last 15 Years and I think at any point Um In in the history of scotch and that Means more flavors and more different Techniques and not many of these Distilleries are setting out to make a Consistent style of spirit because quite Frankly that that Trick’s already taken By the five major drinks companies that Make up 75 in the industry so there’s There’s a lot of room for new flavors Being developed in Scotland Um by these passionate New Wave Distillers And um that’s something we’re really Excited about because lots of the Samples Pete’s got we’re pretty sure no One’s ever blended with them and no One’s ever put this together with this And he’s literally the first person to Go boom and when we started doing stuff Like that we felt like

The the biggest challenge we’re gonna Have is a new Scotch whiskey blend is Getting people to try it with an open Mind and so our creative brief to our Design agency and I know this is wsct so I shouldn’t really be talking too much About design but it is included in in The courses Um it was almost to to take lots of the Information that people like your your Cohort would analyze off the bottle so We don’t tell you you know region we Don’t tell you age we have to tell you It’s blended Scotch whiskey but it’s a Big invitation to just try it and you Know everyone that’s involved in WSET Will know the the the the magic of blind Tasting you know it forces you to Experience it and we felt that actually If we could get more people to Experience blended whiskey without Pre-judging it because of what it says It is Um then you know the the outcomes be a Lot better and that was a trick I’ll be Really honest that we saw from the great Whiskey writer Dave Broome when he was a Single malt whiskey taste thing and he Had you know a mystery bottle at the end And this room full of the the geekiest Single malt uh admirers on the entire Planet were just blown away by this Incredible single malt and he whipped The cloth off it at the end and it was a

Bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label and I think that that is a magic trick Really stuck with me and I was like you Know that’s that’s the secret to Blending or to getting blending sort of Reappraised by people is letting them Taste it without knowing it’s a blend And obviously we’re very transparent we Try and be transparent and I think a lot Of that has come out of the history of Scotch whiskey it’s ridden this wave and Um the way that blends shocked to Notoriety and then we’re almost a Potentially a victim of of you know the The the Trappings of success where it’s about Scale and consistency and efficiency and You know it’s good to see that Spirit Quality has never been higher than it Has before but for some reason I think The perception of blending has not been Looked after in the way that the Perception of Single Malt House I think Since since the 60s and single multiple On this escalator of of uh of Kudos and Blending you know there’s absolutely Nothing wrong with it when when done Well I suppose ultimately there are they Are all Blends it’s just there yeah Different names really yes Um so we’re about 15 minutes left so What I’d like to do is I’m going to Throw open some questions to the panel Um maybe keeping it in the order that we

Had had first and then we’re going to go To some q a so Craig Um what’s your favorite whiskey and how Do you like to drink it or do you like Cocktails or mixing it in any way It’s a really tough question because There’s so many Um but [Music] Um My favorite I would say is uh Buchanan’s 18 year old Um so it’s a really rich and Powerful Um mature whiskey lots of Sherry Cask Influence in there and lots of smoke so That kind of Suits my palate so yeah That’s that’s probably my favorite and In terms of serve I tend to put one Block of ice in my whiskey and then just Let them melt Um that’s that’s my sort of preference So so yeah that’s that’s my favorite Nice it says tempting I haven’t had the Pleasure so I’m gonna have to wrestle Some up I’m sure somewhere I might talk To somebody who knows how to store some Later Um I Cristiano so your favorite blended Scotch and your favorite Scotch cocktail I’ve decided I’m gonna have two because It’s too mean to narrow down to work and I loved the Johnny Walker celebration Blend from the 200 years I was actually Reminiscing with a friend today I was

Like what was it it was like so like Well balanced and beautiful I all say Love I think it’s an island blend from Black Bottle which is really Smoky Really robust and I love both of those And my new thing for drinking whiskey When I’m out and about was not new at All has been happening for centuries Um a horrible but with ginger ale so if You’re in a bar or a pub and you just Can’t see like an easy sipping drink Just get a single measure of whatever Blends you most fancy loads of ice and Get them to chop it up with ginger ale And it’s Perfection yeah Classic classic breweries and um Peace And Duncan I mean Okay yeah I well I the one that Springs To mind for me is that uh I was doing Some research on police Leith Blends and Uh and sort of the the history of them And I and I got an old bottle of Bailey Nickel jarvi which um oh but it’s kind Of it was discontinued I think about 10 Years ago or five years I don’t know how Long ago actually Um but it was sort of the the I guess my Dad would call us of cooking whiskey you Know it was just uh it was always in the House and and it was our spiritual Whiskey in a bar I worked in like 20 Years ago yeah right yeah and it’s And it’s awesome I mean it’s beautiful

