In the age of single barrel releases, blended whiskey hasn’t been as highlighted as in previous years. Why? Likely because it’s not as “limited edition” or “exclusive” as some of these other one-barrel-only expressions. However, whiskey enthusiasts shouldn’t overlook blended whiskeys as their own art form and science. Let’s dive into the art and history of blending whiskey.
Is Blending Whiskey New?
Absolutely not. Blending can be traced back nearly as far as the distillation of whiskey itself. When whiskey was made for survival purposes, many different batches of whiskey would be blended together. These blends were made more for convenience of transporting than taste. But, it was still blended.
However, it wasn’t until the 1800s that whiskey was blended for reasons other than purely practical purposes. It was then that distilleries began blending for taste rather than convenience. It was pioneered as an art by Andrew Usher in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the 1860s.
These early blended whiskeys took strong-flavored single malt whiskeys and added relatively young or unaged spirits to make a lighter and sweeter whiskey. This made the whiskey more approachable to new drinkers. This type of blending continued with blenders bringing together different flavors to create unique recipes that affect flavor, heat, scent, and consistency.
So What About Today?
Blending has developed into an art form. Today, the vast majority of whiskey is blended to mitigate differences between individual barrels. However, some distilleries, like Black Button Distillery in Rochester, NY, take blending to another level.
Black Button Distillery has a unique blending program that allows people to take the reigns on blending bourbon. Outside of their own blended whiskey, they work with whiskey enthusiasts to craft their own special blend.
They have different kinds of bourbon in addition to their base bourbon with different flavor profiles: sweet, spice, and oak. What makes it unique is that you can take a survey and find out what flavor profile you’re looking for. Afterward, you can try some blends unique to your palate and craft your own custom blend!
You can learn more about Black Button’s blending program by clicking here.