Battle of the Blends

Battle plans afoot

Player one sets out his stall for the impending arrival of his seasoned cask
By Sam Coyne
Surely most of you will have sat down with friends and felt like you’ve just come up with The Plan? You know, the schemes where you’re all about to become self-made millionaires just by sitting and watching the digits climb? In my experience those were never any good and my bank balance only confirms that…

This year’s Battle of the Blends kind of started something like that – why could we not blend up a whisky inspired by the resurgent cocktail scene? Everyone will love it, we’ll look like plucky young heroes (even Rob) and next year the winner can take part in a far more serious exercise in blending. Alas, here we are at the start of our journey, awaiting our casks and it turns out I’m making a blend inspired by the Old Fashioned… best get thinking.

So many will surely know the Old Fashioned? For those who don’t; we’re talking (traditionally) Bourbon or rye whisky, bitters, sugar and a citrus twist. In a past life it was known as the Whisky Cocktail. For those familiar with Battle of the Blends, I can imagine there are a few looking at the list of ingredients and doubtful about how long this year’s challenge will last.

Some out of the box thinking looks to be required. Where to start then. Difford’s Guide tends to be my go-to for all cocktail queries and there is an excellent history of the Old Fashioned on the site and, thankfully, a lot of cues for the challenge are on offer. Battle of the Blends rules tend to state that only Scotch can be used, so that puts a bit of a spanner in the works when it comes to using Bourbon, but how about using some Scottish rye whisky to maintain some semblance of the traditional? Difford also mentions being wary of the alcoholic strength of the whisky, so let’s find some that pack a punch.

But firstly, thoughts should turn to what I’ll be seasoning the cask with once it lands. A look across the web and there is variation after variation on the Old Fashioned. Is it worth seasoning the cask in a different spirit – something to (hopefully) bring a touch of citrus perhaps – or maybe try and compensate for the lack of Bourbon? With my rival being formally of a major blended whisky house, it’s going to have to be good!