“Are Blenders People?”
Written by Mark Merit and published in the Boston Traveler daily newspaper on August 18, 1943 during the height of World War II. The article was an advertisement by Schenley Distillers Corporation, New York.
While it was a serious article at the time, I believe, most people today will find it a bit humorous, and at times, condescending. Enjoy it for what it was meant to be in 1943!
A Bit of Schenley History
In 1900 Frank Sinclair bought a piece of land from a Mary Schenley and built a distillery. During Prohibition it purchased a number of distilleries. Two years after Prohibition its net profit was $8 million ($140 million today). In 1937 it purchased Bernheim Distillery, which was one of only 10 distilleries allowed to make bourbon during Prohibition for medicinal purposes. In 1945 it bought Gibson in Canada and opened a distillery there. As with many other distilleries globally, Schenley is now owned by Diageo.
“Are Blenders People?”
We were extolling the virtues of a friend recently, a famous blender of fine whiskies. We spoke of his extraordinarily acute sense of taste and smell, and how difficult it was to fool him in a test. Perhaps we got off a little bit on the enthusiastic side because one man in our party asked, “Are Blenders People?” Well, there could be but one answer to that. Yes, blenders are people – but they are unusual people.
Nature has endowed us all with certain senses: feeling, hearing, seeing, smelling and tasting. And we are all pretty good at all of these senses, but once in a blue moon nature endows a man with unusual talents of taste and smell. If he is smart he recognizes these extraordinary talents and becomes a blender, either in the food field, or in the beverage field.
Take that cup of coffee you had for breakfast this morning which made you say, “Gee, this is a swell cup of coffee.” You probably didn’t take the trouble to think that your enjoyment was the result of the painstaking and skillful efforts of an expert coffee blender.
Take a blended whiskey for instance. The expert blender with that highly developed sense of smell and taste gets busy. Of course, first of all, he must have a considerable “library” of various types of whiskey, each possessing certain dominant characteristics such as flavor, color, body, aroma, tartness, mellowness, etc., etc. With these stocks he can work out any number of combinations.
To make a palatable blend his “ingredients” must be compatible, must get along together. You know, there is such a thing as incompatibility of temperament in whiskey, too. And proper sequence is of the utmost importance. Take three whiskies, #1, #2, and #3, and blend them together in that order, and you get a very unsatisfactory end-product. But if you blended #1 and #3, and then added #2 you might end up with a product which would make you say, “Gee, this is a fine drink of whiskey.” So, you see, there is skill and science and unusual talent required in the blending of whiskies. To be sure, expert blenders are rare. And blending is a lucrative profession which you cannot prepare for in college.
Think of this, won’t you, the next time you smack your lips over your drink of fine blended whiskey.
Yes, blenders are people – unusual people. And they get a great deal of pleasure out of their contribution to gracious living.
I raise a glass to the blenders of the past and today!