Last night I attended the 20th annual #MeetThe Blenders or ‘An Evening With The Blenders’ as it is more formally known, hosted at The Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh.
Every year some of the top and longest serving Blenders in the whisky industry gather for a week or so to sample their way through the entrants of the International Spirits Challenge Whisky Categories. As a part of this gathering of the great minds, a public event is held on one of the evenings allowing regular whisky drinkers a chance to meet the blenders up close and personal – something nigh on impossible in your average whisky festival these days. As a bonus the blenders are also encouraged to bring along something a little special to pour for visitors, often something not normally available.
Hosted by The Scotch Whisky Experience venue and team, the open tasting and meet & great session was also catered again this year with canapés provided that complimented many of the whiskies on offer. Compered by the indomitable ‘The Nose’ Richard Paterson, we were introduced to the judging panel with well over 300 years of experience between them! Including:
Richard Paterson (Whyte & Mackay, Dalmore)
Mackinley’s Shackleton Blend Batch 2
Shinji Fukuyo (Suntory)
Hakushu 18, Chita
Billy Leighton (Irish Distillers, Jamesons)
Midleton Pot Still, 27 year old 1995 Port Finish CS *
David Stewart (William Grant & Sons, The Balvenie)
The Balvenie 21 Portwood & Triple Cask 16
Tadashi Sakuma (Nikka)
Nikka Coffey Grain
Gordon Motion (Edrington, Highland Park)
Highland Park Fire
Caroline Martin (Diageo)
Roe & Co Irish Whiskey
Angela d’Orazio (Mackmyra)
Mackmyra 10 Year Old* & Expedition
Randy Hudson (Triple Eight Distillery)
Notch 12*, Triple 8 Bourbon & Nor’Easter
Bill Lumsden (LVMH, Glenmorangie/Ardbeg)
Ardbeg Dark Cove, Glenmorangie Bacalta & Signet
*my favourite drams of the evening 😉
Following the open taster session we were split into 2 groups and took part in either the question & answer session with the Blenders or taken round some of the new additions to The Scotch Whisky Experience tour.
We started with the blenders and took part in a lively session whose jovial tone was set by Bill Lumsden’s ablutions about any love held for marketing departments and their constant demand for innovative new products in an industry that generally requires 10 years advance notice of matured whisky requirements. This was echoed across the board – even from Caroline, explaining that despite having the biggest stock to draw from, searching for new flavours legally in whisky for consumers is still a challenge. The Q&A session continued to discuss the challenges of obtaining quality casks (see video below), expansion plans in the face of current and projected demand including the huge investment in upgrades of Midleton distillery (Billy) and Macallan (Gordon) and also the challenges whisky faced from other spirits such as Gin, currently experiencing a huge rise in popularity at the moment.
Triple Eight Distillery’s Randy Hudson
Explaining how as a small craft distillery producing numerous products, they can provide their own variety of cask requirements.
The new additions to The Scotch Whisky Experience tour started with a panoramic film presentation of the Scotch whisky regions, accompanied by a Scotch & Sniff (TM – you heard it hear first!) – actually scratch and sniff card conveying an aroma reminiscent of each of the regions whisky in a multi-sensory feature.
The origin and production of Blended Scotch Whisky
Then we moved into the 1870’s blending room where we were greeted to an audio-visual display portrayed across the walls and bottles around the room of how blended whisky arose and how blends are constructed – culminating in a special tasting of The Scotch Whisky Experience’s very own 25 year old blend – produced for their 25th anniversary in 2013, containing 25 malt whiskies and limited to 252 bottles retailing at £100 – this was some of the last stock available! Finally the animated vault doors were unlocked and we exited into the Diageo Claive Vidiz Collection of 3,384 bottles of Scotch Whisky!
Like what you read? why not book a tour and experience it for yourself