View Full Version : Scotch Blending
Of the 4 or 5 bottles of personal Scotch blends I've got going, one in particular shines. It is the result of combining and recombining many bottles and probably is about 80% malt 20% grain whisky. (Some of the 20% may be Canadian whisky, but if so it doesn't matter). This has what I like in Scotch: a full body but not sweet; a light undertone of sherry; a top-note of peat and smoke; a mix of young and old; and a mellow quality. It has Laphroig (4 kinds), Lag 16 sherry cask and regular, Glenlivet 15 year old Limousin cask, Glenfiddich, Macallans of various kinds and many, many other whiskies, some drawn from the blended scotches I bought that later got added (e.g., Teacher's, Black and White, Chivas, Bell's). But when you taste it it has a real unity of Scotch whisky, no one would ever dream there are probably hundreds of whiskies in it. This resulted from trial and error but there is only genuine, good quality whisky in it and once you get the particular combo right it is a very good whisky indeed.
That sounds very, very intriguing. Have you ever thought of contacting John Glaser of Compass Box fame? ;)
Funny thing is, I've rarely tried blending, and then it was just simple blends (I recall an Aberlour A'Bunadh/Buffalo Trace mix that really worked well). If I'm blending things, it's usually a cocktail rather than a whisk(e)y blend - but that's fun to explore, too.
My twisted Manhattan (http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/showthread.php?t=7000) now competes with the Red Hook as a favorite cocktail of mine - and I came up with that on the spur of the moment one night. Hmmmmm... some gears are turning inside my head.
Gary left me with his vattings of Scotch, bourbon and rum after the Festival (or was it the Sampler?) last year. The Scotch vatting -- which included single malts as old as 25 years -- was the first one that expired.
When the SB.com Distillery comes online, I expect Gary Gillman to be the Master Blender or, at least, lead taster.:bowdown:
Thanks gents. I started doing simple combinations, and it developed from there. A pro like John Glaser really knows what he is doing but also I believe the average knowledegable taster can come up with excellent blends of different types. It really is similar to making cocktails. I'll try to bring samples of these to Chicago. I have at a minimum my Sazerac confirmed (this is a sweet, after-dinner version, but a dash of bourbon or rye can reduce the sweetness); one of my rum blends; and probably now one of my Scotch blends. They don't always work (e.g. the tequila vatting I mentioned) but you can always fix them. What I find interesting is to use whiskies that on the their own don't appeal but come into focus as part of a harmonious whole. Also, blending allows adjustment of factors such as sweeness, mouthfeel, abv content: the possibilities are endless. I like some commercial blends a lot of course, notably Johnnie Walker Gold. If there is one model I seek (in general) to emulate, that is it.
A couple of weeks back, I pulled out my Dalmore 12. There was a nice little 2 oz. pour left, and I was about to put it in my glass. Then I thought, "What Would Gary Do?" (WWGD?™). I started digging through my ever-expanding Scotch selection and brought forth the following: Bowmore 12, Famous Grouse 12, Highland Park 12, the standard Famous Grouse, and a mini of J&B. I added the mini, an ounce of each of the other whiskies except Bowmore (1/2 oz), and tasted. Another ounce of Highland Park. Very good. But. 1/2 oz. Laphroaig 10. Ah, even better. And yet. It was lacking pepper and a little bit of weight. I picked up a mini of JW Black. The Talisker comes through nicely in that blend, and I thought the remaining whiskies would round out my blend. Bingo! Like you, Gary, I enjoy a light undertone of sherry, but I don't want it to dominate, which is why I didn't add more Bowmore. I love the heather-honey of Highland Park, so I wantd a good proportion of that in the middle. The peat and smoke in this blend are very nicely balanced, and the finish hangs around (Dalmore and Highland Park both have that quality, so it makes sense).
Fast forward to Thursday. I had poured (small pours) from the bottle twice, so the total volume of everything was reduced a bit. After a pour of Teacher's, I decided that that blend would actually bulk up the mouthfeel of my own, and that the robust middle might draw out the Laphroaig and the smokier notes of the Famous Grouse 12. I added 1 oz. to the bottle. My blend is now a different, but equally good, whisky entirely. I don't think I'll tweak it anymore, as I really like the balance it has. On the other hand, some additional malt content might improve it even more.
I have never played around with vatting bourbons too much, but that may change. It's a good challenge for the palate to pick out flavors and pair them with others.
So, Gary, thanks for the inspiration and insight. And remember, gents (and ladies), when you get down to your last pour from a bottle, ask yourself, WWGD?™
Edited to add: Gary, the forums over at CigarWeekly are frequented by a gent from Toronto who, like yourself, engages in making his own vattings and blends. I've linked to a thread, but I think you may have to register to view the sub-forum it's in. Thought you might like to look at one or two of his vattings:
Thanks very much, and I'll look into that link soon, it sounds promising.
As I mentioned to Doug Philips the other day, bourbon vatting is really potentially an art form. The logic is the same as with blending scotch.
I keep two or three vats going at any one time. I have an-all HH vat: not really a vat, but "still". I have another that is about 10 bourbons and straight ryes. The undertone is from Jefferson, its weight and oil underpin the whole but on their own are too much to my taste. The oiliness gives body to the vatting without adding much of its flavour.
And so e.g., a tannic bourbon can pick up one that needs more wood. A smoky one that lacks much smoke, a sweet one for one arguably too dry (a house vatting of Elmer T. Lee and Blanton is one I did all the time when both were available here, again that is mingling not vatting unless the mashbills are different perhaps, I haven't checked lately but it doesn't matter: the point is the final result).
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