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

TLBP #3: ‘Use the Force, Sherry’

The Living Bottle Project is slowly picking up steam. In the last iteration we ended up just a tad too much peat, as expected. This one, then, is all about bringing balance back to the Force. To this end I have chosen from among the ranks of sherried whiskies (I’ve checked, the ingredients say nothing about Midi-chlorians, but I guess it’ll have to do. Those of you who get that reference, congratulations, you are just about as nerdy as I am. Those who do not get it, you lead blessed lives). This is partly because I would like to get some of that sherried nature from the first version back and partly because I know the sweetness will counteract the overwhelming pepperiness and mellow the blend out. So, without further ado, here is:

The Living Bottle Project: Iteration 3

Glenfarclas 10yo
Caol Ila 12yo
Aberlour 10yo
Isle of Arran 10yo

The Nose starts of fruity once more, with oranges and peaches. Then the smell of liquorice turns up accompanied by hints of malt and hay, sour sherry and finally… peat.

The Taste opens with vanilla and slightly bitter raisins, then transitions into the more peat-related flavours: boggy soil and smoke. The sweeter flavours keep the upper hand right up to the end though.

The Finish is sweet, still with the vanilla but now drying. It ends on a very subtle raisin/sherry note.

Soooo… what’s next?

I’ll tell you what’s next: more fun with whisky. But specifically, the Glenfarclas has done its job, reducing the peat levels to where they no longer dominate the vatted malt. I’d like to bring back a little of the spicyness though, and also introduce yet another type of flavour: citrus. Check in soon to see which malt will be the Chosen.

The Living Bottle Project: Iteration 2

In the Introduction I mentioned going one of two ways: towards the peaty end of the spectrum or towards a broadening of the existing flavours. I’ve chosen to go for peat and I’ll explain why: if I add a peated whisky this early in the Living Bottle now it will gradually dissipate and become just one of several notes whereas if I add a peated whisky later on I may obliterate the carefully crafted flavours from previous iterations. So I’ve decided to get it over with, rip off the band-aid, hit the gas and blast forth into the unknown by adding…

Caol Ila 12yo. Yes, I know. I’ve used this one before on several occasions but for good reason: it is a peated malt which does not obliterate its blend-siblings. Rather, it… tolerates them. Also, I prefer the forest soil kind of peat it provides to the more charcoal kind of peat in other malts.

The Living Bottle Iteration 2

Caol Ila 12yo
Aberlour 10yo
Isle of Arran 10yo

The Nose begins with sea air which over time transforms into peat of the boggy forest soil variety. There is a mere hint of sherry, but it has been suppressed to within an inch of its life.

The Taste starts very peppery with forest soil but then sweetens and notes of vanilla and oak show themselves. No sherry here.

The Finish is a bit peaty, very peppery and is much more bourbon-y (vanilla and oak) than sherried. It lasts forever though and ends on a slightly unpleasant dishwashing-soap note.

Soooo… what’s next?
Where’d the sherry go? I wantses it back, my precioussss… I guess you reap is what you sow. I like the peppery notes but they are a tad bit overwhelming at the moment so they need to be toned down. All in all the next few iterations will be about reining in the peat and adding some gentler notes. I can’t wait to find out what I’ll add next, you?

Introduction: The Living Bottle Project

Since my living bottle (or ‘Ampulla Vivens’ as I have pretentiously labelled it), in which I put the last dram out of every bottle,  is working quite well I figured: why not start another one.  This time however, I’m making a few changes. I’ll be logging the malts I put in so as to be able to reproduce a particularly good result (and to allow you, the reader, to follow along precisely should you want to).

I’ll also stick to a rigid regime where it comes to adding a new malt to the blend. I’m starting with two malts in a 10cl bottle, and will sample a quarter of said bottle, posting the tasting notes on this very web-space. I’ll then try and make an informed guess as to what malt would make the blend better and top up the bottle with that. Rinse and repeat. Actually, don’t rinse as that would defeat the purpose, just repeat.

