By Richard Thomas
Although some come to the idea of trying whiskey blending because they day dream about being a Master Distiller (in America) or Blender (in the UK), I came to it as a way to solve one of the practical problems of being a whiskey aficionado, namely figuring out to do with acquisitions that are too disappointing to drink neat. I drink whiskeys on ice only during the hot summer months, and with the exception of my summer pitchers of mint juleps I’m not much for home cocktail-making or mixing. Blending whiskey at home became my way of making use of the unwanted misfits on my shelf, and as a solution to that problem it has worked beautifully.
In my experience, home whiskey blenders should always follow three rules:
- Choose a theme or goal and pick your whiskeys to work towards it. If you want to create a super-smoky juice of the gods by drawing on peaty Islay and heavy barrel char bourbon, zero in on that and don’t try to do much else.
- Keep it simple and don’t use too many whiskeys, or else you’ll wind up with too many elements competing for attention.
- Allow your concoction to marry (sit as a blend) for at least two weeks before you pass judgement on it.
My most recent homemade blend exemplifies the idea. I had a half-sized bottle (325 ml) of a craft distillery cask strength rye that was just way too ambitious and overpowering for my palate. To make it enjoyable I needed to water it down by about 1/4, and I am the kind of guy who usually only needs to add just a few drops to a 125 proof whiskey. So my thinking was what could I do that would moderate that rye while retaining its virtues.
Keeping in mind how much I liked Wild Turkey’s rye-bourbon blend Forgiven when I tried it in April, I got myself a bottle of Jim Beam White, selected for its low price and mellow, benchmark qualities. I had about 250 ml of the rye left, so I blended it together in a 1 to 2 proportion with the Jim Beam White, producing my own rye-bourbon hybrid with a proof of 92.5 (46.25% abv). I poured the blend into an old Town Branch bottle that I had been keeping simply because it was pretty, and let it marry in the bottle for two weeks.
The result certainly met my goals. The Jim Beam evened out the overwhelming craft rye, while the big and bold notes of that rye gave the Beam some quirky characteristics it was otherwise lacking. Best of all was the way it looks in the bottle, with that amber liquid looking gorgeous in the squared, clear glass bottle.