By Jo Cooksey
For The Love Of Scotch
I blame my Mother for my love of Scotch whisky. Apparently, she used to rub it on my gums when I was teething in order to numb the pain. There was no health and safety in the Sixties. My DNA could also be a factor as my paternal Great Grandad was a Scot and for both my Grandads it was their tipple of choice. I love the smell, I love the heat as it goes down and for the most part I love the taste. However, I’m not too keen on very peaty, very smoky single malts, I prefer a fruity, Christmas Pud evoking Scotch with hints of caramel.
So of course, I jumped at the opportunity to join a Chivas Regal blending session, where we would get to blend and take home our own little bottle of whisky. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
On arrival we had a choice of Chivas cocktails and I chose a Colony, which melded their 18-year-old whisky with toasted honey, chamomile, bee pollen syrup, grapefruit and Boston bitters. It was flippin’ delicious. We were then led through to the blending room, which had been set out like a school chemistry lab, with desks and chairs and on each desk a set of glass measuring beakers, funnels, nosing glasses and stirrers. Plus, 5 small bottles of whisky labelled with tasting notes of Floral, Fruity, Creamy, Citrus and Smoky.
A Historical Blend
Chivas Brand Ambassador, Paul, recently returned from being the B.A. for Thailand told us the history of the company and of whisky blending in general. Chivas began life as an Aberdeen grocery store in 1801, owned by brothers, James and John. They built a reputation for being able to source anything from anywhere, including cooks from Paris and grand pianos from London. The brothers were also famous for their generosity to the local community and church. At their grocery emporium they were already blended their own tea and coffee and eventually they began to experiment with blending malt and grain whiskies and the Chivas whisky brand was born. Their ingenuity in acquiring luxury goods and their incomparable levels of customer service led to them being granted a Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria.
The invention in the 1830’s of the patent still led to the production of grain whisky, which in turn was blended with malt whisky. This made a lighter more widely palatable drink and the popularity of blended Scotch grew. Then the Great French Wine Blight of the 1880’s saw the destruction of the vines used to make the most popular drinks of the day, wine and brandy, so people turned to whisky and its popularity grew rapidly.
Now it was time to blend our own signature whiskies. We were told to use at least 50% of the grain whisky as the base of our blend and then use the nosing glasses to sample the other single malts and the science equipment to experiment with various combinations. Once happy, we could make a final 200ml batch, fill our special bottles to take them home to enjoy at our leisure.
Frankly I was a little squiffy by the time I had perfected my recipe. Well, one has to try everything, at least twice to ensure excellence. In the end I used 50% of the grain whisky, with 10% of the fruity, 10% of the citrus, 10% of the smoky and 20% of the creamy malt, as this extends the finish of the whisky. I was as proud as punch as I wobbled out of the session with my lovely bottle.
The sessions cost £15, which I think is exceptional value. They are fun and informative, and I will probably go back before they finish. The Blend sessions are being held at The Loft on Quay Street until 20th May. They are also happening in other parts of the country. Check the website for details.
I attended the course as a guest of Chivas but as always, the review and opinions are our own and unbiased. Please drink responsibly.