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The most time-consuming aspect of whisky is the maturation of new make spirit. Nevertheless, with the exception of small volumes of single cask offerings, blending, arguably the most artful part of the whisky production process, is essential to produce the globally-recognized brands that represent close to 90% of total Scotch whisky sales. There are various schemes for classifying blend components and up to 50 may be present in any given blend. Typically, admixtures of grain spirits, together with lowland, highland and island malts, are prepared, guided by both analytical measurements and careful sensory evaluation procedures performed by experienced assessors. Blenders typically operate under constraints of the availability of some of the blending components and need a thorough understanding of the flavour attributes of the spirits available to them and the flavour interactions of these spirits with each other. Whilst the utmost care is taken to produce the blends for sale, they still require finishing – adjustment to sales strength, as well as the options of colour addition and chill filtration – before the final product is packaged. Legal and brand-associated specifications are often checked using a range of distillation, chromatographic and wet chemistry procedures, as well as the obligatory sensory evaluation of the product prior to release. Detailed instrumental analysis can also be used to help protect a brand, by providing insight into the composition of a product. This is especially relevant in the context of possible occurrences of counterfeiting or tampering, an issue that the industry takes very seriously in light of the potential physical and reputational damage to the consumer and the brand, respectively.

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