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  1. #1

    My Bushmills 10 Epiphany?

    Bear with me on this one for a minute. It might take some time but I'll get to the point--eventually.

    I've been enjoying SMSW for about a year now. Honestly, it's about the only whisky I really enjoy. However, I sometimes get put off by some of the so-called snobs that demand you must drink it this or that and you can never touch a blend. So I went looking for something that had less mass appeal and, in turn, less self-proclaimed experts. I found Jameson Irish Whiskey.

    Although it was cheaper, it was still delightful. Something I could casually sip and enjoy while in a lighter state of mind. I had decided that Irish whiskey would be my pinch hitter for single malt scotch.

    Firm in my decision, I set out armed with my prior experiences with scotch whisky and attempted to apply that knowledge with Irish whiskey. Believing that a single malt was most generally of better quality than a blend, I purchased Bushmills 10 YO--mostlty because of the middle range price. I was greatly disappointed. Instead of the light vanilla and soft buttery finish I was expecting, I was greeted with wood and hazlenut. The mouthfeel was akin to biting into a tree that was wrapped in carpet. Which got me to thinking.

    Canadian and Irish whiskies are predominantly blends (Yeah so are scotches but you can make that point later). In fact, some of the most highly regarded Irish whiskies are blended--Redbreast anyone? Bourbons are blended and even straight bourbons are distilled from a variety of grains. So my question is this: Does the single malt rule only apply to scotch while most other whiskies lend themselves quite readily to blending? Or is it that there is just a dearth of quality samples of other single malt whiskies that are readily available?

    Before answering, I am aware that some fine examples of single malts do exist for Irish and Canadian whiskies. But the question more regards the quality of blends of other whiskies as opposed to scotch.

    Okay, thanks for patronizing me

  2. #2
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    Re: My Bushmills 10 Epiphany?

    With all due respect, I think your definition of 'blend' is somewhat faulty. If I understand you right, you are talking about vattings.

    A blend to me, constitutes of a mixture of different types of whiskey. In Canada, for instance, they mix rye and corn whiskies into a blend. On the other hand, if you mix five different straight bourbons or five single malts from different Scottish distilleries, then you get a vatted whiskey, not a blend.

    As for your primary question: I do not think that single malts neccessarily are a blue print for better quality. A vatted malt can be just as enjoyable as a single one.

    What is important to remember, though is what my compatriot Leif wrote earlier in another thread: the attraction behind the single malt craze is equal parts hedonism and a, sort of, stamp-collecting mentality. People are interested in trying stuff from different distilleries and they do not want to have it mixed with anything else. Mixed products and products where the origin is undisclosed are more or less dismissed as unpure.

    Hope this, at least partly, explains my point of view.

    P.S Redbreast is not a blend. There was once a blend called Redbreast but it is since long discontinued.
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  3. #3
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    Re: My Bushmills 10 Epiphany?

    Also don't most blends contain high proof "lightly flavored" grain whiskeys or GNS to attenuate the more robust flavors of the "straight whiskeys" or "single malts" in the blend and to stretch the more costly straights/singles?
    This addition also makes the diference between a blend and a vatting, at least in common parlance.

  4. #4
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    Re: My Bushmills 10 Epiphany?

    American blended whiskey uses GNS, while Scotch, Irish, and Canadian blends use high-proof grain whisky (not quite GNS). There are also Scotch vatted malts (the new official term is "blended malt," but that term has proven unpopular).

    Scotch blends range from cheap-and-nasty, to cheap-and-decent, to reasonable-and-good, to sublime. That reminds me, someday I'll have to crack open my last bottle of Campbeltown Loch 25yo... it's a crying shame I didn't snap up every bottle I could find when I had the opportunity! At $50 per bottle, it was a steal.

    Single-grain Scotches need extreme aging - I had a 40yo Alloa that was just beautiful. It's long gone now, though - and I made that bottle last!
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  5. #5
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    Re: My Bushmills 10 Epiphany?

    Quote Originally Posted by CrispyCritter View Post
    American blended whiskey uses GNS, while Scotch, Irish, and Canadian blends use high-proof grain whisky (not quite GNS). There are also Scotch vatted malts (the new official term is "blended malt," but that term has proven unpopular).
    To use in a blend grain whisky needs to be aged, at least two years IIRC, while GNS could come straight from the still, it is just vodka, after all. Of course if the Scotch Blend carries an age statement the grain whisky must be at least as old as the the stated age, just like the malt.

    Oh, and one more clarification, blend five straight bourbons and you get straight bourbon. I know we often talk about vattings here, but technically, if all the constituent whiskies are straight and of the same type you end up with a straight whiskey.

    Ed
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  6. #6
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    Re: My Bushmills 10 Epiphany?

    Quote Originally Posted by just1otherguy View Post

    Firm in my decision, I set out armed with my prior experiences with scotch whisky and attempted to apply that knowledge with Irish whiskey. Believing that a single malt was most generally of better quality than a blend, I purchased Bushmills 10 YO--mostlty because of the middle range price. I was greatly disappointed. Instead of the light vanilla and soft buttery finish I was expecting, I was greeted with wood and hazlenut. The mouthfeel was akin to biting into a tree that was wrapped in carpet. Which got me to thinking.

    So my question is this: Does the single malt rule only apply to scotch while most other whiskies lend themselves quite readily to blending? Or is it that there is just a dearth of quality samples of other single malt whiskies that are readily available?

