Battle of the Blends

The Final Furlong

Our would-be blenders reach their end game
By George Keeble

George Keeble



The eve of the Battle is upon us! I have enough room left in my cask not only for the wildcard bottle but also for a couple of other whiskies, so before the addition of said wildcard, I think it’s time to really up the ante…

Firstly, I return to The Glenlivet, this time for some Nàdurra Peated Cask Finish! It’s sweet with a whisper of peat and, at 61.5% ABV, kicks like a mule. Secondly, I’m knocking the peat level up another notch with some Kilchoman Machir Bay! This delicious Islay malt bursts with peat smoke and barley sugar. It’s just what my blend needs.

Now it’s time to get serious, for I must throw my wildcard into the fray. The wildcard can be any kind of whisky from anywhere in the world and I’ve had my eye on this bottle since the very beginning. It is a beastly beast, a crowd-splitter, and in my opinion an utterly incredible drop that is not for the faint of heart. For this bottle, I must once again cast an ethereal gaze towards Islay. I set out to forge a peated blend several months ago and what better whisky to assist my quest than... Octomore 7.4 Virgin Oak! This cask strength liquid reeks of barbeque smoke, intense oakiness and an eye-watering degree of peat. In an instant, my blend is complete!

So let’s take a look at all the whiskies I’ve chosen for my mead cask-aged blend: Auchentoshan American Oak, Bunnahabhain 12 Years Old, Clynelish 14 Years Old, Deanston 12 Years Old, Glenlivet Nàdurra Oloroso Finish, Glenlivet Nàdurra Peated Cask, Glen Scotia Double Cask, Kilchoman Machir Bay, Ledaig 10 Years Old, Loch Lomond Single Grain, Octomore 7.4 Virgin Oak and Port Charlotte Scottish Barley.

With everything in the cask, it’s time for one final sample:

There is an exquisite harmony of honey and (oddly gentle) peat on the nose, lavender coupled with a wonderful redolence of cinnamon and subtle cocoa nibs. I can feel it open up in the glass to a veritable bouquet of floral notes. The peated whiskies, especially the Octomore, certainly make their presence more well-known on the palate. That mead, oh honey, it’s simply brilliant. The finish is long. Very long. Well-integrated spices and peat linger on and on and on. I only hope the judges share my enthusiasm!


Lyndsey Gray



This has been one crazy challenge that I was quite brutally honest about in my first article… what I am referring to is obviously the fact that I previously mentioned that I do not tend to plan things and I’m a wee bit (okay... very) forgetful. I think it’s fair to say that I went for the “let’s wing it” approach and hope for the best. I don’t mean to say that I was being flippant about the challenge, but instead that I decided to see what would happen at each stage after adding a new whisky to my cask. After deciding to use tequila to season my cask I knew that I wanted to keep something quite light in style and I didn’t want a lot of wood dominating flavours to be at the forefront but instead for the distillery characters to shine through.

With one region left to go I first turned to the grain element in order to create a balance within the malts already there. With the addition of Girvan No4 apps I found that all the flavours and aromas started to bind together… but maybe just a little too well. The finish became far too short and the flavour became a little one dimensional. UGH. Teaches me for not planning eh?!

Here comes the bonus round though…Yeah, that’s right, luckily I had a back up plan with my bonus whisky. Yeeeeah, a back up plan. *cough* but before I finalise my next choice I added a touch more Caol Ila Moch to lengthen the finish and realised that I had too many Bourbon matured whiskies in the cask. I decided to pour a delightful amount of The Chita Single Grain into my cask. What an absolute bonus beauty. With a mix of Bourbon, sherry and wine cask influence through this whisky I was finally able to get back the complexity of flavours I needed.

Pressure on and we have our final whisky. I’ve covered every region apart from the Lowlands and when you work with a couple of Glaswegians you kind of have to pick a side when it comes to Glasgow v Edinburgh... it had to be Auchentoshan. This distillery is picture-perfect for me as its triple distillation doesn’t over power the light buttery and oily texture my blend has already developed and Auchentoshan Three Wood is exactly what I need to escape that overwhelming vanilla sweetness that I’ve ended up with. Juicy red berries, Black Forrest Gateau, a touch of dark bitter chocolate and orange zest makes for a stronger start to my blend that carries through to the end without masking the other elements.

So here we have it. Over and out.