Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Blogger to Blender...

A little while back I let my arrogance get the better of me. I foolishly thought that blending whisky must be easy and could be done in an afternoon. Buoyed up with thoughts of being the next Richard Paterson I set about my vain work. The concept was simple, make a blend combining the flavour profiles of three of my favourite (apologies for the f-word) distilleries: Talisker, Highland Park and Springbank. I set up my tools; an array of pipettes, Glencairns and some tongue stretches to get my palate loosened up. Having never attempted blending whisky before and caught up in the excitement of the moment I didn’t really think through the intricacies of making a blend, my foresight went as far as to record quantities used (that I later lost) and to include a grain whisky, as a blend would of course be a combination of both single malts and grain whisky. What I hadn’t considered was firstly that most bottles of whiskies are already an optimum blend of different casks, secondly that alcohol is a volatile substance and therefore some whiskies would not combine and thirdly that blends are usually allowed time to vat to become a whole. Okay, technically there was a fourth element I had completely forgotten in my fervour to become the next blending giant and that is that I don’t know what I’m doing. Having forgotten all of this I set about my task.

For all of my glaringly obvious mistakes I did have myself a very fun afternoon. I used Cameron Brig and another single grain whisky for the grain element of my blend then I went in heavy on the Talisker 10 year old. After tasting it later it became apparent that I should have held back on the Talisker as it clashed the most with the other flavours. I waded on adding equal quantities of the Springbank 15 year old and the Highland Park 12 year old. This is when it started to go wrong. In an effort to combat the increasingly bitter flavour the blend was taking on I began adding a variety of different malts to balance out the flavour, including Glenfarclas 30 year old and MacAllan 12 year old. The idea behind the Glenfarclas was to add some age and depth to the blend, whereas the MacAllan was supposed to soften out the bitterness; instead it overpowered the constituent parts. In a moment of inspiration I added Longrow C.V. that actually married quite nicely giving the blend a touch of smoke and I reckon complimented the Springbank quite well. After adding a few more bits and bobs and tinkering with the quantities I was forced to admit defeat. Dr. Jekyll had morphed into Mr. Hyde. So below I provide the tasting notes for my humbling blending attempt.

Peatreek Blend 1.0
Blend – No Age Statement
Nose: The nose was surprisingly wholesome and was the only part of the blend that actually worked. A lovely maltiness arrives first with waves of sea breeze and light fruits, with apple wood smoke drifting behind. Underneath is a touch of caramel and vanilla that plays quite nicely with the malty foreground. This blend has a nose of two parts: Coastal malt and sherried Speyside.
Palate: Bitter, Talisker dominated and fought a bloody battle with a squabbling opposing army. Truly horrid.
Finish: The bitterness now comes in waves, reminding me of my own idiocy. On the other hand a slight toffee-ness allows for a brief respite.
Overall: A sharp learning curve and a lot of fun. This is by no means my last attempt and next time I will bear in mind what I forgot this time. I will probably use single cask whiskies so that I am working with purer ingredients. I won’t be quite so selfish as to include all of my top whiskies and next time I will let it marry for a time to give the flavours a chance to settle in. Watch this space for future updates…

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