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It’s not all about single malts

Chivas Regal have released a new premium blended whisky into Dubai travel retail, which will become available to the rest of us in September this year. ‘The Icon’ has a £2000 price tag, and is the result of master blender Colin Scott’s crafting together some of the oldest and rarest whiskies from 20 distilleries – some now lost – to produce this exclusive bottling, described as having “rich notes of honey, vanilla and dark chocolate, (…) balanced by subtle hazelnut influences from the cask.”

In their announcement, Chivas Brothers are talking about the comparison between blended whisky and single malt whisky, making the point that blends can hold their own with prestigious single malts, and don’t deserve their sometimes looked-down-upon status.

Chivas Regal The Icon

While single malts are often crafted by blending whisky from two or more casks from one distillery, blends are differentiated as including whiskies from two or more distilleries, and using different grains in addition to malt. The Tweeddale Batch 4 is 50% 16yo single grain, and the remaining 50% is made up of varying volumes of eight single malts according to Richard Day’s Cellar Book.

In a recent GQ magazine article on The Icon release, award-winning whisky expert Dave Broom put it perfectly: “One reason you should look at blends as opposed to single malts [right now] is that these blends will give you an all-encompassing flavour. That’s why blends need to be re-examined. Up until now single malts have been seen as better than blends, but we’re seeing that blends can play at this high-end price level as well – and in many ways you will get a more complex drink as a result.”

Introducing a premium blend like The Icon further indicates the way the industry is moving towards crafting unique expressions based on tradition. If only we had £2000 to spare, we’d be happy to try it!

The two sides of terroir

In the last week there’s been many interesting things happening regarding discussions of terroir. Bruichladdie rasied their glasses via their blog to terroir and why it matters so much. In Africa, Botswana became the first country on the continent to grant protected geographical indication to Scotch whisky, but in France the advent of PGI status is having perceived repercussions for innovation. After years of enthusiasm for the Breton region to be granted PGI, Glann ar Mor Distillery is now closing its doors for good as of August 15th 2015. They’ve been long dedicated to developing their single malt rye expression, but now under the legislation they fought so hard to attain, this liquid cannot legally be called Breton whisky. As a result, the distillery has decided it’s not economically viable for them to remain in production.

They do however, still have plans to open a distillery on Islay (Gartbreck) here in Scotland, where surely the Scotch whisky protected geographical status is just as, if not more, rigorous?

Raasay Terroir

Is Speyside the new Champagne? 

Meanwhile, the Speyside region is set to join a list of six other UNESCO world heritage locations in Scotland. The region is widely known for its high volume of whisky distilleries, in fact according to Visit Scotland, “roughly half of all Scotland’s distilleries dot the lush and rolling landscape of Speyside.” Whiskies produced here achieve distinct profiles, in the words of Visit Scotland again, “Speyside’s rich, fruity single malt whiskies are roundly considered the quintessential Scottish malt.”

The tourism benefits and product recognition afforded by Champagne when it was granted UNESCO world heritage status, would prove such for Speyside if the move goes ahead.

Dalmunach Distillery, Speyside

Speyside’s newest member, Dalmunach Distillery, Speyside (Photo Credit: BBC News).

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