I’m trying to start this one off relatively light and easygoing. I’ve therefore taken a lightly sherried subtle base-malt in Aberlour 10yo and mixed it with the fairly individual and more pronounced but still light Isle of Arran 10yo. This last malt should add some complexity to the Aberlour without overwhelming it.

The Living Bottle Iteration 1

Aberlour 10yo
Isle of Arran 10yo

The Nose Starts off with butterscotch, but that quickly dissapears and makes room for light sherry mixed with sea air. After a while some citrus notes come through.

The Taste starts salty then the signature laurel from the Arran shows itself. A little further on we get the sherry from the Aberlour acompanied by spicy and slightly oaky aroma’s.

The Finish is an even mix of liquorice root from the Arran and raisins from the Aberlour which lingers fairly long.

Soooo… what’s next?
I could go two ways with this one. I could add a peated whisky to the mix which would radically change the tone of the blend or I could go for breadth and add a flavour which I feel is missing and would complement the existing ones. Want to find out which way I’ve decided to go? Stay tuned and you’ll find out!

Homeblend 21: Caol Morclas

The first Scottish blenders used peated whisky sparingly to give their mellow blends a bit of a ‘kick’ and this time I’m looking to bring this type of blended whisky into the 21st century. I’m not using grain whisky, just malts, to get a fuller taste and upping the amount of peated whisky to match.

Caol Morclas is a new version of Far Mor Peaty (which only managed to get 3 drams), containing Caol Ila instead of the more powerful Laphroaig and Lagavulin. I also tweaked the ratio of Glenmorangie to Glenfarclas to allow more of the gentle sweetness in the Glenmorangie to poke through the sherried nature of the Glenfarclas. Lets see if this new recipe will net Caol Morclas more drams than its predecessor shall we?

A schematic representation of the whisky homeblend 'Caol Morclas', containing Glenfarclas 10yo, Glenmorangie 10yo and and Caol Ila 12yo whisky. Read the rest of this entry »

Homeblend 20: Lagaton

Very early on in my whisky education I stumbled across a vlog by Ralfy, in which he described a rum tasting with the Glasgow whisky club. His own contribution was a blend of whisky and rum he called ‘rumsky‘. Intrigued, I vowed to myself to try this one day. And, as you may have guessed, that very day has at last arrived!

Ralfy actually aged his rumsky for one and a half years as well as using cask strength spirits. I decided to start a little simpler by simply pouring a rum and a whisky together. Doesn’t really get much easier. Since the rum I selected (Appleton 12yo) is a fairly heavy tasting one I thought pairing it up with a peated whisky would be my best shot at a satisfactory result. And, as it was still sitting on the front of the shelf from the last homeblend, Lagavulin was the lucky one.  The blend was married for two weeks before tasting.

Lagaton 1.0 was a straight up mix, but this was a very twofaced blend without much integration. To act as an intermediate between the two powerful spirits I decided to add Aberlour 10yo whisky. This sweet speysider would, with luck, mellow the result and marry the rum with the smoke. And it did:

A schematic representation of the whisky/rum homeblend 'Lagaton', containing Lagavulin 16yo Single Malt and Aberlour 10yo whisky as well as Appleton 12yo rum. Read the rest of this entry »

Homeblend 19: Rothavulin

Like the name? I think it’s a new high in my search for unpronounceable mash-ups. But anyway, to business: today’s blend is a bit of a fluke. I got a bottle of Glenrothes Select Reserve for my birthday and decided to blend it with the closest thing on my whisky-shelf. That turned out to be one of the stars amongst peated whiskies: Lagavulin 16yo. In light of previous experience I thought better of making it a 50/50 blend and instead went for 75% Glenrothes to 25% Lagavulin.

It was at this point that I needed to come up with a rationale for putting these two whiskies together. You know, being a serious whisky-blogger and all. So, the Glenrothes by itself is a fairly simple tasting whisky. Tasty, but simple. The Lagavulin on the other hand is one of the more balanced peat-monsters with tons of character. The idea then (and I’m sticking to it) is to have the lagavulin build upon the solid if somewhat boring base provided by the Glenrothes by adding depth and complexity (not to mention a little smokiness). And whaddayaknow: it actually worked!

