We Tried to Blend Our Own Scotch. Here’s How We Failed Superbly.
In the gentleman’s world of whisky, blended scotch is considered a fairly new concoction, having been invented in the 19th century and gaining mass appeal in the '50s. Scotch is a type of whisky that has been oak-matured in Scotland for at least three years and one day, and is primarily made of malt. Single malt scotch whisky is made of 100% malted barley, while blended scotch is whisky made of pretty much the same malt, but is made by blending different types of whiskies to achieve a distinctive flavor.
We tried our hand in creating the perfect, well-blended, scotch at a blending masterclass led by Bonnar Fulton, brand ambassador of the Chivas Brothers. The goal was to replicate the flavor profile of the Chivas 12 using five different types of single malt and blended grain whiskies, which you combine in different amounts. These were expressions of floral, fruity, citrus, creamy, and smoky.
Classroom During the Chivas Blending Masterclass
Testing the Senses
Prior to blending, we were made to experience the Chivas 12 (aged for 12 years). Apparently, there is a correct way of doing neat whisky than drinking it straight up. First, you have to observe its behavior by swirling it in your glass so that the whisky touches the sides. This produces “angel tears” that appear on the glass, which is proof of the whisky’s purity.
Then, you have to smell the whisky and attempt to identify its flavor profile. There is no right way of doing this. After 12 years, the whisky has become so dynamic that no two persons will experience the same flavors or aroma in a single bottle of blended scotch. Distillers solve this by having their own professional seasoned whisky tasters who ensure that the quality and flavor of their whisky remain the same.
Finally, you take a sip of whisky and allow it to manifest its rich expressions in different areas in your mouth. It should have a delicate balance of flavors that do not overpower one another.
When you think you can remember that flavor profile well, you can proceed to blending the different expressions.
Attempting a Blended Scotch
We were given five clear bottles of single malt and special blended whiskies, each labeled as either floral, fruity, citrus, creamy, or smoky. Ideally, you can make the perfect blended scotch that is Chivas 12 using just these five expressions combined in varying amounts. Delicately combined, each flavor characteristic is unique, reflecting personal tastes and perspectives on the perfect blend.
The Five Flavors: Floral, Fruity, Citrus, Creamy, and Smoky
We did the proper five-step way of using senses to taste the spirit: first by smelling, sipping neat, adding water, smelling again, and finally, tasting with water. It takes a lot of trial and error before you think you have the right blend, which, hopefully, is before you become lightheaded from all the tasting.
Once done, Fulton judged our concoctions one by one, and described the flavors accurately, based on the proportions of flavors we added. Ours was the last one he tasted.
“I’m tasting notes of apples,” he noted on our product. “And a lot of floral!” He added. “How much floral did you add?”
“Half the bottle,” we confessed.
“This is a blending class,” he said, chuckling, “You’re supposed to blend the flavors, not use a single one,” he added.
Bonnar Fulton Tasting Our Blended Scotch Concoction
According to Fulton, there is really no wrong way to blend scotch, so we didn’t really fail. We just didn’t replicate enough the flavors we were attempting to achieve. Each blended product we made in the room was a unique blend that was the only one of its kind in the world.
Chivas 12 is a classic liquid gold in a bottle, and at any one time in the brands over 200-year history, only one person knows its exact blend of the five flavors. Not even a hundred people in a room may be able to replicate it with the flavors we used. The Chivas range blends timeless classics, which are Chivas 12, Chivas Extra, Chivas XV, Chivas Mizunara, Chivas 18, Chivas Ultis, Chivas 25, Chivas Regal The Icon, and the Global Travel Retail exclusive Chivas Brothers Blend.
The Chivas 12