Down to business: Master of Malt Blending Part 1

lucas-and-chris

(Before we start arguing about our blend. We look so happy)

To keep you up to date, this is us starting our entry to the Master of Malt Blending competition. We are competing against other bloggers and whisky writers to create the best blend. We are putting our money where our mouth is. If we win, fame and fortune will follow (maybe not Charlie Sheen fame and fortune, but close). I don’t want to talk about what will happen if we lose. I think we may leave the country.

The conversation

After much conversation about the concept of our blend, we decided the best thing todo was to taste all the ingredients. We were still unsure of the direction or customer for our blend (although we were pretty sure we didn’t want a smokey whisky) so we thought we would see what we were working with. In the end of the day, we surmised that we would want to make an enjoyable whisky first and then decide who we would market it to.

To give you an idea of what we were working with, we had many different samples of whisky, which altogether made up the components of a blend:

We had the malt base and grain base (these were pre blended by Master of Malt, so they had given us a good starting point). To clarify the base grain is going to make up about 70-90% of your cheapest blend. They tend to be very smooth, as the aim of the blend is to be less strong in flavour than the malt.

Then on top of that, you have packers. These are whiskies that are a little older than the grain base and malt base and a bit stronger in flavour. This is where you start to give your blend direction. The packers were: 1  single malt from the lowlands, highlands, speyside and Islay.

The final part of a blend is what is called “Top Dressers”. Top Dressers are the older, more expensive and ultimately the strongest flavoured whiskies. These are used sparingly, since you don’t want to overpower the blend.

Master of Malt Blending

Stage 1 Inventory of Ingredients

The Bases (Cheaper and smoother)

Grain Base

Nose: Lemon/ Grass , pencil. Honey and warm

Palate: very sweet to begin with, followed by grassy and lemony

Probably going to use 60-70%. Without water, reasonably happy with it. Not so happy with it with water but malts will change the nature of it and cover up any slight swimming pool note that it gets with water.. A very good Grain base

Malt Base

Nose: honey big time and musty apples (potential sulphur)

Palate: not much for me.

It is very much a base. When mixed together with the grain base, it becomes palatable but needs some sweetness and direction. Put off at first by the nose, but it’s a bit of a grower. I think it will be used very sparingly.

**********

Packers (The medium priced stuff)

Lowland Malt

Nose: grassy, hay, weedy, creamy. Cereal notes.

Palate: sweeter, lemony, zesty, malty and biscuity
It could very well be the malt we use the most of.

Highland Malt

Nose: strawberries, rasberrys, slightly creamy, pears

Palate: fruity, raisins, pears,
An enjoyable dram but not to be bottled on it’s own, needs other whiskies to balance it. Quite bizarre in that it reminds us so much of Strawberries on nose.

Speyside Malt

Nose: creamy, almondy, apple and cider with pears. Apricots

Palate: rich, raising, apple pie and smoke
It is a really nice whisky, but we are unsure if it will work in our blend. We felt it may clash with some of our other flavours.

Islay

Nose: peat sweet rather than smoke. Earthy and marmalade

Palate: excellent. Sweet and smokey.

**********

Experiment 1

We decided to do a bit of an experiment, blending the Islay and Speyside packers together with our Mat and Grain Base.

Mix Islay and Speyside together: 2 speyside to 1 islay. What does it taste like?

On first nose: no bueno. Musty and like an old man.

Now added this to the main malt and grain base. No, we have taken the worst parts of everything. Conclusion: take it easy on the Islay or leave it out altogether.

**********

Top Dressers (The strongest flavours and the highest price)

Super Old Grain

Nose: rich, meaty, peaches, bananas

Palate: Super tasty! We want to buy a bottle of this.

This is looking like our top dresser of choice. We love it.

Old Highland Sherry finished

Nose: raisins, berries and citrus and floral

Palate: more oranges, tangerines, interesting notes, but not much to add to our blend we felt.

Old Speyside

Nose: big fruity, peaches, grapefruit, pears, grapes

Palate: Fruity and oaky

Old Islay

Nose: Smokey and BBQ’s

Add tiny quantities. Pretty potent!

**********

Experiment 2

Now we are going to make a light blend:

Lowland, Grain base and super old grain

Lowland: 11 and a half ml

Grain Base: 11 and a half ml

Super old Grain Whisky: 4 ml

Cost: This blend would be 50.36 is it worth 50 quid?

It’s not bad. Far better than our first attempt.  Interesting flavours, needs a little bit more sweetness in my opinion.
With Highland packer added, we are getting closer. Much closer. Very malty, sweet and enjoyable. Biscuity.

Added top dresser from Speyside. Became like Johnny Walker Gold (super sweet) on the nose but ruins the palate . Becomes really metallic and too grainy.

So I think we have a base to move on with to part 2: Perfecting the blend.

And this is what we have decided to move on with:

Single Grain Base

Highland Single malt packer

Lowland Single Malt Packer

Very old Grain

So that is the end of round 1. It was quite a mission. Master Blending is a lot harder than we thought it would be. Knackered at the end of it. Need a beer after such hard work!

Chris

Comments

  1. Superb work guys, believe me, we all know what you mean about the hard work though. It’s not something I think I’d ever tire of, but it’s certainly not as easy as everyone thinks!

    It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it eh?

  2. Absolutely. I don’t think I would ever tire of it, but the concentration levels required are very high and that is only for our small scale blending. Imagine doing it on a Chivas or JW scale!

  3. I massively enjoyed reading the post – I can only imagine the fun you and Lucas had ‘researching’ it!
    The insights into what the master blenders must go through exertion-wise must be beneficial, too: blends are for specific markets and you have to juggle your raw ingredients to suit them. No mean feat.
    On the subject of ‘raw’, can I ask if these samples were cask strength or already reduced? I would have thought that cask strength would have given you the most options (can’t take water out, after all), but then cask strength whiskies fatigue the senses so much quicker.
    I had my own little blending experiment, as it happens: I combined the HB Original and HB 12yo that I had left over, then threw in a bit of Clynelish and some Balblair. Erm… ‘imperfect’ is a fair description of the result.

  4. Great post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. We were still unsure of the direction or customer for our blend although we were pretty sure we didn’t want a smokey whisky so we thought we would see what we were working with. In the end of the day, we surmised that we would want to make an enjoyable whisky first and then decide who we would market it to. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon! Thanks for sharing with us.

  5. This is my first time pay a visit at here and i am really
    impressed to read everthing at alone place.

Leave a Reply


Anti-Spam Protection by WP-SpamFree