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Monday, December 12, 2016

The Dusty Vat, my only great blend

Blending scotch whisky is an art form. Blending scotch whisky is an art form at which I have failed. Blending scotch whisky is an art form at which I have failed, repeatedly. Blending scotch whisky is an art form at which I have failed, repeatedly, damn it.

But then, this past August, I was in possession of several partial ounces of unexciting single malts. These were reviewed samples that I just could not finish. Amongst these samples were three dusties. Since I had little desire to drink them on their own, I thought what the hell, I might as well blend them. Plenty of lessons had been learned from my previous failures with scotch blends and I hoped to apply them to this mysterious alchemy.

The end result was exactly 6 fluid ounces of a blended malt, with ingredients from Speyside, Highlands, Lowlands, Islay and Campbeltown. I named it The Dusty Vat.


18mL Glenallachie 11yo 1985 Signatory cask 4063 (43%abv)
19mL Bladnoch 16yo 1980 Signatory cask 89/591/20 (43%abv)
19mL Port Ellen 14yo 1983 Signatory cask 266 (43%abv)
20mL Glenturret 10yo official bottling (40%abv)
39mL Tomintoul 16yo official bottling (40%abv)
5 mL Laphroaig 10yo official bottling (2016 UK release, 40%abv)
25mL Kilkerran 12yo official bottling (2016 UK release, 46%abv)
25mL Macallan Cask Strength (60.1%abv)
7mL filtered water, applied to Macallan CS before adding to the vatting

So, yes I sorta buried the lede. There's Port Ellen in the mix. But it wasn't particularly good whisky, so I hope nobody gets the vapors over me putting it in a blend.

As mentioned in the ingredients, I proofed down the Macallan CS (for 48 hours) before blending it in, to make sure it didn't overwhelm the other ingredients.

Speaking of overwhelming a blend, Laphroaig. If you're going to do your own blending, please please please be gentle with the Laphroaig because its character easily dominates everything else in the recipe. Personally, I recommend keeping Laphroaig at 5% or less of the vatting. In this case it makes up 2.8% and is fully present, bringing a lovely layer to the mid-palate.

The Highland/Speyside contingent makes up 61.5% of the malt. Ex-bourbon cask whisky makes up at least 80% of the vatting, and most of those casks were likely refill. Even the Macallan CS felt more like American oak than European when drunk on its own. My goal was to focus on the spirit and not oak, much like whisky producers of earlier times ⇐ admittedly a romantic notion.

THE DUSTY VAT blended malt, 43.05%abv

The nose is full of "barley barley", as per my notes. A hint of woody peat smoke. Peated Good & Plenty candy. Fried plantains, grilled pear and oxidizing/browning apples. Hints of vanilla bean and oloroso sherry cask. There's also an actual dusty note lingering about. 

On the palate there's LOVELY peat, WTF?! Then lemons, caramel candies, toasted marshmallows, graham crackers and a nice sharp bite. It's malty, has a bit of musty warehouse to it and a bright plummy foreground.

Wood smoke and earth lead the finish. Some peppery heat, barley and scorched marshmallows. An almost total lack of sweetness.

Wow. It's now gone and I am sad. I'm just going to lie to myself (and you) and say this is what '50s Teacher's must have tasted like. Though the majority of the blend's ingredients are mediocre-to-OK Speyside, the dusty and old school style whisky transforms the thing. That touch of Laphroaig also goes a really long way (as mentioned above). I'm staring at the empty bottle now. I don't know if I can ever top this vatting, but in my heart I'll always have The Dusty Vat.

Availability - 
Gone. :-(

Pricing - Buying the individual ingredients would cost hundreds of dollars or pounds or euros nowadays
Rating - 88