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

Glendronach Cask Strength Batch 1

Alright, time for the first ingredient-review of ‘For the love of Oomph‘: Glendronach Cask Strength is a bit of an oddball whisky. In a time where whisky companies are primarily using the vessel of  No Age Statement (NAS) bottlings to get away with selling us younger whisky at higher prices (boo!), Glendronach is bucking the trend (yay!). Sure, this bottling is contains young whisky, but there is also a decent part which is fairly old (in the 20s I’ve been told by a source which for now I will dub ‘credible’). The result is a fairly expensive bottle for a NAS (€60 or so). Does the experience justify the price? Let’s find out!

Glendronach Cask Strength batch 1This whisky is a vatting of whisky matured in Oloroso and PX sherry casks and it shows in the nose. Both the characteristic candy-like aroma of PX and the more woody, dried fruit of Oloroso are present. It takes water well (so would you if you were 55% abv). Both water and time make for a much rounder and complex nose. There’s some cookie dough in there, as well as earl grey tea. Caramel and even a hint of vanilla round out the nose. Really complex, lovely stuff.

The taste is sweet, but not overly so. Mouth-coating and a little peppery to the sides of the tongue. The overwhelming theme is dried fruit: sultanas, raisins, figs, you name it and it’s in there. Theres also some meringue and a hint of nutmeg and cinnamon which continues into the finish, a fairly long affair with a little sour note and some drying qualities, mild spice and sweet citrus.

Overall this is good. In fact: really good and well worth the price. The combination of casks and ages has worked wonders and it is therefore no big surprise the bottling sold out in weeks (but batch 2 is entering the market as we speak, so do not despair!).

In the blend I foresee this expression working as the solid base on which to build. The a’bunadh is much younger and feistier and the Caol Ila is there to add a little peat-blast. I am quite curious if the eventual blend will be able to match the splendour of this bottling, though. Only one way to find out: tune in again for the next episode of ‘Full House’ (In which Bob Saget finds out he’s actually a whisky from the isle of Islay. Hilarity ensues.)

Intro: For the love of Oomph

The next blend was born out of the desire to create a ‘winter’-style dram. I know, I know: summer’s getting there, but sometimes you need a cosy fire on a summer night just as much as in midwinter. The ingredients for this blend will be as follows:

For the love of Oomph

I will be reviewing all three malts in the coming week or two, culminating in a review of the blend. If you by pure chance have all three malts and want to follow along, now is the time to make the blend so it has time to marry.

The Glenlivet Alpha

We take a little break from our regular scheduled programming to bring you this breaking news: I got my grubby paws on a sample of Glenlivet Alpha and will be reviewing it. Right now.  I may use what I have left in a blend and I may not. This is something which is uncertain, and is not uncertainty the mother of all progress of something like that? Probably. Anyway:

Glenlivet Alpha

The Glenlivet Alpha  (50% abv, no further info)  is part of what we see more and more of these days: an elaborate marketing stunt to promote a whisky involving all kinds of gimmicks, websites and events. This particular stunt is of the ‘slow, mysterious reveal’-variety where small bits of info are given out weekly for a while until the big reveal where it turns out to be just another bottle of whisky in pretty packaging. Now, the important bit under all that masquerading of course is: how does it taste? Let’s find out! Read the rest of this entry »

#24: Kerralish Link

I tell you: it is a great feeling having the time and headroom again to share some blends with you all. This first one of (hopefully) a new series is made up out of 3 components which I have reviewed in separate posts: Kilkerran WIP IV, Linkwood 17yo WhB and Clynelish 7yo TU.

I chose these malts because they would seem to complement eachother: all are fruity, but in different ways. The blend ratio is not based on any testing but rather on some informed guesses as to how the malts will behave and a whole lot of wishful thinking. Let’s see if the union of these three malts is a happy one, shall we?

Kerralish Link

Read the rest of this entry »

Linkwood 17yo by Whiskybroker

The third and last malt which will form a part of the first ‘new style’ blend (if you want to avoid me coming up with yet another pun as a name, please suggest one in the comments… ) is a 17 year old Linkwood which has been bottled by a relative newcomer on the scene of independent bottlers: Whiskybroker. This bottler eliminates the middleman by selling his bottlings direct over the internet and luckily for me now and then I am able to have a few of these come over to Holland. This Linkwood will have to provide much of the complexity in the blend as both the Kilkerran and the Clynelish are young and fiery, but not the most layered of drams.

