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What Is Blended Whiskey? Take The Cap Off Jameson’s Craft
Explore the world of blended whiskey as we reveal our secrets to our master blend. Discover the tale behind the beloved Jameson Original.
It’s a question many novice whiskey drinkers have had when they have picked up a bottle locally to have at home. Blended Whiskey? Blended with what? Single Malt? Single Grain? What’s the difference? Is whiskey not just well… whiskey?
In the same way, we say all bourbon is whiskey but not all whiskey is bourbon, a similar address can be given to blended, single malt, blended malt, and any other iteration that may appear on a whiskey bottle. Yes, you’re holding a whiskey in hand but, they are not all the same.
To get to the bottom of blended whiskey distillation, we’ve spoken to the real magic makers at Jameson, our blenders, to give us some BTS (not the Korean pop band) knowledge and the what’s what of Jameson blended Irish whiskey.
What Is Blended Whiskey?
At its basic level, blended whiskey is a mixture of whiskeys. Meaning, in your bottle of whiskey is a combination of whiskeys from several different distillations aged in a variety of barrels, over a certain but not always the same amount of time. These whiskeys will be blended by blenders, to produce the whiskey aromas, taste profiles, and the smoothness that is intrinsic to a whiskey like Jameson.
Blended whiskey history goes back quite a long way. Bonders, that is spirit merchants with a license to store whiskey ‘in bond’, and then sell it from their premises, would purchase whiskey by the barrel from distillers and blend it on their own premises to create distinctive brands. The customer could choose if they wanted to purchase a bottle direct from the Distillery or from these third parties. Consistency with those brands probably wasn’t what it is today, but you need to start somewhere!
As you can imagine, most of the whiskey you find in the world today is blended. Blending whiskey is how many Master Distillers and Master Blenders find new flavours for whiskey drinkers and helps to keep shelves stocked with whiskey of a consistent quality that consumers can enjoy year-round.
Jameson’s Blending Craft: A Twist of Tradition and Innovation
Jameson is a marriage of two types of whiskey, made completely separately and then blended together.
The first is the pot still whiskey. At Jameson, a pot still whiskey is distilled in batches and made using a mixture of malted and unmalted barley, yeast, and water. This is first left to ferment after which the wash (strong beer) it makes, is distilled 3 times in pot stills.
The second is a grain whiskey, made using a column still. This can be done continuously and uses a mixture of maize, yeast and water which ferments, and the subsequent beer is distilled 3 times itself.
These individual whiskeys are then aged in wooden casks; for Jameson, we use seasoned ex-Bourbon barrels and seasoned sherry butts for a minimum of 3 years, but typically we mature for longer.
When the time is right, our expert blenders, filled to the brim with experience, talent, scientific know-how, and a keen sense of smell, will marry these whiskeys together to get the distinct whiskey flavour profiles required for all our Jameson family.
Certain whiskeys matured in certain barrels add unique flavours to our Jameson family. i.e. Twice charred cask whiskeys will go into Jameson Black Barrel, and Jameson Pot Still doesn’t use any grain whiskey, but overall, that’s the nuts and bolts. How do our blenders get such consistency every single time? They say practice but, we wouldn’t be surprised if a deal with the Devil was involved. Straight up sorcery (we jest!).
Exploring the Flavours: Tasting Notes and Distinctive Characteristics of Blended Whiskey
Now, you might ask, why go through all the effort of making 2 types of whiskey? Why not just make one type and have a blended grain whiskey? For this, Jameson has two answers to complement both whiskey types.
1. Tradition: We were born in pot stills and by gum, we’ll die in pot stills! We’ve also used a combination of barley and malted-barely for over 200 years. Barley is an amazing local product that we can source sustainably and provides unmatched smoothness to our whiskey.
2. Flavour: Pot still and column still produce two unique styles of spirit. Pot still whiskey is spicy, aromatic and robust. Column still whiskey is delicate and floral. Blending these styles together opens a breath of flavours for the whiskey, in comparison to using one or the other exclusively (not that there is anything wrong with using just one type).
