This week we’re sipping a rather lovely dram of 40-year-old whisky. That’s from no specific region. But also it kinda is. Allow MoM founder and managing director of Atom Labs, Ben Ellefsen, to explain the strange magic of Defilement 40 Year Old.

Q: When is a whisky not a whisky?

A: When it fails to meet the technical requirements laid out in statutory documents pertaining to its manufacture, storage, transportation, or blending. 

Okay, it’s not going to win a Perrier award. But you’re going to have to trust me – it’s pretty funny in practice*.

Defilement 40 Year Old

Don’t try this at home. Energy prices are extortionate

The ABCs of ABVs

So, before we get into it, here’s an important technical detail for you that you may or may not have considered. 

Whisky, by definition, must be 40% ABV or higher. It is standard practice to blend casks that have fallen under that threshold with stock at a higher ABV. This is especially true in the case of very old whisky, for the simple reason that ABV falls over time. Or at least it does in Scotland.

Preamble over then, let’s pretend for a second (and I can’t be clear enough on that point. Pretend. We’re just pretending) that you are in Scotland. Brrr. Chilly up there isn’t it? That’s okay though, because you have four casks of whisky with identical fill levels. Two of them, you will discover, are single grain whisky at 39% ABV, two are single malt at 41% ABV.

What happens if you mix one of the casks of grain with one of the casks of malt? Well, you’ve got yourself a blended whisky at 40% ABV. That’s what. Obvious innit. 

Loads of yummy 40-year-old blended Scotch whisky. Super-old so it is. Oh look – here’s a 40 Year Old Blended Scotch with our own name on it, and at £300 it’s an absolutely epic bargain that is marching out the door pretty rapidly. Better blend those final two casks then, and get on with the business of delighting everyone with just how delicious, and comparatively well-priced it is.

Defilement 40 Year Old

Old whisky. That’s all this is. Technically.

The terrible technicality of transportation 

What happens though if one of the remaining two casks (the grain – for the sake of argument) is not in the same warehouse? Well, that’s simple. You transport it over to the warehouse where the malt is, you blend them together, and everyone gets a brand-new ivory backscratcher. Simple.

(…I can feel you all tensing for the ‘but’…)

So, what happens when the grain lands at your warehouse? Well you blend it with the 41% malt and bottle your blend and everyone’s a winner, right? Right? RIGHT?

No ivory backscratcher for you my friend. Just a problem.

The problem comes in the form of those pesky** technical requirements. You see, when you transported that cask, you had to do two things. You had to test the ABV, and you had to put a legal category on the paperwork to identify what it was for the haulier. What did you put? Grain whisky? Nope. can’t put that, it’s under 40% ABV, champ. Technically, it’s a ‘spirit drink’, so that’s what went on the paperwork.

You see, in a state of affairs that would be extremely pleasing to Messrs Schrödinger and Voldemort, the act of simply naming the liquid means that you no longer have a blended whisky.

Or more simply: 

Single Grain Scotch Whisky + Single Malt Scotch Whisky = Blended Whisky

Spirit Drink + Single Malt Scotch Whisky = A Problem

Now don’t get me wrong, the reason for this glaring omission in the legislation isn’t malicious or even particularly short-sighted, rather it’s that we (as an independent bottler and blender) are weirdos. We have our own warehouses, and we also have stock purchased from other indies, brokers, and distillers. 

99.999% of the time when a blended Scotch whisky is put together, it’s done with stock taken from the same site. Ian Diageo, or Ian Pernod-Ricard will grab 1,000 casks of grain, 1,000 casks of malt (Or maybe 200 casks of malt? The Ians have many shareholders after all), vat them, then measure the ABV. Nobody is individually measuring the casks prior to blending. Why would they?

Defilement 40 Year Old

Just moving a cask adds all kinds of complications

Whisky like Tom Hanks

So to make the simplification above much more confusing, it’s not really a case of: 

[Single Grain Scotch Whisky] + [Single Malt Scotch Whisky] = [Blended Scotch Whisky]

It’s actually:

[Liquid of an unspecified and untested ABV which was manufactured in a fashion that would enable it to be called single grain Scotch whisky as long as it’s over 40% ABV] +  [Liquid of an unspecified and untested ABV which was manufactured in a fashion that would enable it to be called single malt Scotch whisky as long as it’s over 40% ABV] = [Blended Scotch whisky, as long as it’s over 40% ABV].

And stranger still, it’s really not even:

Spirit drink + single malt Scotch whisky = A problem

It’s actually:

Spirit drink + single malt Scotch whisky = Blended Whisky

On the basis that although it doesn’t conform to the Scotch Whisky regulations, it does still meet the definition of ‘whisky’. Sort of like Tom Hanks in The Terminal.

Still with me? If so then you get a reward. The reward comes in the form of the final chapter of this (fully hypothetical of course) exposition, namely:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.O

Oh wait, what’s happened there? Someone appears to have redacted the last part of the story. Well, I’ve agreed to write 1,000 words, not including title, and I’m shy about 90 words or so, so I’ll just vamp a bit by selecting a product I’m particularly excited about. 

Defilement 40 Year Old Blended Whisky

Our new arrival

Ladies and bargain-seekers, I give you a delicious 40-year-old whisky: Defilement 40 Year Old (which has just landed at Master of Malt – follow the link to buy).

And some more words go here just to pad us out to the 1,000-word mark… 

Screw Flanders. 

 *and in retrospect. A long time after the fact. A very long time.

**or to use another term, ‘utterly fucking nonsensical’.