One Man’s Journey to Blend Your Own Scotch Whisky

One of the great pleasures of being in a Facebook group with nearly a thousand members (join us!) is that there are so many experiences. There’s always someone who has an opinion on something, whether it’s a whisky or a glass!

I think different opinions, and arguments, are the lifeblood of any good community. Take all the opinions, mix them together, and then formulate your own.

One of the ideas that’s been floating around the group is the idea of blending your own whisky. Take a few drams you like and just experiment by mixing them together, letting it sit for a bit and then see what comes out of it.

I’ve personally never tried it but one of our intrepid members, Mike, has and I wanted him to share his approach.

Take it away Mike!

Blending Your Own Scotch Whisky

One Man's Journey to Blending his Own Scotch WhiskyI was inspired to home blend Scotch after watching after watching Ralfy Review46. I enjoy, and agree, with his take on whisky and spirits in general. I wouldn’t call myself a connoisseur, that sounds too stuffy and self-important, and consider myself more of a hobbyist. I enjoy researching, tracking bottles, and collecting what might suit my taste.

In review 46, he suggests lining up four short drams of the same unpeated single malt. Then, leaving the first one alone, adding incrementally more drops of peated malt into each of the other three glasses with a straw. Two drops, then four drops, then eight drops. Then nose and taste each to experience the changes that occur.

This is a cool experiment for your palate.

What’s also cool, and what I would discover as I did this myself, was that you can change a single malt into a variation of itself. Adding peat to Glenfiddich 12. Adding heavy sherry influence to something that doesn’t normally have it. The combinations are endless for collectors who have a lot of bottles on hand.

I first did this after being disappointed by a bottle I purchased and had been struggling to finish. It was a bottle of Ballantines 17 and I didn’t like it very much. I think I was too new to whisky. It’s a fine blend that I was probably not ready to enjoy early in my whisky journey.

After pouring a dram one night, I decided to try “perking” it up with a teaspoon of another bottle I was not enjoying – Aberlour 18. The result of this “in glass” blending? I learned that my palate loved the blend far better than the two separately. It was more than the sum of it’s parts, so to speak. The lightly citrus blend was lifted by the inclusion of more single malt and it’s sherry influence.

I would do an “in glass” blend a few more times before graduating to blending into a separate vessel. I cleaned several small jars for blending.

My first small jar was just an old maraschino cherry jar from the fridge. It worked fine but I wanted something better. I moved onto little 2 ounce snap top bottles I found at a local dollar store, four for $3. Now I always have five mini blends sitting around waiting to be sampled. When I want to go for a slightly different taste, I can crack one of these minis and drink something totally unique.

When blending, I don’t get too complicated. I mix 50/50, 75/25, and even 33/33/33. The point is you are using your own collection and working on choosing from you own favorite taste elements. You also don’t need to blend a lot of volume, a few ounces is all it takes to experiment. If you enjoy it, make it more.

In addition to playing with different flavor elements, you can work on “fixing” a bottle you don’t otherwise enjoy on its own. Better to blend and try to find a dram you enjoy than pour it down the drain!

Also, there are some whiskies that are so revered you might never think to “taint” it by blending. No worries, that’s ok too. But imagine if you put a few drops of Talisker 18 into your glass of Macallan 18? Give it a shot, you might be surprised. Maybe you decide to never do it again, OR, maybe you just stumbled onto a new favorite.

My current blends marrying:

  • Glent Grant 2003/Coal Ila 12 – 75%/25% – Here, I love the GlenGrant on it’s own, it’s light, subtle, almost buttery. I just want to taste a hint of that quality with some peat smoke. Coal Ila is similar in subtlety (as much as an Islay can be), and without any Bowmore 12 on hand, easy choice to inject the peat. I have high hopes for this one.
  • Springbank 18/Highland Park 18 – 50%/50% – Simple blending of two 18 year old quality malts to see if the sum is better than the parts. My bottle of Highland Park 18 has never really blown me away, possibly part of batch variance I’ve read about with the brand. So mixing some funky barnyard Springbank into it could make something special. This should be good.
  • Arran Amarone Cask/Glenlivet Nadurra 16 – 50%/50% (both I disliked, so I’m a bit twisted) – This is pure Franken-blending. I hated the Nadurra (I’m a confirmed Glenlivet enemy), and I did not like the Amarone Cask much either. Arran makes much better age statement whisky than this Cask Finish line. Only thought here, empty the last two swallows of two bad bottles into a blend. How much worse can they get?! HAHAHA, not much hope here.
  • Bowmore 12/Glenlivet 12/GKS Artist Blend – 33%/33%/33% – Again, trying to make Glenlivet palatable to me, by adding the last of my Bowmore 12, and also and already very good blend in the Great King Street Artists Blend. Adding a little single malt to a successful blend has given me some of my best blending results, and hopefully this continues that trend. The Glenlivet 12 is the least offensive, so this may turn out ok.
  • Jura 16/Glenlivet 15/Redbreast 12 – 33%/33%/33% – Similar to the last one. Using up the last of Glenlivet 15 and matching up age groups. Jura 16 was enjoyable and mostly sweet toffee and honey. I was hoping to hide the Glenlivet, and Redbreast is a very good Irish whiskey to add, and my first attempt to include some Irish.

