To Blend or not To Blend, that's the question as Shakespeare might have put it if he would have been an enthusiastic whisky drinker, which, I believe, he was not. But the question popped up yesterday evening when I tasted the William Lawson's Blend for the first time. Lately I have been testing a large number of the so called Bottom Shelf Blends and they all end up at the bottom of my Whisky League Table. It's not that you can't drink them but they don't give you any pleasure when you drink them. They all more or less taste like plates of sugared breakfast cereals with a bit of salt and some added oak/spice flavouring. So their only advantage is that they are relatively cheap. Now I know that more or less 90% of all whiskies sold world wide belong to the above mentioned category. I also believe that in the majority of cases these whiskies are not devoured straight but either on the rocks or in Long Drinks or mixed with cola or other soft - or energy drinks. I have tried to do that as well but I believe that other spirits such as Rum or Bourbon are more suited for this purpose because of their inherent sweetness.
Based on the above it's easy to see the economic advantages for the industry as they are selling huge quantities of standardised product all around the world. Much cheaper to concentrate your marketing efforts on a couple of well known Brand names. But from the point of view of somebody who loves to taste and enjoy well made whiskies, either blends or Single Malts and either produced in Scotland or elsewhere around the globe, it's difficult to appreciate the fact that 40 or more Malt - and Grain Whiskies are blended and married only to result in an indifferent end product with no real own identity.
Of course it's possible to create good blends as well. And they are available in the market. But with the exception of Johnnie Walker Black they are quite expensive and can be compared price wise to a large number of Single Malts. And although I can understand that there will be people who will drink say JW Green or Gold or Ballantine's 17 Years for all their lives as it gives them the comfort of a well made dram, I personally prefer to spend my money on good whiskies from around the globe. It's tasting the differences between regions and distilleries and wood that makes drinking whisky a real pleasure.
Now I also realise that Single Malt whisky in general is getting really expensive these days because of the growing world demand. It's clear therefore that the vast majority of whisky consumers will keep buying affordable blends. So I can only wish that at some point in time the industry will succeed in offering (at a reasonable price) blended whiskies where the sweet taste will remind me of fruit or Sherry instead of sugar, where Malt instead of Grain rules and where some Oak at least will remind me of quality casks. Or am I dreaming here!