As whiskey drinkers, we know that there are subtleties that separate one from another. When you create your own whiskey, it’s essential to carefully analyze the traits that you like in what you usually drink. Whiskey can be very personal. Everyone has their tastes and preferences. Given the opportunity to make a custom whiskey for yourself, you have a chance to really clamp down and build something perfectly catered to you, or to experiment.
There are standard things to look for when buying off the shelf. You might consider the age, whether it’s a single malt, the types of barrels used, the variety making up a blended whiskey, the aromas, and perhaps the name on the bottle and whether it’s a brand you’re familiar with.
Being able to pull out a truly unique bottle for your family and friends is a treat, especially if you’re the one who created your own whiskey. That’s why it’s essential to understand the various elements that would make your custom whiskey unique and enjoyable.
Let’s Take a Look at the Four Main Things to Consider When Making a Custom Whiskey
1. What Type of Whiskey Do You Want to Make?
The first step in creating your own whiskey is understanding the type of whiskey you want to create. When making a custom whiskey with Designer Dram, you have the opportunity to choose to make a pure bourbon, pure rye, or a mixture that can also include barley and wheat.
Each of these styles of whiskey will have different flavor profiles and aromas.
Bourbon is made with at least 51% corn, often giving sweeter vanilla, coconut, honey, and butterscotch flavors. You’ll get aromas of oak and pine cedar and fruit flavors of apple, pear, and dried fruits. Bourbon tends to be a bit sweeter than other styles. So if that’s your jam, consider making custom whiskey that is pure bourbon.
If you are looking for something a bit bolder, rye whiskey might do the trick. Rye tends to add more spice, like black pepper, that gives the whiskey more bite. Rye would tend to be on the more savory side of things. One way to think of the difference between bourbon and rye is the contrast between cornbread and wheat bread.
Adding wheat to bourbon has almost the opposite effect to rye. Wheat will soften up the whiskey and enhance the sweeter flavors. Barley rye is a bit of both worlds, giving both sweetness and spice to the palate.
Understanding the kind of whiskey you want to make is an important start.
2. What Flavors and Aromas Do You Like?
The next major thing to consider when making a custom whiskey is the flavors and aromas that you like. If you aren’t sure, it’s easy to figure out by simply drinking some of the whiskey you love and noting the flavors and aromas you get from it. This doesn’t need to be a complex exercise like a wine tasting, just take a few sips and see what you notice. You can also take our palate test to learn more about the flavors you like.
If you tend to like sweeter whiskey, then bourbon will probably be a great choice. It can give woody aromas from oak, pine cedar, and nuts like almonds and pecans. You might notice some spice with bourbon, but that won’t be as strong as rye bourbon.
Rye bourbon is going to be bolder, dryer, and spicier. Adding rye to your custom whiskey will add more spices like pepper to the flavors. You may also notice grassier flavors along with smoke, oak, fennel, nutmeg, or cinnamon.
If smoother, sweeter whiskies are your thing, consider adding some wheat to your mash bill. Wheat will enhance the sweeter flavors and help smooth out the whiskey to make drinking it a pleasure. And if you like the best of both worlds — sweet and spicy — consider adding the barley rye to your custom whiskey.
When creating your own whiskey, knowing the subtleties of the flavors will help you make whiskey more suitable to you and your taste.
3. Alcohol Strength
Alcohol strength is not something people often consider when selecting whiskey to drink. Usually, the type of whiskey and flavor profile is what drives most decisions. But when creating a custom whiskey, understanding alcohol strength is essential, too. A higher alcohol percentage will provide a more robust, more concentrated flavor profile. In contrast, a lower alcohol strength will give a smoother, more varied flavor profile.
It might make sense to go with a lower alcohol strength with pure bourbon to produce a more polished, smooth whiskey and a higher alcohol strength with rye to enhance the boldness. And those are undoubtedly classic choices and will give you great results.
However, consider that a high alcohol strength to bourbon may balance out the smooth with a bit more aggression. And similarly, a lower alcohol strength for a spicier rye whiskey might take a slight edge off. These are just other ways that you can make your custom whiskey unique.
4. Is This for You, or Is This a Gift?
The last thing to consider when building a custom whiskey is whether or not you are making the whiskey for yourself or a friend or family member.
If you are creating your own whiskey, then by now, you probably have a good idea of how to shape and create it. However, if you want to make a whiskey as a gift, you might want to take a bit more time to make sure you can match your gift recipient’s tastes with a unique whiskey. To ensure the gift is exceptional, try to find out their whiskey and flavor preferences before you start to create the custom whiskey gift. The extra time you spend will result in a whiskey they genuinely enjoy.
If you are not entirely sure what will work best, Designer Dram has gift certificates so you can give the gift but allow them to go through the process of creating something they know they will like.
If you take the time to consider these four areas when creating your own whiskey, you’ll end up with a custom whiskey you can enjoy over and over. If you have any questions about making a bespoke whiskey, reach out to us, and one of our team members can help you through the process.