In the afternoon of February 19 d., I had a chance to participate at the blending session hosted by „Grant‘s“ world ambassador Rob Allanson assisted by Baltics ambassador Ansis Ancovs. Pleasant surprise for me – that is the very same Rob Allanson that was chief editor for Whisky Magazine. I had a subscription of this one for a while in the past. So I had nice time to chat about that and about other topics and trends in whisky industry (including very actual topic about decreasing stock and whisky age). Rob seemed to me very simple and great guy. As ambassador and should be, right? So I was curious about what will be next..
And that was interesting – in front of us we‘ve got 7 small bottles of whisky – 2 grain and 5 single malts.
Just quick reminder – blended whisky contains both grain and single malt whisky mixed together in top secret about proportions and contents, while usually you can even get couple of dozen different ones inside. According to Ambassador, Grant‘s blends have proportion of about 70% Grain and the rest are Single Malts, but few people knows which ones.
So we also didn’t have much information about material to work with. There were only few words on the bottles – age (over 12), strength and style. Grains were “Rich” and “Floral”, while Single Malts – “Peated”, “Spicy” (I called him sherried, as obviously it was the only one matured in a sherry cask/butt), “Oily”, “Sweet” and “Robust”.
We were given a sample blend offering to make as much similar as possible. I am suspecting that „Secret blend“ was their new Grant‘s Select Reserve (which is about 12 year old? So logical? No?). This is a guess, as I am too proud to taste such simple whisky. Well.. I am only sure that I had no occasion to try that one yet. Because at the session we were using our noses only. This is serious! It wasn‘t simple tasting of several newly launched whiskies. Well.. at the end my curiosity have won – I tasted all 3 samples we made.
Anyway, I had a chance to convince my colleagues to make something way much different than given sample which seemed too boring and well made/balanced and for mass taste (geek voice inside me said that).
We had several rules (or limits, to say):
- Grain whisky has to contain no less than 50% of final blend;
- Max of 3% of Peated malt to avoid its domination;
- To try imitate/copy the given sample (which we completely ignored).
We have agreed to make first sample really powerful and full of taste, so lots of Sherried one (oh, Spicy). And lots of Oily. So we have got bit dry, spicy, full of taste blend. And it became nicer and nicer with time and water. It was our winner. Every sample we seriously tested with nosing:
Second try was even braver – blend was even more dry and robust. I kind of liked it, but it had no balance at all. With bit of time left and effort remaining we took third chance to make more pleasant and balanced one. And we did it, in my humble opinion. Very pleasant, gentle and without too big notes. But not that interesting.. So group almost united agreed to leave first one as a favorite. So we blended it again for bit higher volume to share for everyone.
In general it was quiet interesting.. try to blend something. I would be happy to try it again with higher selection and to have more time. But it was enough to see how this process is difficult and it is really hard to make pleasant, drinkable and balanced blend. But I would love to do such a job. And you do not drink to much – just nose!
Photos author - Andrius Ufartas/BFL © Baltijos fotografijos linija