Like stunning elegant Rich it’s light in Color yeah absolutely much less much I Think it’s had a little bit of Prominence at the time that Compass Parts were kind of coming to prominence As well and then it just kind of faded Away for some reason which is a really Shame yeah but um uh all of the woven Range as well Wow wonderful correct answer how about You how about you Duncan Um Uh I’m not just seeing this but I’ve I Think for me a great whiskey it’s it’s Sort of half what’s in the bottle but It’s half what you add to it through Your experience and usage of it and for That reason I think Um I’ve had a lifelong relationship with Johnny Walker Black Label Um and I just I I know and I think Actually it is Um It is a blend that does not suffer from Any of the reputational Um sort of anchor that I mentioned Before you know whether you’re a single Malt fan or a bartender in uh you know Top 50 uh but I think it’s got Universal Uh respect not just for what it’s Achieved but for for what it is and I Think um obviously the work that that Craig and Emma and the team do there is This thing so I know it’s a bit it’s a

Bit sort of a happy ending to to Big up Big up the other one but it’s you know It’s the it’s one of the world’s Greatest whiskeys and and It’s uh I think a fine example of what Um blending can be but I was uh Messaging Pete uh keyboard worrying that He’d stolen Bailey nickel jarvi for me From me because that as a leaf blend Um is something that uh you know it’s Almost a travesty that it was uh Discontinued but it’s it was a sign of The times and a sign of whiskey Companies making long-term decisions That they were going to focus on the High margin lower volume luxury end of The market because blending they didn’t Believe had the potential to to perform In that space and I think Um I hope that they’ll live to regret That decision uh through the work that Everyone in the blending space is doing And 2023 feels like the year for Blends There’s stuff happening there is there Is it’s really good to see um we’re Going to throw into some questions Um really quickly from uh because we’ve Got about 10 minutes left for what it’s Worth my favorite Scotch blend is Grants 25. if I could ever get my hands on it Again I would it was quite uh quite Pricey Um and Smoky cookie is my go-to Pipeline And uh if you like lag of London’s

Coca-Cola or if you don’t think you like Like a balloon and Coca-Cola I recommend You try it got a question from Lee Connor otherwise everyone was Congress Which a lot who a lot of people know Already cuddling uh in from Newcastle Following recent Trends in Scotland have Any of you had an experience in using Spirit derived from a ride forward Nashville using a pot distillation for Blending so I write hot still whiskey Any insights or any experiences there Yeah I can I can go there if you want um So yeah we just released our product uh Entirely in North America right now Called the highway Johnny Walker Highway Um so yeah I was I was quite heavily Involved in the in the production of the Actual new make for that that product so It’s a combination of uh ride that Studies from both camera and Bridge and Tiana Distillery so Um the camera bridge is uh is uh Unmounted uh ride through the column Stills and then we use multi-dry upper Actually coming with regular uh Multiple as well so um yeah overall Mash Bill is is quite high in rise for 60 uh Overall match Bill rise so yeah that’s Our our experience of of fry recently so Yeah definitely giving us a new or a Different uh flavor style that sort of Spicy oily Um Rye flavor is definitely coming

Through which is which is good to see Fantastic um got a couple of technical Questions coming in which I can answer Very quickly Um is it is it necessary that single Malt or single grain must be from a Single Distillery Sandeep uh yes it says The word single it’s the same as the Single Estate One it must come from a Single Distillery so that’s what that Word single denotes it could be any Number of casks from that Distillery uh And for a single malt there will be Multiple barley distilled in pot Stills For single grain that typically be Distilled in the column still although There are exceptions and a lot goldmans Like to mess around with convention There and do some interesting stuff Around that and another one if it says Unchill filtered chill filtration is it Basically a means of removing some fatty Acids and lipids from the liquid that Might start to Haze when the liquid gets Cold so what they do is they do that at The bottling stage just to remove that Some people think that it removes a bit Too much flavor and they don’t really Like it and some people think it removes A bit of texture that’s always a live Debate debate world of uh in the world Of whiskey we have got an interesting Couple of interesting questions actually And they come from they’re both asking

The same thing Um One question says what do you do with Cast that just don’t fit into the Blends Or your quality control specifications And the other question says do special Release labels from distilleries or Distillery release suggests that they’ve Just made a mix of casks that they were Unable to use in their signature blends Maybe that’s a cynical question I don’t Know if anybody’s going to put their Hand up for that Before I just think I love anything That’s a bit quirky and different partly Special release means like literally Nothing so while I would take it as Something to maybe like look at if You’re looking for something perhaps a Bit quirky or a bit different it doesn’t Really mean anything so approach with Caution but still be intrigued yeah I Have to say one of my favorite whiskeys Ever was from uh Jameson Visitor Center In Dublin and it was a 12 year old Special Distillery release and it had Quite a notable chordite aspect to it Which would suggest a bit of sulfur I Don’t think sulfur is always attained Personally sulfur in the right Concentrations and the right type of Sulfur can provide a really satisfactory Texture and flavor element especially if You’re looking kind of mixing them with

