What I learned
There’s a certain kind of whiskey lover who, every so often, pops into the store where I moonlight as a purveyor of fine spirits, surprisingly affordable wines, and fancy soaps. These shoppers are typically much more interested in educating me about whiskey than actually discussing it, for I, a humble shopgirl, could not possibly know anything about the stuff I sell. Between asking if I’ve ever had any Pappy Van Winkle (I have, but they usually don’t pause for the answer) and rolling their eyes about local craft spirits (they’re good), they often talk at me about the blends they’re slaving over at home.
These people talk about blending as if it’s something for which they’ve been preparing their whole lives: the rare bottles they’ve acquired that they’re sacrificing to the blend, the painstaking process through which they’re maneuvering. They are, as they make clear, connoisseurs capable of this difficult task, and few others would be up to such an undertaking. Then they buy a decent bottle (an everyday whiskey) and float out the door on a cloud of their own malt-scented superiority.
Today I learned they are full of shit, because I could start my own blend right freakin’ now.
Wine Enthusiast’s Kara Newman, you poetic and noble land-mermaid, you’ve opened my eyes! The process of creating an aptly-named infinity bottle requires only patience, a willingness to experiment, a sense of what you like, and the ability to correctly read the numbers on labels.
The idea, this marvelous woman writes, is to take a mostly full bottle and “strategically [top] it up with pours from other bottles to make unique blends that can’t be found anywhere else.” Hence the name “infinity”: because you keep adding to the blend, it’s never empty, and in theory, the oldest spirit in the bottle will always remain in the mix.
Newman’s excellent piece breaks down this process into eight steps, all straightforward and bracingly accessible. Pick a spirit you like with care, as it will probably dictate the taste of the bottle for a long, long time. Label it early, so you can continue to note the spirits you add. Add a spirit that contrasts with the first. Wait 12 hours. Taste. Proceed. The list goes on, and I won’t go into all the steps here, but please, give it a read.
I must acknowledge that my above headline is somewhat a lie, as I am currently writing from a Whole Foods. Starting right now isn’t an option. But when I’m home in a few hours, I’ll find a mostly-full bottle of MB Roland bourbon on my bar cart. Then I’ll look at the eight or nine excellent spirits that surround it, most of which have a sixth or an eighth left in the bottle. And you know what I can do then? I can start my own blend. I can use the last of my Willett’s Pot Still Reserve, or my New Holland Zeppelin, or my J. Henry & Sons Bellefontaine, or my Brenne Single Malt. Then I wait, and hopefully have something delicious.
Then I will go out into the world, and somehow, I will resist the urge to be a condescending dick about my new treasure. (Note: I really do love my side gig, I swear.)
Thanks, Kara Newman! I am so excited to get started.