An update on the Jura/Glenlivet/Redbreast blend – since I wrote this I tried this blend. Utter failure. The Glenlivet remained a strong presence, and while I enjoyed Redbreast and Jura 16 separately, this mix was an abomination. But it was a fun trial. I learned something about the strength of the Glenlivet here, and that Redbreast would do better blending with less sweet, as I successfully have mixed it with Coal Ila in the past. It’s all about the education.

Have fun people! Post your trial combinations, no matter if they succeed or fail.

About Jim

Jim is the founder of Scotch Addict and one of the many fans of whisky in all its forms. Connect with me on Google+.
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21 Responses to One Man’s Journey to Blend Your Own Scotch Whisky

  1. Alan S says:

    Great article. No doubt heresy to some, but I love it.

    I once combined two cheap single malts, neither of which was particularly good on its own. They weren’t really awful, just not that good (and I’d include the brands, but it’s been awhile and I don’t remember. They were screw-top $20-range stuff.) One was a Speyside, the other a Highland, and for whatever reason I got the idea of blending them. Now, I’m not going to claim the result was great, but it was far better than either was on its own and downright palatable.

    Can’t say it ever crossed my mind to try it with higher-end whisky, though, but now I’m intrigued by the idea. I like to try new (to me) and different varieties, and sometimes those don’t quite work out. I think it would be fun to experiment a bit rather than just slog through a bottle I’m not really enjoying. Thanks!

  2. David O says:

    Years ago, I engaged in similar alchemy, searching for a new golden dram by combining the likes of Laphroaig and Lagavulin with various Speysides. I had a lot of fun in quest of my own personal vatted malt and most of the results were pretty good (except when I foolishly tried port in the mix–not a port-finished malt, mind you, actual port!) Yet nothing quite lived up to my imagination. And then Black Grouse came out and it turned out to have just the signature I had been seeking all that time. Eight years later, it still holds a frequent place in my rotation, but Mike’s account kind of inspires me to try it again. Never occurred to me to blend Irish with Scotch. Verrry interesting.

    • Mike says:

      Black Grouse is a good reference to one of my more successful combos. I was sipping Johnnie Walker Black, and thinking it was quite easy but missing some maly punch. I decided to add a little non-Islay fresh peat to it in the form of Ledaig 10. Mixed it about 3-1 in favor of the Black. It went from mundane to superior blend just like that.
      Have a blast with whatever you try.

  3. Lyle says:

    My wife got me a 2 liter chard oak barrel. I looked in my whisky cabinet for left over bottles and mixed the following amounts: Tomintoul 12 Yr 135ml; Ardbeg – Ardbog 200ml; Glendronach 12Yr 350ml; Dalmore 12 Yr 500ml; & TeBheag 700ml. I let it mature in the barrel for 18 days. The result was not that good. The new oak was very prevalent, but I think that too many whiskies in too big a batch was not a good way to marry whisky for the first time. It wasn’t that bad either. It just didn’t thrill me. I like the idea of mixing 2 or 3 whiskies in small quantities, so if it does not work out, you don’t have to drink a couple liters of just OK whisky.

    • Tom K. says:

      You need one or two scratch fills of those mini barrels, to absorb the campfire ash and raw oak, before you start getting something you might unapologetically serve to others. But yeah, even when it works out you wind up with quite a lot.

    • Mike says:

      Smaller is better for getting a feel of what you like. I would love to play with one of those little table top barrels one day. Something I know I’ve read others doing, is leaving some inexpensive sherry in it for a while first – then toss the sherry and throw in your whisky. Not only adds sherry notes, but that sherry draws the stronger first fill wood that you got.
      And yes, blending five malts (one of them a blend) was probably too many. The Te Bheag combined with the Ardbog alone may well have been super.
      Or the Dalmore with the Tomintoul. Keep having fun with it.