The nitty gritty: Linkwood 17yo, distilled 5th of june 1995, bottled 2nd of october 2012,  51.2% abv, Cask #7127 (Hogshead).

Linkwood 17yo WhiskybrokerThe Nose is very much a fruity affair, but where the Kilkerran had green apples, this has overripe ones. Other fruit also appears: pear, cherry and grapefruit. After a minute or so, some woody notes appear, like the smell you get when you break a young sapling. (I know: aww…). Underneath it all is a soft hint of vanilla and if you nose low on the glass, you get more than a bit of fudge as well. Very interesting, this.

On to the taste then. VERY fruity is probably the simplest way to describe the start. This is not your 30-year plus tropical fruit, it’s much closer to home still with peach, apple, pear and grapefruit. Very sweet, it narrowly avoids becoming candy with the help of a few residual citric acids. In time, it becomes more woody and even a little drying, as the fruit calms down and integrates into what (after the crescendo start) can only be described as a miraculous balance.

The finish continues this, with the fruit receding into the background and the woody, spicy notes taking the upper hand.

Overall this dram does not disappoint. Linkwood, known for its fruity character, delivers in spades and the age lends a decent complexity while retaining quite a kick on first taste.

In a blend  this expression would do well either as a base (allowing for minor tinkering around the edges, but standing its ground as the centerpiece) or a medium-sized addition to a blend in need of some ‘oomph’ and mild woody notes. This last use is the one to which I will be putting it in the next post. In this, we will combine Kilkerran, Linkwood and Clynelish into what most certainly will be a fruity and hopefully a tasty whole. It will be interesting to see if the ‘kick’ and gradual integration present themselves in a blend as well. Stay tuned!

Clynelish 7yo The Ultimate

The second blend-component after the Kilkerran is even younger. It is one of the youngest tasting malts I’ve ever had the pleasure to lay my hands on. It tastes and smells so young in fact, that many would probably consider it immature to a fault. However, for blending purposes, this springy little number (which is a very pale yellow to look at) may be just what the doctor ordered.

The full details: Clynelish 7yo, distilled 15/04/04, bottled 01/02/12, Cask #800013 (Hogshead), Bottle 16 of 429, The Ultimate (van Wees).

Clynelish04_TU_labelThe Nose gives it away immediately. The new spirit is strong in this one! Cauliflower, brussel sprouts and freshly mowed grass compete for attention. Under those vegetal notes there is the slightest hint of what will become the characteristic Clynelish white fruit, but it has a ways to go. After a while in the glass, the nose sweetens perceptibly and gains a few characteristic bourbon cask notes: vanilla and coconut.

On with the taste then: hay and grass are the first to arrive, then wood sap and cask char from the bourbon barrel. Its feisty as well as a bit thin at first, then swells into the finish with woodspice, vanilla and mixed green vegetables.

The Finish is quite enjoyable as the whisky calms down and comes to rest in a bed of dried hay, crème brûlée and mildly drying spice.

Overall this is a bit young even for my tastes (Insert corny joke here). But, it does offer an education into the development of young whisky.

For blending however, this could well be an excellent component. I can imagine it lending a blend a little bit of lightness to rescue it from what I’ve come to call ‘blend confusion’. This is a blending result in which so many strong and heavy flavours are calling for attention it all ends up being too much.

Kilkerran WIP IV

Kilkerran is the brandname for what comes out of Glengyle distillery in Campbeltown. Rebuilt 10 or so years ago under the wings of Springbank distillery, it has brought out an annual series of Work In Progress bottlings starting at 5 years old. The one I have before me is the 4th in the series, and at 9 years old it is approaching the traditional ages for standard bottlings.

Kilkerran WIP IVThe nose is very particular. Sour, sour fruits are prevalent, as well as warm spices (cinnamon, nutmeg). As you let it breathe it calms down and becomes more mellow with notes of vanilla, apple and cloves. In the background I detect some weird almost discordant notes: wet cardboard and motor oil. These do not detract from so much as enrich the experience though.

The taste follows the profile hinted at in the nose fairly well. Though the fruit is still there, the vanilla and especially the spice take the upper hand. The spicy notes suggest a small amount of peat-influence, and they provide the crispy edge for mellow vanilla and custard-notes. The mouthfeel is fairly prickly, but not annoyingly so.