A schematic representation of the whisky homeblend 'Rothavulin', containing Glenrothes Select Reserve and  Lagavulin 16yo Single Malt whiskies. Read the rest of this entry »

Homeblend 18: Far Mor Peaty

As I have hopefully conveyed in the title of the blend, this one is supposed to be quite a bit more peaty than most of the blends on this blog. To achieve this goal I have selected two peated whiskies: Lagavulin 16yo, the sophisticated but savagely peated malt from the southern coast of Islay and, from a few kilometers along that same coast, Laphroaig Quarter Cask. This very medicinal single malt has been aged a further while on small quarter casks, which serves to couple the peat to a strong wood influence. To counterbalance the peat I based the blend on a sweet speysider: Glenfarclas 10yo. And last but not least I tossed in a bit of Glenmorangie 10yo, which should add a further sweet note.

A schematic representation of the whisky homeblend 'Far Mor Peaty'', containing Glenfarclas 10yo, Laphroaig Quarter Cask, Lagavulin 16yo and Glenmorangie 10yo Single Malts. Read the rest of this entry »

Homeblend 17: Double Whinnie

Yes, I know, i’ve been gone for a while. I love you too, I’ll never leave you again and let’s get to the drinking, shall we? Actually, I’ve been working on another whisky related project (my dutch visitors may know it: WhiskyVinder), which has been taking up a lot of my spare time. As a result I’ll be posting a little more infrequently here, but the upside is my experimentation is going on at the same pace, so you will be seeing only the cream of the crop (and occasionally, for comic relief, the bottom of the barrel).

Right, this week I have two variations on a theme. Both are based on a blend of Dalwhinnie 15yo and Glen Elgin 12yo, with one very affordable Speyside malt added to each. Before doing these blends, having tasted both the Aberlour and the Glenfarclas (and having found them fairly similar), I did not expect a big difference. I was wrong.

A schematic representation of the whisky homeblends 'El Aberwhinnie' and  'El Farwhinnie', containing Aberlour 10yo, Glenfarclas 10yo,  Dalwhinnie 15yo and Glen Elgin 12yo Single Malts. Read the rest of this entry »

Homeblend 16: Laphrelgin QC

‘Hello peatiness my old friend, I’ve come to taste of you again…’ (from ‘The Smell of Silence’ – MacSimon and McGarfunkel).

It has been a little while since I tried blending with peated whisky (and those earlier attempts were… less than sucessful). This week I will present you with two quite different blends using two quite different peated whiskies. Kicking off is Laphroaig QC, which is a full-bodied and fairly complex whisky in its own right. In the past it has proven a fickle component, turning bitter easily and generally overpowering most blend-partners. For this new attempt I have selected Glen Elgin as the major component. I had good hopes that its powerful sweet fruit flavour would be able to stab through the wall of peat in the Laphroaig.

A schematic representation of the whisky homeblend 'Laphrelgin QC', containing Laphroaig Quarter Cask Single Islay Malt and Dal Elgin 12yo Single Speyside Malt. Read the rest of this entry »

Homeblend 15: Dal Elgin

The second fruit of the Dalwhinnie testblends is this: Dal Elgin. And fruit is right, since any blend with Glen Elgin in it will invariably have sweet candy-like fruit in it no matter what partners you throw at it. This makes Dal Elgin a very useful blending malt: like peated whisky and the Deanston Virgin Oak I featured a few blends back it never fails to impart its character on a blend. Even better, whereas peated whisky seems to behave oddly with certain other malts, Dal Elgin just works. If all of it is suppressed, there’s still a hint of liquid fruit candy in the background somewhere. So, let’s see what it does when partnered with Dalwhinnie:

A schematic representation of the whisky homeblend 'Dalmorangie', containing Dalwhinnie 15yo Single Highland Malt and Dal Elgin 12yo Single Speyside Malt. Read the rest of this entry »