View Full Version : Vatting Bourbons

09-19-2005, 12:51
Dave suggested recently adding some Stagg to Buffalo Trace to fashion a 100 proof version. This is a completely logical approach and one I am sure distilleries have followed in similar circumstances. Dave's suggestion is particularly apt because the older whiskey would add depth and power to the Trace but the latter would still dominate in character.

There is no possibility of a clash of flavours, the whiskeys come from the same company. Even if the companies were different that would not necessarily matter. Here is a simple blend I made recently which was particularly good. I was at the KBF's Spirit Garden. I had in one hand Kentucky Gentleman's Bourbon: a blend and in the other, Bulleit. I combined them 2:1, respectively. This meant the GNS of the KG dropped to about 33%. The combined flavours were very good and the drink had a soft mouthfeel, almost velvet-like. The small quantity of GNS served to lift and soften the heady components of KG's bourbon element and the Bulleit. The extra rye in the Bulleit off-set the paucity of rye in the KG. The net rye became, that is, "just right". The proof in the Bulleit dropped of course (I didn't check but assume the KG (blend version) is 80 proof) but the resultant proof of 83 or so is just perfect for neat sipping. You can do this at home with vodka and two bourbons, e.g., 1 part OGD 114, one part Maker's or Weller or Fitz 12 year old to tampen down that rye surge, 1 part any good velvety vodka. Reduce the vodka to 20% if you think 33% is too much. Or 15%. The permutations and combinations are endless.

This method makes a drink that is often better than many bourbons on their own. The high proof leathery bourbons included (disproportionately but it was by chance) at the tasting at Bettye Jo's are in my view almost undrinkable straight. Creating a drinkable vatting or blend, whether or not GNS or corn or other non-bourbon is used, is something which is the goal of every distillery for part of its line up. Four Roses Bourbon is stylish evidence of almost perfect blending, it was one of the best bourbons at the Gala's bar the other night in my view. You can do it at home, in other words. It won't taste exactly like Four Roses but it may be as good on its own terms.

Another way to look at this is, I am trying to get to an 80 or 86 proof 1970's Old Taylor palate or what I anticipate will be the palate of the late 70's Old Yellowstone Mellow Mash Roger gave me or Doug's early 80's Seagram McKenna. Since I can't buy that in the market today I have to build the equivalent myself.

This is not to say those big bruisers don't have their place but to a greater or lesser degree for most mortals this will mean cutting them with water or a soft drink. At the Gala bar I drank a Fighting Cock and Coke and thought it was one of the best drinks of the night but I don't think I could drink that bourbon straight.


09-24-2005, 18:34
At the Gala bar I drank a Fighting Cock and Coke and thought it was one of the best drinks of the night but I don't think I could drink that bourbon straight.

Gary, your comments and suggestions on vatting/blending always leave me (Dave) in awe, but this one particularly grabbed me. For the first time in years, I'm going to have a bourbon and Coke the next time I get a bottle of FC. I really like FC straight (or with some water), but if GG says it goes well with Coke, I'm gonna try it! http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/toast.gif

FYI, if you're ever in VA, we have a small stash of the 8 yr FC. You must try it. IMHO, it was a similar diamond in the rough to AAA - high quality bourbon at much lower shelf price. Don't get me wrong, I like the 6 year a lot, but it's not the same whiskey.

Caveat: Tina is not impressed with either version.

09-25-2005, 01:18
I have done a somewhat sloppy vatting experiment. I bought several 200 ml bottles of I.W. Harper (I wanted them for flasks) that I find too mild mannered to my taste and vatted them in a Wild Turkey Rye bottle that had about a finger left in the bottom. I left it to sit for a while I find it much improved, again, to my taste. If I do it again I will measure more carefully and add more WT Rye.

09-25-2005, 04:50
Thanks Dave, I would like to try that! But the Coke and FC combo is really good. I asked for the glass to be filled with ice and took a good shot of the bourbon, with perhaps only 2-3 ounces needed of the cola, which is the right combination I think. To my mind a bourbon to be mixed with cola should have a good underlying taste (which I am sure FC does, it was more the proof I was talking about in terms of straight drinking), not be too old, and not be too sweet. I believe Wild Turkey 101 or Rare Breed similarly would go well with cola but the FC was perfect.


09-25-2005, 05:14
That's a good one Ed, I am sure it is very good just as you made it. Try adding a bit of any other rye you may have on hand to stiffen it if you feel it needs more. You might even try a high-rye bourbon like WT 114, but the proportions are everything..

Last night I looked at a quarter-filled bottle of Hirsch 16 and a 3/4 full bottle of regular WT and combined them. The result is really good, it is somewhat like WT 101 but better. The Hirsch can be pretty intense on its own and I find it completes the WT, gives it the character it "should" have yet still shows its stuff. We used to have a whisky in Canada called 8 & 18 which was a combination of two whiskies, one 8 and the other 18 years old. I doubt they were combined 50/50, that would not likely produce an ideal balance. It was probably more like 3:1 so I adopted that for my Hirsch/WT blend. Some people might view this as wasting good whiskey but to me it brings out the best in both. Every time I try it I remember too what both were like on their own, I don't really think I've lost anything.

Good catch there Doug on that Hirsch 20, that is as perfect a whiskey as I know. I've owned 2 bottles, now long gone and did not blend it, not because of the cost but because I think it is just right as it is.

Here is one more blend: 60% Jack Single Barrel, 35% regular Jack, 5% Hirsch 16. The reason to combine regular Jack with the Single Barrel was to reduce the proof to something I can drink straight without needing to dilute (for convenience) but also I find when you do this you can sometimes get a good tasting result. It is all Jack (before I added the Hirsch) but softer and richer in palate than most Jack's I know. The Hirsch gives it just that something extra, there is a faint undertone of extra age and some of the "rawness" of Jack Daniel is removed. It makes for a very drinkable Jack taken neat. The reason I didn't add more than 5% Hirsch is I wanted it to be a light accent only, I wanted to preserve the Jack palate but deepen and soften it just a little. Tribute might work well for this purpose, or say ORVW 15 year old.