When it comes to blended whiskeys (or whiskies), most people immediately think of the likes of Socttish brands like Johnnie Walker, Chivas, and Dewar’s. These blended Scotch whiskies are among the highest selling spirits in the world for a reason. They’re blends of high-quality whiskies, mixed together to create a harmonious flavor experience. True craftsmen spend years honing the skills to accurately mix these classic spirits and even if you typically enjoy single malts, blended expressions are definitely not to be overlooked.
Though the blended whisky market is heavily associated with Scotland, the big brands mentioned above aren’t the only ones blending booze. In fact, one company has become virtually synonymous with blended whisky over the past decade and it’s about as far away from Scotland and you can get.
“Suntory has provided their artisan blenders with the raw material to use with their craftsmanship and pursuit of perfection to create completely new flavors while still maintaining the company’s reputation for producing impeccably well balanced, blended whisky,” says Makiyo Masa, founder of Dekanta.com about the popularity and craftsmanship of Japanese whisky blends.
Masa’s comment left us wondering what other great blended whiskeys are on the market. So we asked some of our favorite bartenders to tell us their go-to blended whiskeys to drink all year long.
Kala Brooks, curator at Top of the Monk in Asheville, North Carolina
Copper Dog. One of the newest spirits in the Diageo portfolio, the Copper Dog is a blend of 7-9 independent single malts from the Speyside region of Scotland. Unlike some other similar blends that have a banana or stone fruit flavor, the Copper Dog almost tastes like crispy apples and blends wonderfully in cocktails.
Compass Box The Story of the Spaniard
Paul Taylor, beverage manager at Columbia Room in Washington, DC
Compass Box “The Story of the Spaniard”. John Glaser does beautiful things with blended scotch whisky. I love the hints of smoke in the Glasgow Blend for mixing and surprise; I love the way the “The Story of the Spaniard” uses sherry and red wine casks to weave nutty and fruity tones that evoke the nostalgia of childhood peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Forty Creek Barrel Select
Dean Hurst, mixologist at Bern’s Steakhouse in Tampa Bay, Florida
Canada is home to some of the best blenders in the world and often times doesn’t really get the respect it deserves. Try Forty Creek Barrel Select to see just how seamless a good blend can be.
Suntory Ao World Blend
Makiyo Masa, founder of dekanta.com
Suntory Ao World Blend Batch 2, Japanese for “blue”, is named with the waters that connect the five major whisk(e)y producing regions: Ireland, Scotland, the United States, Canada, and Japan. A combination of liquid made by Suntory’s acclaimed distilleries in all of these countries, it offers whisky enthusiasts a truly revolutionary new expression to enjoy. Ao also draws attention to the quality that can come with blended whiskey from Japan.
Monkey Shoulder Batch 27
Rob Guimaraes, manager at Etch in Nashville
I feel like something else is eluding me here, but Monkey Shoulder Batch 27 Blended Malt Scotch is rock solid. A richer, slightly sweeter initial attack makes it a good gateway for people delving into Scotch, and it plays quite well in cocktails.
Suntory Hibiki 17
Stefan Seecharran, Head Bartender at Brasserie Saint Marc in New York City
Definitely going with a Japanese bottle here.; Suntory Hibiki 17 Blended whiskey would be a great pick. It’s sweet and rich with hints of raisin and plum, but most importantly for it technically being a blended whiskey; it can pass for most as a single malt because of its simplicity and richness.
Great King St. Artist’s Blend
Christopher Longoria, beverage director at Che Fico in San Francisco
Great King St. Artist’s Blend. I like all the fruit on the nose contrasted by all the holiday spices I get on the palate. Also great with cocktails. I sip it neat and feel with each sip more complexity gets revealed. To me, it’s very engaging.
Hibiki Japanese Harmony
Jamal Granger, Bartender at The Williamsburg Hotel in Brooklyn, New York
Hibiki’s Japanese Harmony is a great blend for those wanting to try Japanese whisky for the first time. So easy-going that I’d pour a glass for “Baby Yoda” to have his first drink. What? That kid is like 50 years old.
The Famous Grouse
Evan Moore, beverage director at Rosewood in Washington, D.C.
The Famous Grouse, it is a relatively light and clean blended Scotch. What I like about blended Scotch is its purity of flavors and lack of pretentiousness, and this brand has those two attributes in spades. Just pour this bad boy in a glass, cubes optional, and forget about your troubles for a while.
Smokey Monkey Shoulder
Yotam Bloom, beverage manager at Refinery Rooftop in New York City
Can’t really go wrong here with Smokey Monkey Shoulder. Smokey Monkey Shoulder has a nice lemon tart aroma on the nose, with a honey oat palate that comes out if you decide to sip this on the rocks, as I would do. It eventually delves into a hint of smoke. Smokey Monkey Shoulder is also easy to mix with its fruity and vanilla notes as well making it an all-around refreshing blended whiskey. Plus, its name Smokey Monkey Shoulder, how could you not be intrigued to give it a try?
Dewar’s White Label
McElroy, director of food and beverage at Fieldhouse Jones in Nashville
Dewar’s White Label has always been my go-to blended whisky just because of the consistency and value the brand brings with a rich history.