How to Blend
Learning to Blend is a skill distillers need to make their product better.
Get a pen and a piece of paper or a notebook. Documenting the testing will teach you how and when things progress. And it’ll help you to determine what you may want to blend and how much of the respective samples to use. And it’ll also tell you what will go into the feints jar as well.
If you take notes you can record your progress over generations of a spirit. This lets you know if any changes you make are positive or negative or if you're getting good at being consistent.
My biggest recommendation for the new distiller is to take notes...it’ll be your best teaching tool. Soon, it’ll become second nature and you’ll wonder why you ever worried about making cuts. In fact, it becomes an enjoyable process of our hobby. I like making cuts...and yes, I still make extensive notes when I do it.
Air out the Distillate
Airing before cuts makes a huge difference, which is another reason not to make cuts right off the still. When I'm running I always make note of jar number where I think the cuts will be made. After airing, I consistently end up a jar or 2 farther into the heads and 2-3 into the tails.
Start in the Middle
When you start sampling, start in the middle, first smelling the jar and writing down your perceptions. Be very critical with your descriptions to relate to well known paradigms, specifically any fruits, spices, breadiness, sweetness, or even sourness...be sure to relate it to a benchmark.
Then, dilute a small sample to 80 proof, or so, and then taste it. Again, record your perceptions very critically. I recommend you don’t use terms, like funky or harsh because they don’t relate to a measurable. Make good notes as you do this, taking your time with each sample. Work your way from the middle downward (towards the tails). Continue to the end of the line. When you get to the bottom, go back to the middle and work your way to the top. Be sure to dilute the samples as you near the heads because the stronger alcohol will numb your taste buds and make the flavors seem less pronounced. But of course they’re still strong, if not stronger.
You’ll note similar qualities near the middle of the stack, but pay attention to the very subtle differences and be sure to document them. As you critically sample, you’ll begin to sense the progression from hearts to the late hearts to the early tails, and so on. You’ll probably sense the flavors going from sweet to dry to more grainy towards the end. Some of those jars will blend nice with the early hearts or even late heads, especially if destined for the cask.