Whisky Review #17: The Great Blended Malt Experiment

So.. I created a monster. Not a real monster of course, but a monster of a blended malt. And as with every creation, the first incarnation is somewhat rough around the edges, just as this experimental blended malt was. You must be wondering, why did I bother creating a blended malt in the first place? Curiosity, dear reader, would be the answer.

But let me give you some insight into the method behind the madness. I have always been somewhat fascinated by blended malts, primarily due to its distinction from a blended whisky (an altogether different beast). To refresh the memory, here are the definitions for a blended malt and a blended whisky (taken from my side page Whisky Terminology):

Blended malt – Single malt whiskies sourced from a variety of distilleries and blended together without the addition of grain whiskies.

Blended whisky – Whisky that is composed of a mixture of single malts and grain whisky of different ages. Blended whiskies either come with or without age statements. If it comes with an age statement, the age will reflect that of the youngest whisky used within the blend.

A blended malt can be a combination of two or more single malt whiskies from various distilleries and since there is no grain whisky added into the mix, the master blender has to be very careful about which whiskies he or she intends to use and in what proportion as they might run the risk of creating an imbalanced whisky in the process.

I know a lot of people turn their nose up at grain whisky (and I was one of those people), but I have grown to realise just how important it is when a master blender is looking to marry a whole bunch of different whiskies and needs to add a grain whisky in the mix to temper the roughness and more assertive characters in the blend.

But since blended malts do not have the luxury of adding a grain whisky to the mix, the master blender has to basically create something out of two or more single malts through their creativity, experience and even some trial and error and luck.

Now, I’m no master blender. Hell, I’m not even a blender. But my fascination with blended malts got me thinking: Would I be able to create a basic blended malt with the whiskies at my disposal? And if so, how would it turn out?

Well, there was only one way to find out.

I had a number of whiskies in my collection which had previously been opened and so I decided to mix a bunch of them together to see if they meshed. I didn’t use any measuring tools (which might have been to my detriment) but decided to pour different amounts of whiskies and hope for the best (not the most effective way to make a blended malt, mind you).

And this was my end result.
And this was my end result.

The whiskies that I used for this blended malt experiment are as follows:

  • Smokehead Extra Rare (40% abv, which is basically an indie bottling of Laphroaig if I remember correctly)
  • Laphroaig PX Cask (48% abv)
  • Laphroaig Select Cask (40% abv)
  • Talisker Dark Storm (45.8% abv)
  • Arran 14 Years Old (46% abv)
  • Old Pulteney 12 Years Old (40% abv)
  • Lagavulin 16 Years Old (43% abv)
  • Dalmore Valour (40% abv)
  • Highland Park 2001 (40% abv)
  • A minute quantity of my very special, extremely rare, hand-vatted-by-Mr-Jim-McEwan, Port Charlotte 10 Years Old blended malt (55% abv)

The end result as shown below isn’t much by way of quantity, but the aroma that was wafting from the bottle after being blended together and gently swirled in the bottle for a few days was nothing short of enticing.

And so, without further ado, here we go:

Just enough for a wee dram!
Just enough for a wee dram!

The Great Blended Malt Experiment (Aggregated abv of 43.9%. NAS)

Colour: Deep bronze

Nose: The coastal smokiness of the Smokehead and the Laphroaig are the most prominent elements in the nose, which is no surprise. Spicy elements emerge after a while, hinting at a cinnamon and black pepper combination.

Herbal notes with seaweed, wet leaves and some camphor also present. Tobacco pouch, ginseng and some salted nuts emerge after a while. Just a hint of sherried sweetness and some orange peel. The camphor scent becomes rather intense after a while. Nice smoky-sweet peatiness forms the underbelly of this beast.

Palate: Rich, sweet and quite smooth on the palate, with some sherried sweetness, coastal peat and iodine quite apparent. There’s a soft spiciness which is reminiscent of cinnamon sticks. Not as intense as the nose would have alluded, but interesting nonetheless.

Lemon citrus notes and orange juice emerge towards the latter part. Seaweed, sea salt and black pepper all make an appearance before the peat takes over once again. The mouthfeel is slightly oily initially before quickly becoming very drying.

Finish: Medium to long finish, with gentle peat and some spiciness on the tongue from the black pepper. A nice hint of cooling mint and menthol towards the very end makes this slightly refreshing. Ashy notes with beach bonfire also makes an appearance towards the end.

Rating: 81/100

I had initially given this a rating of 78/100 after the first mouthful due to an initially weak finish, but after delving deeper into the character with the second mouthful, I realised that the finish was much more complex than I had initially experienced, hence the higher rating.

Overall, not a bad way to kickstart a blended malt experiment (considering no blending tools were used apart from a bottle and some gentle swirling around). Definitely gives grounds to try another experiment with different whiskies in order to ascertain their various impacts. Will definitely revisit this sometime in the future!

I hope you enjoyed this rather off-the-wall review and would definitely like some feedback as to whether these blended malt experiments should be a recurring theme.

Slainte!

Brendan

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4 thoughts on “Whisky Review #17: The Great Blended Malt Experiment

  1. You’re a braver man than me, Brendan. I’m convinced that I would be too frightened of ruining the original single malts to even attempt such an experiment. However, I’m more than happy to try some of yours if you cotton onto something good! ;D
    Keep on waffling,
    Nick

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha I didn’t have much of each of the 9 whiskies that I used so I thought that it was worth a try =D

      It was a fun experiment but kinda dominated by the Smokehead and Laphroaig characteristics, which might have skewed the results tbh.

      Either way, defs keen to try it again with another bunch of whiskies!

      Slainte!

      Brendan

      Like

  2. Congrats on making the leap…I had a similar experience with some nearly empty bottles: Deanston 12 and Laphroaig Quarter Cask, mixed about 50/50. There was definitely a complimentary effect between the honey notes of the Deanston and the sweet-smokiness of the Laphroaig. The result was quite pleasant and if nothing else emboldens me to try a more complex vatting next time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cheers mate! Deanston & Laphroaig sounds like a delicious combination from what you have described and I look forward to hearing more about your future experiments with blended malts =D

      Like

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