Blended malt scotch, a long-overlooked whisky style caught between single malts and blended scotch, struck a chord in 2017. Blended malt whisky is simply a combination of single malts from different distilleries (it specifically avoids the grain whisky permitted in blended scotch).
“The beauty of blended whisky is that each component brings its unique character to the blend, to ultimately reveal a whisky that is even greater than the sum of its parts,” explains Chivas Regal’s director of blending Sandy Hyslop, creator of Chivas Regal Ultis, the storied whisky’s first-ever blended malt.
Independent Scotch whisky blenders like Compass Box and Douglas Laing’s Big Peat have long been practitioners of blending malt whiskies. With the recent revival of Johnnie Walker Green Label, along with Island Green, its new smoky accomplice, mainstream enthusiasm for blended malts is rising. And, Diageo added the first blended malt to its highly regarded annual Special Releases 2017 lineup, Collectivum XXVIII, available for the UK only.
Blending malt whiskies involves an extra step beyond single malt scotch. “You are seeking to align the individual sections of an orchestra that when combined create a symphony,” says Keith Law, the master blender behind Collectivum XXVIII. The harmony of these innovative, playful, challenging, and luxurious whiskies is music to our ears.
Try one of these outstanding blended malt scotches
Chivas Regal Ultis—96 points, $160
A magnificent blend of five Speyside single malts honors the five Chivas Regal master blenders since 1909. Red fruits, malt, and dark vanilla.
Collectivum XXVIII—94 points, £125
Includes malt whiskies from all 28 of Diageo’s currently operating malt distilleries. Fresh fruits, waxy oiliness, and dark chocolate.
Compass Box Spice Tree Extravaganza—93 points, $140
Released to mark the tenth anniversary of Spice Tree. Pale sherry, clove, and red berries.
Sheep Dip Islay Blended Malt—93 points, $60
The best Islay blended malt on the U.S. market. Bacon fat, sweet satsuma, and huge smoke.
Rock Oyster Sherry Edition—91 points, $60
An Island-inspired blended malt with a warming Spanish sherry finish. Smoky bonfires, orange oils, and clove.
Usquaebach An Ard Ri Cask Strength—91 points, $200
Includes more than 20 single malts that have been married together, then finished in sherry casks. Barley sugar, orange peel, and ginger.
Lost Distillery Classic Selection Towiemore—90 points, $43
A blended malt meant to mimic Towiemore, which ceased distilling in the early 1930s. This re-creation of their malt has peach, hazelnut, and candied peel.
Shackleton—90 points, $35
A blended Highland malt inspired by whisky that Ernest Shackleton left behind in the Antarctic in 1907. Green fruits, vanilla, and cinnamon.
The Tweeddale Last Centennial—90 points, $190
A cask-strength blend including malts from Islay, the Highlands, and Speyside. Grassy, warm caramels, and rich orange.