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  1. #1
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    Blending bourbons @ home?

    Anybody ever blend a couple of bourbons or bourbon with rye at home to get a flavor or style they were looking for?

    If so, what did you use and how did you do it (percentages)?
    And, what was the outcome?

    Thinking of doing a bourbon and rye (using Rittenhouse BIB)blend.

    Thoughts?

    Barry

  2. #2

    Re: Blending bourbons @ home?

    Barry, you haven't met Gary Gillman yet, have you?
    Gary was a master blender in another life, or will be in the next one. I hope he'll chime in here -- he has some very interesting, provocative and correct views about whiskey blending.
    To more directly answer you question: Sure. At Gary's suggestion, I've toyed with combining wheat and rye, for instance, and old and young. In my case, I just know whether or not I like the results, which ARE usually interesting. Gary, on the other hand, can tell me WHY I like or dislike it.
    See here or here, for example.

  3. #3
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    Re: Blending bourbons @ home?

    Thanks Tim. Interesting thread. I just wanted to see if I could take a "cheapo" and make it into a "top shelf". There is a profile in the AAA that I really like and I wonder what a little Rittenhouse would do to it? Gonna mix up a glass and give the taste buds a test.

  4. #4
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    Re: Blending bourbons @ home?

    Just did a 50/50 blend AAA 10 star (cheap) and Rittenhouse BIB (cheap also) right in the glass and I'm tasting something I can't put my finger on. The finish is very sweet and late in the back of the throat. Almost like a pudding? A creamy vanilla? Something I have never tasted before. Can someone else try this if they have these two at home? I gotta see what someone else thinks. Gary, you out there? I think this is very good.

    I would love to see it anyone else gets this finish that I can't really describe.

    Barry

  5. #5
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    Re: Blending bourbons @ home?

    Hi, yes as Tim said I have spoken about blending a number of times and thanks for your comments, Tim. The combination of Ancient Age (any age) and Rittenhouse sounds like an excellent idea. Many years ago I read of a distiller who was talking about rye whiskey. He said it was used in the old days mainly to add to bourbon (at the distillery) to give it backbone. In years past, a "blend of straight whiskeys", which was something made at the distillery, was popular in certain markets and this often combined bourbon and rye whiskeys. That made me realise, why not experiment myself? After all, a high-rye recipe bourbon uses more rye evidently than a low-rye recipe bourbon, so by adding rye whiskey to bourbon you are turning it in into a higher-rye recipe bourbon. You are really just rearranging the proportions of the rye and corn and barley malt in there (or wheat where wheaters are used) to what it would have been had the mashbill started out that way. Sure it is not exactly the same but maybe is close enough. In fact some distillers mingle bourbons made from different mashbills and yeasts at the distillery, Four Roses does, to get a particular final taste they are looking for.

    With Ancient Age and Rittenhouse if I was blending them, I might add Rittenhouse in a smaller proportion than 50%, say 25% or even less because it is an assertive drink. But it depends on your taste and this is a do-it-yourself area where one's particular taste will dictate the approach. Just the other day, on a base (couple of ounces) of Blanton I added maybe a half-ounce only of ORVW 15 year old and a dash of Lot 40 (a Canadian straight rye-type whisky). The resultant glass of whiskey was, in my opinion, better than any of them separately. Blanton is not very old - maybe 6-7 years - and I wanted to keep its profile but give it extra depth. The ORVW added in a small proportion lent that extra depth and complexity, and the small amount of Lot 40 gave a faint extra tang. The whole thing was rich and nougat-like (creamy, nutty, well-knitted).

    Had I had AAA 10 star I might have used that instead of ORVW 15 year old. I was looking for something older than Blanton to add in a small proportion. Or I might add 40 Creek Barrel Select Canadian, or Grandad 114 (in that case I wouldn't need the Lot 40). The combinations are endless... A 19th century whiskey blending manual advised blending 3 bourbons, or 3 ryes. His best bourbon blend crosses the lines and uses two bourbons in equal measure and a smaller amount (10% or so) rye whiskey. From there one can make further changes, including lightening the blend with grain neutral spirits to any desired degree, adding dashes of flavoring, and so forth, and taken this far the drink becomes a kind of cocktail. E.g. my Blanton/ORVW/Lot 40 blend might benefit from a dash of Southern Comfort.

    None of this is new or my idea, it is taken from old-time blending practices of U.S. whiskey producers or wholesalers.

    They were looking to create consistency, a house flavor, and probably, something that could be made available regularly despite the vagaries of supply of the base products. I am looking to get what I feel is a great balance. Some whiskeys have it already, e.g. Wild Turkey Straight Rye. So does the current Elmer T. Lee, or Jim Beam Black Label.

    I like many bourbons and ryes and they often include (perhaps more and more, in fact) the less well-aged ones. Price is no necessary guide to quality in bourbon and less so if blending is taken into consideration.

    Gary

  6. #6
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    Re: Blending bourbons @ home?

