Please take into account that these are my personal tasting notes and personal experience, as such you may interpret any whiskies very differently from me.
I received an email through my blog (the first message I’ve had through the blog). It was from a boutique PR agency called Beyond 400, whose focal point is engagement. They were inviting me to a Whisky Lounge Blending Workshop in Birmingham. The event was an appetiser for the Whisky Lounge’s first Birmingham Whisky Festival on Saturday 12th November. It offered the chance to come and create your very own blend with The Whisky Lounge founder and ‘water of life’ evangelist, Eddie Ludlow… Well how on Earth could I refuse such a tantalizing offer?
I arrived at the Hyatt Regency early (I tend to that a lot when alcohol is concerned) and was greeted by Greg from Beyond 400. He gave me an overview of the evening and introduced me to James the photographer before Eddie arrived. As with the majority of people I’ve met from the whisky industry he was very down to Earth and easy to talk to and we soon got chatting about pre-conceptions of single malts being better than blended.
After chatting with some of the other attendees and having a photo opportunity we got settled down ready to do some tasting. Most people had arrived in pairs and those of us that were on our own were partnered up and sat opposite each other with a selection of whisky sample bottles between us and some measuring equipment.
Eddie then gives everyone a brief history lesson on whisky, the differences between single malt and blended whisky and how their popularity has changed over the years. He then moved onto the fun part – tasting some whisky! There were a fair few people in attendance who had never been to a whisky tasting before so Eddie set about guiding everyone through the process. We got to taste a Chivas Regal 18 year followed by Johnnie Walker Black Label (I particularly enjoyed the Chivas!). There was also an interesting discussion on whether or not to add water to whisky which lead inevitably to the topic of ice.
Then after a couple of tips we were let loose to make our own blend. The only stipulations we were given was that we had to use all of the single grain whisky and that we needed to make 100ml in total. We would then need to bottle, name and label our samples before Eddie would judge them with the winners receiving a bottle of whisky.
So we set about nosing and sampling the various offerings before taking Eddie’s advice and first mixing a small scale sample in a Glencairn glass before moving onto our finished blend. With the help of my partner for the evening Harvey we set about creating a sweet and fruity blend with a touch of spice. Despite being a huge peat fan myself we decided to forego adding any Intense & Peaty whisky at the risk of complicating our creation. The whole experience was great fun with everyone seeming to take it very seriously while also having fun with it at the same time.
Next we had to name our blends. This part was said to be almost (if not as) important as creating the blend itself. After much discussion and an attempt to come up with something overtly serious we instead went for “All Night Blender” – a name so witty (in my eyes at least) I was pleased to attach it to our blend. We then bottled up and and let Eddie sample all of the offerings.
I’m slightly ashamed to say that our blend didn’t win. We did come second however, pipped to the post by “Tall Dark & Fruity”. A blend I would have very much liked to have tried, particularly after seeing Eddie’s surprise at the amount of Intense & Peaty they had apparently managed to hide in it.
Overall it was an excellent experience and something I would love to do again. There was an element of whisky tasting in there yet the blending element gave it a different spin and made for a competitive yet fun atmosphere. The Whisky Lounge run these blending workshops regularly across the country along with a range of other tasting evenings and festivals. If you are local to Birmingham then you may be particularly interested to hear that they are running their first Whisky Festival in Birmingham next month on Saturday 12th November, from 12pm – 5pm. They are also running a blending workshop at the festival. Tickets for the festival are only £30 with the blending workshop costing only an additional £10. They are also currently running monthly events at The Edgbaston.
You can find out more about The Whisky Lounge, their events and festivals on their website: www.thewhiskylounge.com
All photos are courtesy of James Bastable – www.jamesbastable.co.uk