Homeblend #6: The Dealish vs. The Deanfrog

by Matti

Last week I tried out three possible ways to improve the fairly simple character of the Deanston Virgin Oak. Two of the three showed enough promise to warrant a second look after letting them marry for a bit. Both the Deanfrog and the Dealish have been marrying in small 5cl bottles for 8 days, which should be long enough to allow the flavour and scent of the malts to meld into each other. I´ll go a bit deeper into why and how long of marrying in a future post, but read on below to discover that (at least in these these two cases) it is an essential part of blending.

The Deanston Duo: a schematic representation of 'The Dealish' and 'The Deanfrog', vatted malt whisky homeblends

The first thing which struck me when nosing&tasting the Dealish is that the Clynelish had receded somewhat into the background, letting more of the character of the Deanston through. The keen observers among you may have noticed that the percentage of Clynelish has been upped compared to last week to combat this somewhat (this was done after only 1 day of marrying, so the final blend is 7 days old).

The nose has an interesting cocktail of citrus-fruits (lemon being the most prominent) and softer notes like marzipan and vanilla. This is a very different nose than when it was freshly blended, much more fruity. The taste is a chameleon. First sweet fruit with the telltale hints of Clynelish wax, then becoming more bitter and a bit woody with some toasted almonds. The finish is medium-long and soft with hints of oak and wax and even an unexpected dash of summer flowers at the end.

Marriage has transformed this dram as it does people. But where people end up sitting next to each other in tracksuits watching Dr. Phil, this union has aquired a sort of elegance. It has become much more polished than the base Deanston and is what I consider a very successful recovery. This is a 4 dram blend: recommended!

The Deanfrog was the frontrunner based on my first tasting, with a taste that combined all the bells and whistles in both single malts equally. Let’s see what happened to it in the bottle. The nose has altered slightly, losing much of the smoke and only leaving hints of peat. What surfaced are fruits (oranges, peaches), freshlybaked bread, almond paste and barley sugar.

Taste-wise it is the Laphroaig that dominates with smoky peat and salt. There’s an interesting side-note of barley sugar and caramel though, which mellows the taste a bit and continues into the finish. The finish also has weakening hints of smoke and peat as well as malt, oak and caramel with the soft fruit getting a last word in at the end.

All in all, this has evolved, but not as much as the Dealish. It is a tamed version of the Laphroaig, but retains most of the character of that single malt with the addition of a few sugary and fruity notes from the Deanston. When looked at as a recovery of the Deanston, this is a success. When viewed as an enhancement of the Laphroaig it is intriguing, but not quite as shocking. This blend hasn’t quite lived up to expectations, the term ‘interesting’ is most appropriate here. Therefore: 3 drams.

The scores for homeblends 'The Dealish' (4 drams) and 'The Deanfrog' (3 drams)

In conclusion, the marriage has had different effects on these blends. Where the Dealish became more unique with even some new flavours, the Deanfrog took on most of the character of one of the two malts and lost some of the complexity which made the freshly blended version so good. Quite counter-intuitive, and because of that a very educational experience.

This, the element of surprise involved, for me is one of the best reasons to try homeblending. To paraphrase a fictional shrimp-mogul: Blending is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get!

I would like to wish you all a dramned good end of the year! My new year’s resolution is to bring you many more blends in 2012 before we are all wiped out by the global catastrophe (thanks again for buggering off and leaving us with the end of the world, Mayans).