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The Aestheticism and Mathematics of Blending

調配的美學與數學

It’s natural to think that ‘Single Malt’ is really ‘single’ and require no blending throughout the making process. Actually blending is crucial to both single malt and blended whiskies, and to be more concise, it requires not only a sense of aesthetics but also a mindset of mathematics. A small discrepancy does matter in the final result.

To Blend is to find out the best answer

Either single malt or blended whisky involves blending process. In the case of blended whisky, the components come from distinguished distilleries. The concept of a ‘single malt’ refers to the fact that all components involve in the blending come from a single distillery. They can be from different vintage, different barrels. It is always the first priority to ensure consistency of flavors within the same series. Secondly, it is through the deployment of blending to produce considerable quantity of whisky in a regular series.

 

Blending is not only a skill to produce whisky, but also a tool for the distiller to solve possible financial problems. Once there was no market for single malt, distilleries had to sell their whiskies to several blending plants in return of benefits and cash flow. On the other hand, as blended whisky companies have different recipes, it was not a problem for any two blending plants sourcing base from the same distillery. . Nowadays, as result of whisky fever, there was no pressure of over-supply and the market continues to pursue new and fun products. This leads to the opposite side in the supply and demand balance. How to satisfy the unlimited desire of the market with a limited number of distillery? By variation of the proportion of base spirit, we are able to create infinite possibilities. The whisky industry is reviving.

 

The approachable Glenbrynth

Among the recent dram I had, it was the Glenbrynth that deserves the best value of money. Its entry level ‘Premium Blended Sctoch’ is aged 3 years, which is the legal minimum in Scotland. To assess a whisky, you should consider its pricing – just below two hundred Hong Kong dollars, malts and grains from Speyside and Highlands, and the quality was in fact comparable to a lot of whiskies whose bottles were labelled 12 Y.O. Of course, it was slightly thin in the finish but was quite good overall. The 12 Y.O, which is a blended malt, is actually rare in Hong Kong. The price is approachable though. In terms of flavors, it displays a floral notes and oily soft texture, leaving hints of Cognac-like feeling, which is warm, sweet and impressive especially due to touch of citrus flavor.

 

Glenmorangie Bacalta - An even bigger Candy House

You can’t miss Glenmorangie when talking about single malt blending. The distillery recently launched its eighth edition ‘Bacalta’, which is directed by Brendan McCarron, the successor of Dr. Bill Lumsden. Following his last project ‘Milsean’, Bacalta uses ex-Madeira barrel in wood finish. The term ‘Bacalta’ is Gaelic which means ‘baking’. This born of this whisky was actually inspired by the ‘pleasant warm sunny days.’ After tasting, I can tell the successor of Dr. Lumsden was keen on sweets. Rather than sunny, I would describe it as a really huge candy house which is constructed by mainly milk candy, coconut candy. If you are a follower of the previous series, or you are sweet lovers, or you are looking for a bottle to please the girls, then just buy it..

 

 

或許因常稱單一麥芽及調和型威士忌,總會讓人有錯覺,認為單一麥芽威士忌是不用調配的。其實,大多單一麥芽威士忌跟調和威士忌一樣,也經過調配,才能成就,而調和威士忌的精彩之作,也非易求。調配技藝,既是味覺的美學,也是營運的數學,多一點,少一點,就是差一點的了。

 

調配 從來也是最佳答案

不論單一麥芽或調和型威士忌皆會採用調配技術,調和威士忌採用了不同蒸餾廠的基酒調和而成,調配技藝的重要不言而喻,而單一麥芽的概念,最主要指以麥芽為原料,酒液出於同一蒸餾廠,故就算調和來自不同年份,不同木桶的酒釀,也可稱為單一麥芽。由於不同酒桶或年份的酒液各有差異,調配技藝在單一麥芽酒廠其實也非常重要,首先,要確保品牌系列的風味不變;其次,是透過調配才能推出相較單桶具規模的系列貨色。

 

調配技術不止是威士忌釀造技藝,其實也是商業手段,為酒廠解決的財務問題。從前單一麥芽跟本無市場,由於有調和威士忌,單一麥芽酒廠可以供應一間或多間調和酒廠變現賺錢,而調和威士忌因為配方不同,就算兩間調和酒廠向同一間單一麥芽酒廠採購,也絕不「撞味」,但擔心死貨已不再是問題。現在威士忌大熱,市場不斷追求新鮮好玩的新品,這倒構成另一令業界眉開眼笑的新問題,蒸餾廠就那麼多間了,如何滿足永不知足的市場呢?採用調配方法,變動基酒及份量便有無限可能,所以調和威士忌又復興起來。

 

價錢口味,兩皆親民的 Glenbrynth

近期品嚐的調和作品之中,抵飲首選該是 Glenbrynth 旗下的作品。其入門酒釀 Premium Blended Scotch,陳存 3 年,意思便是指瓶中最年輕的基酒便是 3 年,剛好合乎蘇格蘭對於威士忌的年歲要求。要說酒釀特別之處,必須先看其定價,只是接近兩百港元,麥芽及穀物基酒全來自斯佩賽及高地地區,其酒質絕不輸於不少標示 12 年的調和威士忌,當然在其尾調略感輕薄,不過整體糅合得相當不錯。至於 12 年的作品,是在港較少見的全麥芽調和威士忌,價錢同樣親民,花香滿溢,酒質油厚醇和,在味蕾上有著點點的干邑體系的影子,甜美温暖,尤其那一抹柑橘風味,確是迷人。

 

更大更密集的糖果屋:格蘭傑的 Bacalta

談單一麥芽酒廠的自家調配,不能不提格蘭傑。最近酒廠推出第八款珍藏系列 Bacalta,而這次也是由一直被視為比爾‧梁思敦博士接班人的 Brendan McCarron 親自操刀。繼上次創作的 Milsean,今年再逐推出以馬德拉葡萄酒桶進行熟成的 Bacalta。Bacalta 是蘇格蘭蓋爾語,是「烘焙」的意思,而這瓶威士忌的創作靈感正是源自「溫暖宜人、陽光普照的日子」。品嘗過後,似乎接班人挺喜愛甜美口味,與其說以陽光燦爛來形容,其實更像是由一大堆,主要是牛奶糖、椰子糖等糖果砌成的超大糖果屋。如果你是這系列的追隨者,買就是了;如果你是甜美系威士忌的愛好者,買就是了;如果你想找一瓶不失霸氣,又容易討好女生的威士忌,買就是了。