The Tasting Panel magazine

January / February 2018

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Page 55 of 124

january/february 2018  /  the tasting panel  /  55 W hile most whisky aficionados think making single malt whisky is the ultimate goal to which Scotland's producers aspire, a growing number of brands are being managed instead by a dedicated group of Scotch malt whisky blenders. Those producers— who work with established whisky houses to gather barrels for blending their own unique bottlings, yet not necessarily for distilling on their own—feel there is room for blended malt whiskies at the top, as well. (Blended malts are blends of single malts that all come from malted barley with no grain, and should not be confused with the more common blended Scotch whisky.) William Wemyss (pronounced "Weems") is one such blender, and his Wemyss Malts brand currently leads the charge in the production of first- rate, craft-blended Scotch whisky. William's family history in whisky-making can be traced back to the 19th century, when distiller John Haig of John Haig & Co. (who hasn't heard of Pinch?) built his flagship distillery on the family's land near Wemyss Castle in the Kingdom of Fife. William has had a long love affair with Scotland's native spirit and founded Wemyss Malts in 2005 with the aim to create first-rate blends. "Ninety-two percent of all Scotch whisky sold is blended whisky," William said recently while hosting a blending session in New York City for key members of the trade. "Our whisky house was started to create blends of single malts, known as blended malts, where we select barrels from more than one malt distillery. The main advantage is that it gives the Master Blender more choice of casks with which to work their magic." To that end, each of the Wemyss Malts bottlings—The Hive, Spice King, and Peat Chimney—are named not through the common practice of identifying the distilleries or regions from which their base spirits originate, but by the taste and aroma characteristics of the blend. It's a practice that, according to Wemyss, allows the consumer to more easily understand the style being purchased. As part of another key initiative, Wemyss also aims to capitalize on increased interest from the cocktail community toward using malt whisky in its repertoire. "Blended whiskies are much more cost-efficient to use in cocktails," William said. "The right blend delivers the same flavors into the mix as a single malt would. I think a lot of the big blending houses are miss- ing the boat by not focusing on this important sector of the industry." The line of Wemyss Malts whiskies available in the U.S. through Palm Bay International: Peat Chimney, Spice King, and The Hive. Consultant Robert Cunningham and Rachel Jacobi of Southern Glazer's Artisanal Spirits Division discover what's involved in creating a blended Scotch whisky at the Wemyss Malts blending workshop in New York City.

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