What's In The Decanter Photo

What’s in the Decanter?

In Banter by Matt SelfLeave a Comment

About two years ago, I was given a beautiful, hand-blown glass decanter from a family member as a gift. I placed the decanter on top of the whiskey cabinet, and for a while, it sat there empty. I wasn’t exactly sure what to put in it. Do I dress up a bottom shelf bottle by emptying it into the glass display or is a top shelf whiskey a better choice? I just couldn’t decide. A friend suggested that I pour an ounce or two from all the new bottles opened in 2015 into the decanter and let it all mingle together as an experiment. So that’s what I did. Not every bottle that I opened in 2015 was taxed, but every new bottle under about $100 retail made its way into the decanter experiment. I opened nineteen different varieties over the course of the year. After I had filled it, the decanter sat for an additional four months.

I also opened several bottles of blended whiskey in 2015 – some that I enjoyed and several that I could do without. Perhaps my favorite whiskey blend discovery of 2015 was High West Distillery’s Bourye. In my market, I can typically find Bourye for about $73/bottle, and I appreciate the combination of spice and sweetness for a distinctive taste profile. Blended whiskey is not new to the business but David Perkins, the founder of High West, capitalized on the high-end whiskey blending niche growing enough sales to garner the attention of Constellation Brands which purchased High West last month for $160 million.

Not surprisingly, Perkins was prompted to buy and blend from Jim Rutledge, who has been masterfully blending whiskey for decades. The Four Roses yellow label and limited edition small batch releases grew to prominence under Jim’s tenure as master distiller. Surely, there is an art and science to blending whiskey. My haphazard method of combining small pours from random bottles in a house decanter couldn’t yield the same results as a Bourye blend or a Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch – or could it?

Since whiskey is often a matter of personal preference, I decided to take the experiment to another level. I sent blind samples to twelve Bourbon & Banter contributors to get their unbiased opinions. Unfortunately, I was a sample shipping novice, and a couple of my volunteers only received a slightly damp but great smelling padded envelope filled with broken glass. After a few weeks, the results started rolling into my inbox. Of course, with most whiskey reviews, the opinions and feedback were mixed. Here are a few comments:

  • “I’d have a hard time paying over $30/bottle for it. If I had to guess at this point, I’d say that this is a higher proof rye that isn’t any older than 4-6 years.”
  • “I wouldn’t buy it, and I couldn’t see myself enjoying it at a bar. If it’s not under $35, I probably wouldn’t buy it to mix either. My guess is that it’s an MGP rye.”
  • “Overall, I liked the sample.”
  • “I would not pay more than $40 for a bottle of this stuff based on the tasting.”
  • “This is a bourbon you could easily polish off a bottle and not notice until you wake up face down on your patio table.”
  • “It’s good, but not exceptional…would probably need to be in the <$40 range to even consider purchase.”
  • “It’s not bad but I don’t think I would buy a bottle to have around.”
  • “Sorry guy. The good news is my mailbox smells like bourbon now.” Whoops.
  • “This tasted like it was extra aged in a home barrel…if there is someone who enjoys a lot of wood, this would be interesting to them.”
  • Average rating: 3.1 out of 5

I’ll admit I did have a devil on my shoulder suggest that I send a blind sample of Malort to each of the B&B contributors. I think I read in history class Franz Ferdinand sent some Malort to Serbia which is why that kid shot him and the whole world went to war. I hope “Malort” and “Franz Ferninand” are now trending on Google Search. But neither of those things was in the decanter. I created a blend of nineteen whiskeys that, if poured equally, cost me about $50 after taxes. Based on the blind reviews, the consensus is that I took some decent whiskey and turned it into a product worthy of a late night college frat party mixer. I’m pretty sure many of you are looking for these bottles right now to add to the shelf or to back up the nearly empty bottle in your collection. What a waste. Here is the list:

