Blending and vatting your own (malt) whisky. Homeblends, tasting notes, tips, tricks and ramblings.

Homeblend 14: Dalmorangie

In the Dalwhinnie testblends last week I managed to find two blends which looked decent enough to let marry for a bit. One of them was Dal Elgin, which I will review later this week. The first and (on first face) most promising one was this: Dalmorangie. Unmarried it had a buttery, caramelized sweetness to it which made it quite yummy indeed. But, as we’ve seen several times already on this blog, blends transform when married, emphasising some aspects of the original taste and suppressing others. So let’s see what happened here, shall we?

A schematic representation of the whisky homeblend 'Dalmorangie', containing Dalwhinnie 15yo Single Highland Malt and Glenmorangie 10 yo Single Highland Malt

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Homeblend 13: The Dalwhinnie Testblends

Here’s another post to sate your lust for the blend. This time I’ll be chronicling a few testblends I did last night, so in contrast to most of the blends I talk about on this blog, these are unmarried and more or less freshly poured (I let them sit with a cover on the glass for 30 mins before tasting, but that’s it).

Dalwhinnie 15yo is a subtly flavoured single malt, so I chose three more or less subtle malts to partner it with: Glenmorangie 10yo, Clynelish 14yo and Glen Elgin 12yo. My expectations beforehand were that the resulting blends would be rather similar, with differences in the nuances, but as it turns out at least one of these managed to do some contortionist trick in the glass and come out altogether different on the other side. Let’s kick off with the first one, the Clynewhinnie:

A schematic representation of the whisky homeblend 'Clynewhinnie', containing Dalwhinnie 15yo Single HIghland Malt and Clynelish 14yo Single Highland Malt.
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Homeblend 12: The F-Bomb

There’s two ingredients for this  blend: First, I like to one-up people. Second, I saw some tasting notes describing Glen Elgin 12yo as ‘obscenely fruity’. Put those ingredients together and you get me trying to make Glen Elgin fruitier. Is this a good idea? Probably not, but it should be fun!

First, I’ve added the Fruitifier™: Elijah Craig. Then, to give it another little kick, a dose of Deanston Virgin Oak, which I hope will make a marriage between the other two because of it’s single malt spirit and bourbon-y production in virgin oak casks.

A schematic representation of the whisky homeblend 'The F-Bomb', containing Glen Elgin Single Speyside Malt, Elijah Craig Kentucky Straight Bourbon and Deanston Virgin Oak Single Highland Malt. Read the rest of this entry »

Homeblend 11: Elijah Clyne

While doing this blog, two repeat offenders have arisen from amongst the ranks. Both Elijah Craig 12yo and Clynelish 14yo have proven themselves excellent blend-participants, but for very different reasons. Elijah Craig, being a bourbon, has a very powerful taste and (like peated whiskies) is best used in moderation. What it does best is add orange (peel) and vanilla notes. I like to think of it as a finisher (you add just a splash to complete a blend). Clynelish on the other hand is quite the opposite: it works best in larger amounts, imparting a mellow quality and waxy mouthfeel and finish to whatever blend it finds itself in.

As you probably know by now, I like to go against the grain (heh, grain! it’s funny because it’s a raw material for whisky! heh! … eh.), so for this blend I decided to use the ‘finisher’ Elijah Craig as a base and top it off with Clynelish. Now, in order to not get bourbon with a fleeting thought of scotch single malt I had to fiddle with the percentages a bit, but this is what I ended up with:

A schematic representation of the whisky homeblend 'Elijah Clyne', containing Elijah Craig Kentucky Straight Bourbon and Clynelish 14yo Single Highland Malt.

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Homeblend #10: Glen Morpeatie

Continuing on my ‘peated’ theme this week, I present unto you: ‘Glen Morpeatie’ (pun most defnitely intended). This blend has a base of Glenmorangie, and adds Islay malts Coal Ila and Laphroaig as the peated components (Coal Ila being relatively mildly peaty and spicy and Laphroaig adding mainly powerful peat-smoke). To tone the peat back just a little bit and improve the mouth-feel, the last component is trusty old Clynelish.

