Blend(ed) Bourbon: An Experiment in Hyperdecanting
Back in 2012 Nathan Myhrvold released his epic (think Iliad and the Odyssey) culinary book Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking. The book includes a method of “hyperdecanting” wine by blending for 30-60 seconds at the blenders’ highest speed.
Aeration exposes the liquid to air but why aerate or decant in the first place? Wine is aerated because two things happen when it is exposed to air. First aeration triggers oxidation. Oxidation helps mellow out some of the more harsh flavors in wine. Second, aeration causes evaporation. Because some of the ethanol (the rubbing alcohol smell) evaporates you’re able to smell more of the wine. Hypedecating takes the aeration process and uses dynamite instead of a chisel.
You may be thinking you accidentally clicked on a wine article and not a bourbon blog but you’re in the right place. After trying hyperdecanting with wine I couldn’t help but wonder if hyperdecanting could be applied to bourbon. Bourbons composition is certainly different than wine. Unlike wine, bourbon doesn’t continue to age once it goes in to the bottle. However, oxidation and evaporation could still have an effect on a bourbons taste.
To test hyperdecanting I selected three bourbons to experiment with. The first bourbon that came to mind was the Poor Man’s Pappy mixture. The mixture always seems to taste better after sitting for a few weeks, which I assume is due to aerating, so I wanted to see if we could get the same results in 30-60 seconds. As a comparison to the Poor Man’s Pappy I selected Old Rip Van Winkle 10 year. In hindsight I should have used the Van Winkle Lot B (12 year) however I had an opened bottle of ORVW 10. I wanted to find out if hyperdecanting could round out some of those sharp edges.
To keep things legit I decided to do a triangulated blind tasting. I had a friend pour three glencarin glasses of bourbon:
I call this blend “Bullet” bourbon
B). Old Rip Van Winkle 10
C). PMP – Blended
For the tasting I recruited my brother and a friend to guest judge. It wasn’t too tough to talk them in to participating in a “science” experiment that involved tasting bourbon. The bourbons were poured in to the glasses while we were in a separate room and then we all tasted separately.
Me: C, B, A
Friend: B, C, A
What’s interesting is two of us selected the blended PMP as our favorite while all of us selected the unblended PMP as the least favorite. Tasting blind is always interesting and I could have sworn I had the ORVW 10 pinned. I was pretty surprised when it was actually the blended PMP. What’s even more surprising is the affect that blending the bourbon had. There’s a noticeable improvement between the blended and undlended. The blended Weller 12 and Weller Antique mixture had a silkier taste with much less burn than the undlended. Hyperdectanting claims to age a wine 5 years in 30 seconds. After this experiment, I’m led to believe it does the same for bourbon.
While I don’t think blending your bourbon is the answer to transforming terrible bourbon in to delicious bourbon it is definitely worth giving it a try. If you do give it a try let me know the results