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Blending Dept: Let's blend our own spirits!

 
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Capn Jimbo
Rum Evangelisti and Compleat Idiot


Joined: 11 Dec 2006
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Location: Paradise: Fort Lauderdale of course...

PostPosted: Sat Aug 02, 2014 3:28 am    Post subject: Blending Dept: Let's blend our own spirits! Reply with quote

Time to mix it up...


Although there are some who might argue otherwise the making of a great spirit is an art in every sense, and in every way. Let's consider raw materials: most rum distillers use the cheapest, third boil molasses they can find, and they could care less from whence it comes. Now take Phil Prichard who buys very expensive food grade molasses - in bulk to be sure - but no matter, it makes a notable difference.

And as you beer brewers know, the choice of yeast is crucial, with different yeasts creating entirely different aromas and flavors. Yet you will find certain distillers boasting of using natural, wild yeasts - whatever is floating through that day. Others protect their yeasts under lock and key and work hard to preserve a strain for decades. Does it make a difference? Absolutely.

The same goes for distilling. While computer-driven and automated column distilling will pump out hundreds of thousands of gallons of predictable high alcohol product, each small batch of a talented pot stiller will be different, yes, but subject to immediate adjustment by his/her keen senses. Depending on the wash, the master distiller will modify the cuts as intended for the most interesting and favorable result.

And wood? Oh my. The Wolfboy was infamous for discounting wood barrels as a simple commodity. Nothing could be further from the truth. Each tree, each stave is different, cut differently, dried, charred and toasted differently, placed differently, at different stages of its life. The actual coopering is yet another art. It has been well said that each barrel is truly and literally an individual entitiy, which will have a completely individual effect on the spirit aged. Coopering may be the highest art of all. Then again...

There's the blender. If you have any respect for a true artist like John Glaser of Compass - and you should - this gentleman is a master blender with few equals. He worked in the industry for years, but knew that starting up a distillery - even a modest one - is a HUGE, demanding and unreliable endeavor. After hundreds of thousands of dollars, more likely over a million or two, and eight starving years later you may discovered that your newly aged, new product sucks anyway.

Glaser knew that the real path is finding rare and exquisite barrels from distillers who trusted and respected him enough to sell him their special stuff, and then blending and finishing it to fulfill his personal objectives and ideas. As he puts it, he imagines a whisky he'd love - the aromas, tastes, finish and balance and then? He figures out how to create it, and seeks out the elements with which to literally construct it. He is not a customer of LDI/MGP.

Yet another art.


So the fack what?

As for the latter we - you and I - should very much care. Those who've followed Ralfy for any time know that he experiments with blending different products and recommends that you - a budding connoisseur - should as well. The reason? By experimenting in such a fashion we can better learn, understand and appreciate fine spirits. We will learn to distinguish the mass-produced, re-branded tripe, from true works of art. We will gain confidence in ourselves.

What say you? And coming up - corn and rye...
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Last edited by Capn Jimbo on Thu Aug 07, 2014 11:12 am; edited 1 time in total
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Capn Jimbo
Rum Evangelisti and Compleat Idiot


Joined: 11 Dec 2006
Posts: 3467
Location: Paradise: Fort Lauderdale of course...

PostPosted: Sat Aug 02, 2014 4:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As an example...


As I recall one of our first experimenters was Minor God da'Rum who approximated a blend in an attempt to figure out Pussers...

http://rumproject.com/rumforum//viewtopic.php?t=737

http://rumproject.com/rumforum//viewtopic.php?t=738

This is the kind of experiementation to which Ralfy was referring. Nicely done. As for me I recently - quite by accident - decided to experiment with corn and rye based whisky. Stay tuned...




*******
If you have conducted any blending experiments, this is the time and place...
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Capn Jimbo
Rum Evangelisti and Compleat Idiot


Joined: 11 Dec 2006
Posts: 3467
Location: Paradise: Fort Lauderdale of course...

PostPosted: Sun Aug 03, 2014 1:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sue Sea and I try a blend...


It all started when I found a new whisky called "Mellow Corn" which comes in a bottom shelf presentation and sells for $11 to $12. It turns out though that this is a Straight Corn Whiskey that is distilled by the well respected Heaven Hill from 90% corn and get this - it's bottled in bond. This means it must be distilled at no more than 80%, and aged for no less than four years at 62.5%, and best yet - bottled at 100 proof.

