Recently, using four Irish whiskies, I made my own blend I thought was particularly good. The four were regular Jameson, Jameson Crested, Powers Gold, and Powers Signature. The first three are blends, that is, a mixture of grain and single pot still whiskies, and the last all-pot still.
The taste of each on its own didn’t quite please. The grain whiskey in regular Jameson seemed quite forward in this bottling, although the minty/oily pot still part was there. The wood background of the Signature and Crested didn’t hit me right, etc. I could tell the sherry influence in the latter, but wanted it to work in a different way. Small differences matter to some, especially when you drink them neat or with a cube.
Blending can adjust the palate to something more to my taste. All these whiskies, I understand, come from one distillery (at Midleton) so it’s really a question of blending grain and pure pot stills from the same place, coming up with an alternate approach to what the distillery does. Even if the whiskies were from different distilleries it would be just as valid, similar to Scotch whisky blending, but here there was a unity to start with, so to speak.
I wanted the pot still element to dominate, to show the typically Irish oily (linseed, fresh leather) character, and have the grain working behind it. I don’t mind the grain whisky provided it doesn’t bite at the back of the palate, sometimes it can lighten and “brighten” the pot still element and not obtrude as it were.
I got a very good blend for almost a full bottle, and I have another half (from the same four) I need to work on. The rest was consumed before or used in a “Celtic” blend I keep going, the majority of which is Scotch whiskies. I’ll need to buy something new to add to my half-bottle to bring it around, maybe Green Spot, or another Powers Signature, we’ll see.
This own-blend has the pot still character forward, a light background of sherry, and the grain whiskies all working in close harmony. The finish is lightly vodka-like, but very good vodka, and the dominant flavour is the oily/sherried pot still note.
I can only estimate the pot still part, maybe 70%. It drinks neat very well, no peppery bite from the grain element, and with an ice cube equally, or water. As I’ve said earlier, it seems to me the high-end pure pot stills are presenting less Irish character than 20 years ago. They seem more neutral in taste, not in the grain whisky sense, but more like a Lowland malt, say. In the standard brands though, given the pot still element has to show in the final palate, I’d guess younger pot stills are used or selections are made to show a stronger character, else the blends would be too vapid. That’s why I buy the regular and mid-price but if they don’t appeal as such I’ll blend to get a better result, better for me that is.
You can do this with any type of whisky, any national or other classification. Make your own Islay vatting, say, or Scotch blend, or Canadian blend, etc. The distilleries and blenders have always done it; you can do it, it’s not rocket science, but to get good results you need to have an understanding of the building blocks.
I don’t work to any predetermined formula. I’ll mix them to what seems right, taste once or twice to adjust, and leave it at that. This time I got a perfect result after just two adjustments. It might be equal parts each, or close to that, I think.
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