If you’ve ever been unlucky enough to spend some time with me, you are probably aware that one of my favorite sayings is, “If you ain’t gettin’ weird, weird is gettin’ you.” And, it is upon that basis that a few years ago, I began to take to experimentation with blending my own whiskeys at home. If you are one of those folks who believes that each whiskey you buy should be drank neat, then you’ve got to expand your horizons, my friend. And, as opposed to leaping straight into making Laphroaig cocktails, why not do some dabbling with homemade blends (especially around the holidays when you’ve got all sorts of in-laws blowing up your spot)?
The biggest reason I started working with homemade blends is because of whiskeys that I was not the biggest fan of on their own merits, but saw potential in their flavors. The first ever blend I created at home (and I always recommend starting with a glass and then working up to a full batch) originated from my having a bottle of Willett rye that was a little hot for my tastes, with some heavy herbal notes that were not my favorite. To be sure, this Willett was not bad whiskey, merely not my favorite. So, to bring in some sweetness, but not too much, I created a glass of whisky with 1.5 ounces each of Willett rye and Wild Turkey Rare Breed. The result was a fantastic dram, but big vanilla and spice, backed by a whispering herb garden. I was hooked on blending.
My favorite blend that I have ever made came out of the search for good uses for Balcones Brimstone, a Texas Scrub Oak whisky that resembled a mix of gasoline and barbecue sauce. The flavors were intense and powerful, but hot and unpleasant (it turned out to be a great cooking whiskey, too, but more on that in another post). At around this same time, somebody gifted me a bottle of Old Crow Reserve bourbon, hardly my favorite bourbon, but decent bourbon at $15/bottle. I started teaspooning full measures of Old Crow Reserve with Balcones Brimstone, and magic happened. The result was a bold, brash, and balanced whiskey wafting back and forth between spicy, earthy notes, and sweet cereal flavors. If you’ve ever thought sweet corn would taste good smothered in caramel and a Cajun dry rub, this was the blend for you.
Not every blend I have ever tried has worked out, but not every person you date ends up being your spouse, but that’s why you date them. The reason I blend whiskeys at home is because whiskeys are like people – sometimes that friend of yours growing up that always gets the group into trouble just needs to find the right person to be with to smooth out those rough edges and create a masterpiece. Happy blending, y’all! Let it ride!