There's a review in the Whisky section. BTW, Mellow Corn is recommended by Jim Murray, among others, as a terrific example of the genre, and a must buy to understand just what a fine corn whiskey is all about, and thus to understand what corn in a mash bill will likely offer to the product.


After all, understanding is key to appreciation

In brief, this 90% corn whiskey presents a nose of bread and butter sweet corn (white and yellow), and baked cornbread over a spicy background of cinnamon, ginger and clove. The palate entry is buttery smooth and entirely consistent, with the spice accelerating to the fore in midpalate, then tapering slightly for a well-integrated warm buttery corn medium finish.

It's important to note here that this 100 proof tasting shot was modestly diluted with 2 tsp of water.

Next up was Bulleit Rye (made by MGP) from 95% rye and bottled at 90 proof. This is where things got interesting. Based on the Mellow Corn dilution, the Bulleit was likewise treated to a bit of water.

Thus prepared the Bulleit presented as a candied sweet bourbon, with tones of dark bing cherry, raisin and prune, brown sugar and maple - all over a background of rye. Like the Mellow Corn the early palate was consistent and savory: sweet and fruity, stewed prunes, spiced plum, and deep raisins. Midpalate revealed growing spicy sweet heat and the emergence of the heretofore hidden rye, and some leather astringency. Clove and white pepper finish.

This development mimicked the Mellow Corn, albeit with notably different aromas and flavors. Frankly, I was quite surprised by the dominance of the sweet and deep fruit over the rye effects. Accordingly we tried again, but this time at 90 proof, no water.


What a difference!

Without water the sweetness and dark fruit were pushed back, while the leathery rye spiciness came forward in near perfect balance. I then realized the surprising ability of added water in releasing flavors. Honestly, the Bulleit - with and without water - seemed to be two related but notably different ryes. Last, we blended the two in what I hoped was a bourbon-like blend: 75% Mellow Corn/25% Bulleit, one ounce, with 2 tsp. of added water. I based this on my limited knowledge of bourbon mash bills, and also recalling Ralfy's advice that more potent spirits (like Islay whisky) should be added with caution.

The result was as expected - an extremely pleasant and savory spirit that was simply the sum total of all the impressions above and seemed a reasonable balance of the corn and rye components. I sipped it straight, then with one, then with two teaspoons of water. It seems this is a tricky business, as the added fruitiness and sweetness I'd expected with the water did not occur; rather the water seemed to emphasize the leathery rye astringency at first, but as the water had time to marry the expected fruitiness made itself known.

Next up... adjusting the rye (less)...
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jankdc
Cap'n


Joined: 26 Nov 2012
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Location: Cleveland

PostPosted: Sun Aug 03, 2014 6:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting. I'll try to find some mellow corn when I go to Tennessee this September.
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Rum Reviews Rankings and Cheat Sheet
References: MGXO, R Mat. GR, Scar Ibis, Apple 12, Barb 5, Pusser's, Wray and Neph, ED 15, 10Cn, West Plant, R Barc Imp.
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Capn Jimbo
Rum Evangelisti and Compleat Idiot


Joined: 11 Dec 2006
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Location: Paradise: Fort Lauderdale of course...

PostPosted: Mon Aug 04, 2014 5:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Toning down the rye...


In my last post I detailed our experiment with a corn/rye, 75%/25% blend, with and without water for a bourbon-like blend. Doing so, we not only understood bourbon's components so much better, but we were on the way to producing a custom blend just for us. That the major component - Mellow Corn Straight Corn Whiskey by Heaven Hill, costs a mere $12 for a fine, 4 year old pure 90% corn whiskey was a bonus.

We also learned the amazing effects of adding just minor amounts of water, and further, how it takes only a bit of the more intense rye component to do the job. With this in mind I reduced the rye even further:

Now: 15 ml (1 tbl or 2 tsp) of Mellow Corn and now just 1.25 ml of rye (1/4 tsp), which is now roughly 90% corn/10% rye.


The result:

The rye effects were certainly notable, and nicely so even though they compromised only 10% of blend. Ralfy's has advised that it only takes a touch of an intense or easily notable component to do it's job, and this experiment surely confirms that.

There's also the matter of personal taste. We happen to really like the profile of pure straight corn whisky. At 25% rye the blend was neither fish nor fowl, corn or rye - while at just 10% the rye is reduced to a spicing element. It's like cooking: overspicing can kill a good recipe. When the spices become easily notable the dish is ruined.

