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Luna56
12-03-2007, 20:56
In my relatively short time as a bourbon lover, I've noticed that my taste consistently leans toward single barrel offerings like ERSB 10, FRSB (best bourbon I've ever had) and EC18. The best single malt I've had so far, Balvenie 15 YO, is also a single barrel (101 proof, too, oh yeah!).
Is there something beyond my appreciation of the fact that the whiskey or whisky came from one barrel only or is there something markedly different about single barrels in general? I assume, perhaps incorrectly, that blends can tend to be more complex than a single barrel, but I've found no lack of said complexity in the whiskeys and whisky I've named here. The Balvenie is unreal in the complexity department.
I'm not just fascinated with the concept of a single barrel whiskey, it just seems like the sb's are the best ones I've tasted. Admittedly I've not had a huge selection of bourbons to taste so my comparative sense might be a little undernourished. I did have a FR Super Premium in Japan recently aqnd, while it was really good, I'd take a dram of the SB over a bottle of the SP any day. Okay, maybe not, I'm stupid :grin: but I think you know what I mean.
I'm rambling a bit here. What do you guys think?
Cheers!

squire
12-03-2007, 22:20
You won't go wrong by sticking with quality stuff, whether blend or single. There are no sub par bottles on your list and at that quality level it really is a matter of taste.
Regards,
Squire

Jono
12-03-2007, 22:30
See the article on single barrel and small batch:

http://www.straightbourbon.com/articles/mwsbb.html

Because you are starting with the select barrel(s) you are already getting the most complex, flavorful product....blending...with non-select barrels will result in a different, less complex product. So, your taste buds are not lying...that is not to say blends are not good...just that by trying to maintain more predictable flavor profiles you simply dilute the "best" into the rest. Does this make sense?

Luna56
12-03-2007, 22:35
See the article on single barrel and small batch:

http://www.straightbourbon.com/articles/mwsbb.html

Because you are starting with the select barrel(s) you are already getting the most complex, flavorful product....blending...with non-select barrels will result in a different, less complex product. So, your taste buds are not lying...that is not to say blends are not good...just that by trying to maintain more predictable flavor profiles you simply dilute the "best" into the rest. Does this make sense?

I hear you, brother, thanks. I know there must be really, really great blends out there, I'm open minded enough to try anything at this point, but the single barrels just seem to get me, and I seem to get THEM a little more. Maybe it's a mano y mano thing, but I love the concept of "Here I am, from a single barrel. Deal with it!!" If ya know what I mean.
Cheers!

cowdery
12-04-2007, 17:30
Let me just inject that "blend" as it is being used here is problematic. In whiskey terminology, "blend" isn't just a synonym for "mixture." It refers to a product that contains two distinctly different spirits. In the case of an American blend, it's a mixture of straight whiskey and neutral spirits, i.e., vodka. In the case of a Canadian, Irish or Scottish blend, it is a mixture of flavorful, low-proof whiskey and a nearly-neutral base whiskey that has little flavor on its own.

On the other hand, straight bourbons that are not single barrels are made by mixing whiskey from multiple barrels together, but all of the whiskey is straight bourbon. It is incorrect usage to refer to these as "blends," even though that is what they are by the plain meaning of the word.

NorCalBoozer
12-04-2007, 17:39
Let me just inject that "blend" as it is being used here is problematic. In whiskey terminology, "blend" isn't just a synonym for "mixture." It refers to a product that contains two distinctly different spirits.

A while ago i picked up an old Cream of Kentucky thinking I really scored, man was I happy...then I got home and found out it was blended and contained only 27.5% whiskey and the rest GNS.

Still have the bottle, scared to try it, but i guess it's probably not bad, right????

Gillman
12-04-2007, 17:56
Just add Buffalo Trace to it (say 50/50), it will be great.

Gary

Luna56
12-04-2007, 18:31
Let me just inject that "blend" as it is being used here is problematic. In whiskey terminology, "blend" isn't just a synonym for "mixture." It refers to a product that contains two distinctly different spirits. In the case of an American blend, it's a mixture of straight whiskey and neutral spirits, i.e., vodka. In the case of a Canadian, Irish or Scottish blend, it is a mixture of flavorful, low-proof whiskey and a nearly-neutral base whiskey that has little flavor on its own.

On the other hand, straight bourbons that are not single barrels are made by mixing whiskey from multiple barrels together, but all of the whiskey is straight bourbon. It is incorrect usage to refer to these as "blends," even though that is what they are by the plain meaning of the word.