As we mentioned earlier, the variety of blended whiskey from these 2 spirits doesn’t just come from what runs out of the still. Jameson whiskey is blended from different harvests of grains, and differently aged whiskey, whether that be length of time or cask type. Even
dilution of the whiskey with water to find the optimum strength is part of the blending process.
Think of it like a painter’s palette; The more colours you have, the more you can mix together to make something new. To channel famous TV landscape artist Bob Ross, you might end up with a few happy accidents along the way!
The Best Way to Enjoy Blended Whiskey
The best way to enjoy blended whiskey is to first find the blended whiskey for you. A whiskey tasting of blended whiskeys, like we do at the Jameson Distillery in Bow Street, will help you decide your favourite. A decent whiskey bar will have such an offering and will guide you through the nuances in flavour of different blended whiskeys.
Once you have your favourite whiskey (and by that we mean Jameson) picked then it’s time to drink whiskey like a pro. Whether it’s neat, on the rocks, in a cocktail or just with a drop of water in your favourite whiskey glass, the best way to enjoy a Jameson is your way.
What Is The Difference Between Blended Whiskey Vs Single Malt?
Single Malt Scotch is often what we think of when referring to single malt whiskey, however, there are single malt Irish whiskeys available on the market too. Single Malt actually refers to the use of purely malted barley rather than a mixture of both malted and un-malted.
For reference, grain whiskey has an additional malted or un-malted cereal within the recipe. In practice, however, Single Malt is the creation of whiskey made in batches with malted barley only.
What is the difference between blended whiskey? As you might imagine there is a difference in taste, and profile due to the use of different ingredients and the process. Consistency year to year of Single Malts won’t be on par with blended whiskey. Single Malt leaves little room for adjustments before the whiskey is bottled. By and large, once you’ve finished ageing your whiskey, you get what you get.
The process is not dissimilar to wine. While a 2016 Malbec from the Cahors region of France is a delight, a 2018 bottle from the same vineyard might not be to your taste due to the grape crop getting too much rain that year. Single malt, like wine, can change in flavour from year to year. C’est la vie.
To find a whiskey that is perpetual in taste, look for a blended single malt or blended malt, i.e. different single malts blended together before being bottled.
Alternatively, choose Jameson and enjoy a huge range of consistent flavours, because our whiskey is blended to taste perfection every time …just a thought.
What Are The Best Cocktails with Blended Whiskey?
Can you blame us for saying any whiskey cocktail with Jameson is the best? No, of course, you can’t. Look at where you are!
What we call the classic Whiskey Sour will always use a blended whiskey to get that right amount of sweetness, paired with the tartness of lemon juice. And of course, a Jameson Ginger & Lime is a go-to for a smooth, fresh cocktail with a little spice. In truth, blended whiskey like Jameson is nearly always the whiskey mixologists reach for, as they are often very balanced.
You can find a whole plethora of amazing whiskey cocktails using our full range of blended Jameson whiskeys here on our website. Which cocktail is the best for blended whiskey? Well at the end of the day, that’s up to which Jameson cocktail recipe you keep coming back to.
What Is the Best Blended Whiskey?
The best-blended whiskey is Jameson, hands down. Not only is it the fact that we marry 2 types of whiskey together for the perfect balance; our smoothness from our use of malted and un-malted barley, and triple distillation is unmatched. Being the number 1 Irish whiskey in the world might help our position too.
Don’t believe us? Let the next family gathering or drinks with friends be the judge, we’re pretty sure we’ll change your mind. As for the future of Irish whiskey, you’ll just have to see what Jameson comes up with next.
Jameson is the Best in Blended
Find your favourite whiskey amongst our wide range of Jameson Irish Whiskey
Blender at Irish Distillers
Years of expertise: 11
Degree in Food Science and Technology, Diploma in Distilling from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling
About the Author:
Meet Deirdre O’Carroll, Blender at Irish Distillers. She is part of the Blending team, otherwise known as whiskey wizards. It is her job to nose, test and taste all our whiskeys at Irish Distillers, methodically selecting the finest combinations of characteristics from each to create the perfect blended Irish whiskey taste that we all know and love.