I urge all of you to now do your own experiments with any combination of spirits you choose and do report your trials and tribulations...
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Last edited by Capn Jimbo on Tue Aug 26, 2014 3:10 am; edited 1 time in total
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Capn Jimbo
Rum Evangelisti and Compleat Idiot


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Location: Paradise: Fort Lauderdale of course...

PostPosted: Thu Aug 07, 2014 6:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

WTF?!


Do none of our regular posters play with blending spirits? C'mon guys, we know you do and I'm sure we'd all like to hear of your experiments...
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jankdc
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 07, 2014 8:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I picked up some mellow corn yesterday ($13 here in Ohio). To us it was a little harsh straight. When we added some water, it took away some of the alcohol burn and made it much more pleasant. Not very complex, but not bad (especially for the price). The interesting part was adding the mgp rye to it. Just a few drops added to a dram really added complexity. It was quite nice just sipping it. Definitely an interesting experiment. Makes me want to get some 90% wheat whiskey and see how that affects the blend.

We then tried the mellow corn in highballs and it mixed up just fine.
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Rum Reviews Rankings and Cheat Sheet
References: MGXO, R Mat. GR, Scar Ibis, Apple 12, Barb 5, Pusser's, Wray and Neph, ED 15, 10Cn, West Plant, R Barc Imp.
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Capn Jimbo
Rum Evangelisti and Compleat Idiot


Joined: 11 Dec 2006
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Location: Paradise: Fort Lauderdale of course...

PostPosted: Thu Aug 07, 2014 8:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good idea that - with the wheat based component...


...look forward to the result.




*******
Ralfy's D.I.Y. Blending Whiskies:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9CKShEI6F8

Ralfy's Blend-your-own Whisky:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FabGicBG3OE

Ralfy's create your own Whisky Liqueur:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmDd_nL_he4

Ralfy's Advice on drinking old whiskies:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qM0eGLB4gTM

Ralfy's three great ways to drink whisky:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8w7rb3UpB9A

Ralfy's recommend rums and his own "Rumsky":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ZIVQe1gD4c

Ralfy's recommended rums and Rumsky continured:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o71biqOEwew
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Capn Jimbo
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Location: Paradise: Fort Lauderdale of course...

PostPosted: Tue Aug 26, 2014 3:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ralfy's "Rumsky"


Recently and on our usual whim, I poured a shot of a very good rum, and then added a bit of Islay whiskey - as per Ralfy's suggestion, as he feels that the potent smokiness of Islays can very easily overwhelm the rum. His "Rumsky" - was a Jamaican (I believe Appleton) with just a touch of an Islay whisky.

A bit? In our case we used no more that 1/4 tsp (or even less) to a shot of rum. Probably less. I wasn't expecting much, but the result was brilliant! This tiny bit of whiskey to make this "Rumsky" filled out the rum and added so many additional subtle layers of flavor, that it seemed a new and wonderful rum.

Try this with your favorite rum...
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bearmark
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Joined: 02 Jun 2012
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Location: Near Dallas Texas

PostPosted: Tue Aug 26, 2014 8:30 am    Post subject: StraightBourbon Blend Reply with quote

Over at StraightBourbon, the popular blend is 60% Old Weller Antique 107° ($22) and 40% W. L. Weller 12 Year Old ($20). The ratios vary (50/50 is also popular), but this seems to be the one that is most often recommended. Feel free to experiment on your own as others have done to arrive at the ideal ratio. What you end up with is a bourbon that is arguably better than either of the components and, what many consider to be, a poor-man's Pappy Van Winkle bourbon (both Weller and Van Winkle are wheated bourbons). Be sure to let the blend "marry" for at least a week (longer is better).
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Mark Hébert
Rum References: Flor de Caña 18 (Demeraran), The Scarlet Ibis (Trinidadian), R.L. Seale 10 (Barbadian), Appleton Extra (Jamaican), Ron Abuelo 12 (Cuban), Barbancourt 5-Star (Agricole)
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Capn Jimbo
Rum Evangelisti and Compleat Idiot


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Location: Paradise: Fort Lauderdale of course...

PostPosted: Tue Aug 26, 2014 9:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'll say this...


This sound very intriguing, what with a 107 and a 12 year old and - exactly what the Project is all about: quality at fair prices. Sue Sea and I must try that - in fact because I'm so cheap, I think we'll go halfsies with a friend, and we both get a bottle of this nice sounding blend for just $21 each.

Excellent!
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