    Before answering, I am aware that some fine examples of single malts do exist for Irish and Canadian whiskies. But the question more regards the quality of blends of other whiskies as opposed to scotch.

    Okay, thanks for patronizing me
    Okay, first Bushmills 10. Your description of it doesn't match my experience of this single malt. No tree wrapped in carpet. Hazelnut? Maybe, but what is wrong with hazelnut? I do find vanilla, malt, and sherry. It's not my favorite pour, I prefer Blackbush to this and if I want sherry there are several scotches that I prefer. Still, not a bad pour at all. Maybe you got a bad bottle or maybe our tastes differ, as always, YMMV.

    In a way, the idea that single malts are not 'blended' or 'vatted' is incorrect. Unless it is a single cask bottling then a number of casks were mingled before bottling. It may be a huge number or only a few, but mingled they are. They may be of different ages so long as they all meet the minimum age of the label. Some may be from first fill bourbon casks, others from old wood, and still others from sherry casks. The casks might be from different warehouses and therefore have aged differently. The whiskies might have different levels of peat or no peat at all. What make a malt 'single' is the fact that all of it was made at a single distillery.

    In theory, a master blender who had a similar range of malts to choose from could blend a masterpiece malt. I suppose that the advantage that a master blender at a distillery has is that he can choose from the entire warehouse of whisky that meets the age of the intended bottling, plus he can manipulate the way their whisky is aged and he can refuse to sell the best that they have. Still, I don't think this is an overwhelming advantage. And the independent blender has some advantages, too. He can shop around while the distillery can not.

    Do independent blenders or brand blenders make stellar malts? I can't say for I don't have that much experience with them. It may be that they are not aiming for the market that would appreciate them because being a blended malt would be held against them.

    Ed
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    Go Fighters!

  7. #7
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    Re: My Bushmills 10 Epiphany?

    Not quite the case. Black Bottle, a blend of all the Islay distilleries is very well regarded for example. Dew of Ben Nevis is another blend (the 40 yo is exceptional IMO) and who can not like JW Blue or Royal Salute? Blue Hanger and John Scott also make very good blends. The UK has a much better selection of blends then here in the US and they seem to be accepted more then here too.


    Quote Originally Posted by Edward_call_me_Ed View Post
    Do independent blenders or brand blenders make stellar malts? I can't say for I don't have that much experience with them. It may be that they are not aiming for the market that would appreciate them because being a blended malt would be held against them.

    Ed
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  8. #8

    Re: My Bushmills 10 Epiphany?

    Okay. I think I miswrote my point of discussion. I wasn't actually referring to blends in the technical sense. I was more interested in points of style. Like, for example, bourbons are made from a combination of grains, no single grain is ever used as far as I know. And that is what makes bourbon so colorful. But when you ad different grains or malts to a scotch whisky you begin to destroy the qualities that make that singular scotch so unique. You manipulate the flavor into something more mechanical than natural. It does work in some scotches, I like JW Black. However, when you add different grains to Canadian, Irish, or American whiskies it can sometimes edify the flavors that make THAT whiskey enjoyable. So I'm asking what makes scotch less compatible with blending. Is it simply because blenders are aiming for a blander, more marketable product? Or is it just scotch itself that seems to disagree with the introduction of "foreign" grain or malt whiskies? It's just someting to talk about and I was interested in seeing the discussions.

  9. #9

    Re: My Bushmills 10 Epiphany?

    Quote Originally Posted by Edward_call_me_Ed View Post
    Okay, first Bushmills 10. Your description of it doesn't match my experience of this single malt. No tree wrapped in carpet. Hazelnut? Maybe, but what is wrong with hazelnut? I do find vanilla, malt, and sherry. It's not my favorite pour, I prefer Blackbush to this and if I want sherry there are several scotches that I prefer. Still, not a bad pour at all. Maybe you got a bad bottle or maybe our tastes differ, as always, YMMV.
    Yeah, I think our tastes must just be different. I sampled it again last night and still got the same feeling. The mouthfeel just seems fuzzy to me--like carpet. But who knows. And there's nothing wrong with hazlenut, it just seemed out of place in here. But our difference in tastes is what makes tasting such a unique experience. Someone else is always gonna find something you can't and vice versa. I will admit though that I've never has sherry and wouldn't know what it tasted like if it slapped me in the tongue.

    Thanks for your comments.

  10. #10
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    Re: My Bushmills 10 Epiphany?

    Quote Originally Posted by just1otherguy View Post
    ..... So I'm asking what makes scotch less compatible with blending. Is it simply because blenders are aiming for a blander, more marketable product? Or is it just scotch itself that seems to disagree with the introduction of "foreign" grain or malt whiskies? It's just someting to talk about and I was interested in seeing the discussions.
    I wouldn't say scotch is less agreeable to blending. The general market for blended scotch wants a more bland product. Producers respond by using a high proportion of grain whiskeys in most blends. A "luxury blend" or an all malt blend (vatted malt) can be very flavorful. JW Gold and Green are examples of these respectively. I like them both. In fact I give the edge to the Gold Lable-the blend containing grain whiskey(s).

    As for Irishes, standard Jameson's seems to contain more pot still whiskey than it did a few years back. I recently had a glass at a restaurant after reading a positive review of recent samples here on SB.com. Indeed, it had a richer character than I had remembered. more like their 1780 (a luxury blend containing a pretty high proportion of pot still).
    Last edited by ILLfarmboy; 03-13-2007 at 13:11.

 

 

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