Kind of those fusel oily type of heavy Bodied whiskeys so I think they can be Massively successful and sometimes they Are releases that just don’t meet The Distillery style or the blend style Um I don’t I don’t see anybody shaking Their head but I’m not gonna put any Anybody on the spot to confirm or deny That Um so Um we’ve got a question here that might Be for you Craig Um if you’ve got a blend with let’s say Around 20 whiskeys in there how Confident are you that each of those Whiskeys is bringing something to the Party in terms of flavor and character Or do some of them do different things This relates to the question I had about What’s a a top dressing whiskey and What’s the role of gray would it blend Yeah I mean what we tend to do is we Have what we call categories of flavor And distilleries fit into certain Categories so you might find the um Something like uh Um let me think of going that one might Fit into our uh what we call the grassy Category and then other ones in that Category might be things like clear Lord Or teneric so what we find is we we Blend in these categories so Everything’s everything so if it’s 20 Distilleries we’re all adding to that

Flavor component for that category and When we pulled together the overall Blend recipe we have to make sure we get The right percentage of that actual Blend category in the overall recipe so So yeah they’re all contributed into That overall flavor style but yeah there Is potential to sort of substitute uh One end for the other one if you like And things like that Fantastic I think we’ve got a time for Another small questions uh one question Is is there any blend on Isla I are There any Blends that are predominantly I mean Johnny Walker obviously has Khalila has its kind of very signature Uh you know but it’s quite well Integrated do we know if there are any Blends that are just kaleila there’s no Grain Distillery on the island is there No I think it’s mainly obviously you may Get some Blended molds but uh I would Say that that you get some Blends like Double black that I think some can be Mentioned earlier or somebody did and uh That’s predominantly you know a quite a Smoky blend which would have a lot of Clear in there for example yeah but no No I don’t know any actual Blended Scotches I don’t think it’s possible Actually from uh my like there’s a No-grain Distillery yeah there’s Um Isla Mist which is a brand Um that I believe is Blended and they

Obviously use the name Isla which I Think if if you have to try it a little Bit carefully because where you get to This sort of level of detail the the Rules are Hazy uh to Um and uh there’s obviously Um Black Bottle which talks about it’s It’s links to Isla obviously but being On or in the same family of Brands as Buddha happened and pulling from that so There are Blends Um that refer to Isla and I think uh Johnny Walker actually did a regional Series where they almost did a tour of The five regions of Scotland that they Recognize Um with a blend over indexing uh in Terms of its its provenance Um but obviously no one publishes the Recipes so there must be a reason for Them Claiming the name Isla uh and Black Bottle talking about it but in terms of There’s no rule and there’s no sort of 51 which I know is quite handy and easy To remember in lots of the WSET courses But there’s no there’s no Um Uh yeah because probably because the Recipes might evolve and change and flex And and and things but also I think Blenders really reserve the right to Have that don’t they unless your compass

Box and you’re saying this is not a Luxury whiskey and you’re giving away a Lot of information on the model Yeah I think we try and make sure that If we’re trying to claim something then At least the flavor reflects that so the Flavor is really important to us that if We’re trying to claim Isla we want to Reflect that style in the blend it’s Still a blend but it reflects that Styles like You know yeah somebody’s just pointed Out in the comments I think Wisconsin Pointed out that the Elixir distillery That’s opening an island is going to Have a Kalyan still as part of it so That might make that possibility a bit More of a live Runner we’ve got a couple Of questions asking what scotches are on Various different blends but I don’t Think anybody’s going to give those full Answers especially some of the Blends That are being requested in the Q a are Not belonging to the people who are Those questions what what Scotch is Going to the TV and various different Things I’m not sure if anybody’s in a Position to answer that um but we’re at 4 57 now which I think is probably a Really good time to call and call it uh A day for this I just want to make sure That we’re Um Um going to cover all of

Uh is that single mold has to be Distilled in parts tools yes it is uh That’s the last question we’ve had time Uh to answer today Um but thank you everybody very much for Joining us if you haven’t had a chance To watch all of the seminar it’s going To be available on the WSET YouTube Channel and uh if you are interested in Doing a wrct course please do check out thank you very much to Craig Christiana to Pete and to Duncan For joining us Um I am going to raise a glass of Something uh we’re brand neutral at WSET South Africa for saying what it is I’m Putting everybody in the spot here I’ve Just had this sitting I’ve been waiting Patiently for it so I do all that’s left For me to say thank you very much Everybody for joining thank you Especially to our panelists for Providing such amazing in-depth and Behind the scenes information which a Lot of people don’t really get access to A normal course of things and uh it’s Launcher Everybody

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