Blends often get a bad rap from whisky drinkers interested in the more distinct flavor profiles of single malt scotch or barrel-proof bourbon. Yet blended whisky remains one of the bestselling styles worldwide, with whisky makers large and small creating new and exciting expressions throughout the year.
Take Dewar’s, for example. Not only did its 21 year old Double Double land at the No.-2 spot on the 2019 Whisky Advocate Top 20, but the renowned scotch blender has followed it up with a mezcal-finished 8 year old, the first such scotch whisky to use mezcal barrels since a change in the Scotch Whisky Technical File in June 2019. And such inventive techniques are widespread in the world of blended whisky, where the blender’s imagination is given free rein.
Best of all: Blends are often inexpensive. The grain whisky that’s a component in many blends is cheaper to produce than single malt, single pot still, and other parts of the recipe, putting many blended whiskies in reach of everyday budgets.
The Summer 2020 Buying Guide has more than 130 whisky reviews, including 15 blends. These four standouts hail from Scotland, Ireland, Japan, and the U.S., and each proves that the skill of whisky making goes well beyond the stillhouse.
4 Blended Whiskies to Try this Summer
High West Bourye Blend of Straight Whiskeys (Batch 19L06)
91 points, 46% ABV, $100
A nose of herbs, candied oranges, cherries, treacle, and baking spice, with pleasant aged accents of leather armchair and earthy warehouse floor. The palate offers semi-sweet chocolate, spice, dark fruit, roasted pecans, blackberries, cola, and pepper. Water brings out richer chocolate, pistachio, and blackberry jam. The finish is nutty, spicy, and peppery, with balanced oak and light fruit. Excellent complexity, with spice melding well with notes of chocolate and fruit. (60,000 bottles) —David Fleming
The Whistler Double Oaked Blended Irish Whiskey
90 points, 40% ABV, $30
Sweetness and richness were my first impressions of this sourced whiskey blended at Boann Distillery, and it’s the oloroso sherry finish that’s made all the difference. Apple, barley sugar, aromatic spices, baked citrus, cherry, and dried apricot against a backbone of grain. Vanilla fudge, baked fruit desserts, and apple, it’s rich, smooth, and creamy with swirling spices before returning to a finish of vanilla, spice, and dried apple. —Jonny McCormick
Dewar’s 8 year old Ilegal Smooth Mezcal Cask-Finished Blended Scotch
87 points, 40% ABV, $22
Double-aged with a finish in Ilegal reposado mezcal casks, it has a zesty nose with plenty of bite: lime, cut grass, new bookbindings, grapefruit juice, and lilies. The glutinous mouthfeel has more mezcal influence, with dull fruit, herbal features, caramel, a snarl of pepper and chile flakes, and lengthy smoke and spice to finish. A bold creation, but I’m going to need more persuasion that this enhances the scotch. —Jonny McCormick
Tenjaku Blended Japanese Whisky
87 points, 40% ABV, $40
This blend is made in Fuefuki, west of Tokyo, and seems custom-built for great Highballs. The nose presents fresh pear, baked pastry, straw, and slightly smoky roasted spices: coriander seed, peppercorn, and aniseed ball. It lacks body initially, with sweet orange, fruit syrups, and ginger root spiciness, but then it restores your faith with flavors of tropical fruits, vanilla, and orange cake, and a hot ‘n’ spicy peppery finish. —Jonny McCormick