  4. Sanjaya Varma says:

    What an excellent idea …. it is NOT immoral to THINK about doing this. I have a Malt which I don’t like and it is just lying there half finished. Will now definitely experiment with adding from one of my Islays. Maybe I will then earn half a bottle of dead sleeping whisky (: Thanks for this idea….

  5. Anthony says:

    I’m not morally opposed to this, my problem is the only single malts I own that I’ve found to not like are all Glenmorangies… not sure blending 1 with another from the same place will do much. If anyone has a good experience blending Glenmorangie I’d be interested, particularly the Original.

    • Mike says:

      Actually, you may be surprised. Say you love the 10 year old original. And you also love Quinta Ruban. What happens if you pour a glass of Original, then add just a teaspoon of Quinta Ruban to it. New blended Glenmorangie. Young fresh 10 year, but with a hint of that port finsh, just a hint. The distillery isn’t offering you that taste, but you can make it in 15 seconds. By all means, blending within your favorite distillery can offer just as much new interest as mixing rival distilleries. Cheers

  6. Bob E. says:

    I’ve done this with cheap stuff (I’ve drank more than my share of cheap stuff), but never have hit the jackpot doing this. This is “salvage strategy.” One tip on this elixir roulette is adding some peated scotch to something disappointing that isn’t peated that tastes like crap. I have also added a tad of bourbon or rye to a lackluster scotch to give it some spunk…but that too is a sort of a last ditch attempt before I pour it in the sink. I have seen the Ralfy Review 46, and it was interesting. Ralfy is my Go To guy for scotch.

    • Mike says:

      I have to admit, I wouldn’t expect much result in trying to fix inferior product this way. As long as you are starting out with reasonably good whisky, even if it’s not to your taste, something good might happen. But in some instances, if you pin a rose on a turd, you’re still stuck with a turd.
      Before I got into Scotch, someone introduced me to Fireball, as shots. I didn’t mind it. I had a quarter of a bottle that I hadn’t touched in 2 years (thanks to Scotch). About two months ago I poured a little half shot, just to see. One sip and I emptied it in the drain. Sugar, cinnamon, and nothing resembling quality whisky. It’s interesting how exposure to a little quality can change your perspective.

  7. Alan S says:

    Saw this article in the Wall Street Journal today. Seems a bourbon producer and a rum producer got together and discovered that blending their products made a pretty good combo.

    I’m brave enough to try it if it comes out this spring as they say it will.

  8. Michael says:

    I have tried a few blends with blended scotch and a single malt. I have had excellent results except for one thing. I constantly mus swirl my glas to maintain a “blend”. If I don’t swirl on whiskey will dominate. Will the whiskies ever truly blend?

    • Jim says:

      Hrm… that’s a good question.

    • Mike says:

      I hadn’t noticed this when blending two single malts in a glass.
      But at this point I’m usually using my mini bottles and allowing 3 weeks or more for any 2 0unce home blend to marry together.

      Best new blend tasted on Jan 3rd – Highland Park 18 mixed 50/50 with Springbank 18

    • Jan says:

      If a professional whiskyblender can achieve it so why can’t we?
      They have tricks of the trade we don’t know about.
      But in my experience you have to “shake” and not “stir” it when your result is there.
      Of course first stir in a glass and when your satisfied about your own blend
      pour it in a larger quantity in an empty whiskybottle (first rinse with some springwater) and shake well for a minute or two a couple of days.
      Then shake everytime for half a minute before pooring and drinking it.


    • Jan says:

      I think a “strong” tasting malt like Laphroaigh, Lagavulin, Caol Ila or Talisker will always dominate in a homeblended whisky. Blenders mix a dozen or dozens of malts together with grain whiskies to create a blend. If you blend for instance Glenlivet and Caol Ila you can only add a little of the Caol Ila. The more malts and neutral/light tasting blends you mix the better the result I guess.
      What a perfect result gives is in my experience a blend of two blended whiskies that is Chivas regal 12 and Chivas regal 18 in a 50/50 mix. I consider it a fine blended whisky of 15 years old. Chivas has done a good job and I do a little adjustment to upgrade the 12 YO to satisfy my taste and wallet by just mixing the half of both and now and then enjoy the 18 YO of half the bottle left.
      Start with the blend of the two and finish with the 18 YO; just great!

  9. Jan says:

    That brings me to my hot summer-evening refreshing houseblend on the rocks:

    1 part Famous Grouse
    2 parts Famous Grouse 12 years old
    1/2 part Famous Grouse Mellow Gold


  10. Jan says:

    I’m from Holland so my English is not that good; I ment “homeblend” of course! 🙂

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