    Gary,

    I like the way you think. I'll try a 70/30 on the AAA and Rittenhouse. I think you hit the word I was looking for when I blend the two, "nougat-like". That really nails it.
    That feel/flavor was in the back of my throat in the finish. Long into it. It was something I never experienced, and I have all the bottlings on my shelf (including the Lot 40) that you are talking about. I have to say also, that the WT straight rye is one of my all time favorites and have see many an empty bottle go into the trash. However, when I do blend, it's the low-age cheapy that becomes the "Frankenstein". I got some Colonel Lee BIB that is begging to be made better (since I won't touch it otherwise.)

    I like many bourbons and ryes and they often include (perhaps more and more, in fact) the less well-aged ones. Price is no necessary guide to quality in bourbon and less so if blending is taken into consideration.


    I gotta give you an "Amen" on that. Some of my favorite bottles are under $15. Like, the Benchmark 8 year. What a great pour. Hmmm, Benchmark and Wt Rye, with a touch of Old Whiskey River or Bulleit??? I may have someting here...

    Thanks for the long post and info Gary. Hey, I think I'm coming to the KY Bourbon Fest in Sept. Hope to meet you there...

    Barry

  7. #7

    Re: Blending bourbons @ home?

    I used to do a little bit of Crown Royal and top shelf Brandy mixing. Usually a heavier ratio of the whisky to the brandy but I know a few people that like it vice versa.

  8. #8
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Re: Blending bourbons @ home?

    The Colonel Lee will be an excellent experimental model. I suggest you start with maybe an 80/20 ratio (with the 80 being the Col. Lee) and work up from there. The objective, if you are trying to simulate what commercial blenders do, is to make a young, cheap whiskey tasty by adding a minimum amount of older, more expensive whiskey. The Rittenhouse BIB is a good choice for blending stock just because it's so darn good, but you might also try some older bourbons, whatever you have on hand, preferably a rye recipe model. For example, I had some Pure Kentucky XO that I found a little too well aged, but used it to good effect with some younger whiskies. Something higher proof is good too, again because you don't have to use as much of it. This will raise the overall proof of your result, which you can bring back down with water if you want to. Another wrinkle to consider is adding a little bit of good vodka to the mix. Again, this is what American blended whiskey makers do to give their beverage a milder taste without changing the proof. It won't improve the taste of a Col. Lee but it will help stretch your more costly blending stock.

  9. #9
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    Re: Blending bourbons @ home?

    Thanks for the comments. Many times here I have mentioned www.pre-pro.com. This is a shot glass site. Also, it has extracts (look in the site index under whiskey recipes) from a late 1800's whiskey blending manual and you will see what I was referring to. The author even gives the names of the bourbons and ryes he suggests be blended, e.g. "Crow", which still exists today. He doesn't say how those whiskeys differed but probably one was older than the others or sweeter, less costly, etc. He gives too recipes for the small amount (works out only to 1%) of the natural flavouring he suggests be added, but that is optional, you don't need to use it. Colonel Lee is one I would probably not add Lot 40 to. I'd add Lot 40 to a wheater, e.g. a Weller whiskey or to a blend in which one bourbon at least is a wheater. Of course it also depends on how much you add. To me, Grandad 114 always tastes like a combination of regular Grandad and Lot 40 so it is good for blending too although I like it on its own also. That Colonel Lee can be improved, no question. I'd try adding wheater bourbon to it 50/50 with maybe a dash (very little) of Southern Comfort which we can buy here in minis. Yes, in Kentucky there have been at the private events, and I hear tell there will be more, Dr. Frankenstein beverages.

    Gary

  10. #10
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    Re: Blending bourbons @ home?

    Gary,

    A couple of nights ago I hit upon what I thought was both a marvelous and original idea. It turns out I was only half right.

    In the run-up I was surveying my whisk(e)y shelf, trying to decide whether to brave the initial harshness I usually notice in WT 101 or make a selection from among more expensive pours that I always enjoy from the first sip, say my nearly empty bottle of Russell's Reserve.

    I found myself thinking that a dash of something sweet might add to my enjoyment of WT101. At that moment my eye wandered to the far end of the shelf, where the non-bourbon spirits reside, and fell upon my bottle of Forty Creek Barrel Select. It it's sweet I want, that one should do the job, I thought.

    I poured about two ounces of WT 101 and then wondered how much B.S. ( ) to add. What the heck, if one splash isn't enough, I'll just add another.

    As it happens, one splash was darn near perfect. Any more might well have started to overwhelm the WT 101 flavors, not merely moderate them.

    I enjoyed that drink so much that later I had another.

    I was really puffed up about the whole experience until, in preparing for this post, I happened to notice your mention of just such an addition. I recall reading your post in real time, but I did not have a conscious memory of your mention of Forty Creek Barrel Select. I guess I absorbed your suggestion at some level, and I thank you for it.

    Yours truly,
    Dave Morefield

 

 

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