History of Blended Scotch

For as long as they have existed in Scotland, whisky was sold by taverns and hotels, wine and spirits merchants, grocers and provision merchants. The whiskies were sold under the merchants' or invented names, not branded by the distiller, although by the early 19th century Glenlivet had made such a reputation for itself that a huge number of malts - many of them remote from Glenlivet itself were using the name.

It is safe to suppose that some of these merchants mixed their whiskies - even diluted and adulterated them. Until legislation permitted weaker washes and smaller stills, illicit malt whisky was much superior to the legal variety; as we have seen, in the Lowlands pot-still grain distilleries were common. Young whiskies were mixed with old; grain with malt - all in the interests of profit.

This early 'blending' was a crude affair. There was little quality control, and little concern for consistent, repeatable, products.

Old Vatted Glenlivet
The first commercial blend - in the sense that it was offered for sale to a wider market, and thus had to be consistent - was made by Andrew Usher in 1853. Usher was the Edinburgh agent for Glenlivet, and he named his creation Old Vatted Glenlivet. By 1860 it was being advertised in London, and in 1864 he was selling it overseas, especially in India.

Others followed, spurred on by the fact that increases in tax (in 1853 and 1855) caused a slackening of demand for whisky in England, and also because there was such an over-production of grain whisky in the Lowlands that the six largest distillers agreed to divide their market to avoid a price war (1857). But these early blends were invariably re-labelled for the retailer Mighty encouragement to producing large volumes of blend came with Gladstone's Spirit Act of 1860, which allowed blending in bonded warehouses before duty had to be paid.

Blended Scotch
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