What I’m going for here is a whisky not unlike the Laphroaig QC itself: peated, but round. Success would be if the roundness could slightly overshadow the peat. Well, after marrying for 5 days, let’s taste it and find out!

A schematic representation of the whisky homeblend 'Glen Morpeatie', containing Glenmorangie The Original, Clynelish 14yo, Caol Ila 12yo and Laphroiaig Quarter Cask.

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Homeblend #9: The Clydefrog

I like peated whisky. I also like blending whiskies. So, one of the first things I did when I started blending was try out different blends containing peated whiskies. It turns out peat and smoke are flavours which are hard to work with. If you use just a little it’s not so bad: you get some smoke in the nose and finish and maybe a bit of peat and spice in the taste. Really good if you want to enhance a whisky, but not really peaty.

When using larger amount of peated whisky, one of two things tends too happen: either the peated whisky completely and utterly overwhelms the other component, turning the blend into a slightly less powerful version of itself, or the peat reacts in a weird way with the other flavours and makes the final result a (literal) bitter dissapointment. This week I’ll be featuring two blends with a large peat-influence which will try to avoid this fate.

A graphical representation of Vatted homeblended whisky 'The Clydefrog', a vatted (blended) malt containing Clynelish 14yo and Laphroaig Quarter Cask

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Homeblend #8: The Meady Blues

Sometimes everything just works. You have an idea which seems decent, you act on it and the result is better than even you expected. You find yourself baffled by this thing you have created. It is no longer a collection of parts, it has become a truly new thing. It is… alive. ALIVE! It is one such Frankensteinish moment I wish to share with you today.

Far from a monster, The Meady Blues is actually quite heavenly (which is why I named it after the famed Norse nectar of the gods). It began as an idea: what if I could combine the best parts of two previous blends: the beeswax and honey from ‘The Dealish‘, an already excellent blend, and the liquorice and fruity flavours from ‘Isle of Ardmore‘, a less successful attempt.

Vatted.net whisky homeblend 'The Meady Blues', containing Clynelish 14yo, Arran 10yo, Elijah Craig 12yo and Deanston Virgin Oak.

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Homeblend #7: Isle of Ardmore

This week I’ll be using Isle of Arran 10yo single malt as a base for blending. One thing I should tell you first, though: I’m Dutch (okay, stop gasping, it’s not as if I can help it). And one particularly Dutch foodstuff is liquorice. So you can gauge the extend of our preoccupation with this bitter-sweet candy: we tend to have a section devoted solely to liquorice in our supermarkets roughly the size of the coffee-and-tea-shelf.

So you imagine my mirth when I first consumed a dram of Arran 10yo and found that it has a distinct liquorice-y taste and finish. Now, I happened to have a bottle of Ardmore Traditional Cask lying around as well, which has (among other things) a bay leaf (laurel) aroma to it. And now we come to the crux: I love bay leaf flavoured liquorice. So, I wasted no time in creating what must surely be liquefied laurel liquorice (don’t you just love alliteration?):

Isle of Ardmore: a schematic representation of two versions of the vatted malt whisky homeblend Isle of Ardmore.

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Homeblend #6: The Dealish vs. The Deanfrog

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

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Techniques: Blending with a plan

So, you want to start blending whiskies (you do, really). Good on ya, mate. I suspect by now, however, reality is slowly sinking in and you’re realising that you have no idea where or how to start. Oh, of course you can just randomly put some whiskies together (the ‘blend-n-pray’), and while that can net surprising results at times, most of what you produce will be… not so interesting.

A better way to go about it is to have some sort of plan. Decide beforehand what type of blend you want to end up with. You can opt for a single dominant taste: for instance a sherrybomb, a blend with the sweet vanilla characteristics of bourbon barrels, a coastal or peated blend or any other taste you prefer. On the other hand, you can also use contrasting flavours: a bit of peat to spice up a sherried whisky, some sherry to deepen the taste of a delicate Lowlander or a dollop of spice to add a mysterious twist to a floral Speysider. Or, and this is the most fun, come up with your own plan of attack.

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