Wood for Thought: Playing Master Blender with Single Malt Scotch Whiskey

I have never understood why people admired whiskey. I have had my share of experiences with it, which mostly entailed feeling the burning sensation down my throat and hacking a lot afterward. To help myself become more educated in this alcohol, I decided to take this class offered by the Manhattan Cocktail Classic 2010.


Sam “Dr. Whiskey” Simmons, a globally recognized scotch whiskey expert and the Belvenie Ambassador USA, led the class in deconstructing and understanding what embodies single malt whiskey; the taste, smell, and color were analyzed and discussed amongst members of the class.

The final task for all participants was to blend their own single malt scotch whiskey using four different whiskey materials like the experts: the new make, matured in ex-bourbon barrels, matured in ex-sherry barrels, and matured in refill casks (barrels that already held single malt).

This proved to be a difficult task because a balance of flavors is key to blending success. This explains why all these blended single malt whiskey producers are cherished and highly valued amongst whiskey drinkers. They can produce whiskeys that have strong qualities such as sharpness or “bite” on your tongue, smoky / spicy / sweet flavors, and the fragrant smells of honey or chocolate on the nose.

I definitely learned a lot about whiskey and how to smell it – take your cup and smell it as you quickly move the cup from left to right of your nose. This allows you to catch scents of the whiskey without the alcohol getting in the way. Lastly, enjoying a whiskey is something very personal like wine; without understanding what qualities and tastes you like, you cannot fully appreciate it. Time for me to start tasting some whiskeys!