About this blog:

This blog will feature tasting notes, reviews, distillery visits and whisky news with focus mainly on Scottish single malts. This will sometimes be accompanied by politically incorrect (whisky) opinions. You have now been warned! :-)
The views expressed here are entirely my own, unless otherwise stated.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

SPECIAL: VATTING AND BLENDING AT HOME

Over a period of time, I've accumulated some (more) open bottles and samples from which I'll be doing this fun little home experiment. I've been wanting to do this for a while, but have been busy with non-whisky stuff lately, but now its time to get busy... at the same time I'd like to excuse for a boring text-only post. ;-)

Some resources says that the optimal blending proportion of ex-bourbon and sherry cask is 70% bourbon/30% sherry - so I'll be using this as a starting point. Also the fact that older and heavier style + peated whiskies can be used to create more 'body' in the final result is significant knowledge... besides that, glasses and pipettes are also ready for this experiment...

I've poured 3 glasses of the 70/30 ratio mix for comparison. I will have a 4th glass on the side with a similar pours to use as a taste reference. The experiment will be done at full strength i.e. no water will be added.

Please also read the individual reviews and tasting notes of each whisky elsewhere on the blog to get the most out of my experiment.

Here's a list of the whiskies I'll be using:

Aberlour 1996 (04.03.1996) 16yo 54,4% 1st fill bourbon cask#6837, Distillery - Bottle your own (reviewed on its own here)

Aberlour 1996 (04.03.1996) 16yo 58,3% 1st fill sherry cask#2987, Distillery - Bottle your own (reviewed on its own here)

Dailuaine 1983 27yo 55,9% sherry hogshead#4318, 189 bottles, Adelphi
(reviewed on its own here)

Ardbeg 1993 14yo 46%, bottled 02.2008, ex-bourbon cask, 288 bottles, Cadenhead Original Collection (reviewed on its own here)

North British 1997 15yo 14.05.1997/06/10.2012 54,5%, Ex-bourbon barrel#246282, 175 bottles, Signatory Vintage Denmark Exclusive (reviewed on its own here)

Starting by mixing the 2 Aberlours (bourbon and sherry) at a 70/30 ratio...

20mls of bourbon Aberlour + 6mls of sherry Aberlour

Observation upon mixing - part 1:

Colour goes from straw to gold

The 30% of sherry matured Aberlour mixed with the 70% bourbon matured at first seems to overpower the bourbon at first... I'll leave it to settle for a few mins...

Much better now - the mainly bourbon backbone is still in front, but much more laid back now it has gotten proportion of sherry mixed in. Getting some sherry notes, agreed, but the 1st fill bourbon cask is still very loud and I think I need to up the sherry content.

Taste is more balanced than on the nose, though the wood from the bourbon cask still shows itself on the finish. Time to try and add some depth to this... since the bourbon cask is still dominant I'll add some older whisky - the Dailuaine mentioned above.

2mls of the Dailuaine is now added and left to settle for 5mins. The addition of the Dailuaine at the same time, turned this experiment into a blended (vatted) malt. I'm now also using one of the other initial pours as reference.

Observation upon mixing - part 2:

Colour is gold+
2mls of Dailuaine certainly help to quiet down the bourbon cask, but I feel its still not enough.
I'm adding 1ml more of the Dailuaine...

Observation upon mixing - part 3:

Colour is still gold+
The extra added 1ml of Dailuaine has brought down the backbone of the bourbon cask down to vanilla and oak on an acceptable level, where as before both were very loud, bordering on varnish - again see original tasting notes on the Aberlour Bourbon Cask here.

Here is also when it becomes interesting as I now compare with the original pour of just 70/30 Aberlour. Without taking exact tasting notes, I notice that the nose has clearly become much more heavy and deep and more xmas cake and dark fruits coming through, where as the starting point sample is still very loud and somewhat unbalanced to me.

After a good while more I now find the Ref#2 a tad bitter and drying on the finish...

At the same time I'm now taking initial Ref#3 and adding 3mls of Dailuaine to it for reference before the next step.

Next step - This mix into a blend!

Lets sum up what reference drams I have here:

Ref#1 - Initial pour 70/30 mix (20mls/6mls) of the 2 Aberlours
Ref#2 - 70/30 pour of Aberlour + 3mls of Dailuaine
Ref#3 - 70/30 pour of Aberlour + 3mls of Dailuaine

Now, I'm taking North British 15yo grain and adding 15mls it to the mix of Ref#2 and again, its time to let it settle for a short while... Now, I'm aiming to reach a ratio of about 50% malt and 50% grain, which I think succeeded - so now its time to nose from Ref#2

Now to take a reference here again I've decided to split the now app. 45mls in the mix into app. 2 x 22mls - one go experiment further with and one to taste...

Adding the North British grain is easily detectable on the nose - a much more vanilla, coconut and spicy sweetness shows up immediately, though you can still clearly detect the underlying malt as the ratio is still 50/50 malt/grain. The Ref#3 is still carrying the heavier malt notes and especially the sherry notes.

The taste confirms the nose here (a no. 5 glass). I'm getting the grain on first arrival, but the malt and especially the sherried malt has added an edge here - a decent blend - for a home made kind :-)

Islay in the mix?

I just have to try and add a few drops of peated whisky to this mix - just to see what happens and how much will make the dram go OTT rather than add to the experience...

For that purpose I have an Ardbeg from Cadenhead.
I'll start by adding just 5 drops-  which has no significant effect on the app. 20ml mix, same amount is added to the tasting glass.. on the nose it just show tiny, tiny whiffs of peat, if any... maybe its just a peat imprint in my mind? On the palate its like the mix now has a firmer body.

Now adding 1ml to about a 20ml mix gives it a clearer profile and detectable peat for sure, which goes to show how a little peated malt goes a long way - at least for me here... adding a few more drops bring it to maybe about the level of Johnny Walker Green label (best comparison - I think). The other 22ml mix is clearly unpeated when nosing/tasting.

This has been a fun experiment to do and I hope you've enjoyed reading it.
I'd like to encourage you all to get blending at home... though you should reserve much of an evening for it as its very time consuming and and potentially tiring as your senses are working overtime.

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