Thanks, Chuck. I understand that bourbons are blended with other bourbons but didn't know about canadian, et al. What would be a more correct term?
Thanks for your input, I always learn a lot from your contributions here.
Cheers!

Jono
12-04-2007, 21:03
Yes, clearly "blended" has a connotation that implies something other than as intended....a perfectly good word spoiled.

The article above uses:

"These are dumped together,"

Dumped bourbon....mixed bourbon....combined bourbon....pooled bourbon...joined bourbon.....others?

barturtle
12-04-2007, 22:04
Yes, clearly "blended" has a connotation that implies something other than as intended....a perfectly good word spoiled.

The article above uses:

"These are dumped together,"

Dumped bourbon....mixed bourbon....combined bourbon....pooled bourbon...joined bourbon.....others?

I believe the term used is "mingled". Or they can bastardize "vatting" (which implies aging once mingled to marry the flavors).

cowdery
12-04-2007, 22:08
Any synonym for blend will do but you really don't need a term because that's what straight bourbon whiskey is. The variations are single barrel and bonded. Calling it "mixed" bourbon or anything like that will just confuse things. It's bourbon.

Remember too that a straight bourbon can be all whiskey made at the same time at the same distillery, or at the same distillery but at different times, or even at different distilleries although, for some unknown reason, all of the distilleries have to be in the same state. No distinctions are made. They're all straight bourbon.

In the world of whiskey, "blend" is a term-of-art, a word with a specific meaning in this realm that supersedes its common meaning.

Luna56
12-04-2007, 22:14
Gotcha, Chuck, well said. Still don't know how I could have made the distiction any better, but I'm a bit of a newbie.
Your input here is extremely valuable to me, not just on the subject of bourbon. Thanks a lot.
Cheers!
PS- How's "Kentucky Co-mingled" or "Same-sex Bottle" sound? :grin:

bluesbassdad
12-04-2007, 22:45
Chuck,

Didn't you once point out that there is a distinction made among blends, depending on what percentage of straight whiskey they contain?

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

Stu
12-05-2007, 09:48
Chuck,

I liked a term that you used on another thread - "Gillmanized".

Stu

Gillman
12-05-2007, 10:39
Well, as the (reluctant) subject of that term, may I say it can mean a number of things. :)

It means mainly combining different bourbons, different straight ryes or some of each. Whether or not technically a blend under the standards of identity, it is an analogue to the vatting which occurs in Scotland (now often termed there blending under recent changes by Scotch Whisky Asssociation, but set that aside for now).

Vatting is choosing and combining whiskeys from different distilleries to obtain a harmonious, pleasing combination. So, if I vat, say Heaven Hill BIB and Old Weller 107, that is a kind of blending using the term loosely and I agree not correctly. In fact as Chuck points out, that vatting could be sold as straight bourbon.

If I vat Hirsch 16 and WL Weller, that is similarly a vatting of the type I often do, but would not be saleable as straight bourbon as Chuck says since from different states. (I haven't checked this rule but happily take what Chuck is saying as the position).

If I combine bourbon and straight rye - and my earliest vattings did just that, inspired by a comment from a distillery worker quoted in article I read that they would dump straight rye in a vat of bourbon to give it character - that too is of course not straight bourbon. It might be (not sure) a blend of straight whiskeys under the regs, but it doesn't matter and again I would not use the term blend to describe such a vatting.

Sometimes I would combine bourbon and/or straight rye and Canadian whisky (one or more of each). In this case, this should be called a blend since there is some neutral or neutral-type spirits in it albeit aged neutral spirits if Canadian whisky is used.

Blend to me connotes using in part either GNS (i.e., unaged), aged GNS or something close to GNS, green whiskey (made from a bourbon or rye mash but unaged) or bourbon or rye mash whiskey aged in wood but not, or not entirely, in new charred wood - the other part being genuine straight whiskey(s) (bourbon, rye, or another straight type recognised under the regs).

Gary

Gillman
12-05-2007, 11:01
I just would like too to make a general comment. To understand well the world of bourbon and other whiskeys, it is vital to get the distinction between straight or single whisk(e)y and other spirits and whiskies.

Straight (and, yes, non-straight) bourbon and rye (and straight wheat, or malt, whiskey) are distilled in America at under 160 proof. Similarly, U.K. single malt is (by convention, not law) distilled at under that proof in Scotland. Cognac is distilled at (well) under that proof in France.

These drinks share this quality of traditional, genuine spirit because, however aged - and aging there must be - they retain flavor from the materials the ferment is made from - grapes or grain, whatever it is.

