Whisk(e)y Wisdom

How Whiskey Brands Keep Consistent Flavor

Flavor drift is when a whiskey tastes different from year to year. How do whiskey brands avoid this and keep a consistent flavor?

Three important components that decide how a whiskey tastes are the grain it’s made from, the still that makes it, and the barrel it’s aged in. Which means if you change any of these elements you end up with a different tasting whiskey.

In most distilleries, these three elements are decided up front and then rarely changes after that. That kind of consistency in grain, still, and barrel means the whiskey's flavor is consistent. That’s why and how distilleries become known for a dependable signature flavor.

Pretty straightforward. Keep making it the way you’ve always done to keep getting the same product.

But what if you’re tired of your distilleries “signature” flavor? What if you want a new taste but you don’t want to, or can’t, change your grain supply, equipment, or barrels? Or what if you don’t even have a distillery? What then?

Here’s where blending becomes your new best friend.

Blending is another way to keep a consistent flavor profile. Instead of tweaking mashbills and equipment, other whiskeys become the tools of your trade. By blending together two or more whiskeys in specific proportions, you can create a new consistent flavor.

As long as you can keep getting the whiskeys needed for your recipe, you can keep putting out a signature flavor. This is one reason why whiskey blending moguls like Johnnie Walker jealously protect the single malt distilleries that go into their blends. So they can keep a supply of the whiskeys that make their whiskey.

To recap: There are two ways to keep a consistent whiskey flavor. Either keep making the same mashbill in the same equipment or keep following the same recipe and blend the same whiskeys.

—Zac Smith