  • Elmer T Lee {$40}
  • 1792 Small Batch {$25}
  • Black Saddle Bourbon 12-Year {$50}
  • Makers Mark Cash Strength {$55}
  • Four Roses Single Barrel OESK {$65)
  • Four Roses Singel Barrel OBSQ {$65}
  • Russell’s Reserve Small Batch 10-Year {$50}
  • Stagg Jr {$50}
  • W.L. Weller Special Reserve {$25}
  • Sazerac Rye 6-Year {$27}
  • Rittenhouse Rye {$30}
  • Very Old Barton 6-Year {$17}
  • Pure KY XO {$40}
  • Old Weller Antique {$25}
  • Barterhouse {$90}
  • Hudson Baby Bourbon {$60}
  • Larceny {$29}
  • Smooth Ambler Old Scout Ten {$47}
  • Bernheim Wheat Whiskey 7-Year {$30}

With an empty decanter, I wouldn’t say it was a complete waste. I have tremendous respect for the men and women master distillers out there successfully blending great products for us to enjoy. I also appreciate the shared recipes for several “successful” blends that can be made in a home decanter.

Poor Man’s Pappy

It used to be much easier to find these bottles to blend into a Pappy alternative. Now the Weller 12 is as scarce as the Old Rip and Lot B the blend hopes to emulate. A third version utilizes Bernheim wheat in place of Weller 12. I prefer the higher proof 100.2 versions.

  • Version #1: 60% Old Weller Antique/40% W.L. Weller 12-Year {100.2 proof}
  • Version #2: 50% Old Weller Antique/50% W.L. Weller 12-Year {98.5 proof}
  • Version #3: 60% Old Weller Antique/40% Bernheim Wheat Whiskey {100.2 proof}

Four Roses Yellow Label Barrel Proof

The yellow label is a blend of up to all 10 Four Roses recipes but the ubiquitous blend is proofed down to 40% alcohol by volume. I have yet to try the barrel proof version but recently acquired all 10 recipes in the Four Roses Single Barrel format and the barrel proof blend will be the next experiment in my decanter. I will likely weight the recipes equally:

  • 10% Each: OESK, OESQ, OESO, OESF, OESV, OBSK, OBSQ, OBSO, OBSF, & OBSV

Wild Turkey Forgiven

Wild Turkey Forgiven was supposedly an accidental blend of 6-year bourbon and 4-year rye. The Wild Turkey product is 91 proof and rumored to be a mixture of 78% Wild Turkey Bourbon 101 and 22% Wild Turkey Straight Rye Whiskey (81 proof). However, if you blend the products equally, the proof of the blended product settles right at 91. I have not tried either blend so let us know which one tastes most like Forgiven:

  • Version #1 78% Wild Turkey Bourbon 101 and 22% Wild Turkey Straight Rye Whiskey {96.6 proof}
  • Version #2 50% Wild Turkey Bourbon 101 and 50% Wild Turkey Straight Rye Whiskey {91 proof}

Stagg Jr/Old Charter

Perhaps Stagg Jr is too much heat for you, but water and ice are not your preference either. If you combine Stagg Jr which is typically 130-140 proof with Old Charter at 80 proof, the result is a proofed down product that has the same origin mash bill. Prefer a bottled in bond taste profile? Try this one:

  • 35% Stagg Jr/65% Old Charter 8 {100 proof}

ECBP/EC12

Most of the Elijah Craig Small Batch age stated 12-year product has made its way from store shelves, but the no-age-statement Elijah Craig can still work to help proof down Elijah Craig Barrel Proof. Most of the ECBP product, like Stagg Jr., is 130-140 proof but Elijah Craig Small Batch is only proofed down to 47% alcohol by volume. So a blend will only turn down the heat so far. Try this blend to save some ice and water:

  • 50% ECBP/50% Elijah Craig Small Batch {117 proof}

Whatever you put in the decanter, do so without terribly high expectation. Master Distillers have much more product and much more experience blending product into deliciousness for all of us consumers. If you have some success trying any of these recipe ideas or others, let us know in the comment section and maybe share a sample or two. As always, we encourage you to #drinkcurious.

About the Author
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Matt Self

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Raised in the great state of Tennessee, Matt has a hard time admitting the native spirit of the Bluegrass neighbor to the north captured his obsession (& most of his wallet). Having progressed through the red solo cup days to a passion for a barrel-proof wheated bourbon, neat, Matt is always on the hunt for the next bottle. When he is not scouting or sipping bourbon, Matt spends time with his wife and four children. When he needs money for the next trip to Bardstown, Matt manages a wealth management firm. He always buys bourbon to drink and believes nothing should come between friends except two rocks glasses and a three-finger pour.

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