...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Michael makes a solid number two

(alternate title: Adventures in Bourbon Blending!)

I was sitting on (figuratively) about about eight fluid ounces of Balcones True Blue Cask Strength, a high ABV all-corn whiskey which smelled nice but didn't taste like much.  With no desire to ever drink it again, I wondered if there was a drinkable bourbon to be made from it.  Perhaps applying some good rye would fix things.  I had plenty of Rittenhouse Bottled-In-Bond on hand, so I began to tinker.

Here are the three bourbons I blended:

#1 - 50% True Blue Cask Strength / 50% Rittenhouse BIB.

Approximate resulting mashbill: 71/24/5 (corn/rye/malted barley)
Approximate ABV: 53.6%
Quantity made: 30mL
Resting time: 11 days

Nose -- Very nutty, specifically hazelnuts and almonds.  Then caramel sauce, halvah, Heath bar, sawdust, and maple syrup.
Palate -- Very hot and tannic.  It's nutty here too, maybe walnuts?  Something fibrous and grainy in there.  A little bitterness and very light on the sweets.
Finish -- Wood smoke and coffee

Verdict:  Smells yummy but tastes so-so.  Too hot and woody for me.  Have no interest to drink it again.

#2 - Goal: Design a high-rye (~35%) bourbon.  Result: Due to the two whiskies' mashbills it became an "ultra-high-rye" bourbon.

Approximate resulting mashbill: 51/40/9
Approximate ABV: 51.4%
Quantity made: 30mL
Resting time: 18 days

Nose -- A bit hot at first, but it eases down with a little air.  At first sniffs there's corn meal, molasses, sugar & spice.  Then a lightly perfumed foundation powder, sawdust, caramel, vanilla, kettle corn, and mint.  And oh so much rye.  Rye candy!
Palate -- Bourbony cough medicine, salt, and pipe tobacco.  An orange peel note develops into tart cherries and blackberries.  Very tingly with a soft bitterness underneath.
Finish -- Cough medicine, salt, and an herbal r(h)um. Mellow tartness and a mild herbal bitterness.

Verdict:  It's almost all rye on the nose, while the palate is thick and rich.  It tastes very good.  I wanted more as soon as I finished my sample.

#3 - Goal: Design a high-corn (~79%) bourbon.  Result: Easily doable with with these whiskies.

Approximate resulting mashbill: 79/17/4
Approximate ABV: 54.6%
Quantity made: 30mL
Resting time: 18 days

Nose -- Less hot than #2 (though the ABV is higher).  LOADS of caramel.  Saltwater taffy, butter, caramel apples by the ocean, maple candy, and raisins.
Palate -- Here it's much hotter, though quiet flavor-wise.  Corn stuff, but not sweet.  Some rye spices lift it up.  A hint of wood smoke.  Grows a little sweeter with time.
Finish -- Cigar mouth, sugar, some tartness.  Long, but mild in content.

Verdict:  The nose was good again, though the buttery element became weirdly strong.  Yet as vibrant as the nose showed itself to be, the palate went the opposite direction.  The corn and rye didn't merge and almost no secondary flavors appeared.

Without a doubt, my favorite was #2.  While all three blends smelled nice, #1 and #3 didn't taste great.  I enjoyed the second one so much that I sacrificed the rest of my Rittenhouse bottle to fix up 600mL of this solid number two.
After giving it two weeks in the bottle to marry, I just tried it again last night and it's still very lush.  Sometimes it tastes like a bourbon, sometimes like a rye.  It's almost too big for the 90+ degree September heat, so I'll probably use it to fix up mint juleps and sazeracs.  If I can remember to do it, I'll save a sample for a proper review when the weather cools off.

Next week, I'll post about bourbons #4 and #5, which I built from three American whiskies...