Ahead of World Whisky Day we spoke to Dr Nick Morgan, head of whisky outreach at Diageo, about why he believes Scotland should be enjoying more blended Scotch whisky.

 World Whisky Day

“This Saturday (21st May) people around the globe will raise a glass and toast World Whisky Day and I will be one of them. It’s great to have a focal point for the celebration of the liquid we love, although to be honest, when you work for a company which sells over 33million cases of Scotch whisky around the world each year, it’s fair to say every day of the year is World Whisky Day.

“And when I raise my glass on Saturday I will be proud that it will contain a blended Scotch whisky. I can almost hear the derision being uttered by certain self-appointed Scotch Whisky experts, particularly in Scotland and the UK, who put single malt Scotch on a pedestal while deriding blended Scotch. That’s why this World Whisky Day I would like to make the case on behalf of blended Scotch and hopefully encourage a few more people to open their minds to the wonder of blends.

The wonder of blends

“Now, the first thing to state clearly is that this is not about saying blends are better than single malts; that’s not the case. But an indisputable fact is that great single malt whiskies exist as they do today because of great blended Scotch whiskies.

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“The vast majority of single malt distilleries in production today were developed in the 19th and 20th centuries to supply great blended Scotch whisky brands and the supreme quality of those malts was been driven by the exacting standards demanded by master blenders.

“If we look back at the foundations of the industry we see that Scotch is the child of the Scottish spirit of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship. The history of Scotch Whisky sparkles with the names of energetic and enlightened business people – Lang, Teacher, Greenlees, Buchanan, Dewar, Walker, Haig and Mackie Usher, to name a few. These were the founders of the great blending houses which created the Scotch whisky industry.

John Walker

“Take Johnnie Walker, the world’s biggest selling Scotch Whisky. When John Walker began selling whisky in his grocery shop in the 1820s the quality of single malt whisky was variable and inconsistent.

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“So, he applied the skills he had learned from blending tea to Scotch whisky and began to blend different whiskies so his customers would be able to rely on the consistent quality of his product. Those values – consistency and quality – became the hallmark of the brand. And it worked. Customers returned again and again to purchase his blended whisky.

“John passed on his blending knowledge and skill to his son Alexander Walker, who developed it further in the 1880s to create the blended Walker’s Old Highland whisky, laying the foundations for the world’s first global drinks brand which by 1920 was available in over 120 markets around the world.

Alexander Walker. Picture: Diageo

Alexander Walker. Picture: Diageo

“As that global demand for blended Scotch grew it in turn created the demand for single malt and single grain Scotch whiskies which led to the development of the distilling industry as we know it today.

“Blended Scotch whiskies continue to lead the industry, representing the vast majority of Scotch that is consumed around the world, and the famous blended Scotch Whisky brands are what both experienced drinkers and the emerging consumers across the world aspire to drink and share.

“So the history of Scotch is largely the history of blending. But I don’t expect people to raise a glass of blended Scotch for that reason. Taking the lead set almost two centuries ago by John Walker, I’d encourage you to try a blended Scotch because of the quality experience it offers.

“Single malt whiskies offer an unrivalled kaleidoscope of flavours and textures; in the hands of skilful blender these are combined to create a product which is often greater than the sum of its parts. Whiskies of varying character from the four corners of Scotland, crafted together so each voice can be heard but they speak in a harmony of flavours.

“So, this World Whisky Day I will be raising my glass of blended Scotch Whisky – probably Johnnie Walker Black Label – to the innovators and pioneers of blending whose creativity and enterprise have made Scotch the world’s favourite whisky.”

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