Don’t like your whisky? Then make it better!January 3rd, 2009
If you’ve been drinking whisky long enough, somewhere along the way you purchased a bottle of whisky you weren’t happy with. Chances are, you have a bottle right now.
If you’ve been following this blog, then you know that I started a thread a few days ago about being disappointed with a bottle of 1970 vintage Aberlour that I waited more than 15 years to open. I was saving it for a special occasion, which turned out to be this past Christmas Eve. The whisky spent more than 30 years in bourbon oak. It was a quality whisky (e.g., it wasn’t aged in bad wood), but it was just showing too much oak, with a particularly long, dry oak finish.
After sharing it around with friends and family members over the holidays, I was left with about half the bottle. Still disappointed with the whisky and what I hoped it would be, I decided to take matters into my own hands and blend in other Aberlour whiskies in the bottle to make the whisky better. I have several open bottles on hand, including the new 12 and 16 year old, along with a bottle of a’bunadh and an 18 year old.
The majority of what I added was from a limited edition Aberlour 18 year old bottling that I had about a half a bottle of. This whisky was released several years ago and was aged exclusively in sherry oak. A very good whisky in its own right, I was hoping that the sweet, fruity sherry notes would help to offset the dry spicy notes of the 1970 vintage. After blending in the 18 year old, I also decided it could use a bit of youth and vivality to cut through all that oak, so I added a small amount of Aberlour a’bunadh–another heavily sherried whisky, but younger and more vibrant.
The marriage worked perfectly. I now have a full bottle of mature Aberlour whisky with great depth and balance that is not too tired on the palate. And it is still very special, given that it’s bottle #1 of only 1. I don’t feel guilty about what I did.
I have done this many times in the past, for reasons personal and professional, and I think you should consider doing it too. There are a few prerequisites you will need to consider. First, you’ll need enough whisky on hand to make your special blend. (You might be able to do it with just a few different bottles open, as long as they are diverse in flavor.) Second, the whisky you are attempting to improve must still be a good quality whisky, just somewhat out of balance (too woody, too sherried, too old, too young, too smoky, too bland, etc.).
If what you are starting with is a bad whisky (aged in crappy wood, distilled improperly, etc.) then there’s probably nothing you can do with the whisky other than attempt to hide its imperfections. You run the risk of wasting a good whisky by blending it in with a bad whisky that’s impossible to fix. You don’t want to do that.
I’m sure that some of you have already done some whisky blending. Why don’t you share your experiences with us. For those of you who haven’t attempted this yet and have a whisky you aren’t happy with, why don’t you give it a try and let us know how it worked out.
Start small. Instead of mixing a half a bottle each of two different whiskies, start with an ounce of each. That way, if your experiment fails, you can cut your losses.