On the other side of the divide are drinks distilled at higher than 160 which under certain circumstances in the U.S. (and Scotland and Canada too) might be called whisk(e)y, but these are not traditional whisk(e)y.

So, if you combine the high and aged low proof kinds in Scotland, that is called a blend, in recognition that one of the elements is a non-traditional type of whisky.

Of course in America if you distill over 190 proof, it can't be called whisky under any circumstance, because too neutral in taste.

So, blending traditionally (if not always in the regulations in different countries) meant and still means combining some genuine low proof aged spirit with another kind of whisky or spirit. Thus, Canadian is blended since it is about 90% aged neutral spirits and 10% low-proof whisky of some kind (whisky that might technically be bourbon or rye in the States but not always).

The key to blending is whether any high proof whisk(e)y or spirit is used. Single malt scotch is not just from one distillery, it is also (almost always) only pot-stilled, low-proof spirit and thus, say, a bottle of Macallan is never a blend, it is a traditional single malt whisky.

Ballantine 12 is a blend because it is a combination of some single malts with aged high proof whiskies (Canadian whisky is similar but uses less of the traditional whiskies in the blend).

Seagram 7 Crown is some genuine bourbon or rye with other things, probably aged GNS in part and/or green whiskey plus flavorings possibly and caramel. Ditto that Cream of Kentucky blend.

The key to blends are they contain some element which is non-traditional whiskey although of course they might be high quality drinks.

Last night I made a Jack Single barrel on the rocks and added bitters. I found it too pungent. I added about 20% vodka. This lightened the taste and made it much better. I did not use Canadian because there was enough wood in there already. I made a blended drink.

Gary

cowdery
12-05-2007, 11:23
Chuck,

Didn't you once point out that there is a distinction made among blends, depending on what percentage of straight whiskey they contain?

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

That's not ringing any bells. WRT scotch, the percentage of malt to grain whiskey can vary and those products with more malt whiskey are regarded as better and usually cost more, whereas the cheapest blended scotches will contain relatively little malt whiskey.

While there are some similarities between the American and Scottish practices, they aren't exactly parallel. American blends must contain at least 20 percent straight whiskey and most contain 35 to 40 percent. There isn't much gradation in U.S. blends, as they're all pretty cheap.

The reason we use the term gillmanization is because it refers to something not done commercially with American whiskey, which is the combining of multiple products to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Although what we call gillmanization is not really done with whiskey on either side of the Atlantic, it is very similar to how the finest Cognacs are made.

Gillman
12-05-2007, 11:34
Chuck, I believe there is precedent in the practice of some American independent whiskey producers and it is hardly a stretch to use the same principles at home. I understand KBD for example may combine different bourbons to produce some of its fine products. I think the same may be true of the Corner Creek brand. ORVW 13 year old rye is currently a combination of two ryes.

This is done, and has been for a long time, to produce a whole greater than its parts, or a house style (which is really the same thing I think).

The idea of mingling (as opposed to bonded) rests on the same idea and is practiced every day by the distilleries.

The old Melrose blend of straight ryes was another example.

It was and is done on a commercial scale but not to the degree of course as in France, say, for Cognac. In this sense, the French have adopted a more intensified approach to mingling or vatting but the difference is one of degree only.

The Scotch world is yet another analogy where Scots distillers combine (whether in vats or blends) numerous whiskeys to produce a harmonious whole more pleasing to many (is the theory) than any one on its own.

I simply have taken from these practices and applied the same ideas at home. It isn't new for consumers either since cocktails is really the same thing (e.g., a Rusty Nail, a Sazerac combining brandy and bourbon, a Mai-Tai with multiple rums, and so on). Not to sound ungrateful where my name is associated with the practice, but really there is nothing new under the sun.

Gary

bluesbassdad
12-05-2007, 19:40
Chuck,

It appears that my recollection is based on something that appears in David Embury's book, The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks (copyright 1958).

Quoting:

"Under F.A.A. [!!!] regulations 'Blended Whisky' may contain as little as 20% of 100 proof straight whisky, whereas if the type is named, such as 'Blended Rye Whisky', the blend must contain a minimum of 50% of straight whisky of that type."

Does any of that cause a tintinnabulation?

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

Gillman
12-05-2007, 20:07
This concept still exists, e.g., there is a version of Kentucky Gentleman styled I think, "bourbon, a blend" which must be at least (today) 51% bourbon. Really it is a better quality blend.

The old books contained formulas for creating blends whose quality was strictly related to their percentage of straight whiskey(s). This concept of blended bourbon or rye is an echo of that approach. But it is still a blend, is the important point (to me).

Gary