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Blending Process 混調工序

Blended whisky is a blend of malt and grain whiskies. The strong character of the malt whiskies mixed with the gentle character of the grain whiskies creates a new harmony and gives rise to a blended whisky flavor.  Blended whisky is a product of whiskies from more than one distillery.

Take Johnnie Walker Black Label as an example. Almost forty different kinds of malt and grain whiskies are blended together to create flavors that have a delicate complexity.  Of course, both the malt and grain whiskies have been matured for at least 12 years in casks.

On the other hand, if only malt whiskies from more than one distillery are blended together, they are labelled as blended malt whisky, examples include Monkey Shoulder and Chivas Regal Ultis, their whiskies come from 3 and 5 different malt distilleries respectively.  

The aroma and flavor of a blended whisky is produced by the careful layering of many unique malt and grain whiskies. Only the blenders can achieve the task of creating this flavor. With a highly trained, keen sense of aroma, blenders must be able to distinguish the characteristics of individual whiskies.  Needless to say, this requires artistry and imagination. This is why blenders are often likened to orchestra conductors.  

The recipe for blending whiskies is not always uniform.  Even if whiskies have matured the same number of years in the same type of cask, the flavor of the whiskies will be subtly different, so product quality is maintained by constantly checking the aroma and flavor of whiskies and when necessary changing the recipe.  Normally whiskies that are matured less than 10 years are checked by production batches, and those that are aged 12 years or more are checked by every individual cask.

In order to ensure the flavor of whiskies in the future, blenders must sketch a vision of what kinds of whisky will be needed and in what quantities. They must envision the future while focusing on the present maturation conditions to ensure a balanced variety of whiskies 10 years or even 20 years into the future. Only then will they be able to produce the various flavors expected, and only then will they be able to develop new flavors. Blenders must also communicate this vision to the distilleries so the craftsmen can produce the kinds of spirit the blenders need. They also determine into which casks to put the new make.

Blenders are also responsible for identifying what kinds of casks/oak species, and how many of each will be required in the future.  Certain blenders also travel to the forests and select the trees.  In all facets, their work is vital to the whiskies of the future.

 

Marriage‭

When whiskies are blended and the diluted to lower the alcohol strength, the whiskies are subjected to completely new conditions; thus, to help them harmonize and to stabilize, then blended whisky is once again stored, during what is called “marriage.” Normally, the longer the maturation period of the whiskies, the longer the marriage takes, which could take up to 6 months.

Used casks, normally after 2 or 3 maturation cycles become neutral casks, are used for the marriage.  Others would also use big vats or stainless steel tanks.   

調和威士忌是麥芽和穀物威士忌的混合物。 麥芽威士忌的強烈特質與穀物威士忌的溫柔特色互相融合,營造出新的和諧氣息,形成了調和的威士忌的味道。調和威士忌是來自多個蒸餾廠的產品。

以Johnnie Walker黑牌為例,當中有四十種不同種類的麥芽和穀物威士忌混合在一起,創造出複雜的味道。當然,不論是麥芽或穀物威士忌,都必需經熟成至少12年。

相對來說,如果成份來自不止一家蒸餾廠而只有麥芽威士忌,則稱為混合麥芽威士忌,例子包括Monkey Shoulder和Chivas Regal Ultis。它們的原酒分別來自3家和5家不同的蒸餾廠。

調和威士忌的香氣和味道,是由許多獨特的麥芽和穀物威士忌堆疊而成。 只有調酒師能創造風味。他們必需訓練有素,擁有敏銳的嗅覺,從而可區分出個別威士忌的特點。不用說,這需要一定的藝術細胞及想像力。 因此調酒師經常被比喻為管弦樂團的指揮。

調和威士忌的釀造公式並不是一成不變的。即使威士忌在相同類型的酒桶中熟成了同等的時間,得出的味道也有可能出現些微的差異。因此調酒師需要不斷檢查威士忌的香氣和味道,在必要時調整釀造方式以保持產品的一致性。 通常,不滿10年的威士忌只會作批次抽樣檢查,12年以上的威士忌則需逐桶檢查。

為了確保威士忌將來的味道,調酒師心目中需有一種視野,他們需要怎麼樣的威士忌,以及數需要多少。 他們必須設想未來,同時著眼於目前的熟成,以確保未來10年甚至20年各種威士忌之間的平衡。 只有這樣,他們才可以釀造出預期的各種口味,以及開發出新的口味。 調酒師還必須將這個願景傳達給蒸餾廠,這樣工匠就能造出合乎他理想的各種威士忌。 他們還決定將新蒸餾的威士忌放入哪個木桶陳年。

 

調酒師需決定陳年木桶的材質種類,並考慮未來將需要多少木桶。 某些調酒師甚至會親自到森林去選擇合適的木材。他們的工作對威士忌的未來至關重要。

婚姻期

當威士忌完成混調,經稀釋降低酒精強度後,威士忌需置換新的儲存模式,從以逐漸達至協調和穩定的狀態。在所謂的「婚姻」期間,調和威士忌將繼續儲存一段時間。通常,威士忌的熟成期越長,婚姻期也需要更長,可能需要6個月之久。

木桶經過 2 至 3 次熟成後將變成中性,並可用於威士忌的「婚姻期」,有些調酒師則會使用大木桶或不銹鋼桶。