Battle Of The Blends Result

Neil Ridley wins by a dram
By Neil Ridley
So there we are – with all the votes in, my blend – Orville, or ‘A’ as it is known from the sample packs, has apparently triumphed. Hurrah!

There were 299 judges in total of which 59 per cent voted for blend A, so indeed it was very close.

Tasting Note

"Personally I found this the most balanced blend, marrying sweetness and subtle peat to produce a blend of excellent drinking quality whilst allowing for mixing scope."

Daryl Haldane, Highland Park Global Brand Advocate

In actual fact, as Mr Broom eloquently put in his last column about the blends – it really doesn’t matter who ‘won’ here. Really, the point of this exercise, despite having some light-hearted banter along the way, was to see if it was possible to create a drinkable blend in a short space of time, given some tricky parameters.

Neither of us has claimed we have any distinct skill in blending – I think it’s more a case of picking whiskies that one really likes and testing the water to see if they ‘work together’. With the specific amounts used, I applied a simple metric of what seemed ‘about right’ and what was clearly going to ruin it. It helped to keep a little running control sample along the way – in this respect, I tried to produce a ‘micro blend’ first, using much smaller amounts before committing to throwing litres of perfectly good whisky into the abyss.

None of this of course takes into account the influence of the cask, which in reality, was a fairly frightening amount. In under 10 months, my blend had lost a significant amount of spirit, nearly two litres, and I still can’t explain why that much had disappeared! It’s not like I have the central heating on all through the summer and Crystal Palace (where I live) isn’t known for its sub-tropical microclimate.

My biggest regret is not keeping more of Orville to actually drink. I have ten, 60ml sample bottles that I drew from the cask after each new whisky was added, to track the development of the blend, but this is all. I’m hoping there may be a little left from the competition samples to crack open later this Christmas. I suppose that given that I have the recipe, I could try to recreate it, but I’m willing to bet a bottle now that it would turn out very differently to the original – which highlights just why blending on a grand scale is such a hugely respected skill. Imagine I had to sign off on 10,000 litres of the stuff like master blenders do each time… No thank you!

So it’s onwards and onto the next Battle Of The Blends: Episode 2.

The small question remains as to who will be my next challenger. The magazine has applied the ‘winner stays on’ rule from pool and already, there are a few interested folks who fancy their chances, all of which is very exciting indeed. More on this in the issues to come, so watch this space folks.

In the meantime, you’ll find me at my local hostelry, putting myself through a rigorous training routine – learning all there is to know about the mysterious, misunderstood and marvelous world of blended whiskies.