The finish reminds me of apple pie, not the overly sweet variety you find in shops, but the tart version you expect coming out of your grandmothers oven. It ends on a long lasting spicy note.

Overall, this is a highly pleasant dram for one so young. It has a very distinct personality (especially on the nose) which reminds me faintly of Springbank, but has its own distinct flavour which hopefully will increase as it gets older. I can’t wait until this turns 12, and 18, and 21…

In a blend,  I think this would make a good base malt to build upon. It has plenty of character, but leaves room for broadening of flavour by adding sherried or peated whiskies as well as refinement by adding whiskies with similar fruity, spicy characters.

You drink, you learn…

There is a time in all of our lives when we must stand still, look back upon what lies in our wake and ponder. With Vatted, this time is now past me. Due to life getting in the way I’ve let this blog sit for a while, but now I think I have both a sustainable new direction and a little bit of time I can dedicate to the lofty goal of thrusting my opinions in all your faces. First, I shall describe my problem (briefly, don’t worry), then present the solution. All in a neat little package deal.

The problem basically boiled down to this: due to my progression along the line ‘whisky noob – water of life fanatic’ I have less and less standard malts in my cupboard. Blending with your more exotic bottlings (often from independent bottlers) is of course excellent fun, but not very reproducible by you: my faithful and loving audience.

My solution entails me getting my way and you, well, getting taken along for the ride as much as possible. I shall review the components of each blend in separate posts first before reviewing the resulting blend. Which is really all I had to say in this post, now that I think about it.

Ah well, if you read this far you are out of better things to do anyway. Let’s blend!

#23: Make Mor(angie)

The second blend in my Maker’s Mark miniseries is ‘Make Mor(angie)’ (the names will only get sillier as we go along I’m afraid). I picked the Glenmorangie as I figured its notes of banana and other fruit would mesh well will the orangy notes in the bourbon. I expect this will be the most candied and sweet of all blends, but as always the proof is in the tasting, so let’s go!

Maker’s Mark
Glenmorangie 10yo The Original

Straight from the top the nose lives up to my expectations, it is almost all fruit that I smell: fried banana, heavy tropical fruit and a hint of orange. Under all that is a hint of spicyness as well as some vanilla, but they only reveal themselves after the fruit has gotten bored and wandered off. The taste disappoints after the boldness of the nose with mostly notes from the bourbon appearing: vanilla, new wood and orange peel. Further on and into the finish it gets more interesting again with nutmeg and cinnamon giving a little spice to a fairly long ending of vanilla and wood.

All in all this is one of those drams you need to smell. It is by no means a bad dram, but the taste lets it down and makes for an anti-climax.

Blend score: 3 Drams, Interesting

#22: The Whinniemaker

Welcome to a new mini-series in which I will be blending the classic bourbon Maker’s Mark with a few Scotch whiskies. The Anglo-American marriage of bourbon to scotch whisky is one of those things of which many so-called whisky-afficionados disapprove. I don’t buy it. My blends with bourbon in them have for the most part had great results (one particularly good example being The Meady Blues).

So, two months ago I crated five blends of Maker’s Mark (a gentle bourbon with a big influence of corn and wheat) and some of the big Scottish names. Here is the first of those blends: The Whinniemaker:

Maker’s Mark
Dalwhinnie 15yo

I will not be comparing these blends in comparison to other whiskies, rather I chose to appraise them on their own merit (though I do use a whisky I know well to calibrate my taste beforehand).

The nose is sweet, syrupy with toasted nuts, burnt sugar and toffee. Permeating it all is the sweet smell of ripe oranges. It is bold and powerful and deserving of more than a quick sniff. The taste starts off sweet and sour, like fruit candy, with a bold grainy note. Then, while a hint of smoke appears, it mellows out into vanilla and orange all the while becoming more honeyed and even a slight bit floral. It then fades into the finish and lingers for a fairly long time, ending in mandarin and orange peel. If this dram was a rollercoaster the nose would be a long and scary first hill, the initial taste the first drop and the finish a long stretch of gentle hills leading you back to the start.

All in all, not bad at all. I can’t say that either of the components dominate (though interestingly the Maker’s Mark did when first blended, so the months of marriage have worked their magic).

Blend score: 4 Drams, Very Good